Street Food Thursday at Markthalle Neun

Markthalle neun

I keep thinking that I’ll eat some great food in a regular restaurant but instead my best meals in Berlin have been street food stalls, food markets and festivals. I’m not complaining! I’m just pleasantly surprised because I did very little research before coming to Berlin.

I ended up in Berlin because I don’t live anywhere except hotel rooms while I’m working on tour. I have no home base and all my stuff is in storage so when I’m unemployed, I get to choose where to live. When I quit my last show I knew I wanted to live abroad for awhile. I picked Europe because i’ve already lived for long stretches of time in Central and South America and I wasn’t really feeling Asia or Africa. I hadn’t been to Germany or Eastern Europe, Berlin had a relatively low cost of living, for Europe, I love the musical Cabaret (my fingernails are currently green :) and it seemed like cool artsy city to hang out for awhile. So, I rented an apartment, bought a plane ticket and a guide book (which I didn’t open until I got into the city) and voila, Berlin.

Given that extremely unscientific, gut instinct driven, dart-at-a-map method by which I ended up here, I had no idea what to expect from this city and I’ve been pleasantly surprised around every corner. I didn’t expect the street art – though I might have if I’d done even a little bit of research – and I certainly never expected the wide range and availability of street food festivals nor the rabid enthusiasm this city has for ethnic foods of every description.

But even after attending several flea markets and casual Sunday gatherings in the city, I was still blown away by Street Food Thursday at Markthalle.

Markthalle Neun

The place was packed. PACKED. Probably 2000 people and upwards or 40-50 vendors selling every kind of food, wine and beer all crammed into a beautiful 19th century brick market hall. The event started at 5pm and was already crazytown when we got there at 6. That empty table you see in that picture was the last empty table we saw all night long.

Street food thursday at markthalle neun

People sat on the stairs, shared space with strangers, balanced plates on staircase bannisters, tucked bottles of beer in their pockets and wandered around with trash in their hands looking for an empty trash can for the next several hours. Fortunately there were so many vendors that there was never a long wait for food, we just had to be creative about where we ate it.

We started with the very first cart we saw selling kasspatzen because this description was simply too delicious to pass up

kasspatzen

And then just as quickly decided we’d get one of everything and split it so we could try as much as possible.

Street food thursday at markthalle neun

There’s absolutely no way to go wrong with creamy, cheesy spatzle. And we got to watch the guy make the spatzle fresh over boiling water.

Half the fun of this event was watching the food getting made, like this genius performer hand pulling noodles. He needs his own act

Street food thursday at markthalle neun

Street food thursday at markthalle neun

And this guy’s beer tattoos while he rolls out naan bread

Street food thursday at markthalle neun

Sadly, we didn’t try either of those dishes because there were just so many options! instead we next had a cheese empanada

Street food thursday at markthalle neun

Which was cheesy but not that worthy of note. But since we were sharing everything, we just ate it and moved on.

Next up, something not made of cheese.  And also, some wine?

Street food thursday at markthalle neun

Firstly, that’s German white and rose wines that were really incredibly good and cost about 3 euro a glass. Secondly, those oysters were  – no exaggeration – the BEST oysters I’ve ever had in my life. They’re from Zeeland, the western most province of the Netherlands on the North Sea. Slightly salty, perfectly creamy and tender and tasted exactly like the ocean. I’ve never had any seafood that seemed so fresh and perfect. We each ate an oyster, we talked about how much we loved those oysters, we ate the other one and talked about it some more. Then we went and ate other things and we came back and ate more oysters. They were that good.

We loved these oysters so much that when two other guys joined our table and heard us raving about them, we convinced them to go buy a couple oysters themselves. Which they did. And even they admitted that they weren’t big oyster fans but those oysters were exceptional. Incidentally, those guys – Kristian and Alex – are American/Canandian expat craft beer producers who now live in Bejing and make a beer called Jing A. They were on a buying/crafting/brewing expedition across Russia and Europe, doing collaboration brews with other craft beer producers in moscow, oslo and berlin. Very intriguing conversation and exactly the kind of people I love to randomly meet. If I’m ever back in Beijing, I’m looking them up.

Anyway, the oysters: Top Notch.

Next up was a carne taco that looked really good

Street food thursday markthalle neun

And was only ok. Given my experiences with arepas last Sunday and the empanadas and tacos here, I’m ready to say that Central/South American food might be a weak point in Berlin but I’d love to eat anything that changes my mind on that.

After all the cheese and salt – not to mention the subsequent glasses of wine – we wanted something fresh so we went for a spring roll

Street food thursday markthalle neun

And the roll was great and the sauce was odd… I wanted clear and spicy and this sauce was neither of those things… But the roll was great and it afforded me the unique experience of formulating this sentence in my German class the next day:

Ich bin gestern zu Street Food Thursday gegangen und ich habe ein frühlingsrolle gegessen.

Which basically means: I to Street Food Thursday went and I have a spring roll eaten.

See? Food is delicious and educational!

That spring roll was the end of our food tour. I kinda maybe wanted something sweet but at the end, we’d had enough. And there’s always next week… I will definitely be here again.

And that’s all I’ve got for you this week. I’m headed to Poland at the beginning of next week, if the trains are running. Cross your fingers for me.

The Reichstag Building in Berlin

Reichstag Building

Everyone told me that Berlin would be cloudy and rainy but for the past week there’s been so much sun that I actually got a light sunburn! Until today… which is cloudy and rainy.

Not the best conditions to visit the Reichstag, which looks rather gloomy and foreboding in this (or perhaps any) weather. The Reichstag Building houses the German parliament (the Bundestag). Originally built in 1894, it was destroyed in the 1930’s and rebuilt with a glass dome (the one on top that you can barely see) in 1999.

This is the dome.

Reichstag Dome

Because it’s a government building, I had to make reservations to tour this dome. It doesn’t cost anything to get in but they limit the number of people in it at any given time. And because it’s enormously popular, it’s hard to get reservations. I probably lucked out today because of the rain.

The inside of the dome is an incredible feat of engineering and design by architect Norman Foster

REICHSTAG DOME

It’s also an astonishing environmental model, especially for a public building. The 360 mirrors on that central column redirect sunlight down into the parliamentary chambers to reduce the building’s electricity burden and the column itself collects energy from the heat rising from the lower floors and uses it to heat the building.

Reichstag Building

Would that all governmental buildings in the states had such beautiful environmental sculpture in them.

The top of the dome is accessed with spiraling up and down ramps. The whole thing is just stunning

Reichstag Building

Of course the views out weren’t worth much today, because of the rain

Sad German flag in the rain

But I’ll come back. There’s a rooftop garden restaurant that serves breakfast and includes access to this dome so I’ll check that out on a sunny day.

I also had my first German lesson yesterday at Expath

Expath Berlin

The school is quite small but geared towards expats so there’s a looser vibe in classes and not as much regimented structure. There’s definitely a class curriculum but it seems they respond to students’ needs rather than always starting every student in the same place.

My teacher, Stephan, started by asking me what exactly I had in mind by taking German classes and only being in the country for 5 more weeks. I explained my thinking and he nodded and said that what I wanted was “Survival German.” So we started with numbers and a grocery flyer so I could start figuring out how the money works, how to pronounce all the numbers and what the names of various items are – blueberries, yogurt, etc.

Stephan was great, pronouncing and remembering the numbers was tough. Hard to get my mouth around them. Although I learned some interesting trivia such as: the word for “one” in European languages always has an “n” in it and the word for three always has an “r.” Also the number words are based on a 1-12 merchant duodecimal system so numbers 1-12 are unique.

These are the things that kept me entertained while trying to force my tongue to say “neunundzwanzig.”

Stephan’s English is perfect and I love having a bilingual teacher because I could ask questions and it wasn’t just 90 minutes of force-fed German. And as always when I’m in a new country and I don’t understand much, I give huge props to immigrants learning English because it is HARD to learn a new language.

Again, I don’t know how much I’ll absorb in 5 weeks but I’ve already started whispering words to myself in public to try out the pronunciations. Yes, I’m sure I sound crazy but perhaps one day I’ll be able to pronounce “zwanzig” or “streichholzschächtelchen.” 

More tomorrow. Let’s hope for sun

Street Art Berlin