Bailey's Berlin

March 29, 2013

 Bailey ponders what life would be like in Berlin...

We weren't entirely sure how Bailey would take to Berlin. While most would consider Wiesbaden to be big city life coming from the suburbs where we lived in California, Berlin is a whole different beast. Bailey barely manages a walk in our current neighborhood without at least once jumping at the sound of Rollladen, big trucks or even doors. Seriously. She once trampled a little puppy fleeing from someone shutting their car door. Three years in and city life is still an adjustment for her. Needless to say, we were nervous that she would veto this city we had fallen in love with.

Miraculously, she seemed to get along great. Perhaps she was so distracted by all the new smells and friendly dogs, or she was just traumatized by all the traffic and a few rides on the U-Bahn - and S-Bahn! - but we were terribly impressed with her nonetheless. Not only did she manage to listen pretty well, she didn't bark at other dogs in her misguided efforts to make them play with her (well... except that one little male dog that took a shine to her, she just didn't appreciate his advances) and she even managed not one, but two (!!) restaurant visits without knocking a single table over (bribes of Paprika and roast beef from our plates played a big part, I'm certain). She seemed as genuinely interested in exploring this city as we were.

So here was Berlin from Bailey's point of view:

Longest road trip ever. I hate you guys.

After five hours in the car, my people took me straight to Tempelhof for a little doggy socializing (meh) and a lot of running (yessss!). Once again, my energy level had me mistaken for a puppy by another dog owner. Seven years young, folks.

I'm queen of the world!

Why are we taking pictures when I could be playing with those dogs back there..?

You're going to muzzle me, put me in this dark, shaking metal thing and leave me on the floor for people to step on? I really hate you guys. 

Some of your Banh Mi will help make up for my traumatizing first U-Bahn ride, really guys. Roast beeeeeef!

Really feeling the sadness here, guys

This is much more my speed: Schneebällen!

Doggy friend?

What's all this Harlem Shake crap? Everybody do the Zombie!

A moment of reflection... (but really just plotting how to get those ducks)

Day 2: U-Bahn, smu-bahn. I'm a Berliner now!

Hey, our parks aren't this swanky in swanky Wiesbaden!

I was a very good listener this trip, I swear

Now this is a park! So much running to do...

Uh, guys, isn't this just a wall..? What's the big deal?

Another park! This one had camels and mini horses - and I think maybe drug dealers

Phew! Berlin was exhausting!

...but I can't wait to come back!

Daily Drop Cap by Jessica Hische

Back from bitterly cold Berlin

March 25, 2013

So this was Berlin last week. The start of spring in our chosen new home brought buckets of snow, chilling wind and temperatures so cold, my eyeballs nearly froze. Even amidst the slushy streets and precarious icicles of death perched on building ledges high above, threatening to break free and impale us at any moment, we realized that somehow we still loved this city. Even the early darkness couldn't dampen the spark of excitement we feel when we are there.

There is just something about the endless opportunities big cities provide. Whatever kind of food you might feel like - Korean, Mexican, Indian, Jewish deli sandwiches - there's a place to find it. Whenever Bailey may tire of one park, there are countless others only blocks away for her to discover new smells and make new doggy friends. In true city fashion, there always seems to be something going on - art gallery shows, concerts, any number of various gatherings centered around any interest one might have. My husband and I spent most of the early part of our courtship in San Francisco, we were engaged in Paris, we decided on a whim to get married in New York City's Central Park - only to leave the country two months later to start a new life overseas. We have such a love affair with these great cities, it's about time we called one of them home. 

This trip to Berlin was really to get Bailey there and see if she could take to the big city life we so enjoy - and it turns out, she took to it even better than we could have hoped (although I'm sure endless snowballs and bribes of roast beef under the table at restaurants didn't hurt). We all explored some new neighborhoods and rediscovered ones we knew we loved. We found even more amazing food spots that blow even the best of Wiesbaden out of the water - actually decent coffee, sweets that don't taste like marzipan and bread that is neither sour nor brown. It is like the best of Germany with a dash of what the rest of the world has to offer as well. As much as people complain about German unfriendliness, we have received more smiles and kindness from strangers there than we ever expected. And not once did anyone take our flawed German as a sign to switch over to English, meaning we were increasingly confident every time we opened our mouths to speak. 

Yes, I think we'll get along here just fine...

Daily Drop Cap by Jessica Hische

Off to introduce Bailey to Berlin

March 20, 2013

We have booked a dog-friendly Airbnb, got our sights on a few wide-open spaces for Bailey to run around in and have some good take-out prospects (since Bailey is still not very restaurant friendly, aka, calm) for Berlin. Hoping for days of roaming neighborhoods to get a feel for them, the arctic weather may push us to mostly hole up and see what Berlin winter living is really like - indoors 24/7.

While we have our sights on a few eating opportunities (burgers and burritos mostly, because we haven't been back to the US for nearly two years) and hopefully a meetup or two with fellow expats/Berliners who have been so kind via the lifelines of social networks, the big thing this trip will be to see how Bailey might fit in there. After four years of ruling her suburban backyard, city living has been quite an adjustment for her.

German dogs set the bar pretty high, often walking alongside their owners without a leash yet never deviating for every new smell and enjoying a dinner out with their people, quietly snoozing under the table so that you wouldn't even know they were there. Bailey is a whole different beast. Every new smell is a reason to jerk her lead to the point of shoulder dislocation and the last time we tried to take her out to dinner, she knocked the table - and a bottle of wine - over on me. We often have to take a deep breath and remind ourselves: she's just a dog. And she did grow up in low-key California, after all.

Her boundless energy and excitement for life means that wherever we choose to go, she needs reasonable places to run around and explore. She reminds me a lot of the dog in this music video, complete with the perky, flopping ears, taking in everything around her with the exuberance of a small child. While there will be no sunny beaches or oceans to splash in like there are for lucky dog Lemon, we hope Bailey will be as impressed as we were with the amount of parks and green spaces there were in a city as metropolitan as Berlin. Lots of snowballs to chase should only sweeten the deal for her.

And so, on the road we go!

Johnny Neon 'Hearts' from Dave Meinert on Vimeo, via Good
Daily Drop Cap by Jessica Hische


March 19, 2013 other news, we may be rethinking our move

It seems that Berlin goes all out for the start of spring. This year it looks to begin with a blizzard.  Seriously, I've already seen the hashtag #snowmageddon show up in reference to Berlin's weather. Not exactly the kind of ushering into a new season I had in mind, but I suppose that is Berlin. After enduring what was the darkest, most depressing winter of our three years here, we're starting to wonder what we were thinking with moving to an even colder, even darker part of Germany. Are we masochists? Do we enjoy suffering from the crippling effects of SAD?

Even in our little corner of the country, the weather these past few weeks have been nothing short of infuriating. We thought early spring had arrived with a week of unseasonably warm weather, glorious sunshine and bright blue skies. Then the snow came back. And it not just came back, but dumped on us more spectacularly than it had all winter. Case in point:

Then, it nearly all melted away and we were back to snowless sidewalks and blue skies...

... only to be hit with this the very next day. Ugh. 

Now that we're currently seeing blue skies and minor patches of remaining snow where the sun has not yet reached when we look out the window, we head to Berlin tomorrow for weather that is looking a lot more 'White Christmas' than the first days of spring. Now I love the snow, especially coming from snowless coastal California, but this never-ending winter is really starting to wear on us. There were definite reasons why we picked Berlin over Barcelona for our next city, but the doubts are seriously creeping in right about now... I suppose we'll see how we feel after the next few days up there.  

If all else fails, perhaps this place in Deià is still available...

Daily Drop Cap by Jessica Hische
Crappy weather forecast courtesy of the app

Tired of winter

March 18, 2013

Can I get a hell yes? Anyone who is so ready to start sweating from heatstroke/acquiring skin cancer from all the sun the moment you walk outside, raise your hand. Yeah, me too. 

Image from Pinterest, via Joanna Goddard

Apartment wishlist: A bathtub

March 15, 2013

I have a love/hate relationship with bathtubs. For most of my life (since the time I sprouted to the size of an Amazonian), I have not been able to take a bath. Well, I could take one, but elbows, knees, and heck, most of my arms and legs were left sticking out at odd angles, which pretty much defeated the purpose of trying submerge oneself in warm relaxation. There was a time or two I happened to be at some posh hotel with a jacuzzi tub, these instances just taunting me with the amazing bath-lounging life that normal-sized folks got to enjoy. Other than these rare indulgences, they were only a seriously awkward and uncomfortable means to getting clean.

That is, until we moved to Germany. Somehow, I magically fit in the roomy, deep tubs of this country, as if they were made for people with my proportions. I realize some of this is likely due to cultural differences and not just a generally taller population. In the US, it is go, go, go, as fast as you can, so a shower is the most likely choice. But Germans, as practical and efficient as they are, have this love affair with luxuriating in a bath. They swear by the restorative powers of their Thermalbad (Wiesbaden was in fact named for these natural hot springs that run beneath the city) and have a bath salt selection that rivals American cereal shelves. Whatever the reason, they have made this once-cold-knee and -elbowed bath taker a convert - and I don't think I could ever go back.

Due to this affinity for baths, most German apartments have them. That is, until you start looking at renovated flats in a crowded city like Berlin... in which space for a tub might be reserved for your washer, or in more desperate cases, even just a decent size sink. Each time I click on a promising-looking listing only to see a tiny shower, my heart sinks just a little bit. So as silly as it sounds, a bathtub is pretty high on my Berlin apartment wishlist. 

Hello, swanky!

The last photo above is from an apartment we are actually hoping to view while we are in Berlin next week. Not the most spectacular tub I've seen yet (I'm gunning for something along the lines of that first one...), but certainly a really nice place that is conveniently opening up right in line with our moving time frame. 

As we continue our search, I'm trying to come to terms with the fact that a shower-only, otherwise perfect apartment could come up - and would I be okay with that. As nice as some of them are, I'm just not sure I could be happy with this:

Or worse yet, this:

showering in a coffin, anyone?

I'm crossing my fingers that when the right place does come along, there will be a large, deep tub waiting for me to soak in after long days of setting up our new home. 

Photos from listings on 
Daily Drop Cap by Jessica Hische

An expat's view of the grocery store

March 12, 2013

If you're in the mood for a little 'hot love'...

Grocery trips are often some of the first cultural shock experiences an expat will have. Even after a few years of settling in, I can still be surprised when perusing the aisles. Whether it's amusing/downright incorrect use of English ('jetzt mit Happy End!' is common - do they know what this means auf Englisch??) or just surprising tunes coming over the speakers (like the time "I Just Had Sex" was blaring throughout Karstadt in all it's unedited, x-rated glory), it's easy to find entertainment in the little things.   

Perhaps it was the result of being cooped up all last week with the flu, but our grocery shop this weekend was one such trip. So I bring you a few gems from our grocery, such as:

The perfect Easter beer,

oh-so-American hot dog and burger-specific sauces (wait, other than ketchup and mustard?),

the best packaging design I've seen on a German product yet (which are notoriously boring, dated, or just wrong),

and a condom energy drink (um,...????). 

Ah, Germany...

Daily Drop Cap by Jessica Hische

Spring, you cruel, elusive mistress

March 08, 2013

Here I thought San Francisco weather was finicky. The sun and considerable hike in temperatures this last week seemed to be making a strong case for early spring, but it looks like we are going right back to full-fledged winter next week with not only negative temperatures, but with snow as well. The high I've had from these blue skies and rare vitamin D streaming into my system have had me deluded that it's summer already and it's time to break out the short sleeves and sandals. Alas, 15°C is still a far cry from 25°C, but it's even further from the -5°C that is forecasted for next week. *sigh...*

To make this giant step back into winter even more painful, I've spent the better part of this sunny, glorious week in bed with the flu. Instead of basking in the warm (okay, lukewarm) rays of sunshine, I've been bundled and shivering in bed, and instead of bird watching (okay, people-watching) on benches, I've been watching a season's worth of bad television (Pretty Little Liars - don't judge, fluffy nonsense was all my fever-addled brain could take). As much as my body has been fighting me on doing much more than shuffling from the bed to the kitchen for tea and then back, my mind and soul are desperate to shake off the numbness of this week.

Thankfully, the fog in my brain is lifting, just as the grey skies are rolling in, and I expect to be back to my old self... by the time the snow starts falling again. Dammit.

So suck it, Punxsutawney Phil. And thanks for nothing.

Daily Drop Cap by Jessica Hische

It's March - time for some spring freshness

March 01, 2013

Today being March first and with the spring equinox just weeks away - or earlier, if you believe Punxsutawney Phil's predictions - it is time for spring blossoms, and therefore, spring color, to begin. With the depressing, oppressing grey winter, I have been a little too eager to jump right to summer with neon brights (been loving me some highlighter yellow and hot pink), but perhaps it's time to slow things down and take joy in the soft, budding colors of spring. 

Now, I'm not a huge fan of pastels. I think baby blues, powder pinks and pale lavenders just wash my pasty self out. But mint, oh magical mint green... I don't know what it is about this color that I've come to be to love so much, but I might be obsessed. Perhaps because mint is so much more than just a color, the smell and taste simultaneously invoking relaxing, uplifting and soothing feelings, the shade invades your senses as though it possessed the same qualities as mint itself. Even with all my intense desire for this color over the past year, I've barely managed to add to my mint collection and I'm getting a serious itch to now that the season is just right. 

Lucky for me, it seems this popular hue is still going strong and is showing up everywhere - in all its solid, color-blocked, striped, polka dotted, sequined and initialed glory. My favorites right now are the subtle polka dotted sweaterMadewell's darker mint skinnies (because, let's face it, some of our asses just don't belong in super pale pants), that monogrammed leopard pouch (I will forever be a prep and obsessed with all things monogrammed) and my all-time favorite shoes, now being offered with a pop-of-mint sole. Of course, I am still pining for that oh-so-spring iPhone case and the go-to Essie shade, Mint Candy Apple. Oh mint, you just make me happy with your pleasing hue!      

So here's to that glorious season called spring. May you be full of blossoms and sun - and, as predicted, come early!

see this collage and its details bigger here