Category Archives: Things to SEEK

Off the Beaten Track: Berlin’s Kreuzberg

Admittedly, when entering the easternmost part of Berlin’s Kreuzberg via the Oberbaumbrücke, the place feels run-down and grungy. Whether it’s because of the bridge’s dark stoned tunnel or the drunk German selling beers out of his cooler, the area’s entrance can hardly be perceived as welcoming. However, think twice before turning around and fleeing for the nearest outbound train because once immersed in eastern Kreuzberg’s bustling street life, alternative atmosphere and immigrant culture, you’ll find yourself appreciating its rough edges.

Start off your visit with wandering the neighborhood; by far the easiest and most rewarding means of exploration. Allow your nose to lead the way to one of many fragrant Arabic groceries and German Konditoreien (bakeries). Plunge down Kuchenkiste for an assortment of modern-twisted pastries, cakes, or pies. Then end your stroll in popular, but so-sketchy-it’s-beautiful, Görlitzer Park, once the site of Berlin’s main railway stations. Awe-inspiring street art can be found throughout the area. Consider taking the Public Art Tour for a selection of the most impressive works. You might want to rent a bike from either one of three Rent a Bike locations if you intend to spare your feet for late-night dancing.

Photo by Flickr user: grahamc99 CC2.0

Photo by Flickr user: grahamc99 CC2.0

A hoisted flag, waving in the wind, is the only thing missing, proclaiming the neighborhood to be hipsters territory. But then again, wouldn’t that be too obvious, for hipster standards? Surrounded by graffiti-sprayed garage doors, CHAoS iN fORm is one of the area’s hippest boutiques. Their racks are stuffed with everything from haute couture to carnival outfits and beloved by a hipster clientel. Live mannequins can best be spotted during evenings. It’s hard to miss their well-groomed appearances, quirky fashion statements, and organic noshing habits.

Speaking of noshing; Burgermeister serves some of the best burgers in Berlin. Housed in a small shack, sheltered by overhead U-bahn tracks and flanked by busy Oberbaumstraße, it is the perfect urban setting to reflect on the day’s encounters and experiences. Are you, like me, travelling on a budget? Pizzeria La Romantica wins you over on its richly-topped 3-6 euro pizzas. However, don’t let the name lure you into bringing a date; it simply doesn’t deliver on romance. Instead, take your date to Treinta Y Seis; their affordable Mexican dishes and hot sauce, will fire up the conversation. When craving German classics (think Frankfurters, Schnitzels, and Strudels) there are basically two options: fine dining in traditional Kattelbach or finger-licking grub at Frau Rauscher’s.

After dinner the neighborhood comes to life as nocturnal party flocks, varying from smooth mid-town folks to eccentric youngsters, find their way to two of the city’s biggest night clubs: Tresor and Watergate. Spooky and industrial-looking Berghain is located a stone’s throw away. Temper illusions of busting your signature moves on the clubs’ dance floors; it’s notoriously hard to get past the giants at the door. Kicked up too much of a fuss? Hide from angry bouncers in one of Kreuzberg’s superb underground bars. Try Madame Claude for a truly disorienting experience: it has an upside down interior! Café Wendel is an excellent runner-up. Sink into retro sofas and sip their quirky Gekko Mate soda. If you think dancing fiercely burned enough calories to treat yourself to a late night snack, Delikato’s kebab brings you that much closer to heaven.

Sehraya shisha lounge in central Kreuzberg offers a more relaxing environment. Its two-story Middle-Eastern interior is both atmospheric and incredibly kitsch. They offer more tobacco flavors than I can name fruits, and their menu is perfect for some Egyptian treats or nachos. Others might prefer an alternative film screening in Central Kino. To get there, duck into a narrow alleyway on Rosenthaler Straße (in Berlin Mitte) and pass metal artworks and mustached men.

Although the virus that covers buildings with  graffiti and infects humans with artistic juices has spread to adjacent Neuköln and north-west Wedding, Kreuzberg remains home to Berlin’s alternative spirit. For years the area has been presenting itself as a greased up laborer but, much like the undercover bosses in the eponymous TV show, finally reveals to be an upright power house of Berlin neighborhoods.

A day in Coyoacàn, diving into the heart of Mexico City

Our intern Laura visited Mexico City over the holiday break. Below she describes the sights, sounds, tastes and smells of Coyoacàn, a peaceful, yet exciting neighborhood.

I am Laura, a 22-year-old French girl living in San Francisco for a six-month period. When I arrived in California in October I planned to explore Mexico, especially since a friend living in Mexico City invited me to visit him. Eventually, I got the opportunity to go around the holidays, which allowed me to enjoy the incredible decorations. Plus I have to say, for a girl coming from a cold French region, walking around wearing a short skirt in December is pretty exciting!

After landing, the first thing that caught my attention was the size of this city. At 573 square miles, Mexico City is 14 times larger than Paris! I figured that I could not see everything, I had to make choices. With only 8 days in the city, what did I absolutely need to see? For years I knew I wanted to see Frida Kahlo’s house, so exploring its neighborhood seemed like a great plan. Located right in the heart of the city, Coyoacán is one of the 16 boroughs of the Federal District. “Indeed, you can’t leave Mexico without experiencing this area” my friend told me. This became clear to me when he dropped off at Plaza Hidalgo only on the second day of my trip, the last day of 2013.

San Juan Bautista church was built in the 16th century

A melody of salsa

The first thing I noticed in Coyoacán was the architecture. Buildings are very low, and their colors are so crazy. I noticed the huge contrast between them and the grey color of the crumbling San Juan Bautisto baroque church façade. Inside the church, the ceiling is covered with very interesting colonial paintings. The different tints were amazingly bright, backgrounds, so dark and depth of field was almost not represented. I felt very lucky to see this church, so different from the roman and gothic arts in my own country.

After a while, I came back out to the fresh sunlight. It was nine in the morning, time when waiters are tying aprons around their waist, when old men meet on a bench, trying to solve world’s problems. A light breeze, twittering birds and the scent of coffee hung in the atmosphere. The city was waking up leisurely, and I found everything so quiet, unlike the rest of the city. However, I changed my mind pretty quickly! Once the first stools have been set on cafes terraces, the area became more alive. Even at this time, melodies of salsa music escaped from windows.

Nearby, I saw a yellow gate with an arched shape. Just above, “Bazar artisanal mexicano” had been hand-painted. A craft market? Without hesitation, I went for it! After walking through the first food stalls, I found a genuine Ali Baba’s cave. Surrounded by lime, corn and fried food smells, I jumped in this colorful crowded shamble. Exotic fruits, spices, sombreros, traditional clothes and trinkets, but also posters, scrap metals, sheets were for sale all around me. Strolling among the pervasively draped fabrics and the frolicsome children, I just had the feeling I could find everything here! “Que vas a comprar hoy, chica?” A work-worn hand grabbed mine, it was an old woman offering a henna tattoo. Amused by being constantly called out to buy, I always answered with a smile or a polite “No, gracias!”

The Bazar Artisanal Mexicano  probably sells everything you can imagine

The Bazar Artisanal Mexicano probably sells everything you can imagine

 La Coyoacana

Time to meet my friend for lunch was already here. “La Coyocana, 1pm” he told me. When I arrived, he and his family were already enjoying a michelada, the mix of lime, tomato juice, pepper slices and beer, the alleged “perfect hangover drink”. They all were sitting in nice-looking chairs in this wonderful courtyard. Traditional decorations were hanging above the tables, waiters were running, straddling on every side of the yard, trying to serve everyone as fast as they could. This was such a special place, it literally took my breath away as soon as I arrived. Instead of a michelada, I ordered an agua de horchata -the most refreshing beverage in the world. It is made of rice, almonds, sometimes cinnamon and often vanilla: my new addiction!  The sunlight filtered through the draperies sometimes reaching us, and a fresh breeze stroked our skins. Then, el Molcajete came. To describe it clearly I would say it’s a big stone bowl with three feet that is sometimes used as a grinder.  My molcajete however contained a traditional Mexican assortment: pork and beef, chorizo, tomatoes and greens onions, with chicharrón–huge pieces of crispy pork rind, all accompanied by the inevitable tortillas.


“Molcajete” a traditional Mexican dish.

Aware that this plate was invented by pre-Hispanic cultures, eating from it felt like a journey back in time!  I was wholly amazed by the beauty of this spot and by the charming scene unfolding around me. While we were enjoying our food, a group of six costumed men were singing very loudly: some were playing the guitar, some the violin and even the triangle. I knew they were mariachis, Mexican folk musicians, but this was the very first time I was seeing them for real. Suddenly, they came to us! I didn’t know what to do, but my friend’s mother knew: after handed them a bill, she whispered something to them and they started playing for us. One of the best memories from my Mexican trip!

Mariachis playing a very traditional love song in the restaurant’s patio

To continue this perfect moment with art, I decided to go to the famous Frida Khalo Museum, which is in fact the house where she was born and always lived. Again, being in this place was like walking through time. For me, it was very sad and surprising to see how much she suffered since her childhood. The house, her sanctuary, is so calming, it’s hard to imagine how tormented her life had been. What I found most moving was seeing the painting Viva la vida, probably because it was so simple, so pure and almost infantile. Knowing that she created this painting, despite the fact that she was dealing with such dreadful pain, made me even more fascinated by this woman.  To me, it just seemed to be an explosive hymn to life. The house is brimming with light, colors, life and the gorgeous surrounding blue is impressively stirring.

The famous blue walls of the Frida Khalo Museum

During the last part of my visit, I examined a temporary exhibition featuring pieces of her wardrobe.  What was really thrilling to me was that I understood that her firmness, her toughness and her confidence was in fact a way to hide her vulnerability, her frailness. That’s how I realized she was a mix of weakness and strength. More than a touristic experience, visiting Frida Kahlo’s museum was a profound experience for me.
Coyoacàn has so much history that makes it a huge part of Mexico’s soul. From my first steps on Plaza Hidalgo, I felt the spirit of this place. Every time I close my eyes now, I dream of going back there for a nice ramble.



Frida Kahlo museum –

Bazar artisanal mexicano Facebook page:


In Defense of the East Bay

San Francisco’s Best Kept Secret

A bit of background for you before you begin: we here at cityseekr are based in San Francisco. Not surprisingly this means a large majority of our staff in the office all live here and, of course, they love it. And don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a pretty cool city too. However, we also have a small but ever-present constituency of residents and natives of right across the water in the East Bay (myself included), and sometimes our spot gets a bad rap and is thoroughly under-appreciated here in the office.

It has become clear to me that many, if not the majority of San Francisco residents look down on their easterly counterpart and often express these superior opinions much to the chagrin of us proud East Bay folk. I mean, sometimes trying to get San Franciscans to cross the Bay Bridge (or BART under it) can be like pulling teeth! So I, being a proud Oakland native and resident, have decided to step up to the plate in defense of the East Bay. Hopefully I will prove that while SF may always be the big boy on the block as far as Northern California is concerned, the East Bay is most definitely nothing to be scoffed at… and in fact if they believe the stereotypes they use as excuses not to go there, they should probably be scared to do so.

Lake Merritt

Okay. So we all know what San Francisco is famous for and why people visit. You got your Golden Gate Bridge, you got your Coit Tower, and you got your Fisherman’s Wharf. But what you also have is this: PEOPLE. Lots and lots of people. Everywhere you go. Wanna cross that bridge? Be prepared to cross it at a snail’s pace due to the hundreds of other tourists with the exact same idea. Wanna go to the Wharf? Be prepared for overwhelmingly giant crowds and overwhelmingly jacked up prices. The city is, essentially, one big tourist trap. Now many of you may be thinking, so what? All those people are there because it’s worth seeing. True, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t many other things worth seeing and doing outside the city as well, off the beaten track – a method that has become very popular these days. Continue reading

Berkeley Beyond CAL

Sick of how when people mention the city of Berkeley everyone only thinks of UC Berkeley? The city has interesting sights and is well-known for its political activism, but it appears that those aspects evolve around UC Berkeley. Maybe you’ve been to the city dozens of time and keep touring UCB despite no longer caring that the university has a reserved parking spot for Nobel Laureates. Or perhaps you’re just not in the mood to visit a college campus and try to walk through crowds of stressed-out undergrads. Well, have no fear – this article will describe what you can do in a day that doesn’t involve setting foot onto campus.

Start the day off right by eating a balanced meal and by being as far away from the campus as you can possibly get without leaving the city. The distant Rick and Ann’s  is an amazing breakfast spot, but usually has a long wait.  Or head in the opposite direction and go to Jimmy Bean’s which offers scrumptious Silver-Dollar Pancakes.

If you decide to go to Jimmy Bean’s you’re roughly near the Berkeley Marina (and by roughly I mean you’ll still have to drive or take the bus) so…why not see the marina?

Photo by D.H. Parks. CC by 2.0

There you can admire a breath-taking view of the Golden Gate Bridge. This spot is well-known for being a great place to fly a kite, so on a sunny day don’t be surprised if you see the sky filled with brightly colored kites. Continue reading

No Lectures, Just Leisure

Our intern Babak attends San Francisco State University, and boy does he have a course to recommend to you. Read on to learn more about what is potentially one of the best departments a school can have: the department of Recreation, Parks, and Tourism (Amy Poehler and Aziz Ansari not included).


The Recreation, Parks, and Tourism (RPT) department at San Francisco State University is one of the most laid-back yet unique departments on campus, and the fact that they are still hanging

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on during the budget crisis is an astonishment in itself, but also a testament viripotens 50 sildenafil to the greatness of the department. Courses cover all aspects of recreation, parks, and tourism, ranging from general leisure development to the business side of tourism, as

well as specific, adventurous recreation activities, including rock climbing, white

water rafting, backpacking, and even sailing. In other words, the department features some of the most unique, interesting, and enlightening classes at SFSU, and RPT 420: Leisure and Contemporary Society is no exception.

Photo by Ed Yourton, CC BY 2.0

I stumbled upon this gem of a class under some unfortunate circumstances after being dropped from another term paper help 100% non plagiarized class–one that was much more essential to meet viagra price 100mg my graduation requirements. But boy am I glad I got booted from that class. Simply put, RPT 420: Leisure and Contemporary Society is hands-down the best class I’ve taken at SFSU.

The course explores the importance of leisure and its impact on American culture and society. It’s taught by three different professors, but it’s hard to imagine any of them teaching it better than Robert Flasher, or “Flash” as he goes by. Flash is the reason this class rocks. Flash rocks. He’s laid-back, friendly, funny, enthusiastic about leisure, and often writes silly raps for class (as long as a few students help him with the beat). He teaches this class once a week, once a semester, and that is all the teaching he does. That being said, he clearly has a genuine passion for teaching, and, similar to other professors in the department, his view of teaching doesn’t mean lectures, tests, and essays. By university policy, the class requires a minimum of ten pages of writing, but that is divided into five simple two-page writing assignments. There are no textbooks, no tests, and only about 20 minutes of lecturing per class. The rest of the three-hour class usually consists of videos, activities, and student-led discussions. Continue reading