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Day Two in Berlin

Day 2 (Easter Sunday) This was our first proper and full day in Berlin and it started with a hearty breakfast in our hotel (they seemed to have everything!) – upon returning to our rooms we discovered they had placed a chocolate Easter bunny outside the door. A lovely touch.

We then walked to the flea market which was an interesting mix of rubbish, house clearances, proper antiques, new hippy style clothing and food. After a quick perusal (nothing was purchased) we hot footed it over to The Berliner Unterwelten (www.berliner-Unterwelten.de) for a guided tour of a WW2 underground bunker. This tour was fascinating for a history geek like myself and I highly recommend it. We did tour one (Dunkle Welten) and we were shown into a bunker that had been built next to a local subway station. The rooms had been cleared out of all of the rubble which had filled them and they have been restored to show what it would have been like.  We saw soil filled toilets, rooms for mothers and children complete with bunk beds, and many other rooms.

I learned really interesting facts like how they painted walls and ceilings with phosphorescent paint so the rooms were not completely dark in the event that the power went off: the paint was highly toxic so we were advised not to touch or lick it! I also learned that only German citizens were allowed in the bunkers so people had to take their birth certificates down to prove their citizenship. This they carried these in small suitcases full of their valuable possessions which included photographs of their loved ones, valuables such as jewellery or silver spoons (useful to try and sell or exchange for food if they needed to) and we were also told how, despite the hot and stuffy conditions, women would wear many layers of clothing to go into the bunkers including their fur coats. More worryingly I learned how they used to have three small candles in the room, one on the floor, one on the bench and one at head height. With the amount of people in the rooms breathing out carbon dioxide the rooms become stuffy and hard to breath in. CO2 sinks as it is heavy, so once the candle on the floor went out, they moved children onto their laps. When the candle on the benches went out, they had to stand up, when the third candle went out they had to leave even if there was a full air raid still on. Truely terrifying. We were also told that the signs on the wall saying ‘Abort’ was a WW2 nazified word for toilet. WC was considered too English and Toilet was considered to be French. All in all this was a great tour for 11 Euros a person.

We later went for a schwarz beer in Prater Garten (www.pratergarten.de) a nice spot for a quick drink although a little chilly at this time of year.  

Dinner was had at Zum Schusterjungen where I tried the local concoction of beer with fruit syrup (Berliner Weisse grün or beer with woodruff syrup) my sister tried it with raspberry. It was a little too sweet for my liking but they did do a vegan curry wurst here which was delicious.  We did a brief stop off at a bar called Thüringer Stuben where we felt really unwelcome, nothing you could put your finger on but definitely not a friendly, welcoming place. The evening finished off in Alois S, a tapas bar, where we had cocktails and a delicious chocolate and cherry cake. Yum.

Knowing I like all things vintage, my friend bought me a 1950s Photoshoot for my birthday from Studio 52 on Shaftsbury Avenue. We arrived as instructed prior to our 1.30 appointment time. We were greeted by a friendly receptionist who informed us they were ‘running a little late’, we grabbed a coffee and sat down.

At about 2.30pm we were seated in the stylists chairs, I opted for a vintage/pinup look complete with victory rolls, whilst my sister went for a grudgy more gothic edge with straightened hair and dark, heavy makeup. Then back to the waiting room for more coffee.

By 4pm we got our slot in the studio, this lasted about an hour and consisted of solo and pair shots against a variety of backdrops. 

By 5.30 we were in the waiting room where we filled out a feedback form (I commented on the waiting time and said it would have been a good idea to include how long people were expected to be there).

At 5.40 we were still waiting.

By 4.45pm I’d had another coffee (by this time I was buzzing) and we were still waiting.

6.00 still waiting.

6.06 still waiting….

6.16 girls came out of viewing

6.18 still waiting…only so much coffee I an drink.


Eventually we were shown into the viewing room, the man In there was obviously a sales man but was a little too charming and false for my liking, (every shot was great, you look amazing, I’ll keep that one) which does not work with me.

 I bought four but  would have got more had I a) not felt I was imprisoned there and b) they’d have done an offer of the whole shoot (you had to choose and buy them individually).

All in all I am happy with the shots but if you go, be prepared for the long haul (take a good book and some quality snacks!) 

It’s my sister’s birthday tomorrow but her celebratory drinks are today. 

We are at the Bavarian Beerhouse in Old Street: It’s 9.48pm and everyone in the place is drunk. We are sandwiched between Tina’s table (about 30 young women all wearing sombreros and celebrating a birthday…. I think and a table of 15 men, celebrating a stag do, the protagonist is in a dress and wearing antlers.  At the current time both parties have collided and are dancing (‘Dirty Dancing style) in the middle of the room. Tina has just skidded across the floor under the stag’s legs and the stag’s friends have just pulled down his pants! I was lucky to get past this alive and with all my clothes on.  

To be honest I’m glad to be leaving. I know you only live once but this must be what hell is actually like! 

After a pleasant Mother’s Day luncheon (at a shocking extortionate cost) I ventured, after dark, to a local theater to watch The Circus Of Horrors. This is a show I have seen many times before but am I am always happy to re-see.  The show is always vaguely themed but each year it contains similar acts but it is always highly entertaining.

 

The show, which this year boasts 25 years in the business, is basically full of traditional circus/sideshow acts but they are all set to rock music with scantily clad women and a gothic, edgy theme running throughout the show (this year they jumped on the Walking Dead zombie fashion).  There are sword swallers, contortionists, whipcrackers and knife throwers, ariel gymnasts and so on. All highly skilled and all very watchable.  The show never ceases to amaze me. At one point Zombies appeared at the top of the theatre and scrambled down the rows of seats to the stage (I was expecting it but it is still terrifying).


Doc Haze fronts the show with ease and literally sings his heart out, (his costume is very reminiscent of my early 90s goth phase and the leather trousers are still hilarious to my sister).  The illusion scene where his head is removed with a guillotine is only spoilt by the fake head having considerably more hair than the man himself! 


If you get a chance to see to show, go. You won’t regret it.

 

 

I know I’ve been away for a while but I’m back now and I promise I will complete more blog entries and I will explain why I’ve been away.

Anyway onto today’s blog. I’ve a guilty secret : I’m a geocacher.  

For those of you not in the know, geocaching is a hobby which combines getting out of the house, getting into new areas, getting some exercise and puzzle solving.  It involves using a GPS (or mobile phone app) to find hidden boxes hidden all over the world (so far I’ve geocached in England, Germany and Belgium). These boxes can be nano (very tiny smaller than a 1p coin) or much larger (the biggest I’ve found was a huge plastic be hidden in some local woods!

This weekend I’ve been to Lincoln where I, with my geocaching partner, (aka my dad) completed loads of caches. Some of these were awesome, every one was different and, without giving too much away, some were very creative.

 Some of my geocaching. finds.

 

I also saw many birds; the usual garden variety (sparrows, blue tits, crows etc.) plus some long tailed tits and oyster catches. In addition I found monetary treasure (okay only 11p in total but it’s still cash right?) and I found, what I believe to be, a rabbit’s skull. 



Rabbit skull?



I really loved Lincoln too, the cathedral is massive.



The back end of the cathedral



The main town is full of the usual shops but head on up the hill to find very cool vintage shops and quaint tea rooms.



Check out the yummy cakes.



I had a slice of almond and cherry cake which was lush! I also bought a cool, Rosie the Rivetter style headband.





 

I would definitely recommend Lincoln for a weekend away and as a geocaching venue. 

The Mirror

The_Mirror_resizedSo on the weekend of the 1st March I attended another belly dance show…only this wasn’t just another belly dance show: It was the new extravaganza by Josephine Wise and I’ve got to say it was brilliant.  To be completely transparent, I am slightly biased as I had many friends performing in the show but it was truly amazing.

The show told the story of Snow White but not the sanitised Disney version we are used to seeing, this one had a funeral, attempted murder and cannibalism!

Personally I love dance shows that actually tell a story.  I do like watching dancers perform just the dance form but when you’ve also got a story narrative running through the performances it adds a certain je ne sais quoi. When that narrative is deliciously dark; a narrative of love, jealousy, revenge and murder, you’ve got the recipe for an amazing performance piece.

Parts of the story were very effectively performed with simple special effects.  I loved the birth scene (basically a dance with an adapted tanoura spin and wrap). When the over skirt was lifted up to show the blood stains it was very emotive, I would go so far to say inspired. The cannibalism scene was unexpected, highly effective and genuinely shocking (and I still don’t know what the product was that was consumed but it looked like something you’d find at a particularly gruesome Halloween party). I loved the lighting and how the reflection in ‘The Mirror’ was performed with two dances mirroring each other either side of a lit line projected across the floor. My favourite dance in the whole show was the dwarves returning home from work. These were a motley crew of dancers in amazing costumes, all different, all wacky and all fun, who danced to a modern Klemzer piece of music, ‘Papa Chajes (Basement Freaks Remix)’ which is now duly purchased and on my ipod. Check it out on youtube.

If it tours – go see it!

Last weekend I visited the Poppies installation at the Tower of London, this amazing work of art is entitled ‘Blood Swept Lands and Sea of Red’ after a poem written by an unknown soldier, and it marks the centenary of the First World War. It was created by ceramic artist Paul Cummins, and over time (it is constantly evolving), 888,246 ceramic poppies will progressively fill the Tower’s famous moat (one for each of the lives lost by British and commonwealth soldiers during World War one).

It truly is a sight to behold. The lovely, red ceramic poppies really fill the space and when you realise that each represents a life lost, it really does make you think.

The installation is on until armistice day ( between 5 August – 11 November 2014) and it is well worth a trip.

Here is the poem, from which the artwork gets its name.

 

The Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red    By Anonymous (Unknown Soldier)

The blood swept lands and seas of red,

Where angels dare to tread.

As I put my hand to reach,

As God cried a tear of pain as the angels fell,

Again and again.

As the tears of mine fell to the ground

To sleep with the flowers of red

As any be dead

My children see and work through fields of my

Own with corn and wheat,

Blessed by love so far from pain of my resting

Fields so far from my love.

 

It be time to put my hand up and end this pain

Of living hell, to see the people around me

Fall someone angel as the mist falls around

And the rain so thick with black thunder I hear

Over the clouds, to sleep forever and kiss

The flower of my people gone before time

To sleep and cry no more

I put my hand up and see the land of red,

This is my time to go over,

I may not come back

So sleep, kiss the boys for me

After breakfast we headed to the Snowdonia mountain railway. Our ticket was for a ten o’clock train, which was on time!

This train is Britains only rack and pinion, completed in 1896. It takes an hour for the train to reach the top and the views are amazing all the way up and down and you get a real sense of achievement reaching the summit (not as much as if you’d have walked it mind!) it was freezing at the top and moist as we were in the clouds but amazing nonetheless.

We then headed into Caernarfon. This area had a really run-down feel. Neither myself or my father liked it and there wasn’t even a cup of tea to be had on the seafront, so we left and headed into Beaumaris. Beaumaris Castle is picturesque. As a history teacher, it is an almost perfect castle teaching tool as it has all of the features you would desire in a castle. It had a moat, a curtain wall with loop-holed ramparts , murder holes, portcullis and more.

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