Elephant bath time in Hampi, India

For a lovely way to start the day in Hampi, set your alarm clock early, and head to the river by Hampi Bazaar (to the point where travellers and locals catch the ferry to the opposite bank, Virupappur Gaddi) for 7.30am.

If you’re lucky you’ll spot Lakshmi, the temple elephant, being led to the river for her daily bath.

You may even enjoy the ultimate ‘power shower’ yourself!

Elephant shower in Hampi

Elephant bath time in Hampi

Elephant in Hampi

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Berlin al fresco: Clärchens Ballhaus and Bötzow Privat

Berlin lives out on its streets in summer – whether it’s clattered out on the pavement by some well-worn caff;  putting another wurst on the barbie; or perched on the balcony, taking it all in.  Ask any Berliner for their thoughts on summer (if your German is, like mine, somewhat limited to conversations about the weather and ordering off menus) and they get a dreamy look in their eyes and say: ‘Ah, I fall in love with Berlin in summer!’.

I say this on a Saturday, when it’s actually pretty chilly outdoors.  The weekdays have been maddeningly warm in comparison, which, for a city that knows its right from its left, probably serves us capitalist 9-5ers right.  But maybe i’m just bitter.

In any case, for those of you who happen upon Berlin in a sunnier disposition, here is where I would go to fall in love…

Clärchens Ballhaus – One of those ‘hidden gems’ that’s nonetheless recommended by all the guidebooks, this slightly decrepit old ballroom can still kick up its heels and sits, rather grandly, on August strasse in Mitte. Here you’re greeted by my favourite bit, the courtyard, punctuated by a disco ball and little tables where you can order drinks from waiters in white shirts and waistcoats.

If you can tear yourself away for food (and I would, the pizzas were so-so but you can do better than that) then you’re just a waltz away from Tucholsky strasse, home to the lovely Schwarzwaldstube.  Hands up, I haven’t actually eaten at this place yet – but I can vouch for the smell (mmm) and my jealousy as I sipped a rhubarb drink outside, whilst plates loaded with flammkuchen (a type of German pizza) and spargeln (white asparagus) wafted by. Looking beyond my nose, I caught a lovely the view of the synagogue south down the street.

A short stumble across the strasse and you’ll find Bötzow Privat.  Food here is all hearty berliner fare, thoughtfully presented with a modern twist (think typisch Deutsch but lose the Lederhosen). We took Well-Fed’s parents here for dinner and tucked into excellent boulettes (Berlin burgers that were originally brought over by the French). The fat, hand-made meat patties were pure flavour, no fuss – served with a dollop of creamy sharp mustard and washed down with a delicious Rothaus wheatbeer.

Ah, I fall in love with Berlin in summer!

Eating Berlin: The schön and the shizer…

The schön

  1. Brunch – For eggs all ways, big coffees and bigger cakes, I head to this place..
  2. Wheat beer – I am a beer convert! The rounder fuller flavour trounces the tin can taste of most lager beers.  Make mine an  Erdinger or Franziskaner…
  3. The ubiquitous bread basket – Sod you, Atkins!

The shizer

  1. Harz Käse – Any cheese that contains less than 1% fat is clearly a vegetable.
  2. Tap water – or should I say the lack thereof in Berlin restaurants.
  3. Vietnamese sushi – as likely a pairing as French vegetarians