Many of the markets are set around historic monuments creating a picturesque overall impression. Like this at the Kaiser Wilhelm Church at Breitscheidplatz, the scene of last year's terrorist attack.
Now concrete barriers line all market perimeters. This striking church, damaged during the WW II, is flanked by a pair of towers with stained glass facades, and is now a memorial of war and destruction.
The Austrian themed market at Schloss Charlottenburg has quite a "wow" factor. After browsing the many holiday and winter crafts we escaped from the chill. In a sheltered, toasty cafe we indulged in apple strudel served with custard and steaming quince punch.
Der Hahn ist totEvery Friday evening we seem to discover a new excellent restaurant in Berlin. This city's gastronomic scene is truly impressive. Der Hahn ist tot (The hen is dead - a line from a French nursery rhyme) blends French, German, and Nouvelle Cuisine in their dishes. Their thrust is hearty, healthy, rustic, homestyle cooking featuring bold, satisfying flavors. And these attributes featured abundantly in each of our 4 courses at this restaurant on Friday evening (Dec 1). Creamy sweet potato soup with bread that tasted like it came straight out of the hearth.A salad of crisp greens sprinkled with pomegranate and toasted pumpkin seeds.
For mains, a parsnip chestnut ragout, featuring roasted parsnips and chestnuts in a brown, umami rich gravy and pumpkin potato mash. Dessert was a spicy baked apple stuffed with walnuts and served with custard. We gorged on this utterly delicious meal in an interior that felt like a French farm kitchen filled with animated diners. Traditional French décor and a combination of long wooden tables and small tables, allowing for both communal dining and privacy. A perfect ambience for a damp, frosty winter evening.
Opera (Dec 2)Why were we underwhelmed by Tannhäuser on Saturday evening? Was it because of the breathtaking production we'd seen at the Met in New York two years ago? (The conductor was James Levine - how terribly sad he's fallen from grace too!) Could it be that the last eight richly rewarding operas we attended at Deutsche Oper Berlin, elaborate, inventive performances displaying the city's avant garde nature, primed us for something stupendous? The opening scenes of Venusberg during the overture held promise. Such elegant choreography as the knight, Tannhäuser, descends from above into the world of carnal pleasure. After that, for most of the opera there was no stage scenery. Sparse, minimalistic. At times there was an army of grey clad knights suspended over the performers. At other times there were devils hovering over the scene. Yes, we get it. Medieval Christianity's idea of good and evil. To yield to natural instinct is evil. Purity, and the ability to suppress primal desires are good. In the opera's final scenes the stage turned bewilderingly into a hospital scene, filled with patients on white beds. What was the point?
But the music, oh the music, so sublime, the singers exhibiting mellifluous voices. The Rome Narrative and Venus Song arias were splendid. And really, isn't Wagner all about the music?