Archives for the month of: May, 2013


Germany may soon have a new sound on its streets. Germany’s police cars and sirens (das Martinshorn) may soon sound and look more “American” if the German Bundesrat agrees with a recent decision by the Federal Ministry of Transportation. The flashing red lights and siren sound found on US police cars could soon be added to the German police car. A decision is expected soon. 

Advertisements
In the USA, public libraries have traditionally been important community centers. With the advent of the World Wide Web and with fewer bookstores around, the public library’s role is adapting. The public library is no longer just a place to borrow books, but a place to get DVDs/CDS, use a computer, access the Internet, disseminate and obtain information, meet friends, and even enjoy a cup of coffee.

Pablo Neruda Bibliothek
Friedrichshain Berlin

Many public libraries have also become places to showcase art exhibitions, have guest lecturers, hold book readings, and even improve language skills. For example, at Portland’s central library, there’s a section, which provides tutorial assistance for people learning English.  

Germany also has an impressive public library system; but, without being too bold, it’s no match for the American system. In Germany, libraries are open for fewer hours, usually lack Wi-Fi and computers, and are generally less user friendly.

A couple of days ago, I was working at my neighborhood library (Pablo Neruda Bibliothek) in Berlin. It’s an impressive building with an extensive collection. Yet, for all of its modernity, it lacked sufficient seating and table space, offered neither Wi-Fi nor computers, and had bad acoustics. Of course, this is just one library, but I’ve noticed the same phenomena at other libraries throughout Germany and Europe. Europeans like to flaunt their superior social services (with good reason), but when it comes to public libraries, America’s system is better. 

In the USA, public libraries have traditionally been important community centers. With the advent of the World Wide Web and with fewer bookstores around, the public library’s role is adapting. The public library is no longer just a place to borrow books, but a place to get DVDs/CDS, use a computer, access the Internet, disseminate and obtain information, meet friends, and even enjoy a cup of coffee.

Pablo Neruda Bibliothek
Friedrichshain Berlin

Many public libraries have also become places to showcase art exhibitions, have guest lecturers, hold book readings, and even improve language skills. For example, at Portland’s central library, there’s a section, which provides tutorial assistance for people learning English.  

Germany also has an impressive public library system; but, without being too bold, it’s no match for the American system. In Germany, libraries are open for fewer hours, usually lack Wi-Fi and computers, and are generally less user friendly.

A couple of days ago, I was working at my neighborhood library (Pablo Neruda Bibliothek) in Berlin. It’s an impressive building with an extensive collection. Yet, for all of its modernity, it lacked sufficient seating and table space, offered neither Wi-Fi nor computers, and had bad acoustics. Of course, this is just one library, but I’ve noticed the same phenomena at other libraries throughout Germany and Europe. Europeans like to flaunt their superior social services (with good reason), but when it comes to public libraries, America’s system is better. 

Macondo is a cozy cafe that’s minutes from where I live in Berlin. The ambiance invites you to lounge and relax on its vintage sofas, armchairs, and tables. The day I visited, I had the Colombian breakfast
(€5,50), which included 3 arepas (corn cakes made from a special precooked corn flour), 3 empanadas (stuffed pastry), beans, and salad. It was very tasty and quite filling. 

On the plus side, the service was excellent and quick. There’s plenty of reading material and a nice view of Boxhanger Platz. On the negative side, there’s a backroom where smoking is allowed, and the smoke tends to drift into the non-smoking area. In addition, the restroom needs help. There was no paper, no soap, and absolutely, no cleanliness!
Macondo is a cozy cafe that’s minutes from where I live in Berlin. The ambiance invites you to lounge and relax on its vintage sofas, armchairs, and tables. The day I visited, I had the Colombian breakfast
(€5,50), which included 3 arepas (corn cakes made from a special precooked corn flour), 3 empanadas (stuffed pastry), beans, and salad. It was very tasty and quite filling. 

On the plus side, the service was excellent and quick. There’s plenty of reading material and a nice view of Boxhanger Platz. On the negative side, there’s a backroom where smoking is allowed, and the smoke tends to drift into the non-smoking area. In addition, the restroom needs help. There was no paper, no soap, and absolutely, no cleanliness!
The Buckeye or Horse Chestnut tree (Aesculus californica) reminds me of my native California. Its white flowers are a signal that spring has arrived; and when the leaves drop in July, it’s a signal that the scorching hot weather has begun. 

In Europe, the Red Horse Chestnut (Aesculus x carnea) is very similar to the California variety except its flowers are pink and the leaves drop in the Fall. After the Linden tree, the Red Horse Chestnut is probably the most common street tree in Berlin. Berlin is trying to add more trees to the city, and their work is beginning to pay off. All over town, I’m seeing a lot of newly planted trees. It certainly softens this gray and rather cold city. 
The Buckeye or Horse Chestnut tree (Aesculus californica) reminds me of my native California. Its white flowers are a signal that spring has arrived; and when the leaves drop in July, it’s a signal that the scorching hot weather has begun. 

In Europe, the Red Horse Chestnut (Aesculus x carnea) is very similar to the California variety except its flowers are pink and the leaves drop in the Fall. After the Linden tree, the Red Horse Chestnut is probably the most common street tree in Berlin. Berlin is trying to add more trees to the city, and their work is beginning to pay off. All over town, I’m seeing a lot of newly planted trees. It certainly softens this gray and rather cold city. 
Directly across from Treptower Park in Berlin is the Blaue Apotheke (Pharmacy). By attaching five plastic flowers to the building facade, the owners of this structure have transformed a rather ordinary piece of architecture into something whimsical. What better way to attract customers and improve the urban landscape.

On cold and cloudy days, this building adds a little sunshine to the bleak environment. It certainly brought a smile to my face. Unfortunately, there’s not much whimsy in current architectural design. It seems that many architects take their designs too seriously. What ever happened to the Gaudi’s of the world? 
Directly across from Treptower Park in Berlin is the Blaue Apotheke (Pharmacy). By attaching five plastic flowers to the building facade, the owners of this structure have transformed a rather ordinary piece of architecture into something whimsical. What better way to attract customers and improve the urban landscape.

On cold and cloudy days, this building adds a little sunshine to the bleak environment. It certainly brought a smile to my face. Unfortunately, there’s not much whimsy in current architectural design. It seems that many architects take their designs too seriously. What ever happened to the Gaudi’s of the world? 
It’s the ultimate comfort food. A chicken pot pie is a baked savory pie filled with chicken, gravy, and vegetables (potatoes, carrots, green beans, and peas) and completely encased by a flaky crust. Yes, I know people commonly call things with only a top crust pot pies, but those are just chicken stews with a crust floating in it.

This traditional American dish does a good job of covering the four major food groups though it’s also loaded with calories, salt, and fat. In Portland, chicken pot pies can be found at supermarkets, delis, bakeries, restaurants, and even at road stands. Here are a few places that I’ve tried.

The Cookie Jar (My personal favorite)

Located on Cape Elizabeth, the Cookie Jar makes an excellent pot pie with a flaky crust, plenty of vegetables, and a good portion of chicken. At $15 for a 10 inch pie, the Cookie Jar’s pot pie is a good value. BTW: the traditional pastries and cookies at the Cookie Jar are excellent. 

Two Fat Cats

This well-known bakery located near Portland’s old port is generally over rated, and their pot pie is likewise good, but not worth the fuss. The crust is just right and there’s a healthy portion of chicken; however, the filling has too many whole pearl onions and there are not enough vegetables. At $20 for a 9 inch pie, it’s on the pricey side.

Leavitt and Sons

This upscale family style deli located in Falmouth sells a dish that claims to be a pot pie. There’s plenty of chicken and a good sampling of vegetables, but this pie has one major flaw: there’s no bottom crust. It’s expensive at $17 and is on the small side. If you can overlook the lack of bottom crust (which, ultimately, I cannot!), the pie isn’t bad. 

Pat’s Meat Market

Pat’s is a neighborhood market/deli that has some great sandwiches and homemade soups. It occasionally sells pot pies that are similar to the supermarket variety. In a pinch, a pot pie from Pat’s will do, but stick to their sandwiches and avoid the pie altogether.