Thursday, May 2, 2013

A turn around in Berlin

By the time we made it to our hotel in Berlin, I was feeling a bit underwhelmed and tired. "Stop pointing out everything that's wrong" said Pip as we dropped our backpacks onto our double bed made of two singles pushed together. I made up some excuse that 'I was also thinking good thoughts, but must have only been vocalizing the bad ones,' and I looked about to find the non existent room light.

After unpacking and a nice lie down on a pillow that had less density than a half filled balloon, we decided to continue our positive evening with a walk and some dinner.
We went first to Brandonburg gate. As we approached it, I joking said to Pip 'It looks as though all these people are running to get to a carnival or something'. This was a terrible joke and not in the slightest bit relevant or funny until we passed under the gate and into an actual carnival. There was literally a carnival with kids on trampolines, mini roller coasters, side shows and a sea of parents trying to restrain their children. We moved off to the side, grabbed a half metre sausage and ate it in the lovely park, where a small child tried to get Pip to give him her sausage. 'What is this place?' I thought, being careful not to say it aloud.
Now this doesn't seem like such a good start to our time in Berlin, but I can assure you that as we finish our time here, I cannot say enough good about this city.
I don't know what I was expecting, but the first day we were here all I could see was graffiti, litter, and industrial German engineering. It wasn't until we made it to the Berlin wall memorial that the city clicked with me. The East side gallery was nice, the memorial to the murdered jews was also worth really well done, but I found myself fully immersed when we arrived at the Berlin wall memorial. Standing in actual no-mans-land, I got a real haunting feeling, and I read every info point and stared at each piece of recent history that surrounded me.
Heading back to our hotel, I now saw a city with a unique culture. While Berlin has many tourist spots, which of course, we visited and enjoyed, what I love most is the individualism of the city. The suburbs of record shops, galleries, vintage clothing stores, and not to mention the food. Berlin is hugely influenced by Turkish food, and it feels like there's almost a 50/50 split between Curry wurst and turkish restaurants. This is not a bad thing, in fact it's quite the opposite.
After a Bit of online research, we marked a few local eats to check out. Kreuzberg, just south of our hotel, seemed to be a foodie heaven. We went to Curry 36 which is mix between a street food cart and a cafe. There are no seats, but there is space to lean, eat, and leave. We actually went there twice. We also passed a kebap trailer three times over the few days here and no matter what time of day it was; there was always a huge line down the road. We did have a peek at their ingredients, and it wasn't hard to see why.
My favorite find was a place called Knofi (also in Kreuzberg). There are actually two. Of them, one on each side of the road. After entering the deli style one, we wanted to eat, but it was far too confusing and no one spoke English. Disappointed we left only to find out there was a restaurant from the same people across the road, here Pip and I had the best restaurant dinner we've ever had. Gossies is like a crepe but they put vegetables and meat on one half, fold it and cook it with plenty of spices. It's served with a selection of tomato salsa, hummus, and yogurt. Add all of it up and serve it in a beautifully quirky turkish restaurant and you end up with a meal you will never forget.
Our last full day in Berlin was also my birthday. Pip spoiled me with a new shirt which I slipped into as we headed to West Berlin where the streets are a little different. There is clearly more money over here and I felt as if we were in the Mayfair of Berlin. Breakfast was in a cafe located in a small historic garden. It was a beautiful morning, and we sat on the porch of the cafe overlooking the garden in a spot which I could have mistaken for Paris. I had pancakes and Pip had waffles, then we walked a few streets for a bit. For lunch, we sought out a cafe called Bonanza. Two days earlier we'd been to a similar 'third-wave coffee shop' called 'Barn' which was nice. I liked this one more; however, I did have to wait about 30 minutes for my pour over coffee. I think something went wrong but Pip had finished her flat white about 20 minutes before I even got mine. You'd think we'd be annoyed, but we weren't in a rush and the barista clearly felt a bit stink. I honestly didn't care though because my Ethiopian coffee was amazing.
By mid afternoon, we were starving so we went back to Curry 36 and then home for a nap. Finishing off the evening with kebaps from next door to the hotel, my birthday in Berlin was one to remember. How often do you get to spend your birthday in a place like this?
We are due to board a bus to Prague today. I’m hoping to leave behind my grump attitude which I had adopted when we arrived in Berlin. We are staying in a hostel though so I’m sure I can find something to complain about. I am 26 years old now, so I’m bound to show signs of ages as I show disgust towards young hooligans, refer to how things used to be done, and find I need my morning coffee more than ever. That said, I will make an effort to keep most of these things to myself, because quiet and grumpy is nicer than loud and grumpy. (I’m not really grumpy, I just like to point out when I’m in mild discomfort).

Street art in the suburb of Mitte

The memorial for the murdered Jews of Europe

Birthday breakfast

Berlin wall memorial

On museum island

View from our hotel room