Last Stop, Berlin

21 Jun

Oh Berlin.

Everyone says that you’re so cool. Upon arrival, however, I was greeted by a polite city dressed in sensible shoes. I was expecting to meet, I dunno, a cool dude with sunglasses on, and maybe a leather jacket.

You’re not so pretty, like Paris or Amsterdam.  But you’re interesting, political, and hold your cards close to your chest.  And in the end, after some searching, we did catch a glimpse, but probably just a small one, into your true, underground side.

We arrived via overnight bus from Rotterdam (12 hours long), in which Scott intuitively drank scotch and quickly fell asleep (so smart). I stayed up most of the night watching movies and TEDTalks on the ipad until my eyes crossed and glazed over, and then fell asleep for an hour or so until we arrived.

Our first day, after breakfast and a nap, we set out walking. The weather was incredibly hot and sunny the whole time we were in Berlin. We walked by the Tiergarten, Berlin’s vast and shady park, (similar to Central Park) and towards the Brandenburg Gates. There was quite a bit of old and nude sunbathing action going on that day!

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Political activist outside the Brandenburg Gates. Free Tibet.

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It was chilling to imagine the history of Berlin in a place like this, where the Nazis marched through these very gates.

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Now, it seems to be a very touristy central square, with mimes and people dressed up in costumes from American movies, like Freddy Kruger (oddly).

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These monks were real, not costumed. They seemed pretty excited to see Mickey. The hotel that faces this square is also where Michael Jackson dangled his baby, Blanket. Talk about contrasts.

We bought tickets for a hop on, hop off bus tour around the city that was valid for two days. These buses are absolutely everywhere in Berlin. Ours offered mainly a loop of elevator music punctuated with recorded commentary that unfortunately wasn’t the most informative or in depth. But it was a convenient way to get around above ground, and see more of the city, and they were frequent- every 10 minutes.

We stopped off at the Holocaust museum and memorial, and here below, a timeline of the rise and fall of the Nazis set along a remaining piece of the Berlin Wall.

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This memorial takes up a whole city block.

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In the middle of it.

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On the other side is the Holocaust museum. It is a very sad and sobering place to visit. However, It does an excellent job at commemorating some of the lives of individuals and families that were killed. It is free too, so there is really no excuse not to visit.

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Checkpoint Charlie, where the U.S section of Berlin ended, a.k.a “Charlie Point” as the enthusiastic Indian man behind us on the bus to Berlin kept calling it.

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These wurst stalls were everywhere. Usually advertising Currywurst.

Naturally, we had to try some. This was from a stall near our hotel, and was apparently organic!

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Basically just cut up sausage drenched in ketchup and curry powder. Hmmm…not the best…not the wurst (yuk yuk yuk)

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This was much better. Bratwurst with sauerkraut, beer and a pretzel. The sauerkraut had juniper berries in it. So tasty.

At night, we hoped to find some area with a good vibe for drinks. You know. Where young people like ourselves might hang out. We ended up in Mitte, and after dinner found this amazing, old, dark and incredibly creepy art space called Tacheles. It is a 9000 sq foot old building that is absolutely covered, every inch, in graffiti. We wandered around and encountered a few interesting people. There was a bar and a dj, but it was quite empty. We took our drinks and explored the space. There was a little marketplace where I bought some feather earrings. There was also an outdoor area, where there seemed to be more music and people, but we couldn’t figure out how to get out there (lame!)

Apparently, after the Berlin Wall came down, artists took over the space.

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These photos are not the best, and I only took a couple. This is looking outside.

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Goes both ways.

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I wanted to go out there, but not that badly.

The fate of the Tacheles remains unknown. The city has called for eviction but there are still some advocates keeping it open (for now). It was interesting, but definitely had a dark energy about it. It was only later that we discovered that the building used to serve as an old SS prison.

Gah!! *goosebumps*

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I really liked the street art in Europe. This section of the Berlin Wall now serves as the world’s largest open air gallery.

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And remains political.

On our last night in Europe together, and in honour of Scott’s upcoming birthday that he would spend on an airplane bound for Singapore, I wanted to find a special restaurant to have a special dinner. I came across an upscale vegetarian place called Cookie’s Cream, also in Mitte, that got great reviews. It also would have been impossible to find from the street. You have to go behind a Westin hotel along an ally and past the dumpsters. There you will see this small sign. (Image borrowed from this blog)

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Cookie’s Cream, Behrenstr. 55 10117 Berlin.

The space inside was very cozy yet open and sparse, and definitely had that promised  Berlin coolness. The kitchen was incredibly open, which I liked, and the menu was inventive. We had thyme cocktails and a bottle of wine. I had some sort of carrot mousse to start with Parmesan and artichoke dumplings, Scott had an incredible white and green asparagus potato tartlette with quail egg, and some chocolate amazing-ness for dessert. Quite far off from traditional German fare, but definitely the memorable meal I had been hoping for. We then found a cute neighbourhood bar and drank absinthe…just ’cause.

So this marks the end of my European adventure on Food, Mostly (for this time). From here, Scott and I tearfully parted ways.

My love is now traveling around Asia for the summer and I am back home in Toronto, cooking for one, which is not at all the same (I now subsist on smoothies, tuna and crackers, and sometimes handfuls of almonds). But I promise to test out some new recipes soon.

In fact, I have one in the bag already, stay tuned for my next post, (all about food this time), inspired by the current steamy 40+ degree weather and our travels last year to Nicaragua, Gallo Pinto Burgers!

(Thanks, babe, for all of our amazing adventures)

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3 Responses to “Last Stop, Berlin”

  1. Mum June 21, 2012 at 12:47 am #

    You can cook for us!! Anytime! xxxx

  2. Browsing the Atlas June 27, 2012 at 6:51 pm #

    Nice pictures of Berlin. I was only there for a few hours and missed the Holocaust memorial. That’s a definite ‘must’ next time. But I did enjoy the currywurst — so much, in fact, that I found the sauce for it in an international market back home so I can make it here.

    • food,mostly June 28, 2012 at 2:10 am #

      Maybe I missed out on the full currywurst experience…there was no special sauce on mine (which I was expecting) but just a dusting of generic curry powder! The quest must continue from the sounds of it…

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