Category Archives: Berlin

The Eternal Search for Delicious Brunch

I am eternally searching for the best restaurants in Berlin. The latest, greatest, most delicious, most undiscovered place where I can sink my teeth into something divine. Berlin happens to be a happening brunch town, if only you can find the right places to go. Sundays offer up all-you-can-eat buffets to dine to your heart’s content, but where is it worthwhile spending such a luxurious period of your life? There are, of course, the staples (or at least my staples!):

  • Anna Blume for their beautiful brunch tower and over-sized tea mugs
  • Pasternak for their creative and unique buffet filled with Russian goodies (many of which remind me of my grandmother’s cooking) and mouth watering desserts
  • Frida Kahlo which tends to disappoint during all other mealtimes, but they seem to have gotten the Sunday brunch buffet filled with eggs, rice, beans, chicken, pancakes, etc right!
  • Barcomi’s which has your standard bagels affair with delicious dessert options.
  • Nalu Diner for a typical American breakfast complete with diner pancakes, bacon, eggs how you want them, and killer hash browns.

But say you want to take a step away from the norm…where would you go? Inputs welcome.

 

Friends Get Married

I’ve hit that age when everyone you know starts getting married. Some even start having (gasp!) babies! In the last year alone I’ve been to weddings in Serbia, the U.S., Germany, and Paraguay (oh, and there was that time I met my BFF’s baby in the Bahamas.) It’s expensive to keep up with so many friends and their love lives, but it’s also so much fun!

Every country has their traditions – some of them seem weird (actually, no, they ARE weird, but let’s not debate semantics here) but they are all equally as crucial for the couple getting married and for the guests in attendance. Here is a list of some of the things I found to be the strangest, or most unique, in the “foreign weddings” I attended this year:

SERBIA

Vladi and Ive

Vladi and Iva

  • The first wedding is in a church (pretty standard) and not all wedding guests are invited to attend – this is usually a small, intimate ceremony that lasts about half an hour – the couple must accept congratulations and smile and pose with every guest who came to the church for the photographer
  • When you walk outside the church, there are local gypsy brass bands that come up to the wedding party and play music – their music becomes more insistent the longer they play, often putting the horn of the instrument directly in your ear and playing at full volume until you give them some cash (at this particular wedding the best man also brought the gypsy band to the party, much to the delight of all the guests) – keep in mind, these guys can pull in thousands of dollars a night for a big wedding
  • When you arrive to the reception, the couple once again stands outside and poses with every. single. guest. (in this case about 350 people) Only after every guest had their photo op does the party begin.
  • Lots and lots of different cakes.
  • Oh, and the photographers have printers on hand and walk around the party distributing photos that guests can buy on the spot (this is not so much weird as awesome!)
Brass Band

Gypsy Brass Band

GERMANY

(This was a mixed wedding: half East German half Northern England, i.e. Geordie)

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Ali and Neil

  • Straight from leaving the church the friends of the bride and groom hold up an old bedsheet which has a giant heart drawn in the middle, and the name of the bride and groom inside of that. The bride and groom are each given a pair of tiny scissors and they must work together to cut the heart shape out. Once complete, the groom then carries the bride through the opening they’ve created in the sheet.374396_10152077898159278_1848781778_n
  • German tradition is that as the first true test of marriage, the newly wedded couple must work together as a team to saw apart a foot in diameter log using an old school, massive saw. The first marital row, if you will, ensues.995734_10152077899664278_1485770867_n
  • This might just be East German, not totally sure, but the bride and groom are each given two giant loaves of bread – they must create a pair of shoes from this bread. The first one to walk across the stage (or room) in their new shoes wins!
  • Each guest is given a balloon filled with helium and a postcard pre-addressed to the bride and groom. Each guest writes a message to the couple and ties the postcard to the balloon. Everyone releases the balloons at the same time (great photo op!) Once the balloon finally lands (wherever that may be) it’s up to any random stranger passing by who finds it to mail it back to the couple. (Strangely, our postcard made it back to Ali and Neil from the Czech Republic!)

PARAGUAY

(This was a mixed wedding half Paraguayan half Colombian – so the traditions may be a bit mixed up – at least in my mind)

Nati and Luis

Nati and Luis

  • There is a traditional Paraguayan dance at the beginning of the reception and every guest must dance for a few minutes with the bride and groom (men with the bride, women with the groom) and smile for a photo op!
  • Ligas – this took me a while to understand! The bride has about 20 garters under her dress (one garter for each single woman at the wedding). One garter is special (i.e. a different color) and the rest are traditional white. The bride sits opposite the single women (one at a time) and they each lift their right leg and touch the souls of the shoes. The groom then takes one garter from the bride’s leg and must slide it across their legs and feet and up the thigh of the single lady. His “last chance to touch another woman” if you will! The woman who gets the colorful garter is the next to marry. Ligas in Paraguay
  • Masks/hats/whistles/glow sticks/silly string, etc – Boxes of costume-like hats and whistles, (see list above) are distributed to guests to liven things up. I have to admit, this makes the party a hell of a lot more fun!
  • Whiskey – easy as that, the drink of choice for the night is whiskey, the nicer the better
  • For the Colombian tradition that stood out most, aside from sharing a bottle of whatever they were passing around, is some dance where a woman lies on the floor (or I suppose it could also be a man?) and all the party guests dance feverishly over her. (See example of Mapale here.)

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As I continue to grow my international network of friends, I will continue to observe the oddities of culture, which are never more openly displayed than in time-honored traditions such as weddings!

Starting Again – Getting Fit

So I made it back to the gym at last. It seems that I keep doing this. Going to the gym and then taking a week or two off, then going back again. And when I say “going to the gym” I mean 1 day. ONE. DAY. (You read it right!) What the hell is one day a week, or one day every two weeks going to do for my body – aside from confuse it!

I signed up for a trainer a couple months ago and things were going pretty well, (although I’m still not totally convinced her end goal was not to kill me,) and I made each appointment religiously. That is, until I was traveling for work. Then it became 1 week prior to the trip that I couldn’t work out because I had too much to do to get ready, then 3 weeks of traveling, 2 weeks of jetlag and overall misery, 1 long weekend away, and here we are. Full of excuses and feeling a little round in the middle.

So yesterday I vowed to myself to get back on track. Back to running, weights, exercise, eating well and just general healthy and well being. I’m tired of feeling sluggish and low on energy. I want to feel great, or at least proud of myself, everytime I look in the mirror and know I am doing everything I can to take care of myself and my body.

Even though it’s dark and gray (and snowing) here in April, (what the hell, Berlin?!) I know that Spring isn’t so far away and I want to be prepared for when my legs come out of my heavy jeans and thermal leggings to show off their pale glory. I’m convinced it’ll be any day now – so better get a “head start” while I still can!

How do you keep up your motivation to stay fit?

Time to Try Again

Time to Try Again

Motivation that Wanes in Winter Grays

Inspiration comes and goes and two things affect it more than anything for me, at least at the moment. 1) My travel/work schedule and 2) the weather. What are the things affected by my lack of inspiration? Well this list can go on and on – from simply styling my hair or putting careful thought into my outfit for the day, to getting enough motivation to hit the gym a few times a week (or at least more than once a week!) to having the motivation and enthusiasm I always want to feel when writing my blog.

Lately I’ve been on the go quite a bit. I was traveling for work for 3 weeks between February and March and came back only to leave again for a long weekend in Stockholm. I’m back in Berlin, but not for long, as a number of upcoming trips will keep pulling me away time and again. And it has to be said that the weather in Berlin this winter has been nothing short of brutal. Endless months of gray skies take their toll on a person’s mind and energy. It’s hard to keep motivation when the weather never clears and every morning is as gray as every evening.

Endless Gray

Is there light at the end of the gray?

So where do I get hit the most? With my ability to get off my butt and get to the gym for that “I feel great!” feeling. It simply does not come when everytime I look out the window and think, “I’d rather be curled up on the couch under a cozy blanket with a book”.  Add a bit of travel messing up your schedule to the mix and you’ve got yourself a pretty good excuse to not work out and to stay away from the gym!

So today, as I sit at my desk debating if it’s time to leave the office, but secretly wanting to stay just a little bit longer to have a good enough excuse not to make it to the gym once again, (well I had to work late, it was impossible to find the time!) I know in my heart it’s time to get back.

While spring may not have come yet (my god, it’s already April! Give us a break on the bleak, gray skies and chance of snow!) it is just around the corner and I, for one, want to be prepared!

Anyone have any good tips for how to keep up the motivation even when the weather’s getting you down? How to you fight through the laziness and weariness to keep fit?

Protect Your Sunset

Sunset on Pappelallee

One of my favorite things to do with images I’ve shot, is to upload them for the world to see. I’ve always felt a little strange about this, (especially given how Instragram and Facebook have tried hard to put in the fine print that they really own all those great shots you’ve loaded of you and your friends.) Despite my attempts at coming up with a clever way to stamp my name on my work, thus protecting it from the photo thieves, my teacher finally gave me the simplest solution – create a paintbrush with my name on it! Who knew?

So in class last week we experimented with different forms of (c) Amanda Parker Photography and such, and finally found a classy, yet simple enough, modification of it. This is still a work in progress, as is everything, but I’m still excited I finally know how to do it the right way, without ruining the original image.

I also learned that when I upload photos into Bridge –> Photoshop (straight from my camera) that I can upload all the copyright information straight away in the metadata of each image. So regardless of whether or not I stamp my name on the outside no one else can legally take and re-print my image without having the true photographer’s (that’d be me) info loaded in every shot!

That being said, I give you sunset from my balcony, overlooking Berlin to the slightly south and west. It was a perfect night for my beginner’s eye as I happened to walk out onto my balcony at just the right moment to see the breathtaking hues of pinks, purples, oranges, and reds scattering the sky. I had my camera on hand, as I always do these days, and snagged about 100 different shots from different angles, trying to determine what the best shot would truly be to capture such a beautiful sunset.

Even though I know photographers don’t generally admit this, or maybe don’t like to, I took the images I made and combined 3 different ones within photoshop to give me the chance to enhance the colors of the sky, and brighten the buildings below to really make the shot pop.

Another Dose of Amanda’s Photography

 

River_HDR6

Here’s a nice shot along the River Spree in Berlin. It was a cold and gray day last Saturday as I walked with my friend and her dog, but the water was calm, aside from the ducks who were brave enough to dive in looking for food. The image is still a work in progress, but the fluffy clouds balanced out the harsh contours of wires and trees, and the strangely dark water. A perfect example of a Berlin winter day.

 

Nesting

I’ve always been a bit of a nester. Sometimes it can be hard when moving from home to home, but I always try to make my space feel like my own, even if that means sticking a few photos of family on the wall to complete the illusion.

When moving to Berlin I brought all my furniture from the U.S. More specifically, all my furniture from my NY studio apartment, (which was hand picked by me over the course of a few months to find the perfect blend of dark woods that complemented each other against the backdrop of a purple wall.) Fast forward about 5 years to my beautiful Berlin home, complete with its very own purple wall, and a couple of additions along the way (thank you, IKEA, for inventing the Billy bookshelf!)

With my new roommate just moving in, we are struggling to find the perfect balance of storage and space, without everything looking so cluttered and chaotic. While we haven’t quite hit our stride yet, we have begun a certain type of nesting of our own, and I don’t just mean the photos and paintings I’ve created tons of holes in the wall for, but growing our family…green!

I am pleased to present Carlos!

The newest addition to our family!

The newest addition to our family!

Carlos is a beautiful 3.5-4 foot tall ficus tree who likes to be sprayed daily, watered bi-weekly, and kept in the sunshine, but away from the wind. While trying to be good plant parents, we do our best to meet all his needs and he seems to have stopped shedding leaves  in response. Carlos is just the beginning of our hopefully growing plant family, as we plan to invite many of his brothers, sisters, and cousins to join us in due time.