The subject of Berlin – its history, culture and counterculture – easily deserves its own blog, but this single post, mostly about food, fireworks and graffiti will have to do.
We arrived in Berlin after spending two weeks in Paris and Amsterdam – arguably two of the most enchanting cities on earth – and the contrast was startling. As a visual experience, Paris is alluring and indulgent, a place with the promise of romance and charm around every bend. Alternatively, Berlin felt like the chilly, exciting, terrifying ice bath that follows the divine warmth of a hot tub. The city is huge and sprawling – nine times the size of Paris – but has a lovely yellow metro system that takes you where you need to go. The buildings are quite uniform and drab underneath the graffiti and street art that adorns them.
Scenes from the Neighborhoods of Prenzlauer Berg, Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain
Below is the apartment building that we stayed in for $60/night during our stay. The inside of the building had the feel of a graffitied, abandoned bomb shelter but the apartment itself stylish and nice. Graffiti and street art is so common in Berlin – it’s not socioeconomically defined nor restricted like it is in the States – it’s a shared feature of many of the buildings and parks across Berlin neighborhoods.
Highlights of our time in Berlin:
In our experience they are super duper nice and helpful.
2) Sausage and big beer country
The second I had my first taste of Berlin street food, I knew that I was situated squarely within my culinary wheelhouse. We got a currywurst which is essentially a hot dog cut up with curry bbq sauce served with fries and mayonnaise. Prior to our trip, Adam asked me to do some research into places/things I’d like to see and do when in Berlin. My list contained two words: SAUSAGE PLEASE, so needless to say I’m one satisfied customer.
The currywurst was one of the many street vendor sausage options we would eat during our stay and they were all terrific. Berlin also has tons of Turkish food including doner kebabs which are cheap, delicious and ample all over the city but especially in the Little Istanbul area in Neukölln. During our first restaurant outing, Adam ordered himself a 1 liter stein and me the “meter of beer” which we assumed was a combination of small flights for tasting. The teenage waiter asked us via gestures if we were sure we wanted both and we confirmed that, um yah, we did…is it possible Germans weren’t the beer heavyweights we thought they were? When the meter of beer came to the table it was comprised of eight half pints (8 oz) – totaling two liters of beer. You’ll be happy to know we represented our country the best way we knew how and braved that delicious German beer like champs. . .and true patriots.
In case you like the caloric, bloating qualities of beer but can’t stand the taste, Berlin offers up a variety of flavor packets you can add to enhance your drinking experience: strawberry, melon, green apple, cherry and more!
3) New Years Eve
We had the great pleasure of traveling in Berlin with good friends from our marina in San Diego, Karin and Ryan, along with Karin’s delightful Swedish parents. Our initial NYE plans were to gather with a million other people at the Brandenburg gate (if you recall from world history the Brandenburger Gate is a monumental gate built in the eighteenth century as a symbol of peace. During the Cold War, when the gate was located right near the border between East and West Berlin, it became a symbol of a divided city). As Adam and I left our apartment at 9pm fireworks in the streets had already been going off at a deafening pace for two days. As we met up with our group and headed to the Gate we learned it had reached maximum capacity and was closed off, so instead we wandered the streets into a deluse of fireworks at close range, drunk Germans, fresh sausages and shattered glass.
4) The Aftermath of NYE