A short walk around Covent Garden


There is something very wrong with the British Museum. On Saturday morning there was a 45 minute-long queue to get through the security check, both at the front and the rear entrances. Since we live in London and the museum is less than half an hour by tube from our house, I didn’t see the point of wasting time. Instead, Mr Gochugaru and I went for a walk to nearby Covent Garden.

My point is that it should not have to take 45 minutes to get past the security check. It will get worse from tomorrow, when their staff go on strike.

It was our wedding anniversary, which we don’t often celebrate. Historically, Summer was when the world descended on London and we had to host multiple visitors. For many years it was also the week of the annual Scout camp, where I would be away helping out with admin and catering (pitching tents is not my forte). After a while I just gave up trying to mark the day. This June and July saw us still receiving a mixture of visiting students and relatives.

I treasure the long years we have put in to our marriage and you know what, we are still happy.


Mr Gochugaru and I met during our first year at university, bonding over our shared wonder of London and the sheer woe of hall food. Hall food meaning the institutional meals at our hall of residence in Brunswick Square. At weekends we would walk down to Covent Garden’s cobbled streets to visit the crafts market, its individual shops and occasionally to catch a theatre performance. Some favourite shops from that time: Covent Garden General Store, Cranks restaurant and (the name escapes me) a spice shop which sold some very delicious samosas in its upstairs cafe.

This is still a popular place to visit and here are a few shops which I took note of during our walk.


The latest Indiana Jones film has just been released, and you can purchase a fedora at Stetson, 58 Neal St, London WC2H 9PA. A fedora = Indy’s hat and a Stetson = cowboy hat


Stanfords Travel Bookshop at 7 Mercer Walk, London WC2H 9FA, around the corner from their original site in Long Acre


Macarons from Pierre Hermé are ideal for any occasion. 38 Monmouth St, London WC2H 9EP


Udderlicious Ice cream was shut when I passed by but one of the flavours I could see on their board was Dragonfruit and Banana, which was what Junior 1 had just eaten in their Islington branch


Following our recent trip to Berlin I discovered the European Coffee Trip App. They recommended WatchHouse, 7 Upper St Martin’s Lane, London WC2H 9DL and Grind, 42 Maiden Lane, London WC2E 7LJ. There is the ever popular Arôme for pastries and coffee/ tea, 9 Mercer Street, The Yards, London WC2H 9QJ. Photos from a previous visit here.

I came across Fair Shot which is a social enterprise supporting and training adults with learning disabilities to work in cafes. It wasn’t time for lunch but this is definitely on my list the next time I am in Covent Garden. The sandwiches looked appetising and large enough to share between two people. 3 Slingsby Place, London WC2E 9AB.



I was told of the Japanese cafe Katsute 100 on the top floor of Uniqlo Covent Garden, 19-21 Long Acre, London WC2E 9LZ. Given that I much prefer tea to coffee, this was a real find. Full menu here and prices below, in case you need to decide before you reach the cafe. There are cakes as well so I think it would be best to visit with a few friends for a tea and cake testing session.



The shop itself is interesting as it has a glass roof, letting in natural light


We had to return home soon after, as we were having friends over for dinner. I cooked some dishes from the Falastin Cookbook and will write about this later. There was a lot of leftovers which meant I had the Sunday off cooking.


Other shops:

I do not have a photo of St John Bakery but they are located at 3 Neal’s Yard, London WC2H 9DP. This is near to Neal’s Yard Dairy,17 Shorts Gardens, London WC2H 9AT, where you can sample and buy fine British cheeses. Seven Dials Market is a food hall with independent food traders. To be honest, I miss some of the shops which have closed due to the dire economic climate we are in, but am encouraged by entrepreneurs who are still willing to open a business nonetheless.


Slow-roasted Beetroot with Labneh



This is the dish I could not stop thinking about during dinner at Otto in Berlin, after I left the restaurant, and as I returned to my kitchen in London. Chef Vadim Otto Ursus’s beetroot, sloe berry, labneh and brown butter is not easy to describe because it is unlike any other dish I have had, beet or otherwise. I attempted to make it using his recipe which I found here.


Otto’s June 2023 menu and the the beetroot dish


The recipe below has been adapted to suit my own cooking practicalities (I use the oven a lot). For chef Otto’s original recipe please see here.

I could not find any purveyors of sloe berry juice, but research indicates that it is possible to head up the road to Hampstead Heath and pick my own during the right season. Most people would pick sloe berries to add to gin (indeed there was a very popular book published 30 years ago called Sloe Gin and Beeswax which showed you how to make this) but if I were to find any, it would go into making this beetroot dish.

Since sloes are in the same family as plums and cherries, I opted to use tart cherry juice as that was what I could find. I would imagine pure cranberry juice would also make a good substitute.



The dish took two days to make but most of the time it looks after itself: roasting, soaking, dehydrating and then briefly boiled before serving. As it can be prepared ahead of time, it is a perfect addition to the vegetable platters from the other Otto i.e. Ottolenghi, whose dishes I cook every weekend when I have friends and family around the dinner table.


For the Beetroot:

1 kg medium-sized fresh beetroot

2 teaspoons fine sea salt

600 g tart cherry juice

250 g labneh
strain 500 g full-fat sheep / cow yoghurt to make your own labneh

4 tablespoons pomegranate molasses

2 – 4 tablespoons olive oil

a few leaves of Belgian endive, for serving


How to Make:


Top and tail the beetroot, then give them a quick rinse under water if the skin is muddy. Dry with a paper towel then wrap each beet in some foil. Bake in the oven at 200°C / 180°C fan for 50 minutes.

Switch off the oven but leave the beetroot cooking in the residual heat for another 30 minutes. By this time they will be just right, yielding but not too soft.

When the cooked beetroot has cooled a little, remove the skin. When I was about to proceed, Niece Number 2 showed me her super efficient and neat way of doing this: cup the beet, still in its foil, in the palms of both hands. Simply twist the foil, which will act like a ‘scrubber’ to scrape the skin off the beet. The skin literally rubs off in one go and the whole process takes a few seconds.

Cut each beetroot into 6 wedges and place in a large non-reactive bowl, e.g. a glass or ceramic bowl. Mix the cherry juice with 2 teaspoons of fine sea salt and pour over the beet.

Cover the bowl with a lid and let it sit overnight at room temperature. It was by now 10pm and I went to watch some K-Drama.


Day 1 stages: baking the beetroot and soaking overnight in the cherry juice



In the morning, preheat the oven to 70°C/ 55°C fan. Line 1-2 baking trays with baking paper.

Using a pair of tongs, remove the beetroot from the juice and place evenly on the baking tray. Reserve the juice for later.

Dry the beetroot in the oven for around 6 – 7 hours. This was my second attempt and I felt a bit more confident. Both timings seemed OK but I would not stray outside these limits.

The beetroot can be used immediately or kept for later.

Just before serving, place the beetroot into a pot with the reserved juice and pomegranate molasses. (For one portion, use six wedges of beetroot, 80 g reserved juice and 2 teaspoons pomegranate molasses).

Bring everything to a boil to reduce the juice a little. Remove the pot from the heat.

To serve, arrange the beet and juice in the middle of a deep plate. Place a few pieces of the endive on one side, and a dollop of labneh on the other side. Drizzle over with the olive oil (1 – 2 teaspoons if making individual portions) and serve immediately.


Day 2: the beetroot before and after dehydrating in the oven for 6 hours


Plating up: my second attempt (top) and first attempt (bottom)


I was very glad that my only companion at the restaurant was Mr Gochugaru, who after 34 years of marriage knows that I am usually not one to lick the last drop off a plate. I know he is not like that either. However we found ourselves taking turns to scrape, with our spoons, what we could of the remaining juice. Happily I don’t have worry about this in my own kitchen. This afternoon, after trying out the second batch with Junior 3, I simply added more yogurt to the remaining juice and ate it like a sort of savoury yoghurt treat.




Berlin: The Final Day

Berliner Tagebuch: Sonntag 10 Juni 2023 / Berlin Diary: Sunday 10 June 2023



Another bright day in Berlin and a lovely mid-morning walk around some imposing buildings after breakfast. I realise I feel physically smaller in Berlin than when I am in London. London has its share of grand buildings but the narrow streets somehow contrive to mitigate their grandeur.

Before you read on, please see here for details of the transport and museum passes we used for this Berlin trip. All information correct as of June 2023.


Frühstück / Breakfast

We started the day with local walk, passing by a reconstructed Checkpoint Charlie (touristy and slightly pointless taken out of context) and then to Bonanza Coffee Roasters.


Bonanza does coffee, of course, but their pastries are really excellent too


Morgenaktivität/ Morning Activity

Berlin has unique pedestrian traffic lights that feature a charming red and green ampelmännchen/ little traffic light man, with a hat on

The Ampelmann shop sells any type of souvenir you can think of, which makes it a fun visit



Ampelmännchen had its own Google Doodle to celebrate its 56th anniversary on 13 October 2017

56th Anniversary of the Traffic Light Man


Towards Bebelplatz: like so many large institutions undergoing renovation, St Hedwig’s Cathedral (top) is currently closed. The juristisch fakultät / law faculty of Humbolt University (bottom)


We stared for a long time at the facade of the Humbolt Forum, curious as to whether it was a new building designed to look old, or an old building newly restored. Its history is complicated and here is an insightful article from The Guardian. I should like to see the views from its rooftop terrace (closed on Tuesdays, ticket required).


Front and side of the Humbolt Forum


Courtyard and rear of the forum


We returned to the Nicholas Quarter / Nikolaiviertel (see previous post) to visit the Knoblauchhaus, which was the family home of Carl Knoblauch and his family


The interior reminded me of visiting National Trust houses here in the UK. There was a lot of furniture and portraits, but what stood out for me was this painting of the New Synagogue (which we spotted on our first evening in Berlin)


We had a few minutes in the Museum Ephraim-Palais before returning to our hotel for a late check-out. Entrance (top) and interior staircase (bottom) of the museum


When walking around Berlin, do look down at the pavements and roads from time to time. The border between East and West Berlin, where the wall once stood, is marked out so you can see what lay each side of the divide



This was a busy trip but not exhausting, as we stopped for sit-down meals and had some rest stops factored into the day. Although I did quite a lot of background reading to prepare for the trip, there are still interesting facts that come up each time I return to articles or the guidebook. This is to be expected, as Berlin is a large city! If I were to go again in a group I would consider hiring a professional tour guide so we could have a history lesson whilst walking. Find a suitable guide and tour here or here.

Here are some the places we did not get round to trying or visiting:

44 Brekkie for breakfast/ brunch/ lunch.

Five Elephant for coffee and cake. Their branch in KaDeWe serves cakes by French patisserie Lenôtre and an apple strudel which I did not have space for after lunch.




If I had not been so absorbed with museums I might have found time to do some eating and food shopping at Markthalle Neun in Kreuzberg. As it was, I did not go anywhere near Kreuzberg. So this is a definite must for the next trip.

Another must if the weather is hot and if it still exists (shops open and shut all the time): Korean bingsu / shaved ice at Cafe Gong Gan, located in Manifesto Food Court, The Playce, Alte Potsdamer Str. 7, 10785 Berlin


A walk around Gendarmenmarkt was high on my list but the entire site is currently off limits due to ongoing renovation works


KPM (Königliche Porzellan Manufaktur / Royal Porcelain Manufactory) has hand-made their porcelain in Berlin for over 280 years. I am not in the market for a whole new dinner service, but I should like to tour their manufactory.

I would still like to visit more museums and art galleries. Top of my list would be the Deutsches Historisches Museum (DHM / German Historical Museum) which is currently closed.

Many rooftop terraces with views were recommended but we ran out of time. Maybe next time: a drink on the rooftop terrace at the Hotel de Rome.

Finally, for a person who much prefers tea to coffee, I still look out for cafes because that’s where I would find the thing I love most for breakfast, which is croissants. If they do cakes that’s a bonus. Here is a comprehensive list of coffee places in Berlin from European Coffee Trip which currently lists 550 roasters and 3715 cafes across Europe. I searched for Berlin and it returned 249 entries. I downloaded their App immediately on my mobile phone.

What I did not do: eat currywurst, doner kebab or Brammibal’s vegan donuts (the point of donuts is that they are an unhealthy occasional treat). I left the Birkenstock shop well alone because I am now much older and need to wear sensible shoes that lessen the chance of tripping


Let’s learn some German words!

I love ice cream but did not have the space to try any from the Rosa Canina pop up shop near KaDeWe department store (see previous post). Some flavours are descriptions (e.g. Mozartkugel and Stracciatella) but for straightforward flavours here is a word list:

zitrone / lemon,

erdbeere / strawberry

butterkaramell mit steinsalz / butter caramel with rock salt

walnuts karamellisiert / caramelized walnuts

bourbon Vanille aus madagaskar / bourbon vanilla from madagascar

schokoladensorbet esmeralda / chocolate sorbet esmeralda (not sure who Esmeralda is)

Apfel Butterstreusel mit tonka / Apple butter crumble with tonka (bean)

himbeer mit basilikum / raspberry with basil

sicilianische blutorange / Sicilian blood orange

tonkabohne mit sesamkrokant / tonka bean with sesame brittle

joghurt mit Heidelbeere / yogurt with blueberries



Post Script

Not very important, but here is my opinion of Berlin Airport:

Some airports are too big e.g. you could easily spend three hours in Singapore’s Changi Airport eating and shopping. Berlin Brandenburg Airport is quite the opposite. There are not enough departure gates and seats within these areas to accommodate the passengers. The one business lounge in Terminal 1 (Lounge Tempelhof) is shared by over 20 airlines. Two things made the experience bearable: this was the first time in the whole trip I came across currywurst (don’t waist your calories) and also, they served some magnificent pretzels. These were pretzels so fresh, with just the right amount of saltiness and chewiness, that I had to stash some in a ziplock bag to bring back to London. They were still good three days later.


Berlin: Day 4

Berliner Tagebuch: Samstag 10 Juni 2023 / Berlin Diary: Saturday 10 June 2023



After the taxing schedules of the past few days, today we took a more chilled approach to seeing Berlin. We managed to pack a lot in, including a visit to a preserved section of the Berlin Wall.

Before you read on, please see here for details of the transport and museum passes we used for this Berlin trip. All information correct as of June 2023.


Frühstück / Breakfast

We spent 12 hours out on the town today, and I am glad we started with a great breakfast at Bonanza Coffee Roasters. As they are coffee roasters, things are kept simple in the tea department: it’s green tea or black tea. The apple puff pastry is the best I have eaten anywhere, including in France. There are other sweet and savoury patties, and cookies.



Morgenaktivität und Mittagessen / Morning Activity and Lunch

No foodie trip to Berlin is complete without a visit to KaDeWe (Kaufhaus des Westens / Department Store of the West). Top tip: head straight to the 5th floor for kitchen equipment and to the 6th floor for their food emporium, bars and restaurants. You will be thoroughly spoilt for choice.


KaDeWe is continental Europe’s largest department store


German Bundt pans. Not quite Nordic Ware but very similar


The KaDeWe food floor (Harrods has a food hall – KaDeWe has a dedicated food floor) is magnificent. I am even now thinking of how to eat a whole day’s worth of meals here, from breakfast to dinner, then bagging some choice foodie gifts to bring back to London. As with every good thing in my life I think of my family, and how lovely it would be if we could experience this together.

I remember the first time my parents tried spit-roasted chicken, on a trip to France and Switzerland sans enfants. They were so happy, and always talked about it. One of the reasons I bought my first extra-wide Gaggenau oven 25 years ago (I am on my second one now) was because it had a spit-roast function.



Admiring this pistachio and summer berry creation from Lenôtre


Nachmittagsaktivität / Afternoon Activity

Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church is a short walk from KaDeWe and worth a visit to learn a bit about its history. Consecrated in 1895, it was bombed by Allied Forces in November 1943 (for some context, my mother-in-law was born then). Three years earlier here in England, the city of Coventry sustained heavy damage during the Battle of Britain. On 14 November 1940 Coventry Cathedral was destroyed by fire when it was bombed by the German Luftwaffe. The tragic event, and the Cathedral’s reconciliation work resulting from its response, is explained here.


A Coventry Cross of Nails / Nagelkreuz von Coventry, symbolising peace and reconciliation


Views of the front and back of old church tower, now a war memorial. Next to it are the modern hexagonal belfry (under scaffolding) and octagonal new church


Inside the new church with its stained glass inlays

From a church that was deliberately left unrestored to another that was completely rebuilt: St Nicholas Church / Nikolaikirche is Berlin’s oldest church, which was also destroyed as a result of Allied bombing in World War II. Laying in ruins, it was only in 1981 that permission was granted to rebuild the church using old plans and designs. The present church we see today is a reconstruction and bears little resemblance to what it would have looked back when it was first built around 1230.


The rebuilt exterior of St Nicholas Church in the Nicholas Quarter / Nikolaiviertel


Besides being a church, St Nicholas is also a museum which charts its 800-year-old history


The church is a regular concert venue and there is an organ recital here most Fridays at 5 pm. Confession: I intensely dislike organ music


We had time to nip into Hamburger Bahnhof / National Gallery for Contemporary Art before dinner. The permanent exhibition was closed but we viewed three temporary exhibitions: one quite awful, one quite interesting and one quite entertaining…a bit like a typical outing to the Tate Modern. The museum shop here is one of the best we came across and I can recommend it for books, gifts and souvenirs.


Hamburger Bahnhof was built between 1846 and 1847 as the starting point of the Berlin–Hamburg Railway, and is one of the oldest train station buildings in Germany


Abendessen / Dinner

The dish I thought about most after I left Berlin was otto’s beetroot, sloe berry, labneh, brown butter. I kept trying to work out, from our server’s description, how to make it in my own London kitchen. Thanks to a Google search I came across the recipe from chef Vadim Otto Ursus.

Even before we begin, how can you not like a name like Otto? Otto is 8 in Italian, an auspicious number for Chinese people, and Otto reminds me of chef and restaurateur Yotam Ottolenghi, whose cookbooks I adore.

I did make the beetroot, which took two days. It was worth the effort and I will write this up after I complete the Berlin Diary posts.


Here is otto’s menu when we visited in June 2023


Here is what we ate: pickled vegetables, pointed pepper, oyster mushroom, white asparagus, veal and beetroot


After dinner / nach dem Abendessen

Bernauer Strasse is a short tram ride away from otto restaurant, and here you will find sections of the Berlin Wall preserved as a memorial. There is an engaging podcast on BBC Radio 4 called Tunnel 29 which brings to life the desperation East Berliners faced when the wall was erected so suddenly in August 1961. The story tells of a group of men who dig a tunnel in an attempt to escape to West Berlin. (The book based on the podcast, by Helena Merriman, is published by Hodder & Stoughton, ISBN 978-1529333978.)

Tiny bit of background: Post World War II, Germany was divided into West and East Germany. Berlin, the capital of East Germany, was itself internally divided, with West Berlin run as a liberal democracy.

Imagine you have a round cake. The left half is iced with vanilla frosting and the right half is iced with chocolate frosting. Within the right half there is a small circle which should be wholly iced in chocolate, but half of this is iced in vanilla. That small circle is Berlin, and the vanilla part of that small circle is West Berlin. If you take a box of matchsticks and stick it around the vanilla section of the small circle, that would be your 96-mile-long Berlin Wall.

The evening light was fading now, and the Visitors and Documentation Centres were closed. This is on my list for the next Berlin trip.


The outdoor sections of the Berlin Wall along Bernauer Strasse are accessible 24 hours a day


Chapel of Reconciliation (top) and Documentation Centre (bottom)


We returned to The Playce in Potsdamer Platz because I (strictly I, not we) wanted some ice cream. Caffe e Gelato is quite standard in its gelato flavours but the location was convenient for us. Next time I’m bringing more people so we can try the chocolate ice cream bars and parfait desserts in jars.



Let’s learn some German words!

Today, it is the translation of the prayer which is on the base of the Coventry Cross of Nails in Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. Known in English as the Coventry Litany of Reconciliation, this prayer is recited in the new Coventry Cathedral every weekday at noon, and also throughout the world by partners in the Community of the Cross of Nails. The response is Vater vergib / Father forgive. There are some similar-sounding words that help us follow the lines.




The hate that divides race from race, people from people, class from class
Father forgive

The greedy striving of men and nations – to possess – what is not their own
Father forgive

Possessiveness – which takes advantage of people’s work and devastates the earth
Father forgive

Our envy of the well-being and happiness of others
Father forgive

Our lack of participation in the plight of the homeless and refugees
Father forgive

The pride that leads us to trust in ourselves, not in God
Father forgive



Den Hass – der Rasse von Rasse trennt, Volk von Volk – Klasse von Klasse
Vater vergib

Das habsuchtige Streben der Menschen und Völker – zu besitzen – was nicht ihr Eigen ist
Vater vergib

Die Besitzgier – welche die Arbeit der Menschen ausnutzt und die Erde verwüstet
Vater vergib

Unsern Neid auf das Wohlergehen und Glück der Anderen
Vater vergib

Unser mangelndes Teilnehmen an der Not der Heimatlosen und Flüchtlinge
Vater vergib

Den Hochmut – der uns verleitet – auf uns selbst zu vertrauen nicht auf Gott
Vater vergib



Berlin: Day 3

Berliner Tagebuch: Freitag 9 Juni 2023 / Berlin Diary: Friday 9 June 2023



There is a general realisation that in any skiing trip, the third day is the hardest. I am wondering if this also applies to any short holiday. The spanner in the works today was a visit to the Reichstag at 4.15 pm, which had no in-built flexibility whatsoever. Whilst I understood the rigidity of the arrangements, I did not appreciate it. It was hard to hang around waiting for something to happen, as I will explain later.

Before you read on, please see here for details of the transport and museum passes we used for this Berlin trip. All information correct as of June 2023.


Frühstück und Morgenaktivität / Breakfast and Morning Activity

It was my birthday so I had some cake for breakfast at The Barn’s other location on the north side of Potsdamer Platz (Bellevuestraße 1, 10785 Berlin) near the Sony Centre. Compared to yesterday’s location, this was calmer with no building works.


Looking up at the unique open roof of the Sony Centre in Potsdamer Platz


No croissants, but carrot cake and green tea made a good start to the day



This morning we revisited the Kulturforum complex, to spend a little time in the Kunstgewerbemuseum. This is one of the less featured museums but I found it very interesting, and a bit like the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

On the lower ground floor there are some rare hand-crafted objects. The Cupola Reliquary is part of the Guelph Treasure. Reliquaries held reminders of long-dead saints, and were meant to inspire awe from those who would feel closer to their saints. Today, our awe comes from knowing that the Guelph collection in the museum is valued at around €250 million.


The Cupola (Dome) Reliquary


The other significant collection on the lower ground floor is the Lüneburger Ratssilber / Lüneburg Council Silver. These pieces were made between the middle of the 15th and the beginning of the 17th century, and financed from money made through the town’s salt production. At that time salt was a vital ingredient for preserving herring caught in the Baltic Sea and the waters around Norway. During religious periods of fasting meat was not permitted, so pickled or salted fish was the only ‘meat’ available in inland areas.


A display case featuring some pieces from the Lüneburg Council Silver



Besides other decorative arts e.g. glasswork and cabinetry, the museum has an extensive collection of fashion clothing and accessories from the 18th to 20th centuries. There are many fine examples but I only really looked at the shoes.


Shoes made by Ferragamo, from the 1940s and 1950s


From past to present: after seeing so many historic domestic and fashion items at the museum I went to Galeries Lafayette to see its modern equivalent. As you can imagine, shopping at this French department store is very pleasurable, with many brands under its wing. In the household department, I especially liked looking at the colourful tea towels from Garnier-Thiebaut.

On a mission to look for one thing only i.e. pepper mills for my friend Shoe Lady, I discovered a whole new universe of pepper mills. On the three display units were (counting front and back) 30 shelves of every conceivable shape, size, material and colour of pepper mill you could ever want. This was pepper mill heaven. All the mills come from Peugeot, and I was surprised to learn that the company made hand tools, kitchen equipment and bicycles before they even thought of making cars.



Mittagessen / Lunch

Bocca di Bacco (literally, Bacchus’ mouth): despite an address in Friedrichstraße, near to Galeries Lafayette and Gendarmenmarkt, I found the restaurant refreshingly unstuffy and welcoming. One of my pet fears when dining out in a foreign city is not being considered a proper paying customer, rather a tourist they might never see again and treat disdainfully. In fact, we had very good food and service throughout our Berlin trip.


A very satisfying lunch, from the bread basket to the Alessi salt and pepper table set which we also use at our home


Nachmittagsaktivität/ Afternoon Activity

There was enough time to visit another museum at the Museumsinsel / Museum Island before heading to the Reichstag. The Alte Nationalgalerie houses sculptures as well as paintings, and they are all significant. By now my head was a bit tired of thinking about how valuable these pieces of art were.


The entrance to the Alte Nationalgalerie


Besides the Pergamon Museum, the other visit that has to be booked in advance is a visit to the dome of the Reichstag Building. There are extensive views from the top and for most people that would suffice, but I also think it is worth reflecting on Germany’s tumultuous political history and how democracy is an ideal worth fighting for and preserving.


Dome of the Reichstag Building


Looking up at the dome


One of the many views from the top


I hate being late for anything. Before the strict appointment at the Reichstag, there was some time to fill and we visited first the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe and then the Brandenburg Gate. This did not take long. What could we do to use up some spare time? Pariser Platz, the square in front of the Gate, was busy and noisy with tourists. The Tiergarten Park behind the Gate was just a vast and dry space with no seating. This created a perfect storm with frustration and weariness setting in to turn me into a monster.

It’s not that I would not do this again. If I were to visit with someone else, I would be smarter and plant myself at the Hotel Adlon whilst waiting. My advice would be to plan the Reichstag visit as your first activity of the day. The entry and security arrangements are so rigid you would otherwise be hanging around or running so as to not miss your slot.


Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe


The Brandenburg Gate


Abendessen / Dinner

Katz Orange has one dish every non-vegetarian should try, which is called Candy on Bone. This is either lamb or pork slow-roasted at a low temperature for 12 hours. Served in a miniature Staub roasting dish, the small hunk of meat belies how filling it is. Second helpings are offered if you are still hungry, and I think some teenagers or young adults would happily entertain this challenge.



Let’s learn some German words!

Some German words appear to be very long. It would be easier to comprehend if the compound words were split into its component parts, with a space in between. Unless I move to Berlin (that would be quite fun for a month or two) I don’t think I would have the capacity to learn German, but here is a mini list of some long words I found interesting during my day.

Alles / everything
Gute / good
zum / for the (your)
Geburtstag / birthday
Alles Gute zum Geburtstag = Happy Birthday

Kunst / art
Gewerbe / business
Kunstgewerbemuseum = Arts and Crafts Museum or Museum of Decorative Arts

Ersatz / substitute
Haltestelle / bus stop
Ersatzhaltestelle = replacement bus stop

Ersatzverkehr / replacement traffic
Richtung / direction
Ersatzverkehr Richtung Ruhleben = Replacement service towards Ruhleben



After living for such a long time in England, the best birthday present I can ask for is a sunny day and this is what I had the entire day


Berlin: Day 2

Berliner Tagebuch: Donnerstag 8 Juni 2023 / Berlin Diary: Thursday 8 June 2023



The first of three days visiting some of Berlin’s renowned museums. We’re still getting to grips with the extensive transport system, but managed to get to all the places on our list. Before you read on, please see here for details of the transport and museum passes we used for this Berlin trip. All information correct as of June 2023.


Frühstück und Morgenaktivität / Breakfast and Morning Activity

The Barn Coffee Roasters, Alte Potsdamer Str. 5, Berlin 10785. Great coffee and croissant but the entire area, like many parts of Berlin, is a large building site. There is another branch on the opposite side of the road (see next post). The Playce shopping mall is close by, which has a few shops, a supermarket and a surprisingly large gelato shop. This was shut so I added it to another day’s list.

This morning we visited two of the museums within the Kulturforum complex, which is located near to Potsdamer Platz: first, the Neue Nationalgallerie, followed by the Gemäldegalerie. We saved the Kunstgewerbemuseum for another day.

Top Tips: 1) get a museum pass and try to pre-book at least the first museum visit of the day, as there is always a queue to get in at opening time. 2) Rucksacks and larger handbags are not allowed in the galleries and museums. Some places have manned left-luggage counters. For the others, you need a one euro / two euro coin to use the garderobe/ locker.

The Neue Nationalgallerie’s museum building and sculpture gardens were designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. I should have taken a photo of the entrance lobby, which is filled with a row of instantly recognisable Barcelona Chairs. Photos below are from Gerhard Richter: 100 Works for Berlin, one of its current exhibitions.


The Sculpture Garden


Where have I seen this before? 4900 Colours (excerpt) reminded me of Elmer the Patchwork Elephant


Strip, 2013 / 2016 reminded me of British designer Paul Smith. If the lines were zig-zagged I would have thought of Italy’s Missoni


One of Mr Richter’s large abstracts: do you see Monet’s water lily pond in this somewhere?


From modern to traditional: our next stop was to the Gemäldegalerie to view its hefty collection of 13th to 18th century European paintings. There are many masterpieces to behold and, unlike London’s National Gallery, it is not crowded and you get to view each painting properly. However there is an entrance charge, which is largely negligible if you make good use of the Museum Pass Berlin.



Walking round the gallery’s many rooms, I had to remind myself that in the days before the invention of photography and film (and now, social media), most people could not see first-hand what famous people, distant places and popular cultural items looked like. Myths, legends and religious texts were brought to life as large drawings. Even foods and flowers were represented in this medium.


Still life paintings of lobsters, one of my favourite foods


In the same culture complex: Berliner Philharmonie, home to the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (top) and a rear view of St. Matthäus-Kirche (bottom)


Mittagessen / Lunch

Chipperfield Kantine is the workplace canteen for David Chipperfield Architects. It was not exactly near to the museums we wanted to visit, but it does serve a daily vegetarian lunch. One thing I worried over was my daily fibre intake, and I was not keen on eating street food or pork knuckle and sauerkraut.



After lunch, we had coffee/ tea and cake nearby. I was actually looking for Black Apron Cakes and read that their cakes can now be found at CODOS coffeeshop. Their two branches in Berlin are at: Rosenthaler Straße 1, Berlin 10119 and at Invalidenstraße 1, Berlin 10115. Since there are many cakes to choose from, plus pastries and cooked egg dishes, anytime is a good time to visit CODOS.


Orange and almond cake by Black Apron


On the wall of CODOS Coffee. Wondering whether this is the average feeling of Berliners towards their city. Even on a very bad day I wouldn’t want to say ‘I Hate You’ to my adopted city of London


Nachmittagsaktivität / Afternoon Activity

A visit to the main museum on Museumsinsel / Museum Island. The Pergamonmuseum is what every guidebook says is the museum to visit in Berlin. Some say it is the equivalent of the British Museum in London. I would say that they are both unique in their own way, each presenting ancient cultures through the artefacts they have acquired.


I am slightly ashamed at my lack of ambition and creativity: granite to me means one thing only i.e. kitchen worktops


Currently, the museum’s Pergamon Altar and some other parts are closed to the public, but there is still plenty to see.


Reconstructions of Ancient Babylon’s Processional Way and the Ishtar Gate of Nebuchadnezzar II. The brick fragments were transported in 500 crates which had to be pieced together to remake individual panels


Market Gate of Miletus


One of the star pieces in the museum: the Berlin Gold Hat


Abendessen / Dinner

Osmans Töchter is a modern Turkish restaurant run by Osman’s daughters. Like Night Kitchen (see previous post), the advice is to reserve a table ahead of time. We enjoyed every dish we ordered and ate very well. After dinner we walked to the ice cream shop, because there is always space for ice cream.


Tribeca Ice Cream (vegan), Rykestraße 40, Berlin 10405


There was a little time and sunlight left to catch the tram to Alexanderplatz before heading back to our hotel


Let’s learn some German words!

It is sometimes possible to guess the English equivalent of German words. Here is a mini list of some words I found interesting during my day.

Leben / life
Stillleben mit Hummer und Früchten = Still Life with Lobster and Fruit (the first lobster painting above, by Frans Snyders)
Stillleben mit Früchten und Hummer = Still Life with Fruit and Lobster (the second lobster painting above, by Jan Davidsz de Heem)

Berliner Philharmoniker = Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra

Kirche / church
St. Matthäus / St Matthew
St. Markus / St Mark
St. Lukas / St Luke
St. Johannes / St John

Gemälde / paintings
Galerie / gallery
Gemäldegalerie = picture gallery

Töchter / daughters

Finally, a bonus note because I love lobsters. Homaridae is the scientific family name for lobsters. In German lobster = hummer, and in French lobster = homard. According to my Chamber’s Dictionary, the English word lobster comes from the Anglo-Saxon word loppestre, related to Latin locusta / locust. You don’t need to remember any of this etymology, just the different words for lobster in any given language.


Berlin: The First Day

Berliner Tagebuch: Mittwoch 7 Juni 2023 / Berlin Diary: Wednesday 7 June 2023

From a song by Johnny Nash, which I used to listen on the radio when growing up in Kuala Lumpur:

I can see clearly now the rain is gone
I can see all obstacles in my way
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind
It’s gonna be a bright (bright)
Bright (bright) sunshiny day
It’s gonna be a bright (bright)
Bright (bright) sunshiny day

Weather forecast on the day we left for Berlin: so happy to leave the recent rain in London behind us

When I was in Primary School one of the things that made me most happy was my box of Colleen colour pencils, on account of the description of the colours. There was sunshine yellow, leaf green and khaki brown. Red was never just red but magenta and vermillion. Blues were ultramarine, cobalt blue and Prussian Blue.

What was Prussia? I never gave it much thought until I read that Berlin was made the royal capital of Prussia in 1701. There is so much history behind the making of modern day Germany, but I will leave that for another time. For this first trip, I thought it would be best to concentrate on Berlin’s more recent past.

We walked and ate a lot over the five days we were in Berlin. I had to think long and hard on how to write up the notes and settled on following our daily structure. This was broken up into five distinct parts: breakfast, morning activity, lunch, afternoon activity, dinner.

Before you read on, please see here for some help on preparing for a Berlin trip. All information correct as of June 2023.

Frühstück und Morgenaktivität / Breakfast and Morning Activity

We flew British Airways and had use of their lounge at Heathrow’s Terminal 5. BA’s lounge food is normally just so-so but their breakfasts redeem their reputation somewhat. There is a full English buffet breakfast of eggs, bacon, sausages, baked beans, mushrooms, tomatoes and hash browns. Plus cereal, croissants and all the champagne you care to imbibe.

Top tip: travelling with cabin-sized trolley bags was ideal. There was no waiting for luggage in Berlin and we could take a train to our hotel. Since there are steps and escalators to negotiate in the airport and train stations, it’s not so easy with a large bag. I have never packed so lightly before and was quite impressed I could do this at my age.

If you are looking for cabin luggage, I came across July which has lightweight cabin cases. People half my age, with twice the upper body strength, might prefer a rolltop rucksack from Got Bag which is all the rage in Berlin.

Views of the approach into Berlin by air, with a mixture of commercial, green and housing areas

Mittagessen / Lunch

There is a sizeable Vietnamese community in Berlin, and Monsieur Vuong,Alte Schönhauser Str. 46 10119 Berlin, is credited as being the first major Vietnamese restaurant to offer Pho in this city. The menu is via a QR code and as we were sat in a quiet but dark corner, it really was difficult to read the menu on our phones. The Pho was very good. The bowl of bird’s eye chillies that accompanied the noodles was a generous help-yourself-if-you-dare challenge.

There are many restaurants and shops in the vicinity, which is ideal for a walkabout. I love tea and I love ice cream. Imagine my happiness when I found the following two shops nearby.

Paper and Tea, Alte Schönhauser Str. 50, 10119 Berlin, where I bought some green teas

This is an apt description of me and Mr Gochugaru

Cuore di Vetro, Max-Beer-Str. 33, 10119 Berlin, has many unusual gelato flavours

Siebensachen, Max-Beer-Str. 25, 10119 Berlin, is a small shop with unique hand made objects. I am thinking hard for a reason why I might need one of their musical boxes

We had coffee at Father Carpenter, Münzstr. 21, 10178 Berlin, which is set in a lovely courtyard. Next time I would like to try their banana bread

Sometime I come across things that make make me feel a bit sad, like this framed poem in Father Carpenter. My father loved the English Romantic poets and would often recite this poem to whoever happened to be around at the time. Keats House in Hampstead (London) is just up the road from where I live, but I cannot remember if Dad and I ever visited together.

Nachmittagsaktivität / Afternoon Activity

First views of Berliner Fernsehturm / Berlin TV Tower, taken from the Rotes Rathaus / Town Hall

A first look at Nikolaiviertal / Nikolai Quarter, which we would explore over the weekend: the facade of Nikolaikirche / Nikolai Church and a quaint water pump which still works

Abendessen / Dinner

Night Kitchen

As with most popular Berlin restaurants, it is inadvisable to turn up without a prior reservation. The food is superb, the service is lovely and they come round with complimentary alcohol shots during the meal. The lighting inside is very low so photography is difficult. There are tables outside but I had booked way ahead, and did not want the risk of sitting in the cold or in rain.

Make sure you have the Challah Bread (the only photo I have of the food)

This antique coal-heated iron displayed in the restaurant reminded me of my mother, as she has a few old irons like this

The surrounding streets are lovely for a pre or post-dinner wander. Just round the corner stands the New Synagogue Berlin

Let’s learn some German words!

Some German words appear to be very long. It would be easier to comprehend if the compound words were split into its component parts, with a space in between. Unless I move to Berlin (that would be quite fun for a month or two) I don’t think I would have the capacity to learn German, but here is a mini list of some long words I found interesting during my day.

Daten / data
Schutz / protection
Einstellungen / settings
Datenschutzeinstellungen = privacy setting (seen on every website I searched)

Fernsehen / television
Turm / tower
Fernsehenturm = TV Tower

Tag / day
Buch / book
Tagebuch = diary

Früh / early
Stück / piece
Frühstück = breakfast

Morgen / morning
Aktivität / activity
Morgenaktivität = morning activity

Nach / after
Mittag / midday
Nachmittag = afternoon

Abend / evening
Essen / food
Abendessen = dinner

Abfahrt / departure
Zeit / time
Abfahrtszeit = time of departure (there is an optional ‘s’ in between the two words)

Ankunft / arrival
Zeit / time
Ankunftszeit = time of arrival (there is an optional ‘s’ in between the two words)

Part of our train journey to our hotel, with some clues in the second part of the place names.
Allee = avenue, dorf = village, hof = court, wald = forest, strasse = street, bahnhof = railway station, brücke = bridge, platz = place

Date, Banana and Tahini Bundt


I have just finished watching the latest series of Masterchef UK and am in full admiration of the competitors and their ambition. Most would like to own and run at least one restaurant, and to achieve Michelin star status. Me? I am happy to get to the end of the day with something decent on the table.

This is why I love baking. It is so, so simple to bring together a few ingredient and have something to show for it an hour later. Recently I have been baking my cakes in Bundt pans and re-working a few older recipes. I am trying out spelt flour in my cake baking for a change, instead of using regular wheat flour. In line with the doctor’s advice, I have also reduced the sugar by 20%.

Today’s cake includes dates, banana and tahini. The original recipe (made in a square tin) is here, which has notes on which type of tahini to use. Make sure you stick a long metal spoon into the tahini before first using, to scrape up the solid paste which has settled at the bottom of the jar. Stir this solid paste into the more liquid paste on top.


For today’s cake I used a Lebanese tahini


Simple but naturally sweet additions of crushed bananas and chopped dates lessen the need for too much sugar in the cake


I used a 6 Cup Anniversary Bundt Pan and prepared it with butter, sesame seeds and flour, to prevent the cake from sticking



For the Cake:

2 large eggs

80 g light or dark brown soft sugar

100 g sunflower oil

175 g wholegrain or white spelt flour (I used a 125 g wholegrain/ 50 g white mixture)

1½ teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

Pinch of salt

150 g pitted Medjool dates, cut into small pieces

200 g ripe bananas, broken into pieces and lightly crushed

50 g tahini (preferably Middle Eastern tahini)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

10 g each softened butter and plain flour to line the Bundt pan

2 – 3 teaspoons untoasted white sesame seeds


You will need a 6 Cup Anniversary Bundt Pan. The cake can also be made in a 2 pound / 900 g loaf tin or a 20 x 20 cm square tin.


How to Make:

Preheat the oven to 170°C/ 150°C fan.

Brush the softened butter evenly over the entire inside of the pan, taking care to fill every corner. Sprinkle over the sesame seeds, which will stick to the butter.

Sift over the flour, moving the pan around to coat evenly. Remove the excess flour by turning the pan upside down and giving it a tap (do this over a sink). Set the pan aside.

Sift the flours, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt together into a large bowl. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar until thick and creamy. Whisk in the oil slowly.

Add the flour mixture and, using a silicon spatula, gently fold into the whisked egg mixture.

Add in the dates, banana, tahini and vanilla extract. Gently fold everything together until well mixed.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan.

Level the surface and tap the pan on a folded dishcloth to settle any bubbles.

Bake in the oven for 50 minutes or until the cake bounces back when touched. A metal skewer inserted in the centre should come out clean.

Leave the cake to cool slightly in the tin before turning out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

The cake will slice into eight thin and eight thicker pieces – perfect for a sharing with friends, and perfect for picnics.



Millers of spelt flour in the UK: Doves Farm and Shipton Mill. I use their flours regularly and highly recommend them.



A Berlin Primer


I have been thinking a lot about our forthcoming four-day trip to Berlin. We are squeezing this in between visits from overseas friends, and regular work and family commitments. From the reading I have done there is so much, maybe too much, to see and do in Germany’s capital. I naturally made a spreadsheet (thinking of you, LSE Boy) to help split the days into manageable chunks, with sit down dinners at the end of the day.

I am still figuring out whether to try Berlin’s famous Currywurst because I am not keen on street food and sauces dripping down onto my clothes. My back up plan, if I miss this, is to have it at German Gymnasium back in London.

There are various transport and sightseeing discount cards, and this is an excellent article explaining the differences between the Berlin Welcome Card and the EasyCityPass Berlin. We are using the former for our trip (only for the transport element).

The only timed tickets we needed to book ahead were to the Reichstag, home to the Bundestag (German Parliament).

This is a summary of the resources I used. I want a holiday with plenty of history, walking and eating, and thought I should make a list for any future trip, as well as a go-to guide when I am in Berlin itself.


Useful tourist information websites:

German National Tourist Board

Visit Berlin

Citymapper Berlin to get you from A to B by public transport

Original Berlin Walks

Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (Berlin State Museums). Berlin’s national museums are closed on Mondays. Every first Sunday of the month is Museum Sunday in Berlin, and most museums have free admission then. I found a museum that had free entry on Thursday afternoons courtesy of a corporate sponsor, so do look out for such information on individual museum websites. Some of the exhibits and rooms might be closed for restoration work, and it’s best to take a chilled attitude to this.

We cannot see every museum and have decided to limit ourselves to the ones covered by the Museum Pass Berlin. Download and print the list here before you travel, as it has opening times and transport information. At-a-glance list of the 30 museums covered.

I am big fan of Rick Steves and here is his suggested itinerary of Berlin.

The Michelin food guide currently lists 80 recommendations in Berlin. How many days do you have?

For young people i.e. those under 30 years of age, Gina Goes To is right up your street. I am using the list in Gina’s Berlin City Guide for breakfast and cafe recommendations.


Guidebooks I used to plan this trip:

If you live in London, Stanfords in Covent Garden specialises in maps and travel books. Otherwise, their website lists a wide selection of books and maps for any country you can think of.

500 Hidden Secrets of Berlin by Nathalie Dewalhens, published by Luster, ISBN 978 9460583087

Rick Steve’s Berlin by Rick Steves, published by Avalon Travel, ISBN 978 1641714754

DK Eyewitness Berlin, published by Dorling Kindersley, ISBN 978 0241612712



Maps, which came before Apps:

Everyman Mapguides Berlin, published by Everyman Citymap Guides, ISBN 978-1841595696. I have several maps from this series as they are easy to fold out page-by-page and mark with the places you want to visit.

comfort! map Berlin Map, published by ExpressMap, ISBN 978-8380464117. Useful because of the laminated finish and the line showing the demarcation between (the previous) East and West Berlin.



A personal reading list to enhance your visit to Berlin and to engage with some aspects of Germany in World War II (in order of publication date):

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John le Carré, published in 1963 and still available in various formats.

Strangers on a Bridge: The Case of Colonel Abel by James B. Donovan, published in 1964 and still available in various formats.

Munich and Fatherland by Robert Harris.

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown is out of print but used copies are available. I thoroughly enjoyed this book as it covered topics I could engage with: world recession, rowing, education, dedication to a craft, family ties and how to overcome poverty with determination and vision.



A selected list of films set in Berlin or on aspects of Germany in World War II, some based on the books above (in chronological order of the the time it is set in):

Munich – The Edge of War

Never Look Away is inspired by the life of contemporary German artist Gerhard Richter, whose exhibition of 100 works is in Berlin’s Neue Nationalgalerie until 2026.

Schindler’s List

The Bridge of Spies

The Lives of Others

Good Bye, Lenin!


Selected reading on the Protestant Reformation:

Wittenberg lies 88 kms south of Berlin, about 45 minutes by direct train from Berlin’s Hauptbahnhof (Central Station). Officially known as Lutherstadt Wittenberg to mark its association with Martin Luther, this is where the Protestant Reformation began in 1517.

Each year the town hosts two Luther-themed festivals: Reformation Day on October 31 and Luther’s Wedding. The latter is held on the second weekend in June, when we will be in Berlin. We may not have time for a side trip and if we do, it should be to Potsdam, where the Potsdam Conference of 1945 was held. The background reading to the Reformation is very interesting because it effectively split Christian religious practices in Europe into Protestant North and Catholic South.

The Unquenchable Flame: Introducing the Reformation by Michael Reeves, published by Inter-Varsity Press, ISBN 978 1 84474 3858

Rick Steve’s Berlin (see above) has a very readable section on Luther, Wittenberg and the Reformation (pages 348 – 373)

A History of Christianity by Diarmaid MacCulloch has a scholarly chapter on Luther, the Reformation and Reformed Reformation (sometimes called Calvinism). Published by Allen Lane, ISBN 978 0713 998696 (chapter 17, A House Divided, pages 604 – 654).


Mind your Language:

Finally, a German phrase book to learn some basic words. However I really am glad that English is widely spoken in Berlin. Most of the websites have pages in English. DK Eyewitness German Phrase Book, published by Dorling Kindersley, ISBN 978 0241289372. I have mainly been reading the Menu section so far…




German Paintings at the National Gallery London

View of Trafalgar Square from the entrance of the National Gallery


I don’t usually write about Art, although I enjoy visiting galleries and exhibitions. There is no category for it in the blog so the post is simply under the heading of Travel or in this case, My London.

Late on Sunday night I had an idea for a jaunt to town on the Bank Holiday, the third one this May. We are headed to Berlin next week and I know very little about German art, save for Hans Holbein’s magnificent The Ambassadors in the National Gallery. I sat through three school trips with the children but the details were now hazy. I only remembered that you have to look at the painting sideways to make sense of the flattened skull in the foreground.


The Ambassadors by Hans Holbein the Younger


It turned out to be a really valuable visit and I made a note to read up more on the lives and works of German painters. Below are some of the paintings in the National Gallery. There are other German painters featured on their website and also in their book (see below). For an overview on German Art here is the relevant page on Wikipedia. A shorter article with a personal list of the top 12 most famous German artists is here.


Christina of Denmark, Duchess of Milan by Hans Holbein the Younger


Portraits of Johann the Steadfast and Johann Friedrich the Magnanimous by Lucas Cranach the Elder


The Trinity and Mystic Pietà by Hans Baldung Grien


Saint Jerome by Albrecht Dürer


Christ taking leave of his Mother by Albrecht Altdorfer


The National Gallery has several food outlets and the gift shop is full of lovely and useful items


For some background reading I would recommend Strange Beauty: German Paintings at the National Gallery by Caroline Bugler, published by Yale University Press, ISBN 978-1857095708. The writing is uncomplicated and it’s easy to finish reading it in one sitting.


After the visit to the National Gallery we wandered north to Chinatown and had some noodles for lunch followed by a matcha soft scoop ice cream at Tsujiri


If I had not eaten the ice cream I might have considered a Black Forest donut from Donutelier. One of my cousins recently sent me a photo of her rather large slice of Black Forest Cake. I might return later in the week to get that donut. Or some donuts….no point stopping at one.



The next post will be a short introduction to Berlin. We have a busy family and community life and Mr Gochugaru still works full time in the City, so I am slightly concerned with the lack of preparation for this trip. I have resigned myself to eat, drink, sleep and see what we can manage, and to make a return trip if we miss too much of what is essential in Germany’s capital.