Berlin … where even football managers look edgy

Posted in Berlin fashion on March 26, 2009 by biggbear

vater abraham in freidrichshain

Berlin may be synonymous with edgy style and ubercoolischness-sans-effort but the place still has the power to blow your little fashion pea on occasion.

Victoria-Friedrichshain coach Stefan, better known as Vater (Father) Abraham on account of his luscious beard and resemblance to the prophet [sic .. see the comments], is the football fashionista par excellence.

Ex-Chelski manager Jose Mourinho, the beau of the King’s Road set, is held up as a scion of style in London and Milan for his taste in cashmere overcoats. But the ‘Special One’ would be openly ridiculed in this little corner of east Berlin, where hooded tops, bokker boots and combats are the season’s cutting edge look.

Stefan’s casual combo may look incendiary as a colour statement, but the pairing of ski jacket with military fatigues captures perfectly the credit crunch zeitgeist. Two parts aspirational/ three parts apocalyptic, the coach’s get up is both ‘wow-nee’ and ‘ja-now’.

When even the city’s sports instructors are looking this fly, it makes you wonder: how long before Berlin collapses under its quota of effortless cool?


The apartment from space

Posted in Accommodation on March 17, 2009 by biggbear


Here’s our little corner of Berlin, as seen by the free orbiting periscopes of Google Earth.

watchin … fashion schmashion in beRLiN

Posted in Berlin fashion on March 16, 2009 by biggbear


This is the first in a series on ‘Berlin fashion’. It’s not going to be Cosmo I’m afraid. Big Bear as a fashion hack!? Ich don’t think so.

The plan is simply to stop folk who catch my eye and ask if I can take their picture. If they agree I’ll post the results up here.

These in-love nu-ravers were happy to pose.

Flohmarkt Boxhagener Platz, Friedrichshain

Posted in Berlin flea markets on March 16, 2009 by biggbear

Berlin has a great tradition of flea markets and this one, situated in Friedrichshain, is a perfect spot for bargain hunting. We’re yet to find jobs in Berlin and money’s pretty tight so we headed to the Flohmarkt Boxhagener Platz, a stone’s throw from our apartment, to see what goodies we could pick up. Map

Top of our wish list were bicycles. We’d heard we could probably pick up a decent bike for 40 euros. So we were delighted when, after a good bit of judicious haggling from me and flirting from Panda, we walked off with TWO bikes for 40 euros. A battered and rickety and rusting pair of has-beens they are, no doubt, but not yet ready for the knacker’s yard, not on your steaming nelly! These old nags have still got a few furlongs left in them:


The flea market on Boxhagener Platz, unlike some of the others in Berlin, is not for professional stall holders so it feels more like a junk or car boot sale. Indeed, it’s mostly junk, but we saw plenty of decent furniture and other tidbits. We’ll certainly be going back if we move apartments and need to furnish the new pad.

Here’s Panda mid-transaction on a deal for a little table, which we got for seven euros:


Our other buys at Boxhagener Platz flea market were: two bike locks (15 euros the pair), a Polaroid camera (8 euros), a guitar lead adaptor (2 euros), multi-socket plug extension lead (3 euros), and 1 never-worn pair of USA Wayfarer II Ray-Bans (a bargain at 60 euros).


When taking a poo in Berlin, doors are optional

Posted in Berlin people on March 15, 2009 by biggbear

There is much yet to learn about the natives of Berlin. I thought that I understood them, on the whole. They’re not that different from Londoners really, I thought.

But tonight I witnessed behaviour, by a German, of such jaw-dropping audacity and casual brilliance that I realise I have come nowhere near yet to fathoming the full splendour and complexity of the German national character.


That’s one of our good friends, a gleamer and gladhandler of guitars called J. Turbo. He was over at our place tonight, just hanging out.

It was a wholly ordinary evening as we swapped pipe tobacco secrets, spat into our harmonicas and watched Panda writhing on the bed with two laptops for company. After an intermission of standing together in the kitchen listening to Magnetic Fields records, J. Turbo excused himself and went to find the bathroom.

I drank a glass of water. Panda called from the bedroom.

Not hearing her clearly, I wandered out to the hall for a better listen. “What was that you were saying my darling, oh my sweet?”

And then I saw him: J. Turbo, through the wide-open door of the bathroom, sitting on the toilet, taking for want of a better word (there isn’t one) a shit, a picture of Teutonic contentedness.

“Alright Jonny,” I said.
“Hey … Big Bear … grrr”

So casual. I thought he was about to ask me for the time. Or say: “If you want to brush your teeth just go ahead, it’s fine. Don’t mind me.”

Panda thought it a right hoot when I told her the tale later. They don’t do that where she’s from.

But she thinks it’s a brilliant idea, and she wondered if we couldn’t simply remove the toilet door from its hinges and use it as a coffee table.

That way, I will stop clumsily kicking over cups, bottles & ashtrays, and all our future guests – particularly the German naturists among them – will be spared any threat to their immodesty.

Sudanesischer Imbiss, Friedrichshain

Posted in Berlin restaurants on March 15, 2009 by biggbear

This is a lovely little restaurant serving up something I’ve never had before: authentic Sudanese food. At least I think it was authentic. It was a mixture of familiar Middle Eastern/Mediterranean cuisine with a few exotic flourishes.


The owner Yassir was a great host. Bit of a sad story in that he fled Sudan and arrived in Germany a few years back as a refugee clinging to the underside of a train. Then granted asylum, he set up his restaurant in the most unlikely of places. It’s attached to a big Plus supermarket on Corinthstrasse. Map

I don’t think he gets many customers, which is a pity. For just 4 euros you get a massive plate of falafels, humous, fried haloumi, salad, chips and .. er .. cauliflower, topped with a lovely peanut sauce. Everything was cooked fresh and prepared in front of us. He threw in mango lassis on the house.

The Oscar Wilde, Friedrichstr.

Posted in Berlin bars on March 13, 2009 by biggbear

We have already been to plenty of good bars and restaurants in Berlin, but it only just struck me to blog about the places we visit. This is the first of what will be a collection of ‘reviews’. I’ll try and keep them brief.

Last night we wound up at an Irish pub, the Oscar Wilde on Friedrichstrasse. Map

We had gone to meet legendary loafer Bartleby Scrivener, our best friend in Berlin. He’s a professor at the European College of Liberal Arts in Pankow and last night was celebrating the end of term with his Joyce class. To gee his students up to finish Ulysses, the Dubliner (here in flatcap and spectacles) promised them all a pint of Guinness.


As to the matter of the Oscar Wilde and whether you should visit it: you should not. Unless you’re after a symbolic pint of Guinness. It’s a generic Irish-pub-abroad with little to recommend it. They do have Sky Sports on the telly so it’s a good pub for catching the football or rugby.

“It was smelly and there was no toilet paper in the girl’s toilet.” – Panda