Berlin. How can I describe Berlin?
In my eyes, Berlin is the perfect place, merging Grossstadt (big city) with relaxed village feel. A melting pot kind of place, where you can sit in cool rundown East end bars, drink Milchkaffee and watch the world go by. You’re surrounded by all kinds of languages, children in home-knitted cardigans run around, and people walk their dogs and greet other dog owners in the street.
This is a city where people talk to their neighbours. Where you can go somewhere and not be an anonymous face in the crowd. Berlin feels like a village. Relaxed, easygoing, devoid of the stress that makes a big city so exhausting.
And most importantly, Berlin is green. Everywhere you go, there are tree-lined streets with wild hedges growing in front of the massive Altbaus (old big houses). Find the hidden courtyards with their little cafés that seem like only local know-how or lost tourists can find them. Drink Bionade (organic lemonade) or Apfelschorle (sparkling apple juice), dig into a big slice of Kirschkuchen (cherry cake) and realize that life can be good.
By now you might have gathered that I simply love Berlin
I’ve always wanted to live in Berlin, and this trip didn’t really help to change my opinion.
Seriously, can you imagine what it felt like walking into a German bakery, after 7 years in a ‘fake bread’ country?! It’s comparable to what a little child must feel walking into Disneyland – purely and utterly overwhelming! Everywhere you look there are balloons of all shapes and sized (hundreds of types of breads and pastries), music’s filling your ears (freshly-baked bread smell fills your nose) friendly characters wave at you (em, the Bakery assistant greets you with a smile), anyway, you get the point. It’s pure bliss.
German pastries are damn good. In fact, I’d name them the kings of all pastries. I was especially smitten with the significant presence of rhubarb, pudding and crumble in the pastries I encountered. Now combine the three and you have a pastry from heaven!
You might notice the bag reading KaDeWe. Any self-respecting foodie going to Berlin has to go there. The 6th floor of this department store is basically the biggest food hall in Europe!
It’s overwhelming. They’ve literally got everything and anything you can think of (except for crazy cupcake sprinkles! I was frantically looking for the baking accessories section, but there was none.. serious disappointment!).
There was some kind of Thai festival going on in the food hall, and a Thai woman was playing Thai music, which transported me back to my first hours in Bangkok in some fancy hotel lobby. Strange.
When you make your way to the KaDeWe, make sure not to miss having a Currywurst at Witty’s, just opposite the department store. Currywurst to Berlin is what Fish and Chips is to London – the ultimate fast food institution. It’s basically a Wurst (sausage) mit oder ohne Darm (with or without skin) drenched in Ketchup and curry powder.
There have been many conflicting stories as to the origins of the Currywurst. The one I like best is that a Wurst stall holder had just finished preparing a customer’s wurst with ketchup and accidentally dropped a jar of curry powder on it. They liked it so much that the Currywurst was born. Shows that clumsiness in the kitchen can lead to good things!
Now, the special thing about Witty’s Currywurst is that it’s purely organic. It’s a Bio Wurst. You see, the Germans they like their Bio. Everything is available in its organic form, and not for a much higher price. You can get anything from Bio Brötchen (organic bread rolls) to Bio Gummibärchen (organic gummybears). It’s great! And the Germans don’t buy it cause it’s fancy or trendy, no, they buy it cause they care about their health and their environment.
So, here’s your excuse to try a Currywurst – it’s a healthy one after all!
(By the way, take a portion of Pommes (chips) with Erdnuss-sauce (peanut sauce) at Witty’s too! It doesn’t really go with the Currywurst, but boy, peanuts and chips are a hell of a match!)
Right, so let me tell you how much Witty’s Currywurst was a blessing! We were so hung over that day, that only a Currywurst could cure all evils. Too much Vodka Bitter Lemon at Wohnzimmer Bar in Prenzlauer Berg the night before, brilliant place!
Anyway, we were longing for that Currywurst! And when we got off at the U-Bahn stop we couldn’t believe the noise. It felt like we just walked into a full blown nightclub – and we actually had! It was Christopher Street Day in Berlin! And the parade was going straight past Witty’s Currywurst! So, we got some entertainment whilst queuing for our hangover Wurst.
What else can I tell you?
My lovely friend Kirsten got the coolest job in the world while I was in Berlin: she’s now a baker at Berlin’s one and only Cupcake Bakery!!! How cool is that?! I am only just a tiny bit ever so slightly jealous!!! So if you happen to be in Berlin and feel like a having a cupcake, go and say hi to Kirsten at Cupcake Berlin.
And do explore the area around, the Simon-Dach-Strasse in Friedrichshain is full of little streetside cafés and bars, all spreading onto the pavement in summer (and all showing the World Cup outside – well fun!)
Another delight not to be missed is the Bonbonmacherei in Mitte. It’s a small candy shop that produces its own hard candy. You can pick and mix your flavours, and, even though they’re all delightful, make sure not to miss the rhubarb vanilla ones, they’re amazing.
Over to dining. Eating out in Berlin doesn’t have to be expensive. And the other great thing is that you don’t have to know where to go -because everywhere serves great food!
Eating out in London can be a bit of a hit and miss, the likelihood of walking into a tourist trap serving deep-fried frozen food is just as big as ending up in yet another franchise like Wagamama. In Berlin it’s highly unlikely you’ll ever encounter a franchise (unless you’re walking on the Kudamm). Berlin is the turf of little independent cafés and restaurants, all serving pretty good home-made fare. We’ve eaten at many places by just looking at people’s plates and deciding it looked great – and were never disappointed. It seems like you can’t go wrong with eating out in Berlin.
Maybe we were just lucky, or maybe this is the crazy talk of a girl who’s lived in Britain for too long… You decide.
Anyway, Berlin is Asian food heaven! Head to Monsieur Vuong for their legendary Vietnamese Chicken Salad, a real bargain at 6,90€. Just don’t be put off by the queues! Monsieur Vuong is comparable to the craziness of London’s Busaba Ethai.We were lucky to escape this mania, since we had lunch there during a Germany World Cup match – very clever!
We also had good Korean at Yam Yam, just down the road from Vuong. You order at the counter and they bring you the food. My dish said ‘hot’, which I ignored, thinking that in German ‘hot’ meant what we Brits consider ‘mild’. Alas, I was proven wrong. ‘Hot’ does indeed equal hot. Boy, was I on fire. Lovely!
Over to chocolate. Don’t we all love Ritter Sport? This square chocolate which comes in all kinds of flavours? Yes, it’s not Belgian or Swiss chocolate, but it still tastes damn good to me. So, I was pretty excited when I found out there’s a dedicated Ritter Sport shop in Berlin (Französische Straße 24). Over two floors you can find anything Ritter Sport. Not only can you buy all existing flavours, you can also create your own Ritter Sport bar! They let you choose the type of chocolate (milk or dark) and what you want in it (from classics like nuts and marzipan to more unusual combinations like Gummibarchen or Marshmallows). Simply wait for 20 minutes for the chocolate to set, and here is your customized Ritter Sport bar! Magic!
So, have I managed to convince you that Berlin is a great place? Yes?! Well, go and check it out then!
A few more great addresses:
Frida Kahlo: Great place for Frühstück, especially on the weekends, where they do huge brunch buffets for 8,90€ (including loads of creative salads, hot foods and fresh pancakes, rice pudding and Kaiserschmarrn – heaven!)
Cafe 100-Wasser: A nice cafe on the Simon-Dach-Strasse in Friedrichshain. We had a nice Wiener Schnitzel there, and apparently the weekend brunch buffet is great.
Pony Bar: If you fancy a beer before or after Monsieur Vuong or Yum Yum, head to Pony Bar in the same street.