Archive for May, 2013
The first time I’ve been to Berlin was six years ago. I was going through a rough time in my life (a breakup, to be more precise) and needed a place to escape to from New York. I have always wanted to go to Berlin and that was the right opportunity. I’ve stayed with some good friends and walked a lot around East Berlin. The only thing that bothered me (beside my broken heart) was the cold European winter. Back then I was not a photographer yet (I was walking around with a pocket camera) and was quite in distress. Therefore, this recent visit was sort of a redeeming experience.
Presently, there is a buzz going on about Berlin. I know some Israelis who are investing in Real Estate and some International Artists who find an inspiration in this city.
If I have to describe Berlin in one word, it will be Urbanism. As I was staying mostly in East Berlin, navigating back and forth from Mitte to Kreuzberg, the architecture I was exposed to was a combination of Stalinist architecture, a refurbished 18th-19th century apartment buildings (buildings look like they came out of the same assembly line), Bauhaus style and some nice surprises in the shape of contemporary architecture (lots of big windows and glass) and new modern buildings and condominiums, which are mostly occupied by International residents and young families. I think May is the best time to visit Berlin. Weather is nice and the Berliners are getting quite loose and relaxed right after May Day, the official day that welcomes Spring. If you have an option to choose, than prefer the Spring and Summer days to the Winter ones.
Here is my Berlin’s intake and my express guide to East Berlin; Where to Stay, Shop, Sip and Eat.
Stay: Hotel Gat Point Charlie
My first interaction with GatRooms hotel chain was last year in Lisbon. Since it was a very successful experience, I decided to visit their hotel in Berlin. (If something is working well, I’d better stick with it, right?). One of the best things about GatRooms hotels is their premium locations. In Lisbon it was Rossio Square and in Berlin the location is just around the corner from Check Point Charlie. From there, it is a walking distance to Unter Den Linden, The Jewish Museum, Brandenburger Tor and more. Beside its reasonable prices, the young and hip rooms’ design, the breakfast in GatRooms is great and generous. It is not the typical continental breakfast that offers a toast, jam and coffee. The breakfast is rich and varies from different kinds of breads, cheese, confiture, cereals, eggs and cakes.
The hotel offeres bike rentals (the easiest way to travel around in Berlin like a local) and the staff is extremely helpful.
Hotel Gat Point Charlie, Mauerstrasse 81-82. 10117 Berlin
Shop: Pro Qm
I have been reading about this store even before I booked my trip to Berlin and intended to go there ever since I read about it in my Wallpaper Berlin City Guide. I love visiting book stores wherever I travel, and moreover, when the book store is dedicated to design , graphic design, architecture and pop culture. Needless to say I was in awe when I got in. Mostly because I was planning to visit this store for a while now. I loved the clean, simple white shelves, loaded with books and the blast of shocking pink color in the shape of ladders and some shelvings. If the majority of the books was not in German, I could stay there forever.
Pro Qm, Almstadtstraße 48-50, 10119 Berlin (closed on Sunday)
KM Shop, ThisDas
Just down the road from Rro Qm, I found this nice beautiful shop KM (I love how the shops are called by single letters). The yellow chairs outdoors just called me in. If I need to describe this store in one word, it will be Minimalism. A collection of various artists (locals and internationals) and a variety of Jewelry, stationary, home accessories and personal ones. I love the yellow walls and how everything, as small as they are, just pop up and make you want to buy them.
Km Shop, Almstadtstraße 1, 10119 Berlin
I’m not necessarily a flea market’s fan, but I find flea markets quite captivating from a photographer’s perspective. I think that flea markets are like small melting pots. They can teach you a lot about the culture, the tradition, the custom and the style of the city they are located. As the idiom says: ‘One man’s trash is another man’s treasure’, I find my ‘treasure’ in photographing the scene. Flohmarkt is one of the biggest flea markets in Berlin and it is located in Mauer Park. (The name Mauer Park means Wall-Park, named after the former part of the Berlin Wall, which can be found there). Even though my girlfriend dragged me to this market and it was such a hot day, I enjoyed the scene very much. If you are a Vintage junky, this market is for you. Plan it wisely and take a stroll along the Wall.
Flohmarkt, Bernauer Strasse 63-64, 13355 Berlin-Mitte
Sip: Napol Jonska
Nothing can go wrong when the walls of the cafe you have just discovered are colored in pink. I came across this cute cafe while coming back from the Flea Market in Mauer Park on Sunday. When I got in, people were busy having a late brunch which included mostly waffels and crepes. The owner of the cafe was also having a brunch with her family and friends at that time. She was happy to tell me that she was buying most of the products from organic farming and was making the majority of the products herself with her staff. She is using only fresh fruit, fresh milk and organic eggs.
Napol Jonska, Kastanienallee 43, 10119 Berlin
I tend to believe that if my friend Peter hadn’t told me about this place, I would have had to find it by myself. This vintage-look cafe reminded me so much of a place I use to go to in the flea market of Jaffa when I am in Tel Aviv. To ‘try out’ this gorgeous cafe, I scheduled a meeting with Thea and Tony, aka as SisterMag. I loved it when the furniture all looked like taken from a different store or different era, all collected together in one place.
I think there is something going on with waffels in Berlin, as it was also the highlight of the place. (same as in Napol Jonska). The cafe is located in one of the trendiest streets in Prenzlauer Berg in East Berlin. Prenzlauer Berg is one of the most popular districts in Berlin, and one of Berlin’s prettiest neighbourhoods, known mostly for its Art scene. Cafe Kauf dich Glücklich is among the popular places where locals hang out.
Cafe Kauf dich Glücklich, Oderberger Straße 44, 10435 Berlin
Eat: Monsieur Vuong
Not sure about German food and German dishes, as I didn’t have the chance to try them out. But one evening, while I was strolling in the streets of Mitte, I have noticed a hectic scene and a young crowd outside a buzzing restaurant. It was Monsieur Vuong, a hype Vietnamese restaurant with Pink and Red colored walls, great cocktails and a fresh Vietnamese food. It was actually my last night in Berlin and I wish I would have found Monsieur Vuong earlier. Great variety of food, refreshing cocktails, reasonable price and fun, live atmosphere.
Monsieur Vuong, Alte Schönhauser Str. 46, 10119 Berlin-Mitte
I have always wanted to know what does Karim Rashid eat for breakfast, mostly because I am curious what feeds his brain and where does he get all his inspiration and creativity from. Not once did I pass through his office space on 17th street in Meat Packing District in New York, but I never had the courage to get inside and ask. I have seen his website, I read articles about him but nothing prepared me to see his creations in real, moreover, a big one, such as a hotel. I have heard about Nhow Hotel Berlin only three days before my visit to Berlin and I knew I had to see it and shoot its interiors if possible when I’m there.
Nhow Hotel Berlin is known and nicknamed as The Music and Lifestyle Hotel, mostly because it is the only hotel in Europe that offers two professional music studios, well equipped with recording booth, mixing and pre and post-production options. Therefore, among the guests you can find business travelling cosmopolitans, international jetsetters, night owls and the hottest bands who stay at the hotel both for the love of music and for the great experience the hotel can offer. I didn’t have the chance to peep into these studios but for other public spaces I did.
The hotel is located on the banks of the Spree river in between two of Berlin’s coolest districts; Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg, and has three towers. The East and West Towers on the side of the building and the upper tower which extends beyond 21 metres out of the building over the Riverbank. This silver colored tower serves as a reminder of the former city harbour area on the bank of the river.
If you have the opportunity to stay at Nhow Hotel when you are visiting Berlin, just grab that opportunity. If not, keep reading my post and enjoy the pictures and the visual tour.
The Breakfast Room:
By the time I got into the breakfast room, the food was already taken from the pink bubbly table display. All I could find were colorful membranes that served as decoration probably. The tables and chairs are funcional grey color and a pop art posters of celebrities such as Johnny Depp and Mother Teresa next to each other are on the dining room’s walls. I’m sure breakfast time is quite interesting there.
Just next to the breakfast dining room on the ground floor, separated by a light white curtain, Fabrics restaurant is a blast of colors and a feast not only to the palate but also to the eyes. The color combination of pink fuchsia and minty – neon green is a winner. The restaurant is situated in a corner with glass exterior walls and offers a magnificent view of the Spree River and the Oberbaum bridge. But not only the color combo is a winner. Also the food and the masterpiece dishes that seem to follow a similar color scheme. The head Chef Patrick Rexhausen is creating a new menu every six weeks, based on German-French cuisine. The restaurant is opened for breakfast, lunch and dinner. (Menu can be found here).
The Envy Bar and Lounge:
Imagine a giant golden face hanging over the barman, and matching the golden chairs…Imagine drinking a colorful cocktail, based on sake and tequila, developed by one of Germany’s best bartender, Christina Schneider. Imagine 100 gold, pink, purple and black seats that allow you to dive into comfort, while overlooking the Spree river and sipping a ginger lemonade. This, and more, one can find at the Envy Bar. (No wonder they called it ‘Envy’).
The lounge is just right after you pass the reception. On a blue rug with pink strips, you can either have a drink, rest a bit or just lounge on colorful psychedelic cushions. The big windows are over looking the river and wash the lounge with bright light. The ceiling is dotted with pink plastic tubes.
Taking the elevators has never been so enjoyable and fascinating. Each elevator is in a different color and when you look up, there is always an interesting painting to look at. It reminded me a bit a scene of Pedro Almodóvar‘s movie, probably for the a-symmetric figure.
and once I took the elevator to the rooms and the door was opened, all I could see was that!
I wish I could see most of the rooms in the hotel as I have no doubt they don’t look the same. However, the 304 rooms are divided into three -room categories; Standard rooms, superior rooms and junior suites. What makes the rooms unique is the option to choose between three color schemes; Pink, Blue, Pink/Black or Blue/Black all depends on the rooms’ location. Rashid thought about every little detail and it seems that everything is synchronized and working perfectly; The wall papers go along with the floor papers that work well with the beddings and the curtains. All look like a great visual symphony. Every room has wireless connection and well equipped for PC, Mac, and iPads. The bathroom is separated from the bedroom with a shocking pink glass and I’m sure it offers a great experience.
Karim Rashid is, by far, one of the most creative designers in the world. The short visit in Nhow Hotel definitely left me curious to see more of the other locations he designed and created. Stay tuned for more.
“…Good bye, runny eggs and sad-looking cereal stations. Hello, Vietnamese banh mi and French almond sponge cake. These hotel buffets are eating others for brunch…”
Travel + Leisure’s June issue On the Radar’s segment is featuring the best breakfast buffets in various hotels around the world. I was on assignment to shoot the marvelous breakfast bar in Mamilla Hotel, Jerusalem and also got the chance to try out this breakfast galore after the shoot (of course). It was quite a hectic day. Only a day after Obama left Israel (Jerusalem was quite chaotic) and a day before Passover evening. (The kitchen changed its menu to kosher) so I had a window of opportunity to shoot it in the morning.
The best breakfast buffets are: Mamilla Hotel (Jerusalem), Park Hyatt (Saigon), Hotel Eden (Rome), Mandarin Oriental (Las Vegas) and Sofitel Marseille (Vieux Port).
And here is the text for Mamilla Hotel: “The Piero Lissoni-designed hotel puts a modern spin on Israel’s historically hearty meal. There’s shakshouka (eggs poached in tomato sauce), chocolate babka and 10 kinds of salad”
AFAR’s June/July issue is featuring another image from my Vietnam’s travel. First time was on March/April issue and now one of my favorite images of Cao Dai’s temple is part of AFAR’s highlights. (p.45) To read more on Cao Dai temple and see more pictures, please see my post here.
And here is the text: “…From Ho Chi Minh City I rode a bus a few hours to the Cao Dai temple in Tay Ninh. The exterior incorporates sacred images, symbols and colors from Cao Dai, a Vietnamese religion that draws from Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism and Roman Catholicism…”
But more over, AFAR’s editor has asked me to be featured in the contributors page! Here is the text under my picture:
“…Having built a career in media and advertising, photojournalist Sivan Askayo quit her corporate job five years ago. ‘It was always my dream to combine my three passions: photography, traveling and writing’ she says. ‘I decided that if it’s not now, it’s never’. Askayo, a frequent AFAR.com contributor (Highlights. p.45), now globe-trots for a living and has become known for her images of street art and hanging laundry. ‘I don’t take portraits of people; I take portraits of places’ says Askayo, who was born in Tel Aviv and lives in New York. Her photo have been published in Travel + Leisure, Marie Claire Italia and Hemispheres…”
Issue no. 7 of SisterMag is all about Italy. I was so excited when Thea asked me to contribute to this issue, and I already knew that from all Italian cities I’ve traveled to, I would choose Florence.
If you love Italy, than this SisterMag issue is for you. Flip through the colorful pages and read my article on page 54.
Florence is one of the most romantic cities I know. Let’s face it.
I was 16 years old when I first visited Florence. It was a ‘Sweet 16’ trip to Italy and the tour guide took us to Florence, just for a day. All I remember from that day was the statue of David. I remember how my parents got excited to hear I saw the statue of David, and my sister was shocked to hear he was naked. It took me 20 years to go back to Florence for the second time, and honestly, I don’t know why it took me so long.
Last year I got the urge to visit Florence. But Florence only. Was it because of a Travel article I read or just my imagination and curiosity to focus on Florence only, I don’t know… but eventually my instincts were right! Florence was glorious. A little Renaissance gem in North of Italy. My trip was mostly focused on photography and my wish to see more of this city than the statue of David. I walked a lot, as walking is my favorite way of discovering a new place and I got into some great neighborhoods beside the touristic attractions.
Florence for me was running up the hills all the way to Piazzale Michelangelo, just to see the city waking up soaked in a morning dew.
Florence for me was climbing up 412 stairs up the tower of the Duomo, for the sake of taking beautiful pictures.
Florence for me was all about chocolate and coffee. Better have a coffee for two at the mythological Cafe Gilli, or drinking coffee cream at Caffe Scudieri with a chocolate ice cream right with it.
Florence is walking through Santa Croce’s busy courtyard or feeding pigeons in San Marco Square.
Florence for me was visiting the Academia at via Ricasoli on a busy day, paying only 4 euros to see the masterpiece of David, and sneaking pictures of him when the museum guards were not watching.
Florence is visiting Galleria Uffizi and observing The Birth of Venus, The Primavera or the Neptune statue in full glory.
Florence is having Ricotta Cheese and Figs for lunch and chocolate and ice cream for dinner.
Florence is walking in cobble stone streets with funny names such as Via de Tornabuoni or Via Maffia
Florence is having an afternoon stroll in Giardino di Boboli, or drinking water from Fontana dello Sprone.
Florence is watching men in their best tailored suits riding their bicycles.
Florence is visiting the Towers of Donati or the great halls of the old synagogue in Via Farini.
Florence is walking through Piazza San Lorenzo markets, Piazza Del Republica or passing by Palazzo Pitti.
Florence is watching the sunset over Ponte Vecchio while you are holding a bottle of wine in one hand and your loved one in other.
Florence is doing and experiencing all of the above.
Over and Over again