Family, food, travel, other obsessions.
After spending the morning fighting a migraine (no respecter of time zones, alas), I headed to Alexanderplatz to check out the Christmas market there. I was expecting quaint and cozy, but it was big and brash. I should have known. This is Berlin, after all.
As long as you’re ok with big crowds, cigarette smoke and loud music, you’d love it. Berliners don’t take themselves too seriously. They’re used to the crowds, they’re used to the tourists. They know how to have a good time. And they offer their guests lots to see, including, they claim, the world’s largest Christmas pyramid!
You can find just about anything to buy at the market, from the traditional to the exotic to the quirky.
And although I didn’t take any pictures of the food, there is certainly plenty to eat, including lots of regional German specialties. I tried a Germknödel for the first time, a big, poofy, steamed yeast dumpling, a specialty of Bavaria and Austria with plum filling. I had mine swimming in warm vanilla sauce, although it more traditionally has melted butter and poppy seeds on top. Loved the vanilla sauce, loved the plum filling, but probably wouldn’t stand in line again for the dumpling itself. It was a little too doughy for me, but I can certainly see why it counts as comfort food. Nice and filling.
After braving the market outside, I braved the crowds inside at Kaufhof, the huge department store at Alexanderplatz. In Hal’s honor I paused for a moment of appreciative silence in the soccer clothing department. Yes, of course it has its own department.
I spent the evening at the venerable Deutsches Theater.
Although tonight’s performance of Chekhov’s The Seagull was long sold out, I joined a host of other hopeful theater fans in line for Restkarten (standby tickets). We all got tickets, albeit in the last row of the second balcony. These are what the manager called halbe Stehplätze (partial standing spots). He wasn’t kidding. Although we all had seats, we didn’t bother sitting in them most of the time, since we otherwise wouldn’t have seen anything. Still, it was totally worth the bargain price of 5 Euro. Riveting performances. The big draw in the cast was Corinna Harfouch, truly one of Germany’s greats on stage and screen, in the role of Arkadina. The scene in which she throws herself at the feet of her lover Trigorin was spellbinding.
If you speak German and want a little glimpse into what moves Harfouch in her acting, you can see a conversation here with her husband, fellow actor Michael Gwisdek. He smokes the whole time and interrupts her far too often, but she still manages to speak movingly about what drives her.
The set for tonight’s performance was spare and stark (a simple black wall), allowing all the focus to be on the powerful ensemble cast. I was particularly impressed by Kathleen Morgeneyer, who played Nina. And Meike Droste, who played Mascha, also had some incredibly mesmerizing scenes.
I’ll have to read the script soon. It is rife with ruminations on writing and the creative life, and, in the person of Mascha, on depression. To wit: “I feel as if I had been in the world a thousand years, and I trail my life behind me like an endless scarf” (Act 2).
It just so happened that Dada Falafel was right on my way home, so I had my own little encore there. Tonight it was the Dada vegetarian platter, the perfect choice for those who can’t decide or who just want to leave with happy tastebuds.
Here’s wishing you colorful marketplaces, good theater, and happy tastebuds, too.