Tag Archives: Germany

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.

 

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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!

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.

Playing with Color and Layering

So I had another lesson today, my second photography/photoshop lesson. I have to say I am still such a beginner! I still need to find my groove and style when it comes to snapping, and never realized I actually have to learn how to stop thinking like a tourist when taking a shot, and go for the photo that tells a story, (rather than just illustrating it before your eyes.)

So I give you another taste of Amanda magic! This week’s lesson was about taking 3 shots consecutively without moving the lens, all with slightly different exposures. You can pull all the images together within photoshop and it gives the image a sort of surreal look – something that cannot be achieved with one shot alone.

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Snow capped tombstone markers at a graveyard in Kreuzberg, though supposedly no one lays beneath them

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Busy city corner in Kreuzberg with a flourescent yellow building

Paraguay Calling: Part I

Paraguay has called, once again. For those who don’t know my back story intimately, (as I won’t be so presumptuous to assume you do!) I spent 6 months volunteering for the WWF in Paraguay in 2010. It was a challenging time for me, filled with both the highest of the highs and the lowest of the lows. I struggled to adjust to a new way of life in a third world country, particularly to the extreme poverty I wasn’t used to seeing and the children, cats, and dogs roaming the streets aimlessly in search of food or a kind soul. But I also made incredible friendships that will last a lifetime, greatly improved my Spanish, and learned that I could in fact survive in a new city on my own, (with a little help to guide the way, of course!)

My first trip back to Asuncion was about 10 months after I moved away, last October, 2011. I had been working on a proposal with my colleagues in our Paraguay office and we had just received approval to write the long proposal, (think 20  or so pages versus 5,) so I flew down for two weeks to work more closely with the team to develop our project plan.

I was nervous to go back at first. I wasn’t sure how I would feel now that I had been home for a few months and then moved to Germany. Would I still get along with my friends well? Would my Spanish be at least as good as when I left? Would I still understand the intricacies of our work as well as when I had lived there? Would my heart sink every time I saw a homeless dog crossing the street?

I arrived after 22 hours of travel a bit exhausted and somewhat flustered at my inability to move my tongue as fluidly as I would have liked, (I blame the months of German lessons for that one!) but after resting up for the day (and soaking in some sun at my hotel) I was prepared to take on the language, and my former home (albeit a temporary one.)

As for all of my other fears, they were nothing to worry about. What I learned more than anything was that you can always go home again. I fit right back in with my friends (with a strange Gringa/German accent, but still), the office welcomed me with open arms, and my memory of our project work and goals had nowhere near disappeared in my time away. I felt peaceful being there, without the same conflicts that had plagued me during my volunteership. I was in a new place, both physically and mentally, and could handle what was thrown at me.

Paraguay was a place I belonged, it had become a part of me.

…to be continued…

Another Runner’s First – Rainy Days

So I recently celebrated an anniversary…well a couple really. My birthday just passed last week, 27 years (crazy!) And It has been two years since I first left New York for Paraguay. It’s also been about two years since I started this blog and, of course, since I started running!

Actually its quite crazy to think of all the firsts I’ve experienced in the last couple of years, in particular. Moving out of my NYC apartment, quitting my long-time job at an Advertising Agency, moving to South America to become a volunteer, following my passion to save animals, being offered full time employment by the WWF, moving to Germany, learning German, etc.

Nonetheless, life continues to be filled with first experiences. I guess that’s what keeps me going everyday, knowing I have yet to discover the undiscovered!

My most recent first was just the other day. I’ve been super motivated lately to keep get in shape and stay fit, and have been trying to stay as active as possible, whether it be biking to work everyday, running when I get home, high intensity weight and cardio exercises in my living room, (which I’m sure my neighbor downstairs must love!) or attending weight or spinning classes at the gym. So despite feeling utterly exhausted from all the traveling and socializing lately, I finally motivated myself to get out for a run around 9 pm the other night, to catch the last rays of sunshine, (did you know that in the Berlin summer the day stays light until about 10:30 PM?!) I reminded myself how good I would feel after a nice run, since I haven’t been able to fit much in the last week or two while I was traveling in Paraguay, and put on my Vibrams and workout gear and headed downstairs.

I exited my building only to discover that the (very uneven) cobblestones were wet. It had begun to rain. I literally stood on the edge of the doorway for a solid 3 minutes debating if I should just call it quits and head back inside and then remembered what someone had told me recently, “We aren’t made of sugar,” and said what the hell, I’m gonna get sweaty running anyway, might as well let some natural water mix in!

Fernando Mastrangelo’s Sculpture made of Sugar (a.k.a. my impression of what would happen to me if I ran in the rain)

So for the first time in my relatively short running career I opted to run in the rain. It may not sound like such a big accomplishment, but actually it felt very liberating! It was the first time I was able to see through the raindrops to the workout that lay beyond. Rather than assuming a summer must be filled with gorgeous outdoor runs, otherwise I’m doomed to the treadmill at my gym, I realized I can actually make due with inclement weather. It actually even made me reconsider my gym membership, (well for the summer at least!)

So in light of this personal achievement, here’s to another two years of firsts!