Currywurst in Berlin

As I was planning my holiday vacation, I was overwhelmed by the endless possibilities I could choose from this continent. I decided that Prague would be where I would spend Christmas Day rather easily but had trouble choosing what country I would visit before I flew to Istanbul to meet my friend for the New Year.Austria, Hungary, France, after much contemplation, I chose a rather obvious location, Berlin. Berlin was a bucketlist item I wanted to check off while living on this side of the world but I wasn´t sure what month I wanted to visit. Well, although it would have made more sense for me to begin in Berlin then work my way down to Istanbul, I decided to take a bus up to Berlin after visiting Prague.I couldn´t then and still can´t choose the right words to describe this city. Usually with every city I visit,  I can find another city to compare it to or one that I´m reminded of. Berlin is one of a kind. Cutting edge, traditional, repulsive, a city of contradictions.I arrived at the Berlin Central Bus Station on the evening of December 26th. I had no data on my phone and was relying on a local to point me towards my hostel.  After a few minutes of approaching people, I met a Brazilian man that had also just arrived in the city and was heading in the same direction I was.It took about 20 minutes to get to my subway stop, Rosa-Luxemburg, and once I exited the station the hostel was right in front of me. Super convenient. I was a bit tired and didn’t have the energy to go out but to my surprise the hostels bar was quite lively, I met some cool people from around the globe and ended my night with entertaining conversations.I  began my exploration around 9:30 a.m. the following morning. The sun was going to set at around 4:30 p.m. so my mission was to visit an art gallery in Neukölln, roam around the neighbohood, as well as the neighborhood of Mitte on my way back to the hostel. After breakfast I hopped on the U8 train and headeded to the borough of Neukölln, which is located in southeast Berlin. Dubbed the “hippest” borough in Berlin, you can find bits of its abandoned past mixed in with brand new cafes, shops and galleries, your typical gentrification story. There were many galleries to choose from but after reading about Haegue Yang’s “Silo of Silence” exhibit, I chose to visit KINDL, an old brewery transformed into a center for contemporary art. The art center was pretty empty when I arrived, only about five people in the entire space. Three floors to walk through full of interesting pieces. My favorite being Yang’s exhibit in the Boiler House. The building itself was constructed sometime between 1926-1930 and bought out in 2011 to become the space it is today.  The space stays true to its origins, a brewery. The former brew house now serves as a cafe and still has six copper boilers in the room, it adds a certain aesthic if you will. With only a couple hours of sunglight left and my phone at about 20%, I decided to walk into a Turkish cafe to drink a quick cup of tea and charge my phone. I struck up a conversation with the store owner and asked her to teach me a few German words. During this time, I began speaking to a young man who gave me some local recommendations about the neighborhood. He suggested I visit Tempelhof Feld, an abandoned airport that was active until 2008. It survived the Second World War because allied forces wanted to utilize it. The 386 acres are left up to visitors to do as they wish. One has the space to occupy the old runways by biking, walking, jogging, whatever your heart desires. The day I went it was quite cloudy and windy but I enjoyed walking down the runways. From my understanding the airport becomes an events center during certain seasons and has a few gardens and community spaces for people to gather at. The borough reminded me of the neighborhood of Long Island City  in NYC or even Dogpatch in San Francisco. Neukölln isn’t visually appealing but it´s  the hidden gems and recycled spaces that make it exciting and worth visiting. Due to the lack of light, my day time photography and exploration was brought to a hault but I continued my evening checking out some stores and  bars in the neighborhood of Mitte. Mitte is located in central Berlin and is quite “touristy”, especially the Alexanderplatz area,  but I was able to find some trendy shops and bars to enjoy the night in. The following morning I decided to give Mitte a shot during the day. Not to far from my hostel was a pretty cafe in the Hackeschermarkt area called Cafe Oliv. I walked by it everyday and wanted to check out the neon sign that I could see through the window, and of course, the food.The menu is pretty straight forward and has the perfect amount of options to choose from. Since I´m a big fan of oatmeal I ordered the hausgemachtes bircher musli, pretty much soaked oats with loads of fruit. It was tasty and filled me up but definitely overpriced. But hey, thats what you get when you´re paying to eat at a trendy health conscious cafe, right. I snapped a few photos of the cafe, got told to put my camera away, soaked in the hipster air, and then left. I´m not a foodie but make it a point to try local street food and one or two trendy spots just to get a feel for the city. Cafe Oliv happed to be it.After breakfast I spent the remainder of the morning and afternoon visiting record stores, taking photos of streetart, and people watching in different neighbordhoods in Mitte.  As late afternoon was approaching I walked on over to the KW Institute for Contemporary Art.The institute is going on it´s 25th year and is committed to showcasing contemporary art to the folks of Berlin. A former margarine factory, a group of creatives decided to turn this large space into a center of the arts. KW collaborated with artist from all over the world and not only showcases their work but also hosts various events.It´s located in a beautiful courtyard and has exhibitions across five floors. In another building guest can also relax in their cafe, Cafe Bravo. Once can easily spend hours here strolling through the five floors or sipping on coffee in the cafe. Tickets are 6 euros per person or free admission on Thursdays from 6-9 p.m.My trip thus far had been pretty low key. I stood away from tourist filled locations but decided that my second to last day would be spent checking out some famous landmarks. After breakfast the next day, I took the subway over to Kreuzberg, which is a borough south of Mitte. I visited the Holocaust Memorial which is designed by architect Peter Eisenman and engineer Buro Happold. The memorial has over 2, 711 concrete slabs spread out on a sloping fied, sort of creating a maze effect. Although I knew many people were in this space, I found myself alone most of the time in this mini concrete jungle. According to some statements the memorial is supposed to create a confused atmosphere that represents an ordered system that has lost touch with human reason.  I was in a solemn mood but knew that the 30 minute trek I was about to take to the outskirts of Berlin for some currywurst would lighten up my mood.  I like to watch travel shows to get ideas of what parts of the city I should travel to in order to eat local food. I watched an episode of Vice’s Munchies in Berlin and saw that the host went to Krasselt’s Imbiss for the “best” currywurst in the city. Ive never had currywurst before but this was dam good. I highly recommend.Another streetfood adventure I went on was to try an kartoffelpuffer, a sort of potatoe pancake with apple sauce on top. I travelled back into the city, technically to Neukolln, and devoured this thing. So good, super filling, and in an awesome location. I stood up like a local and ate it, didn’t even take a photo of it because once I took that first bite, there was no stopping. I spent the last few hours of my day visiting the Berlin Wall. On my way over I met the sweetest trio of girls, they were around 18 years old. They were from a German city a couple hours north of Berlin and had come to the city to show their Australian friend around. They gave me a run down on the history of the wall and what their parents had experienced. It was surreal touching this wall and posing in front of murals knowing that people had died trying to cross over. This visit was a highlight of my trip. I would love to catch Berlin during the summer. If it’s full of life during winter, I know that summer with it’s open air gardens, rooftops, and galleries would be only that much more special. So, I guess I’ll end this blog without trying to find the perfect word to describe Berlin, the feeling it gave me will have to suffice.

 

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