Sunday 30 April 2023

Berlin - The Obvious Tourist Sights are Obvious

 Berlin is an amazing city, and that was clear the moment we jumped off the train from the airport at the Hauptbahnhof, the magnificent modern building that is the main railway station at the city.

There was so much life on the streets; endless chains of any form of bike you can think of, cars that never need to stop for congestion, and people who answered my attempts to speak in German in perfect English. So many cafes with tables on the pavement, lots of kebab shops, and of course, the clicking pedestrian crossings with the iconic green man in a hat. 

I posted myself in charge of navigation, and after a shaky start, managed to get us to our hostel in Mitte by the Natural History Museum without too much difficulty. The room my sister and I were allocated was perfect; the Alt Bar in the courtyard, complete with sections of Berlin Wall, even more so.

Originally located in another part of the city, the bar's interior was moved in its entirety in 1993, and was once a favoured watering hole of David Bowie and Marlene Dietrich. This also brought us face to face with something British readers no longer experience; the fact that in Berlin, everyone smokes like chimneys and smoking is allowed in bars. 

The moment you walked into a bar, the sting of smoke is blinding. Although the bar was so dimly lit you couldn't see anything anyway. 

The next day had been allocated as the obvious tourist day. We set out from the hostel, and headed south along the Chauseestrasse trying to avoid being run over by trams. Lost amid university grounds, we did manage to extricate ourselves and find our way on the Unter den Linden.

The Unter den Linden is THE tourist drag. Lots of tat shops advertising tours by Trabant. Street cafes in the middle of the road selling kebabs and prosecco. Young kids buying fast food and religiously putting their litter in the bin - Berlin is spotless and seemingly actually respected and cared for by its inhabitants. 

Aside - we only saw four pieces of litter that day. All of which my sister put in the bin. 

After a stop at a cafe where I was shat on mightily by one of Berlin's ubiquitous hooded crows, a bird we don't see in England but do in Scotland, we trundled down towards museum island, but never really fancied going into any of them.

Museums take a long time, and ours was short. 

So, we went through the Brandenburg Gate, a magnificent edifice, before making our way to the huge park that is The Tiergarten, former hunting grounds of the Germanic royals. Sadly there were no wild boar about - just lots more hooded crows - and the cold weather meant there were no butterflies to see. Luckily Mozart and Beethoven weren't bothered about the weather. 

There are lots of little gazebos and things in the park, and each one of these had a homeless inhabitant. Poverty is perhaps less visible in Berlin than London, say, but it is still very much there. 

Another reminder of the darker history of this city is the Soviet War Memorial on the road that cuts that Tiergarten in half. The T34 tanks preserved there had leaf cutter bees living in their wheels. 

We began to head back now, taking in The Reichstag and its various memorials, before having a splendid cafe stop on the way home before stocking up with provisions - and Berliner beer! - at a Lidl. 

Where else?


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 30.04.23

Monday 24 April 2023

A Stunning Orange Tip!


I'm just back from Berlin, where I had a wonderful time in wonderful city. More of that later though. 

For now, I just want to show you something that was shown to me just before I left for Germany. I was sitting on a bench at Rumbles cafe when a little girl walked up to a plant, and deposited an orange tip butterfly on it. 

I've never seen an orange tip sit so still for so long, I'm guessing it was newly emerged and still waiting for its wings to properly dry out when she found it. Hence I was able to finally to get decent photos of one of these beauties for you. 

I hope you like them.


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 24.04.23

Thursday 13 April 2023

Some Solitary Bees

 There's been plenty of solitary bees about this spring - when the weather has been ok! - mainly feeding off dandelion, which I've recently learned is not as amazing a source of pollen as many people think. 

However, this time of year, it is clearly still important as it so abundant compared to other food plants round here. 

I'm not sure of the species id of the non honeybees here; the tiny one is a lassioglossus of some kind, while another is an andrena mining bee. My bee identification skills are not up to the task and neither is Google lens, it seems!


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 13.04.22

Wednesday 5 April 2023

And my First Butterfly Photo of 2023 is...

 ...A comma!

So, all of a sudden on Monday Spring sprung in a big way on a cloudless day full of sunshine. It wasn't particularly warm, but all that buzzes and flutters locally decided to take to the skies.

Gaudy female tawny mining bees patrol the ground at high speed, all russet and gold, looking for suitable nest hole sites to make their little volcanoes. Hairy footed flower bees feed manically off drooping star of bethlehem, far too fast to photograph, and in some locales the chiff chaffs are singing almost deafeningly. 

But more significantly, in my aesthetic view at least, like neon leaves being blown on a breeze, was the appearance of brimstone butterflies at last. It is my firm belief that until you see one of these beautiful butterflies, Spring cannot be said to have started. 

Too bad they rarely settle, and the one that did was far too skittish to be photographed. But a gorgeous fresh out of the packet comma was a more obliging subject, settling on a plant by the cycle track for a sunbathe.

I think this is maybe the second year in a row the comma has been my first fluttering capture of the year. I wonder what will be next?


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 05.04.23

Saturday 1 April 2023

The Treecreeper

 I've been housebound by a combination of both terrible weather and a terrible back spasm. Really not happy about my exercise level lately and diet too; feel rather chubby with my trip to Berlin upcoming. 

On a day when I was able to get out I was however fortunate enough to have a rare good view of a treecreeper in the Old Oak Wood by the River Devon. They are incredibly hard birds to see against a tree trunk, only the flash of white belly giving the bird's appearance away usually.

As ever, it was spiralling up the tree trunk with it's almost claw like tail acting as a third leg. 

Not rare birds, but a rare sighting!


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 01.04.23