Friday, June 28, 2013


If  you wan to know what's hot and new in Berlin, you could subscribe to CeeCee, a wonderful newsletter in German and English. It's made by two Berliners that like to tour their hometown in search of new shops, exciting events and cool bars. Attached to the newsletter and their website is a city map on which all the reviewed venues are indicated. Very handy! Want more? Here's the site: CeeCee

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Seed bombs

My son recently received mail from OERRR, an initiative by Natuurmonumenten (Nature Preservation) to get children to explore nature. In the envelope were some new outdoor discovery cards and a package containing zaadbommetjes (seed bombs). He got really excited at the word 'bombs' but was disappointed when I told him the package would not explode when opened. The idea of making his own seed bombs became much more appealing when he realized that sand, clay and water would be involved. Since we did not have clay and the bombs now had to be made immediately, we just put some sand and water in a small bucket and mixed in the seeds. He then wanted to just throw the seed bombs off the balcony, 

but I managed to convince him that the seeds would probably be scooped away by the construction workers. So we went down into the 'garden' to look for a suitable place to drop our bombs...

In the end, we settled for a space next to the old electricity house, which is not likely to be torn down in the next months and which also had plenty of sun and most important: it is not an active construction site. As you can see, he did not want to get his hands dirty and carefully shook out the seed mixture in several places. He then faithfully went to watch the seeds grow for the first few days, but then decided that they were probably dead. Patience is not his strongest asset. Yesterday he suddenly remembered the seeds and went down to the seed spot to see if anything happened. 

Yes! Tiny little plants had come up at most of the seed spots and we could already discern several different leafs, although he was disappointed that I could not name the flowers. But hey, do I look like a flower expert to you? Anyway, he now checks up on the tiny fellows every morning before going to school and he puts a thumb to me when they grown again.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Lemon balm

About three months ago, I bought a tiny package of Zitronenmelisse (lemon balm) seed in the supermarket, for the one and only reason that the info on the back said: 'mosquito repellent'. Good! I thought, for if there is one thing I hate in summer... I sowed the seed in an empty milk carton, they are ideal for planting all sorts of stuff. The package also informed me that the seeds would germinate unevenly over a longer period of time. And indeed, it took over three weeks before the first tiny green sprouts became visible. The tiny sprouts remained tiny for another three weeks, but then suddenly started to grow really fast. I had to replant them and again used empty milk cartons, for I had a strong suspicion that they would need replanting within a couple of weeks.

And still, more tiny little sprouts keep popping up in the seed box, but I am in doubt now if I should still plant them on in bigger pots - in two months time, we will be moving back to Leiden and my husband is now cautiously starting to ask whether all this greenery is supposed to move back home with us...

Thursday, June 13, 2013


Last week we went to one of those mandatory events resulting from the fact that by accepting a research grant from the Alexander-von-Humboldt Stiftung my husband has become a Humboldtian and is now a member of the Humboldt Family. Ever year in June, the Stiftung celebrates its birthday by inviting all its relatives to a reception in the garden of Schloss Bellevue, the residence of the German Bundespräsident. And since Schloss Bellevue is only 10 minutes cycling from our house, I convinced my husband and my son that it would be fun to go there...

Normally, we would only have seen Schloss Bellevue from this side, but now we were able to see what lies behind the house/palace. While I was wondering whether we would actually meet the president, my husband was trying to remain inconspicuous because he did not want to talk to certain people and my son kept complaining that he was hungry ánd thirsty. After the inevitable security checks we were allowed into the park surrounding the Schloss and had to walk to the back of the house, which looks a lot like the front:

I was wondering why all the people over there were gathered around the parasol on the left, only to find that they were actually listening to a speech by Herr Dr. Gauck, the Bundespräsident himself (on the right - the white haired guy on the left is Prof. Schwarz, the president of the Humboldt Stiftung).

It was difficult to hear what he said, because my son kept tugging at my arm to ask why there was no food and that the apple juice did not taste right. Anyway, it was nice to have seen a real head of state in person. After the reception we were taken to Jannowitzbrücke for a long boat trip on the Spree which was excellent because the weather was great and the lunch that was served was not, so we spent the entire trip to Köpenick and back on deck.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


Every year when spring arrives, I have these wonderful visions of homegrown fruits and vegetables that will feed me and my family all summer long. Since I own garden nor balcony I can only keep on dreaming and try to grow some herbs in the window sills. Here in Berlin however, I have a pretty large and extremely sunny balcony. So this year, I was determined to grow at least one sort of vegetables: tomatoes. It started out quite well with tiny plants growing into bigger ones. But then I somehow forgot about them (maybe because spring was terribly late) and when I remembered them they looked very sad and had grown in awkward directions.

It was tempting to just throw them in the bin, but I decided to put them on the balcony to give them (and myself) a second chance. And look, after a couple of days of pampering they started to cheer up, so I repotted them, and now they go like crazy! I cannot wait to see those small yellow flowers popping up in due time - hopefully soon : )

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Künstlermarkt - Strasse des 17. Juni

The weekly Troedelmarkt at Strasse des 17. Juni is pretty well known in Berlin and it's also mentioned in practically all travel guides. What these guides never mention is another market that is also on Strasse des 17. Juni but on the other side of the Charlottenburger Tor - the Künstlermarkt. Every Saturday and Sunday (starting from May, it seems) local artists are selling their handmade work here, which ranges from paintings, leather bags, wood work and jewelry to toys, clothes and iphone sleeves. My favorite artist is a woman who makes table ware out of old silver cutlery - of which, sadly I wasn't allowed to take pictures. But I will probably buy something from her in the coming weeks, so I will be able to show you anyway. 

The most popular stand (especially on sunny days) is the Wunderseifenblasen stand of Peter & Pat. They make giant soap bubble blowers from rope and bamboo sticks. Very simple and extremely effective - not to mention funny and addictive. All you need is a large amount of soapy water and a little wind and there it goes! My 5-year old son was so fascinated by them that I  had to buy him one (a small one - orange, of course). 

He happily went off to try it out, and what do you know? Even he can do it!