A favorite discovery in Barcelona was the seemingly abundant existence of what you might call old-school establishments. These bakeries, cafes, sweets shops, and restaurants went about their business with style and efficiency that felt refreshingly authentic.
In our Berlin neighborhood, places such as these were quickly going extinct. Often they were so newly out of business that the shop interior was still in place and the sign still out front because no one had moved in yet. It always makes me sad to arrive at a shop threshold wherever it may be and realize that I’ve just missed the end of an era. So I’m happy to report that this didn’t happen to us in here.
Locating the best chocolate and churros in Barcelona is a task I would leave to someone with more time than we had. But we did find two traditional places in the Barrí Gothic that serve delicious churros and chocolate.
Granja La Pallaresa
The sign out front says “since 1947″ and the place has something of a diner feel to it, despite the white shirts and black ties worn by the wait staff. Delicious and simple. We were lucky to get a seat because by the time we left, a crowd was waiting outside to get in.
I believe it was founded in 1941—at least that’s what I understood when I ran the Catalan description. Located on a tiny street that is so narrow, it was dark even in the daytime. In fact, while we were waiting for them to open, we wandered just around the corner to find a gorgeous sunset happening on the Basilica Santa Maria Del Pi.
The all-male staff was supervised by a serious and watchful elderly gentleman. There were no smiles and everything was very proper. Photos were frowned upon. Loved the interior despite those crazy bright lights.
Photos by Anthony Georgis
Just before we left town, our friends and their band, Mount Whateverest, finished their European tour with a show at the Kugelbahn in Wedding. The show was super fun and the Kugelbahn (Bowling Alley) is something else.
Located on a quiet street at the edge of Wedding, it is a one-story building surrounded by tall apartment buildings. The main floor has massive windows in the front and back, a small bar and lots of sofas, tables, fireplace (!!), and a funny little terrace out front. And a fantastic moulded cement ceiling.
There is indeed a bowling alley on the premesis—a tiny, two-lane affair in the basement. The stage is down there, too. And I hear they serve breakfast on the weekend.
Photos by Anthony Georgis for the Field Office
I think I need to write an update post, something along the lines of: we are on the ground, we are here. Not just for you, but for me. It still doesn’t seem real and I’m having a hard time shifting gears and I’m feeling pretty dazed.
Our initiation back into American culture was the purchasing of an automobile. After a drawn out week of looking and driving, we bought one on Sunday. I am excited to have it because I hope it will mean more frequent adventures further afield, something that I’ve missed these last years. But it is a ridiculous expense and…the whole issue of walking vs driving, the layout of the city, the lack of public transport…you know the deal…it is a serious blow to quality of life and it makes me sad.
Good stuff: the light here is golden and intense—super, super beautiful. And as much as I love the density of a big city and all of the wonderful things it brings, I missed the big skies and the connection to nature that you get in a smaller city like Minneapolis.
These photos are from our trip out to drive/pick up the car, which was located about an hour outside of the city. The couple who sold it to us raise turkeys! Also yes that is a frozen lake—it is really that cold here!
Hope all of you celebrating Thanksgiving today, wherever you may be, have/had a good one! I’m wondering if I can fit in a short walk before the cooking begins?
Urban Plant Research just featured our Berlin Flora video on their blog. You can read the piece and watch the video here!
While you are there you have to check out their site, which is a collaborative look at nature in urban areas. I also love the links page, which could keep me busy for weeks and weeks.
Thanks for the write-up, Leslie and co.!
La Boqueria Barcelona
When the Romans came to (what is now) Barcelona around 200 BC, they weren’t its first inhabitants but they arguably did found the Barcalona we know today by naming their settlement Barcino. On this timeline, the first recorded mention in 1217 of a city market seems like something of a recent event.
The 1217 market was located at the edge of the city, near the city wall. Over the centuries it grew into La Boqueria, a permanent structure where all manner of food is sold six days a week.
La Boqueria is packed with people—tiny old ladies pushing through the crowds with their massive grocery trollies, locals grabbing food for dinner, diners eating fresh fish at food counters, and tourists gasping at the gorgeous bounty—and taking photos of it all. I myself was blown away by a box of lettuce set out for sale in which every head was so perfect, a food stylist couldn’t have done better.
I was also taken by the seller of fresh game, which I debated including in the photos because I didn’t want to make any of you sad. There is no gore (photo at the end of the post) but dead bunnies.
Our purchases included a mango coconut juice and a kilo of clementines. My regret is not getting in on the barrel of dried morel mushrooms.
We’ve set up camp at the Hotel Praktik Rambla, which has the most delightful patchwork of tile floors, a spectacular solarium and terrace for lounging, and really, really good pillows. Having some time in a new place surrounded by another language is exactly what I need right now. All of the basics components of travel, especially the thrilling sense of disorientation, are a fantastic distraction from the move and a reminder of why we are doing exactly what we are doing.
Building a life in another country is hard—and I don’t mean just learning another language and culture, which are feats in and of themselves. I mean giving up the life you leave behind in order to move to your adopted country and then starting all over from scratch—friends, work, home.
It took five years, but slowly I built my life in Berlin. Which is why giving up the flat and selling everything was so difficult and emotional. In the last weeks before we left, we packed 12 small boxes of stuff and sold everything else. Watching people come through and cart things away—actually watching them disassemble the home I’d worked so hard to build in just a matter if hours—it was traumatic and upsetting. I know somewhere in there are a few lessons but for the moment I’m trying to strike a balance between letting myself mourn the loss and remember that it is the beginning of something new.
I always thought that I would know when it was time to leave Berlin. The reality is that the knowing hasn’t been as clear as I’d hoped, but the decision has been made: we are moving! I say that with a huge mix of emotions. After more than five years, this place feels like home…but it also felt like the right time to stay true to the Field Office spirit and move on to parts unknown.
What’s the plan and what does this all mean? As far as the Feld Office goes, we plan to keep doing what we’ve always done but in different places and the idea of that makes me happy. I do have a lot of Berlin stories left to tell, though, so I’m not done with Berlin just yet!
For now we are heading to Spain for a couple of weeks and then we will be based out of Minneapolis for the winter. After that, we are gloriously open.
I want to sincerely say thank you to you, you who follows along here. Your support and enthusiasm has meant so much to me over the years both as a blogger and as an expat in a foreign land. So thank you. Now let’s see what comes next.
This is part three of our series about unrenovated buildings in Berlin, where a sense of the city’s past still lingers in entryways, courtyards, and stairways. You can read the introduction and find all posts in this series here. Or subscribe to receive future installments.
Kietz means neighborhood in German but in a micro sense—a neighborhood within a neighborhood. Each Kietz has a personality and some are better than others depending on their mix of shops, cafes, and connection to the rest of the city.
The Winskietz is centered on the Winsstraße, where today’s building is located. I lived here (in the Kietz, not the building) for a couple of years and walked past this place many times but never snuck in for a look until last year. The thing anyone would notice is the sign out front and the crumbling facade now propped up permanently by some very unphotogenic scaffolding (see the last two photos taken in 2009 before the scaffolding went up).
Berlin circa 1990s is how this place feels to me. It is what the average Prenzlauer Berg apartment building looked like during that time. On this day it felt empty and lifeless and I couldn’t tell if it was the chilly weather keeping people indoors or if the building really is mostly unoccupied. Sometimes landlords choose to leave apartments empty after a tenant leaves, waiting it out until every last one is gone so that they can begin renovations. I wouldn’t be surprised if that is what was happening here.
Keep reading this series:
>> Part 1: Introduction, How to Find Old Berlin
The past lingers in the entryways and courtyards of Berlin’s unrenovated buildings. This is how we find it.
>> Part 2: Corner of Danziger & Senefelderstraße
A grand old building in Prenzlauer Berg has a foot in the past—but not for long.
>> Part 3: Stargarderstraße
Personal touches in common areas set the old buildings apart from the new.
Find the series archive, here.
A beautiful, haunting film of Berlin Kreuzberg in 1979 that takes you slowly through the streets and along the river on a bright and cold winter day. Where are all the people in the first part? I love the dogs that meet on the sidewalk and play together for a few seconds before catching up with their people—timeless.
Music by Brian Eno.
Two images by J. H. Darchinger in this ZEIT photo essay caught my attention. They were taken in 1950s Germany and show an interesting overlap of past and present.
The first photo (above) shows a courtyard farmer in 1959. These are the same courtyards that I’ve written about in the Finding Old Berlin series, especially the last photo of this post, which shows a similar building built off the main apartment building. These smaller buildings are now something of a rarity to find. Many seem to have been taken down—when you do come across them, they are often in pretty grim states of disrepair.
The second photo of the kids crowding around a candy machine is kind of wonderful because you can still find these machines all over Germany. Speaking only for Berlin, they seem to be mostly neglected these days and I really wonder if they ever see action at all anymore. This might be partly due to the fact that instead of candy, they now offer cheap, faded toys. I like the idea that once they were a center attraction of the neighborhood.
Below, a few of the boxes from around our neighborhood. Note: they are only on the unrenovated buildings, so the vending machines seem to be an endangered species, too. If anybody has more information or memories about them, I’d love to hear.
Photographs by J. H. Darchinger and Rebecca Silus
I don’t think I’m alone in my love of museum period rooms—how enchanting is it to stand in a space filled with the details of another time? If you, too, gravitate towards that wing of the museum, then you’ll certainly like the Geffrye Museum with its period rooms AND gardens.
Starting in 1630, the rooms survey the history of British middle class living spaces. It comes to an end in 1998 with a terrifying, IKEA-influenced loft that I’m sure we’ll all find fabulously charming some day.
We had lunch at the cafe, which is in the new wing of the building with floor-to-cieling windows that look out on the garden. And if you want to travel back into present day, there is good coffee to be had just on the other side of the garden walls.
How was your weekend? We went to London, where the weather was warm and sunny and there were dogs, too! A few stories about all of that to come—in the meantime, a couple of peeks from our Instagram feed, where you can catch a lot of moments around here that don’t make it onto the blog. Join us there, won’t you? @fieldoffice