— Nina Mehta

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This is a lovely weekend trip if you enjoy drifting through streets enjoying what a city has to offer. Copenhagen is clean, kind, gentle, and smart. It’s known for great food, furniture, fashion, and art.

Eating

Before we go any further, you must have a small plates breakfast at Møller – Kaffe og Køkken in Nørrebrogade. They open at 9am which is a good time to arrive because not surprisingly the lines get long. The eggs are deliciously herby and the hot chocolate is knockout. I recommend only getting the sourdough bread (rather than the sourdough + rye combo). The bacon and dates were rich and wonderful wherease the brie was underwhelming. The avocados weren’t super ripe but I still enjoyed them and the table next door ordered the peppers (Spanish tapas style) which looked amazing. Have fun, indulge, and enjoy!  It was like having some goooood San Francisco-style eating which can be harder to find in some parts of Europe.14046011_10107547648349069_8580490670362602861_n

 

We didn’t try to eat at Noma. But my friend said “Relæ was a standout, get a reservation if you can, oh my god. It honestly was in different ways as memorable as Noma, and way more accessible from a reservation and price point perspective.” Our trip was too short to try but I trust all his food recommendations.

But at some point we stopped looking up recommendations because everything we ate was wonderful and adorable. Also had a tasty (but missable) breakfast at Mirabelle and an incredible cocktail at. Spise\Bar no. 20. A friend told me visit Bagelman if you want a big hearty salad. You can also visit Torvehallerne the which has many little stands for lunch (but not dinner) or get a hot dog in Red Square Park at the food trucks:

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I highly recommend riding a bike, even if just for the day. My friend and I rented these bright orange Donkey Bikes. They have pick ups all over the city and are very soft, smooth, comfortable drives. You’ll instantly feel more local and will spend your energy getting around much better. The taxis are not cheap. They say you don’t need an internet connection (just bluetooth) but my friend had trouble loading the lock and unlock screen sometimes so she would hotspot from my phone just to load the one screen.

Louisiana Museum

Next stop is that you must take a day to go to the Louisiana Museum (especially now that you’ve rented a bike). Take the 45-minute train from the city center to the Humlebæk St. station. Google will suggest all these bus routes, ignore them and take the train. Then it’s a boringish 10-15 minute walk which is why it’s great if you have your bike. It sounds like a schlep but it’s one of the best art museums I’ve been to in the world and it reminded me of a mini Naoshima.

The queue to get into the Louisiana is a bit long so arriving early helps. There are also a few special tickets you can get that lets you jump the queue. Read more about that here. Enjoy the museum, explore, wander, and spend time gazing over the ocean in their sculpture park. My main tip is to make time to visit the Kusama Infinity room. So if you want to take photos in there (which is fun!) plan to go at least twice so can get a little lost in the lights.

 

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Music

We didn’t go to any parties in Copenhagen, but there’s a nice techno community there. The local house heads pointed me to Culture Box and a few other places. We went there to see Louis CK at the Forum. Make sure to check out the lineups because it seems like all kinds of great acts come through the city all the time. We biked on a pier and found a tiny little lounge party that was also a real treat.

Where to stay

We stayed slightly outside (and slightly cheaper in Nørrebrogade. Copenhagen isn’t a huge city so it wasn’t too out of the way and definitely not a big deal with the bike.

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Very sorry to say we also didn’t make it to Christiania but I’m told if you go there and past all the touristic sights there are some interesting houses and more to see. Enjoy!

Wander, enjoy, sit on soft couches, and enjoy all the friendly blonde people!

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I have tickets to four festivals this year but in the end only attended one. Here’s what I’ve learned from my singular experience and what my friends here have shared:

  • People can handle their substances. People don’t seem to binge drink and get zombie messed up on drugs
  • Berliners love being in nature. Living in the concrete jungle draws out a deeper joy and appreciation (and protection from littering) in nature
  • The sound system are tuned. A high percentage of Berliners have a higher bar and expectation for sound quality and it’s met
  • Stages and environmental details have extra care. A lot of personality is brought to details of the aesthetics (stage design, fun notes, good lighting)
  • Food is often healthy and vegan friendly
  • They are more niche. There are more festivals and of different sizes. They’re not racing to become the biggest, baddest, best festival. They joyfully sit inside of their size and grow organically.
  • People sleep! Similar to binge drinking, some people actually rest at night and come back not completely exhausted and drained from the event.

I went to a small festival, I’d rather not advertise which one, but it was wonderful and there was a rainbow!

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The composition of a city is its architecture, politics, food, environment, and of course people. The mid-year churn transforms this city making it hard to determine if it’s summer or winter that is the real Berlin.

Summer draws unending number of tourists while the people living here skip out for their own holidays. The summer vacationers become indistinguishable from the transient semi-residents who pass through Berlin for a few months or years. Berlin’s spirit lifts with the sun and outsiders giving the season an electric feel. Winter however, famously cold and hard, is dear to my heart. It’s a quiet, inward looking season that brings out the direct and matter of fact qualities that make Berlin itself.

Now it’s mid August and not three days have gone by all summer without someone I care about from San Francisco or New York in town. It’s remarkable, surprising, and sometimes challenging as a host. Thankfully as all of us have matured. Friends understand people who live here have a day-to-day life and it’s not always possible to meet. But my biggest insight is that many friends visit Berlin for a week and fantasize about living here and there is a significant difference between holiday and life in  Berlin if you work a professional job: responsibility.

Language, culture, structure, diversity, and commitment are all things that can really change an experience of living versus playing in Berlin.

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There’s no question Brazil and Germany have a long time history together. Brazil is home to the second largest German-Austrian population outside their home countries and Germany saw a huge wave of Brazilians after their economy crashed in the 90s. This matters to me because, well, many people I meet in Berlin think I’m Brazilian. Specifically, men, and usually Germans.

Me in Argentina... kind of near Brazil

Me in Argentina… kind of near Brazil

Of the German men I meet outside mutual friends (e.g. in public, at a party, online) who offer to guess my origin, 80-95% think I’m from Brazil. Turkish, Middle Eastern, African, and Indian men usually correctly guess my origins are Indian. I don’t have enough interactions with men from Eastern Asia to make a guess. And almost no women in Berlin try to guess my origin, usually they ask where I’m from.

I’m also not sure if it’s a commentary on the presence of Brazilians in Germany, Indians in Germany (nearly the same by a rough Wikipedia estimate), how I cary myself, or some other factor.

That being said, hopefully it’s a compliment, it hasn’t gotten in the way of any experiences yet. But it sure is curious. In other news, the Delicia’s, a Brazilian Nail Salon in Friedrichshain is excellent.

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There’s no question on visiting the Acropolis and Ancient Agora when visiting the cradle of civilization. It’s €20 up to the top and €30 for access to nearly all the sights around the city. Spring for the extra few bucks, it’s completely worth it.

Now that we got that out of the way, let’s talk about what’s happening in Athens today. I had such a short time in this great city I didn’t get to leave Monastiraki, but still there was plenty to do. I loved my simple, cheap, clean, hotel-like Airbnb. My host Stelios met me at the Metro and was responsive by iMessage throughout the trip. The location was minutes away from everything I wanted to do. Highly recommended if you need a convenient, quiet, place with excellent AC and a great shower and good rest.


Light & Casual Studio@Psirri

Athina, Greece

Light and casual studio, available for 2 persons only located at focal Athens downtown district (Psirri). Fairly renovated, furnished minimal and fully equipped (i.e. kitchen, WiFi & TV etc.) for t…

 

Cinque Wine Bar

This is my number one must do in Athens. The have an incredible wine selection and a delicious free tasting. They’re kind, generous and will help you feel welcome. Indulge in the cheese and charcuterie plate. Though everything on the menu looked awesome and they’re open late. I’ll be very upset if you like wine and don’t go here.

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The kind people at Cinque Wine Bar led me to Oineas that had wonderful service and everything delicious. Here’s an obligatory Greek Salad photo. They only served house wine by the glass but it did the trick.

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I try to take a yoga class in most big cities I visit. During this trip SF’s Janet Stone was teaching several workshops that led me the Bhavana Yoga Center. It’s clean, professional, convenient, and seems to practice deep, heart-centric practices. Another great option if you want to stretch it out before a day up the Acropolis.

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Spanikopita everywhere, just indulge yourself here. But beyond the Feta are many delicious cheeses. I found the Meliartos review from the NYT overhyped. Though I should have also tried their desserts. But a corner spot flying under the radar making killer homemade dough pides is delicious and herbaous Feyrouz (below).

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I had a cafe Freddo the national coffee drink (so I’m told)half of the small sampler platter at Atitamos. I have yet to find these “small portion sizes” in Europe.

13839772_10107427228775859_341028505_o13835724_10107427228840729_1314659032_oIt’s minutes away from the Ancient Agora and Sadao Outfitters also a wonderful boutique that makes modern Greek inspired organic cotton dresses, scarves, and other goodies. This is a great place to get a gift (ahem even for yourself) if you like locally made, yet still modern fashion. Leave the chachkis for others. Which brings me to the Sunday Flea Market. Skip it. You’ve seen it before and it’s a full on tourist trap.

And last but not least, don’t miss this hidden hipster jungle with light herby cocktails and trees everywhere. It’s a great place for a lazy sit between dusty crawls through ancient architexture.

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Now, could I really write a post on Athens without one stunning shot of the Acropolis? No, I can’t. My host recommended I go to Bar 360 for a drink or dinner for a great view. He was right about the view (below) but the energy in there was a bit… Mykanos. Clubby and loud. I suggest going up there for a snap and breath of fresh air then like me immediately sprinting down for a calm dinner on a quiet street. Enjoy Athens for a long weekend before some relaxing island hopping!

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P.S. if you do go to Mykanos for some reason, don’t miss the windsurfers and private feeling beach Ftelia Beach and daytime music at Scorpios restaurant and bar.

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Every election liberal Americans threaten to move to Europe or Canada if {insert tyrant} becomes president. Of course they never do change cities, but the comment illustrates a point. I’m furious about {insert tyrant}. I’m hearing the opposite from expats in Berlin. “Maybe it’s time to return home and work on something that needs me.”

Returning Home

I woke up in tears reading about the police officers in Dallas. It’s not that these particular lives lost moved me more than the other countless mass shootings in America this year. Each time we lose more lives to intolerance I hope this is the tipping point. I’m in pain because I’m afraid these murders will continue. The tipping point for me means we won’t rest until there is cultural and legal change to stop mass shootings. It’s an unbelievable horrible nightmare that makes me want to come home and do something with impact. I can’t sit in or speak up from so far away.

Last weekend I was chatting with a British party friend about all kinds of mindless things until Brexit came up. This friend enjoys his life in Berlin, good friends, good music, good home, making a living; no huge motive to change course. But amidst the decision, he did feel a call to return home. Whether or not he or I can make a meaningful difference at home is another question, but this attitude does show me a positive turn of perspective on my escapist generation. Instead of running away to a “better” life, thirty somethings are feeling called back home to do something that serves outside themselves.

Staying Home

I watched the Vice City Street tour of Halsted St in Chicago which reminded me of people who live their entire lives in one city. They make an impact on the city simply by creating a life and staying there, becoming an essential thread in the cities Fabric. If they went elsewhere part of Chicagos’ fabric would snag and unravel. The community barber shop would close, a gay bar in boystown would no longer be a safe haven, or a family run hot dog stand would end a staple of the city. Some cities like Berlin and San Francisco unravel and resew their cities every day and some like Chicago or Detroit stay strongly woven. The impact their locals have is slow but stays.

Making in Berlin

Foreigners in Berlin appear woven into the city’s fabric but I’m wondering how integrated we are, if at all. My conscious effort to make German friends, practice the language, and attempt to localize was huge for me but also quite small. I am learning Berlin gets used as a spacious, inexpensive canvas for many expats who will pay the cultural cost of moving somewhere new. We will spend in cash, learn enough language around, and fill out just enough paper work to stay here and make art. It’s changing Berlin into a transient place where so much of what’s exciting to outsiders is not coming from locals.

What gets missed in all the hype is what’s actually wonderful about the real fabric of Berlin’s city. The pace, the perspective, the beliefs. I want to further understand how (or if at all) active change in Berlin is possible with so many people coming and going who are invested in Berlin, but only just enough.

 

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Yesterday was a difficult day. The Brexit decision deflated the last bit of fresh air amidst the Trump campaign, Orlando shootings, Paris attacks, the refugee crisis, and for me the Volkswagen Diesel scandal that directly challenges my consulting work on a daily basis. The list goes on. I hear many of us asking at each in these moments ‘what’s wrong with the world?’

I had just enough escape last night at Panama Restaurant & Bar to offer you some hope and optimism. This new Berlin restaurant is inspired by a well-loved German children’s story where little bear and tiger go on an adventure looking for paradise and unknowingly finding it at home where they started.

“The Panama story completely sums up everything we are trying to do: broadening consciousness to the paradise that we are living in now, that is all around. Not by telling everyone that they are doing things wrong, but to have them enjoy what is right,” says Cramer-Klett, whose first restaurant, Katz Orange in the New York Times.

This tale sets the stage for locally sourced vegetable based dishes, a comfortable-yet-dreamlike interior design, a thoughtful and exciting wine list, and playful service that anticipates your needs keeping you in the moment.

This is not a concept restaurant or an abstract dining experience that requires deep interpretation, and in that way for me felt quite German and direct. But the from the moment you walk off Potsdamer Str. through the courtyard you’re taken into a story book starting at a comforting cottage on the first floor where you will later pass through again upon exit like the tiger and bear.

For a short time you can leave the cares of the world behind to be exactly where you need to be: where you are. I recommend arriving before your dinner reservation to enjoy whatever cocktail the bar recommends before going upstairs to the bright and spirited second floor.

The subtleties of the restaurant’s vision radiates through the stories about the sourcing of ingredients, relationships to the wines, and little details about subtly exotic design. Touch the materials around you and feel the soft wood of the hand rails and textures of the fixtures. All intentional.

We were guided through the courses with right amount of care and choice so we could still wanderlust through our meal without getting lost in the woods. The food and plating was delicious (obviously), creative, and playful, but never too complex, demanding nor serious.
This has been one of the very few service experiences in Germany where I felt my needs were anticipated, cared for, and expressed in a way that brought me closer myself and the people I was with. This I believe is one of the most important parts of life and is why we commune together over meals.

We can spend our entire lives searching for paradise. Along the way we will find infinite examples of not paradise. Last night at Panama I was reminded to take great care in who and what we have right now in this very moment. And that I see is the best way to create the future we desire.

What a great opening week for Panama! I recommend making a reservation on OpenTable quickly (and/or booking a flight to Berlin to eat here) before this moment passes. Güten apetit!

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Charming doesn’t begin to describe

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Put Venice on your list if you’re coming to Europe in summer. It’s beautiful, relaxing, requires little-to-no planning, and the art Bienneal has excellent curators. This is also a perfect holiday for Berliners, Londoners, New Yorkers, and anyone else living in a concrete jungle. Enjoy this labyrinth of canals and little sideways streets safe from loud cars and reckless bikers.

I booked the trip on a whim with a semi-irrational fear that if I didn’t see Venice now, it would be under water the next time I tried. Now many would warn against going to Venice alone. It’s so overrun by tourists that it can be romantic if you want but is otherwise just another lovely city in Europe.

 

It was pitch black when I arrived. Good morning to my first sight of Venice. 🚣🏽

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My flight got massively delayed because there was a strike at the airport in Italy. Apparently this happens a lot. I arrived at 3am and honestly it was beautiful (and dead asleep) then.I swore to never stay in a hostel until I found the Guardian’s article on The Generator. It’s a boutique hostel with a good price. It’s high enough that it filter’s out the shoe-string travelers but cheap enough that you can plan the trip on a whim. You’ll find some 22-year-old backpackers but there were also some proper adults staying there. However, the hostel is across the river from mainland Venice, so you have to take a 2 stop Vaperetto (boat that runs like a subway system). For me it was worth it to save some cash, plus you get a beautiful view of the city every morning and evening.

afternoon floating

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Then from there it’s just street-side exploring and eating delicious pasta (and seafood if you’re into that kind of thing). I recommend visiting the La Cantina wine bar. Their food is over priced and somewhat under-delivers, but the vino is perfecto. Go nuts on gelato and don’t be afraid of the canal-side restaurants.

 

I avoided them at first thinking they were tourist traps but the food and prices were right. Above is a photo of Fettucini Alfredo how it’s supposed to be. I always wondered. I tried to record the names of the places I went but they were all fairly generic. I tried to go to Widow Ca D’Oro for Cicheti (Italian tapas style appetizers), but it was bumpin and I wasn’t patient enough to queue.

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The best thing to do in Venice is to wander around and get lost. Buy a day pass so you can take the Vaperetto when you get tired. And note that Google Maps still tracks your location even in airplane mode, so you’re can still map your way out of a jam. You’ll likely take a private shuttle bus from Marco Polo or Travesio airport. Marco Polo is much closer but both will drop you off at the same Bus Station, from there you’ll take a boat into town.

Last thing, do some research on the Bienneal. There are a few events that require tickets (especially for dance events), and it was totally worth it. It’s hard to research the art events, but there are signs all over the city for you to discover. I wished I had explored the #bienneal instagram hash tag earlier, I think I missed out on some cool stuff. And for some reason there’s a Frank Gehry exhibit inside Louis Vuitton (above).

Oh yeah and the Gondola ride, I read all over the internet it’s a waste of money.

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Yoga in Berlin is like so many other German things: deliberate, patient, spacious, and precise. I’m not only comparing the local practice to the west coast but also what I’ve practiced in Tokyo, Buenos Aires, Goa, Chicago, Boulder, and so on. The practices here lead to the deepest awareness of the body I’ve found. Teachers I’ve attended bring extra attention to vipassana style body-scanning and deeper holds in chaturanga, utkatasana, malasana, and even in child’s pose. However, I’ve found Vinyasa and Hatha in Berlin to have the least organic feeling flow and connection to nature.

936623_10106593635827809_4649201454531146905_nBefore coming to Berlin I spent December in hot, colorful, spicy, pollution-filled India. I washed it all away in Goa with the one and only Janet Stone (above). In San Francisco, I regularly spent two hours of my Saturday mornings with her and a room full of other hippie-techies. It was nice to get one last slice of home before landing into winter.

Upon arrival, I spent months trying to learn enough German to do everything possible localized, including yoga. I thought knowing the asanas in Sanskirt would diffuse the language problem. I was wrong. Not understanding the instructor, cadence, and details really kept me focused on the logistics rather than a connecting to myself.

Foreign language is not always a yogic barrier. I feel close to fluent in Spanish after a few weeks of immersion. In Argentina, I took classes in Spanish with Agustina Villar. It was inspiring and recharging and a bit silly every time we went for perro abajo. In that context, foreign language yoga was fun and inspiring. It lit up different parts of my brain which brought me a closer connection to my mind, body, and emotions.

During this time the weather got warmer and I got a bike which made it possible to attend English classes in Kreuzberg. Berlin has so much physical space that it’s even possible to do yoga in huge art galleries (see instagram photo at top). I only felt the stark contrast between Berlin and West Coast style yoga when I started doing at-home videos from LA-based Shiva Rea.

I sometimes wonder if the relaxed work-life balance, quiet Sundays, and all the physical space is what makes the yoga practice in Berlin so deliberate, spaciuous and patient. It’s sometimes a bit mechanical or overly precise (e.g “now we’re going to have an 8 minute shavasana. Just relax.”), but always thoughtful, intentional, and rightfully slowing.

The legendary Ana Forrest is coming to Berlin in a few weeks for a weekend of workshops. I’m excited to see how her modern approach to yoga goes in city so experienced at relaxing.

Oh and if you are looking for a deep english-speaking practice Yellow Yoga has locations in Kreuzberg and Neukölln with fair prices, good ethos, quality teachers and a range of levels. Enjoy!

 

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Only in Berlin could  you find so many shirts, shoes, trousers, and black hats. Alles schwarz. The first time my wardrobe went all black was ten years ago when I lived in London. The second time was during my projection art days in San Francisco. And from there it stuck until I moved to Berlin where each article has one specific cut, zipper, or pocket that gives it a special personality.

Have a careful look in the photo above. There are only a handful of people in this massive crowd wearing color. And this is the case when you look around on the streets. I guess the look is inspired by the industrial nature, the creative community, or the simplicity of a casual but effortless chic expression.

So I started playing a game with visitors to Berlin called: find someone wearing a color. If it was a drinking game, we would be sober.

A few weeks ago I made a new friend who read me this quote:

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Many would probably find this quote annoying or wrong. But ‘I don’t bother you – you don’t bother me’ fits Berlin quite well.

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