Archive for the Things to do in Berlin Category

Play ping pong … day or night

Posted in Things to do in Berlin on September 10, 2009 by bigbear4

ping pong 2

One of the coolest things possible to do in Berlin also happens to be one of the simplest. And it’s completely free. Outdoors tables for ping pong are everywhere in this city. You can even play by streetlight.

The Germans are mad keen on the game and one of their most famous sporting exports is Timo Boll, a former World Champion who’s almost as famous in China as David Beckham. Have a look at this ping pong themed website which claims Germany as ‘ping pong country’. It’s like a porn site for ping pong fetishists. Not only that, there’s a popular bar in Berlin called Dr Pong, where the sport doubles as a drinking game.

The beauty of table tennis is that anyone can play it. Even girls. Panda had never seen a ping pong ball in her life before arriving in Berlin. Yet within a few months of serious tischtennis-ing she was managing to beat players that even she would admit are far more stylish/ technically competent/ athletic/ big-headed and experienced than her. Well, she basically got lucky. In my defense, Panda was formerly an Olympic contender in a very closely related field of sporting endeavour (swimming) so you should take that into account when wondering how on earth your bearish hero managed to lose to her. Six times.

These days we call it table tennis or ping pong, but did you know that the game originated in the Victorian dining room and was originally called ‘wiff waff’? Here’s London’s mayor, the hilarious buffoon Boris Johnson, reclaiming ping pong from the Chinese the night the Beijing Olympics ended and explaining the genesis of wiff waff, a quintessentially English invention: Wiff waff wideo

Get stuck into some wiff waff if you’re in Berlin. It’s loads of fun and good for the ticker. And pray you don’t run into Panda.
ping pong 3


Start a rock band

Posted in Things to do in Berlin on August 31, 2009 by bigbear4

panda loves dogs
Part of the reason for the long hiatus between this post and the last (about four months I think) is that one has less time for blogging when one is engaged in the real world business of settling in a new city.

For me, this ‘settling’ has taken a number of aberrant forms. For example, I started an indie-folk-rock band called The Bears Grrr, played some gigs and recorded a soon-to-be-[self]-released EP to be titled Panda Loves Dogs. Panda, by the way, LOVES dogs. Woof. Grrr.

As something to do in Berlin – whether you’re here for a weekend or a year – I would highly recommend starting a rock band for kicks. Go for it kids! What have you got to lose? As I discovered, being barely able to play your guitar or sing beyond warbling throatily is no hindrance at all to starting a band in Berlin, or perhaps anywhere else for that matter.

This is how I did it:

1. Set up a practice session in week 1 with a hastily gathered bunch of friends and friends-of-friends who could play a bit and start writing melodic songs.

2. Go out busking the terraces around Boxhagenerplatz, Kolwittzplatz and Bergmannstrasse in search of affirmation and small change. Be sure to wander into self-proclaimed ‘legendary venue’ White Trash Fast Food to wow the owner Wally with an impromptu set

3. Start playing occasional open mics, such as the excellent one hosted at Madame Claude in Kreuzberg (where the sound guy really knows what he’s doing, the atmosphere is supportive and the room sparkles)

4. Tempt in other musicians by the sheer madness of your enthusiasm and the semi-plausibility of your vocal hooks


5. Graduate to getting invites to play ‘twee’ parties, occasional charity gigs, house parties

6. Return to aforementioned ‘legendary’ venue (in truth, it’s become a glorified Hard Rock Cafe with over-priced burgers and snotty, overworked staff) for a ‘proper’ gig way before you’re actually ready for it. Rock, in your own quiet, shambolic way, and be told upon leaving the stage “That was shit. I hated it .. but the girls seemed to like it” by Wally

7. Set aside a weekend and record a demo EP at home, which we did a fortnight ago.

I’ve played music before on stage (just a handful of times), I’ve recorded bits and bobs at home, but until I came to Berlin I’d never formed my own band. Call it creative freedom or the stimulation of being in a new city, or a culture of acceptance of cultural effort here in Berlin, or the fact that not being in England in amongst your own can feel like a hindrance lifted – but it’s been a joy to start a band, write a bunch of songs (we have about 15), play some gigs and record. Where we go from here is anybody’s guess, but I’ll keep you posted.

Some of the recordings we’ve done are already on the obligatory myspaz here if you care to listen. Next step will be getting the CD pressed and packaged – to hand out, to sell etc. Maybe I’ll blog about that.