Amplemann; the Hello Kitty of Berlin

Recently I spent a week in Berlin. Admittedly, this was not my first choice of city on my “big European adventure”, I’ve never really had an urge to visit Germany, however after my first day in Berlin my opinions had changed dramatically. Berlin is immersed in such an immense amount of important historical events – both negative and positive. This post isn’t going to be about World Wars, the Berlin Wall, or the Holocaust. I am going to talk about the lighter side (pun intended) – the Amplemann!

On October 13th 1961, Karl Peglau introduced the first pedestrian crossing signals in East Berlin. Soon, these little green and red men became an icon, so much so that in 1982 Friedrich Rochow cast the Amplemenn in a road safety training film. After the reunification of Berlin, the Amplemenn were assumed to be phased out as part of East Berlin culture. In 1996, Markus Heckhausen resurrected these men and put them back into working order on select intersections across Berlin. This obviously sparked a media outrage – many against the integration of a reminder of the grim past, but some looking past this and reassigning a new meaning to the little green and red beacons of hope. Eventually the ‘committee for the preservation of ampel men’ was founded and with the help of the media, politicians and local authorities could not resist the movement any longer.

Heckhausen, and his company MAKE Design GmbH collaborated with designed Barbara Ponn to create the first Amplemann collection in 1999. ” Items like bottle openers, fruit gums, magnets, corkscrew, key fobs and T-shirts were an immediate success.” [Source].

While in Berlin, I passed numerous Amplemann shops, purchased my very own Amplemann notebook, sent an Amplemann postcard back home to my family and ate at the famous Amplemann Restaurant; enjoying some red and green beer, and pizza with Amplemann shaped dough-charaters on top.

Maybe my title is a little bit of an exaggeration. The Amplemann is specific to Berlin, with a massive political history. Sanrio’s Hello Kitty is much more wide spread Japanese phenomenon, created purely for entertainment purposes. To me, the Amplemann is much more than a plastic key chain, or a traffic signal. It symbolizes the light of the future of the city while simultaneously shining light on the past to invoke and inspire knowledge.


my first kombucha.

Disclaimer: here is a throw-back writing sample for you. Excuse the ignorance.

August Seventeenth, Two Thousand and Fourteen

It happened at the Sunday farmers market in Liberty Village, Toronto, Canada. I had only ever heard of kombucha two times prior. First, was when a girlfriend and I were walking up and down Queen St. We popped into a tiny café for a cup of fair trade coffee and people watching. Being sold in the café were little bottles of a fruit-flavoured drink called Kombucha. I had never read this word before, promoting me to grab the bottle. Reading the ingredients – the French side first, oops – didn’t help. There weren’t any descriptions or instructions. I was mildly intrigued. My second encounter with the word was brief, but very impactful nonetheless. I was in a local vegan-organic restaurant, and they made the stuff! Who better than to ask the creators themselves, no?

You guys, it is fermented tea with yeast and bacteria in it! Why were people drinking this kombucha stuff? I had no idea. It was being sold in the hipster-areas of town, so was this the next craze a la Atkins and the South Beach Diet? Not necessarily. Think more along the lines of Matcha. It’s been around for thousands of years and westernized pop culture has decided to jump into warp speed and embrace the crap out of it. I admittedly suffer from a disease known as FOMO, and had to get my hands on it! However I was not ready to shell out the $10.00 this vegan-organic restaurant was asking – no, thank you.

My first cup was from a little company called Pekoe Kombucha Bar. They set up fort at the farmers market and were giving away free samples of the mysterious liquid. Perfect! I love me a good ole’ free-samplin’. The flavour was lemon-ginger. ‘Great!’ I thought, this actually sounds like it is going to be surprisingly good. It was carbonated; a little bitter, but refreshing. Sort of like a lemon Perrier. I had to ask, so I did. “What’s so special about this stuff anyway?” I inquired. “Its most famous for boosting your immune system, detoxifying and digestion, but it has also been known to aid in preventing and fighting cancer, arthritis, and other degenerative diseases.” one of the owners of Pekoe Kombucha Bar told me from behind the folding table separating us under the market tent.

I was fast to jump on the bandwagon. Who knows if kombucha really helps in digestion, etc. etc. etc. . . It tastes delicious. It’s like limbo between juice and alcohol. If it were an age-group, it would be a tween – not just for kids, but not drunk yet.


the sound of silence.

What is proper driver etiquette?

When you jump in a cab do you expect the driver to stay silent unless engaged? Do you mind if you have a chatty-Cathie on your hands?

I used to jump in Toronto cabs – a lot. 90% of the time, the drive would not engage in any conversation with me unless I provoked it. I preferred this. Not to insinuate I am anti-social by any means, however sometimes after a hard day at work, or being tired and just wanting to get to your destination means wanting a silent ride. Basking in a silent ride.

One time I called for a Beck Taxi to pick me up at my home. When I was called by the driver I told him I’d be downstairs in a minute- which was a normal practice for me. Once I hopped in the cab the driver turned around and lectured me for making him wait. Taken aback, I apologized (while simultaneously thinking, ‘Why am I in the wrong here?’), and asked how long he had been waiting for me. He said a few minutes, which I thought wasn’t that bad. He turned around and proceeded to drive me to my destination. After a few more minutes of silence, he continued his lecture, mentioning how close to my house the Beck Taxis park and wait, and how I should have known that. How was I supposed to know that? Also, I am going to be paying for this ride, and possibly tipping you – well not any more – so what gives you the right to lecture me?

Recently, I have hopped on the Uber bandwagon. After downloading the app, I got 3 free rides, so it was a given that my cab-riding days would be over. Uber is just cheaper in general. Also, every now and then Uber will offer cool promotions; including the Loblaws promotion that my boyfriend and I used yesterday. This included a free ride in an Uber car to Loblaws to pick up an order of groceries that had been preselected online and paid for in advance, and a free ride home. Sounds great, right? Well it was – in theory.

Here is what happened. The boyfriend was picked up by Spike*(name changed for privacy reasons), our Uber driver, at his place of employment. Spike drove a big black pickup truck that he was extremely anal about. (More on that later). Spike drove the boyfriend to my place where I was picked up. I saw the black pickup drive into my building’s courtyard and the driver jump out of the card before I could even attempt to open the door for myself. Instead, he opened the door for me, placed out his other hand and assisted me into the truck. I thought this was very nice of him; chivalry wasn’t dead blah blah. Also, the truck was really high off the ground, maybe it was just a thoughtful gesture?

Then we got on the road, headed toward a Loblaws location that in theory would only have been 10 minutes away via highway. Spike the driver immediately says, “So we will be taking a weird route today. We will be going north to go south. I want to avoid all of the traffic around the ACC and Sky Dome. Plus I can visit Ma while we’re up north, ha-ha.” It made sense at the time, aside from the weird joke about visiting his mother who lives up north. And by north, he meant Dundas. Come on.

When we got to Bathurst, the boyfriend looked at Google maps, saw that there was absolutely NO traffic on the Gardiner, so we suggested the alternate route to our driver. Spike responded with, “Fine, I guess we can get into that mess if you two want”. Keeping in mind this entire time, Spike had been chatting his face off to the boyfriend and I about the 2 million he made by the time he was 21. His failed marriage that cost him 3 million and a house in the Bahamas. His new girlfriend and his 28 foot yacht. I kept thinking to myself “Will this 56 year old-wannabe rockstar-douche ever shut it? Will he ever take a hint that the boyfriend and I don’t want to make small talk right now?” Nope. The answer was most certainly NOPE.

When were on the highway, Spike turned to the boyfriend and I and asked if we were going to get married. That is a little bit of a personal question to ask two complete strangers, isn’t it? We didn’t answer and he proceeded to give us marriage advice. “Marriage is a business… except when you’re in the bedroom”, he said. He went on, but I tuned him out for the most part. This was not a topic I was going to engage in with Spike the retired-rock star Uber driver.

A couple of close calls, left-turn on a green while almost getting t-boned, and driving the wrong way down a one-way street later, we arrived at Loblaws. The boyfriend jumped out of the truck to go grab the delivery. Spike lost his MIND, immediately grabbed a yellow cloth, jumped out of the truck, ran over to the passenger door and wiped it down vigorously; removing any remaining prints that the boyfriend may have left. Spike then turned to me and said “Another thing about having people in and out of my car all of the time is the germs. The less you touch is better for both you and I.” I agreed, not really aware of what he was saying, but hoping he would stop talking. I was wrong. He continued, “You know, my throat has been sore for a while now”, gesturing at his 5-o’clock shadow on his leathery sun-damaged skin. No kidding, Sherlock; I’m willing to bet the 2 packs of cigarettes a day that you admitted to smoking, or the fact that you haven’t shut up during this entire journey may or may not be contributing to your sore throat. I am no doctor.

When we were all back in the car, our destination was only 5 minutes away – thank god – and Spike was kind enough to double-knot all of our plastic bags for us. Thank you, for that. Taking groceries out of double-knotted-bags is such a breeze.

Needless to say, he got a GENEROUS 4/5 on Uber. Did I mention he was pushing his side business on the boyfriend before I got in the car? He also makes cellphone covers. He is “the money man” (self-proclaimed). Ridiculous.

Comparing my past experiences with cabs vs. Uber, Uber drivers tend to be more chatty. At the end of the day, I do not want this. Please, all drivers out this (I’m looking at you Spike from Uber), please don’t engage us unless we engage you. Thank you.


get serious.

Time flies when you’re having fun?

No. Time flies, period.

Three years have passed; a good chunk of my life when I wasn’t determined to follow my dreams, achieve my goals, continue my passion in life. I lost track of everything – or so I thought – but now more than ever I feel like I am right back where I should be.

Through the influence of certain people in my life – both negative and positive – this realization has become more clear. Maybe it has been the minor slew of odd jobs I’ve taken on, or the recent European trip that I’ve been waiting my entire life to go on, and just returned from that has opened up my eyes for the better.

More to come!