Fin d'août, début septembre


I'm not the first blogger to think about the last days of summer and the coming of autumn, nor will I be the last. Just the mention of the word rentrée (there's no nice word like this in English or German which expresses this change so wonderfully) makes me think of newly sharpened pencils, virgin notebooks and the smell of fresh leather school bags. The weekend after my birthday always seemed depressing when I was younger; many of my friends couldn't make it to my party because they were away on holiday and then it was already back to school. Those times are long gone of course and today, I appreciate the wonderful colours and cooler days that this season brings. Yet, it can also be a time of changes and deep reflection. After the carefree, lazy summer afternoons, sometimes we have to make decisions or things simply can't stay the way they were before. I always think of that beautiful scene in Hannah and Her Sisters where Barbara Hershey is walking along the pier, wondering how summer could have gone so fast when everything is so complicated. It was Ju's leaving party on Saturday. The weekend was cooler and as I took the train over to Warschauer Straße, the water was dark and choppy. A rainbow united the old East and West sides of Berlin against a sky filled with heavy grey clouds. We chatted deep into the night, eating and drinking as much as possible in her almost empty apartment. The last of her things were piled up in a corner and I felt sad at the thought that there would be no more Tuesday evenings in different restaurants or at Hackescher Höfe cinema. I know I'll always think of her though, and Abbie too when wandering around the cobbled streets of Friedrichshain.

The view down the Spree to Kreuzberg from close to Treptower Park with the molecule man

On Sunday, I took a trip out around different parts of Berlin. I like to go in the morning while the city is still snoozing and the only other people you meet on the way are joggers and like-minded photographers. One of my favourite walks is from Warschauer Straße to Treptower Park along the river Spree. Sadly parts of it are closed off due to ever increasing construction work but it feels good wandering alone in between dark buildings with large aquarium windows and deserted building sites.

Even on a building site, you still find nature bursting out, like this gorgeous sunflower.

The park was already bustling; people stood around drinking beer, waiting for the next boat trip to the Müggelsee. In a riverside café, an ageing crooner in a loud shirt was serenading passers by and market sellers added their musical cries to make you buy their strawberries. I noticed a charming little rose garden next to a fountain; people are often intrigued by what I'm photographing and I probably came across as the most eccentric person but it seemed a pity not to capture the the lovely flowers before they start to fade.

The lovely roses in Treptower Park.

After that, I travelled to probably the most beautiful U-Bahn station in Berlin which is surrounded by a leafy park next to Rathaus Schöneberg. Going there reminded me of the times when J. would ask me to call by the office to collect him after work. It was just around the corner from there and as I was always too early, I liked to walk a little through the trees as the evening was falling.

Last weekend, a wedding party was gathered close to the fountain. Guests carried single red roses and clinked glasses of champagne while alongside, Berliners soaked up the last rays of summer on the grass or read the morning papers. On the horse chestnut trees, the spiky green forms containing conkers are already visible as are red and yellow berries and the white of the snowball bushes. I'm already looking foward to the promise of autumn, even if things are a little different.

Statues on the bridge above Rathaus Schöneberg U-Bahn station which reminded me of the ones in Last Year In Marienbad.

On my return, I stopped off at the Kiss Kaffee where I normally go to get some pie and a damn fine cup of coffee as Agent Cooper would say. I like to sit in one of the large leather armchairs inside, observing the people strolling by and happily forgetting the time.

Finally a recipe to celebrate the end of summer. You can still find an abundance of red fruits so it only seems right to enjoy them while they last. My students kindly gave me a birthday present of dark chocolate and raspberries - two of my favourite things, how could they have known?

I decided to use the raspberries for a cake and remembered one in my BBC cakes and dessers book but decided to change the milk for yoghurt, something popular in France. It came out such a beautful yellow colour and it's truly a sunshine cake - so simple, yet so delicious.

Raspberry, almond and yoghurt cake (from BBC GoodFood 100 Cakes and Bakes)

200g fresh raspberries
120g flaked almonds
1 small pot of plain yoghurt
125g soft butter
100g sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 eggs
grated zest of 1 orange
200g flour
1 packet of baking powder

Pre-heat the oven to 160 °C

1. Begin by washing the raspberries and leaving them to one side to dry.
2. Cream the butter, vanilla extract and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add in the eggs one by one until the mixture is homogenous.
3. Leave just a few almonds to one side, crumble the rest into the mixture along with the orange zest. Add the sifted flour, baking powder, yoghurt and all but 10 of the raspberries. Mix gently.

4. Pour into a greased and lined Springform tin. Sprinkle the leftover raspberries and almonds over the top and bake in the oven for approximately 40 minutes or less, depending on your oven (check from 30 minutes). The cake should be golden and springy on top.

Best enjoyed on a lazy Sunday afternoon with your favourite music or film.


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