Foodies eat into Berlin’s impoverished image

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After reveling in its self-styled party image, Berlin is now cultivating a more mature, gourmet persona. The eat! Berlin food festival is key to efforts, but as DW’s Tamsin Walker finds out, it’s all a matter of taste.

Let’s get one thing straight: I am not a foodie. My grandmother used to argue that a carefully crafted pill would be the easiest way to give the body the nutrients it needs, and I sometimes think I might have inherited a mild dose of that attitude. It’s not that I have no appreciation for good grub, more perhaps that I’m generally unmoved by the ebb and flow of dining trends.

For the longest time, that lack of discernment stood me in perfectly good stead in Berlin. What separated a good venue from the bad was whether it served breakfast until late afternoon. But the times, as they say, are changing – and already have.

It is driven home to me every time I arrange to meet anyone for dinner. When the inevitable question of venue is raised, I might cast a couple of haunts I used to frequent circa 2005 into the pot. Yeah, right… When those suggestions are met with an almost inevitably raised eyebrow, my only other offering is impartiality. Read more…

Category: Writing

Move over electro, Berlin’s got a new beat

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Berlin features big on the global set list of electronica, but a bunch of musicians are strumming their stuff in an effort to add another, handmade, string to the city’s bow.

One chilly Friday night earlier this year, I was sitting in Schlesisch Blau mopping up the remains of the soup I’d ladled into my own bowl from the vast pots on the old-fashioned stove, when the chatter and chuckles that are the restaurant’s ambient sound were suddenly interrupted by the deep pluck and jangly twang of an unexpected musical interlude.

Conversations hushed, and within moments the trio of musicians had the stage – or the square foot of standing room in front of the giant soup pots – and the attention of the assembled company. No preamble. Just music that sounded as if it had been tailor-made for that very situation. They played for 20 minutes or so, took their bows, sold a few CDs and went on their way. Read on.

Category: Berlin, music | Tags: , ,

Can conflict help drive conservation?

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Research shows the vast majority of armed conflicts occur in areas rich in biodiversity. While that means bad news for flora and fauna, some suggest war can sometimes provides conservation opportunities too.

The link between conflict and conservation has generally not been high on the list of priorities for environmental research. But that changed a few years ago when a study by the group Conservation International found that more than 80 percent of armed clashes in the second half of the 20th century played out in biodiversity hotspots.

Experts point out that conventional warfare has long been known to wreck landscapes and ecosystems for decades to come. But, the changing nature of conflict carries equally disastrous ecological consequences and is turning richly biodiverse regions into battlefields. Read on…

Don’t judge your blind date by its cover

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It reads like something from the opening scene of a cheesy film. A girl makes a mad dash out of the house, races down an inconvenient number of stairs, grabs her bike at the bottom and pedals off into the traffic. As she jumps red lights and dodges oncoming cyclists, she keeps one eye out for the time, which is – yet again – of the essence. It is 9:20 a.m. and she is already five minutes late. She is a lousy time-keeper.

Cursing her flaw, she reaches the intersection at Eberswalderstrasse. It’s 9:22. How long can she keep a blind date waiting? Might someone else come and snatch it up? She keeps going, weaving her way through pedestrians, prams and road workers, until at precisely 9:26, she turns into Kollwitzstrasse. Eleven minutes late. Her heart is beating in time with her efforts, and she’s not quite there yet.

She parks outside one of the numerous entrances to the Wasserturmplatz. She knows this square and had welcomed the suggestion to make it the scene of her mysterious rendezvous. But it’s been a while and her urban geography, it seems, is as poor as her punctuality. In her recollection, the statue of the lion where she is to meet her date was somewhere else. She hurries among the trees and along the sandy paths – watched by mother who is not watching her kids – in search of the one she hopes will still be waiting. Read on.

Category: Berlin, protagonist, Writing | Tags: , ,

Arabic literature goes west

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For many in the West, the term ‘Middle East’ connotes military action and political reaction. But behind the sobering news reports is a rich literary world waiting to be discovered.

Born millennia apart, King Ashurbanipal of Assyria and the contemporary literary journal, Banipal, have more in common than their names. Just like the 7th century monarch, who collected texts from across the neo-Assyrian empire to create the first library in the ancient Middle East, the UK-based publication compiles contemporary writing from all over the Arab world – albeit in English translation.

I came across Banipal at the International Literary Festival Berlin (ilb), where its founders, Samuel Shimon and Margaret Obank, were talking about their efforts to make Arab literature accessible to the wider world. Their new magazine, Kikah,translates the other direction, aiming to introduce readers in the Middle East to uncensored, high-quality Arabic translations of international literature.

In its blurb about the Banipal and Kikah event, the ilb program referred to the West’s “rudimentary knowledge of the Arab world,” claiming that only three percent of books published in the US are translations from other languages. Three percent? That seemed too meager to be true. But further research supports the claim, and what’s more, the scenario is repeated in the UK. Read on

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