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Posted on November 9, 2014

What life was like behind the iron curtain

Current Affairs/ Rebel Alexa/ Romantique
Romantique and Rebel in East Berlin, 1988

Romantique and Rebel in East Berlin, 1988

This weekend, Berlin commemorates the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall with an 80,000 balloon light illumination to recreate where the wall once stood.

The wall split the city into the West Sector, occupied by American, British and French allies, and the East sector, occupied by the Soviet Republic.

On the evening of Sunday, Nov. 9, 8,000 citizens will line up with a key in hand, each responsible for unlocking a balloon. One by one, the balloons will float into the sky, carrying personal messages with them.

Berlin's "Lichtergrenze" - Border of lights

Berlin’s “Lichtergrenze” – Border of lights

The wall is an integral part of Rebel and my upbringing: Aged 9 and 17 when our parents fled the dictator run country, we are both deeply affected by German/German history. When we lived in East Berlin, we had access to West German radio and TV: Longing for the exotic travel, shiny cars and abundance of goods the channels showed. In my case, this was a holiday to Brazil, a Barbie dreamhouse and “my Little Pony”. In the East, Rebel learned Russian at school and went through a tough-as-nails education at the East-German State-Ballet run by strict Russian Ex-Bolshoy teachers.

Rebel practicing at the state run East Berlin school of ballet

Rebel practicing at the state run East Berlin school of ballet

As a kid I remember being forced to sing communist anthems in a very strict and authorative primary school. For holidays, we would travel 3 days in the car to countries like Bulgaria & Romania. Only eastern-bloc countries were within our reach.

Yes, goods were scarce and exotic fruit like Mango, passion fruit and honey melon were completely unknown to me.

Our family was torn apart by the wall and politics even divided our family: During the Soviet occupation of East Germany in the 1950s, our Mum’s mum spent time in an East German jail for spying for the west. This was a thorn in the eye of our dad’s parents who were loyal communists and advised my dad against marrying mummy R&R (which in turn only made him even more determined to marry her!)

Our parents in 1970. They got married despite their families who opposed the union.

Our parents in 1970. They got married despite their families who opposed the union.

In February 1989, 10 month before the fall of the wall, our parents fled East Berlin with nothing, leaving behind all material possessions and funds. having to start from scratch at the age of 40; an incredibly bold move, all to regain freedom and to give their children a better future.

Starting fresh in West Berlin wasn’t a bed of roses. My mum’s East German degree was not recognised and she had to study again at the age of 40. Rebel had to abondon her Ballet Career and I was traumatised by the fact that we had to leave behind my beloved cat Sina who died shortly after our move, of a broken heart. At West Berlin school, I was teased for my un-trendy Eastern Bloc-chic clothes and my East-German slang. I spoke German, but a Colloqial German that was different to that of my classmates.

Rebel, Romantique and our mum in East Germany, note the Trabi in the background!

Rebel, Romantique and our mum in East Germany, note our Trabi in the background!

Today, Berlin is an über-cool tourist destination, currently number 3 of Europe’s most popular destinations. Berlin’s visitor numbers are predicted to eclipse Paris, currently holding number 2, in 2015.

It’s a fascincating mix of a City that is nothing like the rest of Germany: easy-going, anarchic, ever-changing, open and cosmopolitan. A city whose locals are known for having a “loud mouth with a golden heart”. A city which has influenced Europe politics like no other with a female chancellor (called Mutti=Mami) who’s calling the shots in the EU. Who would have thought all of this possible 25 years ago?

Stay tuned for more insights into life behind the iron curtain with interviews of contemporary witnesses….

Coming soon!

At the Berlin Wall, with a "Trabi" symbolically breaking through the wall.















Posted on February 8, 2014

You know you are a German living in London if….

Current Affairs/ Romantique

German living in London Romantique

You are over the moon when you stumble across a German bakery that serves full-rye-sourdough-sunflower-pumpkinseed-whole-grain-bread! Bliss.

Kamps Bakery HIgh Street Kensigton

You shop at Lidl and Aldi, usingyour own plastic shopping bags and you always have a £1 coin ready for the trolley.

You count yourself lucky if you find a flat in London that doesn’t have damp walls and rats, so you put up with extortionate rent, single glazed windows and paper thin walls. Hearing your neighbours coughing and sneezing is standard!

You find out that British food is better than it’s reputation, thanks to globalisation.

Romantique Borough Market

You are considered “rude” if you tell your colleague honestly her new hair cut is not amazing. Next time, tell her it’s “lovely”.

You get sympathetic looks when you don’t order alcohol in a pub because everyone automatically assumes you’re a recovering alcoholic. (In Britain, there’s no other reason NOT to order alcohol).

You get frustrated at not having 5 recycling bins.

German recycling trash cans

You are shocked having to find out that people have to PAY for dental treatment!

You sizzle yourself in Spanish midday heat on holiday to stock up on sunshine. Who knows when you’ll see it again?!

You look overdressed in winter!

 British girls in winter

You are snapped up in the job market, as you likely have completed 4 year masters vocational training to be a builder, hairdresser, baker, secretary or plumber.

You have to explain what a fluff shaver is. No, it’s not a jumper massager!

lint shaver

You prefer Nutella on toast to Full English breakfast!

british breakast and German Nutella

You get admiring looks when you tell people you’re from Berlin, the Londoners’ favourite city on the continent!

berlin fashion dolls

Posted on December 19, 2013

Winter Fairy Tale: Romantic Christmas markets in Berlin

Berlin/ Current Affairs/ Decor/ Romantique

Gendarmenmarkt Christmas 2013


Christmas is my favourite time of the year (despite loving summer! ) and the highlight of this period is a visit to one of the traditional Christmas markets in Germany!

Berlin is the capital of Christmas markets with over 60 to choose from! If you are tired of the commercialisation that has taken over the holidays , head to the country of the Nutcrackers for a romantic and traditional Christmas .

The S-Class of the Christmas markets is without a doubt the “Weihnachtszauber at Gendarmenmarkt” in Berlin-Mitte. Located on one of the most beautiful squares in Europe. Three impressive buildings provide the stunning backdrop: The French cathedral, the German cathedral and the Concert Hall. Popular for it’s unique hand-made products, you can find handmade presents such as traditional wooden carved Christmas figurines, handmade glass baubles and lambskin shoes. All the while the seductive scent of burnt almonds, chestnuts, baked apples, grilled sausages and spicy Gluehwein fills the air!

Romantique Christmas market

Typical stand offering candied fruit, gingerbread hearts and an array of Lebkuchen. Hat from Antoni & Alison, caot from Max & Co. Red turtle neck jumper from Uniqlo.

Christmas is a big deal in Germany, a time for introspection and spending time with your family, everyone gets into it. Stroll through the residential areas and you will see almost every window and balcony is decorated with light chains, star lampshades, reindeers and Christmas trees. Did you know that the advent wreath, glass baubles and the Christmas tree all originated in Germany between the fourteenth and nineteenth centuries?


Mummy Romantique buying traditional Christmas Stollen. Her monochrome dogstooth scarf is from Moschino. Snakeskin bag from Alberta Ferreti.

Mummy Romantique buying traditional Christmas Stollen. Her monochrome dogstooth scarf is from Moschino. Snakeskin bag from Alberta Ferreti.

German Stollen, a loaf-shaped fruitcake made of yeast, water and flour, is traditionally eaten around Christmas time in Germany. The treat, which was first baked in Dresden in the 14th century, is filled with nuts, raisins, candied citrus, and spices, and its form is said to represent Baby Jesus in swaddling clothes.

Tipp: Always cut a Stollen from the middle, this way the cake won’t dry out as quickly.

German Christmas Market food

The praline “Dominostein” is another Christmas sweet from Dresden, made up of three layers: Lebkuchen, sour cherry and marzipan, covered in dark chocolate.

The crescent shaped biscuits “Vanillekipferl” come from Vienna, Austria and are traditionally eaten at Christmas time. They are baked in Germany, Hungary, Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Mr Romantique at the Christmas market

Mr Romantique at hte Christmas market

Ice rink at the Christmas Market at Alexanderplatz near the Red Town Hall

Ice rink at the Christmas Market at Alexanderplatz near the Red Town Hall

Carousel Alexanderplatz

christmas market Gendarmenmarkt

What would Christmas be without the story of Hansel and Gretel and the gingerbread house?

What would Christmas be without the story of Hansel and Gretel and the gingerbread house?

Christmas and the fairy tale Hansel and Gretel by the Brothers Grimm go together like mulled wine and mince pies!

Above:  Mug from Villeroy & Boch, Christmas edition 2013. Necklaces from Les Nereides.  Gingerbread house made entirely of Spekulatius (spiced biscuits), Leibniz butter cookies, cinnamon starts and Pfeffernuesse. Yum!

Posted on October 30, 2011

German Christmas Magic

Decor/ Romantique

Germany, the home country of the Christmas tree, is already gearing up for Christmas.

Christmas time is my favorite season, and no other country in the world can compete with Germany’s magical Christmas winter wonder land. Shops jostle to be the most lovingly detailed and original decorations and Christmas markets are found on virtually every corner.

The markets are not open yet, but  Christmas decorations for the house can already be bought in many Berlin shops.

Above: Red and white is always a favorite color theme for Christmas. The white nutcrackers can find a home even in the most minimalistic of homes and who could resist the rocking horses?

Hand sewn woolen reindeers seen at Strauss Innovation.

Giant Gingerbread man seen at Villeroy & Boch

Cinnamon sticks, cinnamon stars, dried cloves and oranges are great details with which to decorate the advent wreath

Straw reindeer

A shelf full of delicious Lebkuchen

“Stollen” – A sweet Christmas Speciality


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