Tuesday, August 31, 2010

8-22-2010 on the road again....

At long last we are back on the road again.

It's been quite a while since we have traveled the way we used to, taking months to tour through Europe on our motorcycle, going where ever the whim of the moment will take us. We're finally back!

This time we have taken a different route to get to Europe, having flown to Bangkok first (to take care of some business in Thailand and China), then on to Berlin, where we are now, for a week.

On our last bike trip through Europe (2008), we finally retired the bike we had ridden for so many years; parts were worn and the last straw was a broken shock that finally rendered it impossible to continue our ride on... But that is another story. This year, we have sent by sea, another GTS to Belgium where we will be picking it up soon.

Berlin is a city incredibly rich with history - though much of the recent history is not too pleasant to revisit, because the Nazis had their headquarters here. I am not going to linger much on all the sights - at some point I will share more of Berlin with you from our month here last year. The photo above is the famous Brandenburg gate at twilight.

For now, here are a couple high-lights of our week in Berlin...in the true spirit of "eat to ride"!

Of all the places in berlin that we have visited, one of the most fascinating is a trip to the gourmet paradise on the sixth floor of the department store known as KaDeWe. Pronounced Kah-Day-Vay, the name stands for the initals of the full name of the store, Kaufhaus des Westens (department store of the West). Not merely a grocery store, the food hall is one of the largest in the world. Maybe I can convince you if I throw you some numbers: you can find there over 400 varieties of bread, 1800 types of cheese, More than 1500 types of meats and sausages, all arranged by region and country. Instead of storing food on warehouse shelves, everything is artfully displayed in kiosks, gleaming glass cases and beautiful displays.

It's one of our favorite places to go to get food for a picnic; there is a generous selection of pre-prepared food such as sandwiches and salads. But we usually skip the premade and choose some bread, some cheese and a few slices of the cold cuts for which Germany is justly famous.

If the sight of all that food makes you hungry, there are a couple dozen mini restaurants where you can sit and eat: whether you are hungry for a nice bratwurst, thai food stir-fried to order, local dishes made from potatoes, fresh oysters. Or you can sip champagne, espresso or fine wines.

The choices are mind boggling!

One of Mike's favorite mini-restaurants is one that specializes in potato dishes. The counter and seats make a ring around the kitchen space where we can watch the chefs flipping potatoes or peeling the foil off of large
baked potatoes. The baked potatoes come served with your choice of sides such as creme fraiche with herbs, smoked salmon, etc. Or, you could have sliced potatoes fried until they are golden and served with ham or egg, Gratin potatoes baked with a cheesy crust, or potato pancakes served with applesauce and sugar...

The other night we took a bus to a neighborhood called Kreuzberg, in the east. While the wall was still dividing the city, Kreuzberg was effectively cut off from the rest of the city and as a result became a low rent district populated by students and Turkish immigrants, developing its own distinctive personality. No longer cut off today, Kreuzberg has become a funky area full of cafes and turkish restarants. There are some truly hideous blocky communist era apartment buildings mixed in with older, more elegant (though mostly crumbling) turn of the century houses, all liberally plastered with posters and graffitti.

We have discovered a great Turkish restaurant there, that serves freshly made bread baked in a large tandoor oven, meat Kababs on skewers, and grilled vegetables. Tonight, the restaurant is empty; this evening is pleasantly warm but the restaurant is like a sauna inside. Instead, the patrons are sitting outside in a small plaza watching the activity and enjoying some great food. Children are playing in the plaza under the watchful eye of their parents, moslem women hurry through with a fresh round bread tucked under one arm to serve with dinner, friends gathering for a quick drink with friends...

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