Best of Berlin with MJH, pt 2

By no means is this the best of everything in Berlin. But it’s definitely the best of my last week with Matt and includes some of my favorite things in Berlin. Part 1 is here.

1. Currywurst

CurrywurstI do love currywurst. Who can argue with a street snack so simple as cut up sausage covered in tomatoey curry goodness eaten with a tiny wooden fork? So easy. Berliners love currywurst so much that they created a museum devoted to the snack and I’ve wanted to visit ever since I heard about it.

The currywurst museum is down by Checkpoint Charlie and with 11euro tickets, it’s not the cheapest thing in town. However, it is incredibly fun and interactive with ketchup bottles that play music

Currywurst MuseumExhibits that detail the story of Herta Heuwer, the mother of currywurst, sauce recipes, maps showing currywurst stands all over the world, spice containers you can smell, a brief history of fast food innovations, a documentary about currywurst in Berlin, this pretty stellar sausage couch

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And of course, a currywurst sample at the end of the visit

Currywurst museum

Given the taste/touch/smell nature of this museum, I think it’s geared mostly towards parents with kids but Matt and I had fun playing the games and any museum experience that ends with food is a good one for me!

2. Mauerpark Sundays

Mauerpark Berlin

Mauerpark is one of my favorite Sunday locations. When the weather cooperates, the lawn has plenty of room for picnics and lolling around in the sun, the music acts always have a wide variety from reggae to disco, the bearpit karaoke is pretty legendary, the food stands have some great offerings like this Turkish rollup with rocket, tomato and goat cheese

Mauerpark flea market Berlin

and of course the shopping

mauerpark

I will miss Berliner Sundays. If there’s a better way to spend a day than with music, food and hanging out in the sun, I don’t know what it is.

3. Street Food Thursdays

Markthalle Street Food Thursdays

In a list of Berliner things I will miss most, Street Food Thursdays at Markthalle Neun should be #1.  I love the huge old market hall space with it’s high ceilings and beautiful brick work

Markthalle Berlin

And I love the changing variety of the food stalls. I’ve seen new things every week but I’m always pleased to see my favorites, like the kasspatzen guy

kasspatzen markthalle

This incredibly delicious wine from Schoner Trinken

Schoner Trinken Berlin

Berliner beef balls – I don’t typically love meatballs but these ones are SO good with a couple different options like lemongrass and chilies, oregano and basil or curry powder. Get one of each!

Street Food Thursday Berlin

Mr. Pinks, the pie making New Zealander, has to be one of the best salesmen I’ve ever met. He’ll always offer a combo deal and throw in some New Zealand beer for good measure.

Street Food Thursday Berlin

Those sausage rolls were wrapped in the flakiest butteriest pastry and that spicy sweet chutney is homemade. It was so good that we went back for dessert and got a strawberry rhubarb pie, which Mr. Pinks heated up and took away somewhere. When he came back it had ice cream on top.

Markthalle Neun Pinks

Mr. Pink just winked and said “no extra charge.” I’d buy anything from him and his pies certainly are spectacular!

But while everything else is good, the piece de resistance at Street Food Thursday are these oysters at Küstlichkeiten from Zeeland on the North Sea

Markthalle Neun

I’d raved about them so much that Matt, who doesn’t really care for oysters, insisted he had to try them. He also was so converted to these spectacular sea tasting bites of deliciousness that after we’d eaten everything else, we had one more oyster for the road so that would be our last taste for the night. I love everything about Street Food Thursday but I love these oysters the MOST.

4. Berghain

Berghain Berlin

Lord help us, Berghain. Well, it’s Berlin’s most notorious techno club and we did get in. If you love techno and dancing and being a part of something legendary, I would highly recommend checking it out.

Berghain Berlin

There’s scads of online advice about how to get in, what to wear, how to act etc. I’ll only add that Sunday afternoon is the best time to go because there’s little to no queueing. We showed up at 1630 and walked right in. It was quite the experience and the perfect end to my Berlin stay.

Berghain Berlin

And yes, my Berlin stay has come to an end! I can’t quite believe it. I’ll post tomorrow with some thoughts about my mini-expat experience and probably a short list of my favorite things. Until then…

Best of Berlin with MJH, pt 1

East Side Gallery

Having Matt here right at the end of my Berlin stay means that I get to revisit all my favorite places in Berlin and hit the last remaining high points before I jet out of town. Here are a few highlights from the past couple days:

1. Reichstag Building

The Reichstag dome is in my top 10 sites in Berlin. I love the green construction, the environmentally friendly solar panels and light reflecting mirrors, the curving walkways and the views over Berlin rooftops. I first visited this dome right after I came to Berlin so it was really interesting to see it again 5 weeks later, now that I know all the surrounding terrain and I have so many memories of visiting these sites.

Reichstag Dome Berlin

The dome requires advance reservations but after my last visit, I’d discovered a cafe on the roof of the Reichstag that serves breakfast and includes dome admission. Breakfast and tourism? Done and done.

The “feel good breakfast” was enormous and inadequately shown here

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It included meats, cheeses, smoked salmon, scrambled eggs, fruit salad, yogurt, several different kinds of bread, chocolate brioche, champagne, orange juice and coffee. Incredible! We ate on the glassed-in patio, which was a tiny bit like eating in a greenhouse once the sun came out; but we put on sunglasses, they opened some doors for airflow and the food was delectable.

Thus fortified, we moved on to

2. War memorials

This memorial in front of the Reichstag is a very small unassuming monument to the 96 politicians of the Weimar Republic who opposed Hitler. They were the first men he sent off to concentration camps, where all of them died.

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Each stone is engraved with the man’s name, his political party, the concentration camp where he died and the date of his death. It’s not much in the way of recognition but at least there’s acknowledgement that some good men tried to stand up to the tide of evil that swept Germany. They died for it but I hope they knew their sacrifice wasn’t completely in vain. Had Hitler had their help, he might have succeeded.

We revisited the Memorial to the Murdered Jews, which was just as powerful the second time around. I’ve written about it here.

Memorial to the Murdered Jews

This is the Memorial to the Sinti and Roma of Europe, a few of the gypsy tribes that Hitler tried to exterminate.

Memorial to Sinti and Roma in Europe

It’s a small reflecting pool in a secluded spot with part of the poem Auschwitz around the sides. Subtle, quiet and lovely.

Memorial to Sinti and Roma of Europe

On the other hand, the Memorial to the Homosexuals Persecuted under Nazism in Tiergarten looks like a peep show.

Memorial to the Homosexuals Berlin

Inside that concrete box is a beautiful film of people kissing, which we viewed through the one window. I like the sentiment of the film but wish the whole memorial were designed differently. I feel that the memorial promotes what it’s trying to fight against, the idea that gay love should be hidden. I’m glad there’s a memorial but… I could wish for something a little less closeted.

3. Tempelhof

This massive space used to be an airport.

Tempelhof Berlin

Several important airlifts were made from this airport during the war. The hanger had been on the list of largest buildings on earth with the world’s smallest duty free shop – an intriguing contrast – as well as one of Europe’s few airports that predate WW2. It closed in 2008 and now it’s a park

Templehof Berlin

Where people kite board down the former runways

Tempelhof

And skateboard, and bike and have picnics and sports rallies and occasionally festivals. As you can see from the skies, we brought the rain, which hit while we were in the middle of that massive space nowhere near any shelter. We had to run for it but then we were treated to a glorious double rainbow

Tempelhof

I bet Tempelhof is fantastic in the summer. I had visions of a picnic here but the weather hasn’t cooperated. Next time…

4. Chocolate

Ritter Sport is the German chocolate of choice.

Ritter Sport Berlin

It’s not boutique but it definitely has variety with 30+ regular options and then new flavors and combinations released every season. I’m not a huge chocolate fan but when I heard about the Ritter-Sport Bunte SchokoWelt where I could mix my own chocolate bar, I had to try it.

Ritter Sport Bunte ShokoWelt

This little shop has a long counter with dozens of mix-in varieties of fruit, cookies and candy

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Each custom bar costs 3.90E. I chose my chocolate (dark) and added three mix ins –  sour cherry pieces, cocoa nibs and crunchy candy gold stars. 30 minutes later, Ritter Sport!

Ritter Sport custom bar

This store has a lot of Ritter Sport at good prices as well as a small chocolate museum with a few interactive bits, a video and photo ops

Ritter Sport Kaitlyn

Ritter Sport MJH

As well as an ice cream bar where they make German style blizzards, You pick your Ritter Sport flavor and they’ll crush it into soft serve ice cream and serve it to you in a cone.

Ritter Sport Bunte SchokoWelt

For people who think too much chocolate is not enough chocolate, I highly recommend Ritter Sport Bunte SchokoWelt.

5. When in Berlin, you should go up a tower for an aerial view

Victory Column

I dragged Matt up the 284 steps of the Victory Column in Tiergarten because European trips always include tower climbs.

Tiergarten Berlin

As with the Reichstag, it’s so different to look over this city now after living here almost 6 weeks. The landscape looks so familiar.

We then went about our day and at the end of it found ourselves in Alexanderplatz under the TV tower

TV Tower Berlin

I’d written – somewhat scornfully… – about this tower before about how it’s a big deal but I didn’t get it and how it costs 12E to go up the tower. Well, it’s a big deal because it’s the tallest thing in town and the tallest thing in the country of Germany. It actually costs 11E to go up the tower – pardon! – and it was approaching sunset when we got there so we decided to check out the view.

View from Berlin's TV Tower

Beautiful, although Berlin doesn’t have much in the way of a skyline. Given the swampy ground it’s built on, big tall buildings don’t stand much of a chance. While waiting for the sun to set we got a glass of wine at the bar

TV Tower Berlin

and met delightful Eloise from Dublin

TV Tower with Eloise

And stayed much longer than we’d intended. Which is how all good nights go.

The TV Tower does have great views over Berlin and going up inside is much like visiting the Empire State Building, the London Eye or Chicago’s Willis Tower. There’s nothing quite like an aerial view over a city so it’s almost always worth a visit. I like the old school Victory Column but the TV Tower has kitschy charm as well.

Ok, more tomorrow. I’m off to enjoy my last day in Berlin!

Best of Berlin with MJH, Part 2 is here

MJH in Berlin

MJH in Berlin

Matt made it to Berlin! And despite flying for 6 hours and arriving at 1am his time, fielding a new country, currency and language and making his way to downtown Berlin to find my apartment, he had a less eventful morning than I did.

It’s been so dry here that I woke up with a bloody nose and then spilled coffee all over… well, all over something white that doesn’t belong to me. Given that this whole apartment is white, that gives me a lot of options. So my morning consisted of a lot of bad language and frantic attempts to clean blood off my face and coffee out of things for which it was never intended. And all this before 8am.

Despite that, I think the matter is solved – certainly my nose has stopped bleeding – and Matt arrived to be a witness to my insanity and patiently endured my endless “can you see the coffee here? how about here? here? Can you see it here?” questions when really he just wanted to drink some coffee and perhaps take a nap.

MJH in Berlin

Coffee first while we waited for Berlin to wake up and start serving breakfast. But somehow my favorite place never opened – Factory Girl! Why why?? – so we went to another coffee house where we had breakfast sandwiches and Matt posted this picture on Facebook exclaiming “first meal in Berlin!”

MJH breakfast

My favorite comment on that picture was “and you ordered a bagel???” Even in Europe, bagels win out occasionally.

I then had my almost last German lesson where I suffered through instructions on how to tell time on a 12 hour clock. If you don’t think that’s complicated, read this post because he explains it more lucidly than I ever could. Then I came home with my head positively stuffed with knowledge to roust Matt from his slumbers and drag him out to enjoy Berlin.

We started with food. BBQ in fact.

Markthalle Neun

I know! This is Berlin! Bagels and BBQ? What are we even doing?? But you know what? it was bad-assedly delicious so I’m not even sorry.

I took him through Kreuzberg, my favorite street art neighborhood where I always find something new. Here are a few finds from this trip:

These painted lovers

Oberbaum Bridge

And this sprawling epic depicting the fall of the Berlin wall and the rise of the almighty Euro.

Kreuzberg

We ended up at East Side Gallery, for my third visit. And I found new sights there as well, of which this was one of my favorites.

Berlin wall

And this tagged tagger tagging “sic semper tyrannis”

Sic semper tyrannis

A few silly photos because these faces demand it

MJH in Berlin

And a final sobering reminder of the reason for this wall

Berlin Wall

I love this gallery. It remains one of my favorite things in Berlin.

We finished the day on the other side of town at KaDaWe, Berlin’s fanciest department store. Berliners love these whirling cyclone-like installations apparently. This one reminds me a lot of the cyclone in the Reichstag Dome.

KaDaWe

KaDaWe’s 6th floor is all gourmet food. Dinner? As if you had to ask. How about currywurst? (and an Asian salute)

MJH and Currywurst

An upscale shi-shi department store version of Berliner street food, Kaitlyn.? For real? I know. Our food has been all kinds of backwards today. But it was damn good and I’d do it again. And this rhubarb, raspberry, white chocolate dessert too.

KaDaWe

Ok, that’s a quick and dirty first day. Tomorrow, more Berlin.

Berlin Wall

Sanssouci, the Palace of No Worries

Sanssouci Potsdam

In my last act of solo tourist-ish-ness, I took a trip south to see Fredrick the Great’s Palace Sanssouci in Potsdam. I took the S-Bahn to Potsdam and then kind of randomly got on a tram headed for the palace complex and got off, also a bit randomly, at the tip of the gardens in the far upper right hand corner

Park Sanssouci map It worked perfectly though and I got to walk through the gardens, more of a forest really, down toward the palace.

Park Sanssouci potsdam

Even though we’re in Germany, I definitely thought “all roads lead to Rome” when I got to this scenic jumble of ruins

Park Sanssouci

Park Sanssouci

that were built ruined, exactly like this, to mimic Roman ruins and create “apparently natural landscape scenery” for the king to gaze upon from his palace. It’s good to be the king.

Park Sanssouci

This colonnade continues the Roman theme even though the rest of the palace mimics Versailles. Just, you know, an intimate little summer home away from the pomp of the Berlin court.

Palace Sanssouci

These gazebos on either end of the palace are very different looking though

Palace Sanssouci

They create a rococo-esque look to match the Rococo palace, only with metal instead of marble

Palace Sanssouci

All the statuary around the palace grounds pays homage to the Romans, representing many Roman gods and the four elements.

Palace Sanssouci

I think this is a water allegory?

Palace Sanssouci

Because that’s a little merbaby in her net

Palace Sanssouci

Lord only knows what this lady is. A sphinx maybe?

Palace Sanssouci

But that baby doesn’t look happy for a good reason. No one messes with mama.

Palace Sanssouci

The statues in the front of this palace are more Roman gods, blessed with just a tiny bit of sunshine today.

Palace Sanssouci

I didn’t go inside the palace. I think after 5 weeks and 4 countries, I’m getting a bit blasé about giant ornate buildings. Sometimes it’s enough just to see them from the outside and be able to loll about on a bench in palace grounds. That, more than anything, means it’s time to go home! I need to regain my touristy sense of wonder if nothing else.

I do love, however, that 3euros brings me to a palace where I can wander the grounds and sit and read by the fountains amidst statuary that dates back 300+ years. That’s one of the greatest things about living in Europe and I took full advantage of it today. I’ll miss all these gorgeous sites when I’m back in America.

Palace Sanssouci

But I still have one more week and I’m about to be joined by one of my favorite partners in crime, Mr. Matt Jower-Ho! He arrives tomorrow and I can’t wait to show him Berlin and do all the last remaining things we can squeeze in before we both leave on Monday. The perfect end to my Berlin odyssey.

More Berlin tomorrow with MJH.

Me and Matt Jower-Ho