After a short stop in the Czech Republic, there we were jumping on a train to what would be our last country on our trip – Germany. We had a couple of weeks here though, and a number of exciting things planned out for our time including birthday celebrations, a football game in the famed Dortmund stadium and of course, the largest celebration of beer in the entire world – Oktoberfest! I had also heard a lot of good things about the Berlin food scene so I was looking forward to eating my way around the city. With so many events, so many people to see and so much good food expected in Germany, we arrived with our game faces on ready to knock the next couple of weeks right out of the park.
So – starting with the food scene! Berlin is a massive, multicultural city and any cuisine you want to find there, you probably will. The biggest ethnic representation is probably Turkish though – especially in the multicultural area of Kruezberg in East Berlin. Being my usual obsessive self, I couldn’t go out and eat without knowing I was going to the best possible place, so after doing what I would call a reasonable amount of research (which others might call excessive) I made a decision and we headed out to Doyum Grillhaus near Kotbusser Tor train station. The time spent researching paid off, we had a quite reasonably priced and very tasty Turkish meal. There was plenty of choice on the meat focused menu, and the highlight for me was the lamb meatballs and the hummus with chilli oil – but all the meat was well seasoned and tender. The only downside was that the service wasn’t great, and we ended up with way too much dip as we unknowingly ordered it on the starter platter and on its own. I thought it might have been nice if our waiter had alerted us to this, but I guess its a relatively small complaint and the service wasn’t bad enough to put me off recommending a visit. Also, I gather from my aforementioned research that you can’t expect much more service from most Turkish restaurants in the area!
The best meal I had in Berlin was at Lokal, a small restaurant in the Mitte district with a focus on fresh, seasonal produce. I went here by myself for an early dinner on my last night in Berlin – Ollie was in Poland watching the soccer but I didn’t see that as a reason not to eat somewhere nice! This was the only place I had been in Berlin where the menu was only in German – English is so widely spoken there and we met a few expats who admitted that although they had lived in Berlin for a number of years they didn’t speak much German, so it was a surprise not to see any English!
But I got by with the help of my friendly waitress (and a little google translate app action), and worked out what was on offer on the menu. It was a difficult choice, but for an entrée I had a pumpkin dish that came with brie, mushroom, spinach, pepitas, peach and salsify, which is a root vegetable similar to a parsnip that I had never come across at home but which was very enjoyable! Everything was cooked perfectly, and I really loved the fresh bursts of peach throughout the dish. My main dish was roasted chicken with spinach, pumpkin seeds, radicchio, blue cheese and beetroot. The chicken was unbelievably moist and tender – it’s a meat that is quite easy to get wrong but these guys couldn’t have been more right! You could definitely tell that the produce was fresh and local, because everything was bursting with flavour and colour. The house-made bread was also soft, and there was one reminiscent of a brioche that just about melted in my mouth. I was almost glad I was on my own so I didn’t have to share!
Just around the corner from Lokal was a French restaurant called Sucre et Sel, where we had to dinner to celebrate one of my closest friends birthdays. It was a very pleasurable evening spent here – with very charming French waiters and delicious food, the only fault I could find was the amount of time that you had to wait for the food to arrive on the table. But luckily, what did come out was worth the wait and although I didn’t take pictures the whole night I did get one of the entrée platter advertised on the menu for four, that we shared between five without leaving anyone wanting! Although I was stuffed after my main meal – Argentinean steak with crispy potatoes – after the waiter waved the chocolate cake made with French chocolate under our face I couldn’t say no, and before I knew it was scoffing down more sugar than anyone needs at 10pm.
On the advice of many Berlin food bloggers and instagrammer PerthEats, I had another great meal in Kreuzberg at Burgermeister, which is a famous burger joint located in a repurposed public toilet building under a bridge in Kreuzberg. This unassuming looking place has a queue going all day from what I can tell, and dishes up some of the best burgers that you have ever tasted. I tried the chilli burger and everything about it was on point – a soft, brioche-esque bun, and well seasoned meat patty, cheddar cheese, jalapenos and the obligatory salad items. I also got the cheese fries, and they were perfectly crunchy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, and drowned in delicious cheese sauce. So freaking good!
Berlin is quite big on the burgers and besides Burgermeister I had two other good ones while I was there – the first at Rosenburger which was just across the road from the hostel. This was a small, casual restaurant where you ordered at the counter, grabbed our own beer out of the fridge, and sat down and waited for your number to be called out. I had a bacon and sauerkraut burger and some cheese sticks (brought back memories of Amsterdam!) and again the meat was well seasoned and the burger put together in all the right ways – it was just missing that special something that Burgermeister had! Just up the road in Prenzlauer Berg I also indulged in a pretty rocking bao burger that was recommended by PerthEats (full of good advice!) – so fresh and tasty, especially with a ginger lemonade on the side!
After a while though, I must admit that I did get a little sick of burgers, and I went in search for something with a few more vegetables. There was a place close by to my hostel called DUDU, an Asian fusion restaurant with a strong focus on sushi and Vietnamese fare, which I had been to one night when we were a little bit more than tipsy. I had memories of it being great, so I headed back on my own one night when I was in Berlin by myself to have my suspicions confirmed. My memory was correct, and the food ticked all my boxes – fresh, flavoursome and well plated. The summer rolls were chock-a-block full of crunchy ingredients, while the wildkrauter curry was creamy and coconut-ty with being too filling or overwhelming. And to top it off the cocktail list was fantastic!
I also had a few stand out breakfasts in Berlin – one at Factory Girl, a trendy little café close to Lokal, where I had a cold cuts and spreads board for one, which seemed as though it really could have fed two or three people depending on how hungry they were. There was 6 types of cheese on there though so you didn’t hear any complaints coming out of my mouth!
A great breakfast was also had at Silo in Friedrichshain, where I met up with a friend from Sydney who I had originally met in Canada (funny the way life works!).
The other amazing thing about Berlin was the coffee! For brevity’s sake (as this post is already too long!) I wont wax lyrical about all the places I went, but simply list them and say that they were all fabulous (especially after 7 long weeks of very substandard coffee) and the majority of them were owned/staffed by Australians. Our coffee culture is held to a high standard here as it should be – it was only going away that made me realize how great it was back home! A blog by the name of Still in Berlin helped me find the best places in Berlin to visit, and heres a pictorial tour of my coffees in Berlin.
Companion Coffee in Voo Store
The Store in the Soho Building
Wow! That was a lot of food and coffee.
The other cool thing I did in Berlin was hang out in Mauerpark on a Sunday, where there is a flea market, food market, beers and street performers. It’s located in a part of Berlin that used to be the death strip, or no mans land between the inner and outer Berlin Wall. On a Sunday it is absolutely buzzing with people, and I spent ages there shopping, eating and watching the karaoke at the outdoor amphitheater, where we were entertained by everything from eccentric old German men singing nationalistic songs, little kids busting out the dance moves to Michael Jackson’s Bad, shoeless Aussie guys with an admirable and well rehearsed performance of Tenacious D’s Tribute, and an spellbinding performance of Somebody to Love by a young girl from New York. In between performances I managed to scoff down some cold rolls, fried icecream and numerous beers from the men and women roaming around with crates full of cold ones. A joyful day all round!
We also went down to Oktoberfest in Munich, and there isn’t much to say about that one except that there was a lot of beer consumed, as you might expect. The first day we spent a little bit too much time in the Augustiner tent, and came home early and a little worse for the wear. The second day we paced ourselves a little better, interspersing beer with water and the occasional roller coaster or bumper car ride, and actually managed to stay out beyond the sun going down. We had a lot of fun wearing tracht (lederhosen and dirndl) and hopefully I get a few chances to wear it in Perth!
While we were down in Munich we also went for a day trip to Neuschwanstein Castle with Mikes Bikes Tours, which was a fanastic day. The castle was built by King Ludwig in the 19th century, and it is the one that the Disney logo is modelled from. You can go for a quick tour inside with a guide, although there is only about 19 rooms as the interior was never finished. The castle itself was only a small part of the day though, we went on a bike round around the Bavarian countryside to see some lakes and the castle from different vantage points, went on an alpine toboggan/slide (so much fun!), and took a hike up through a village and the side of the hill/mountain that the castle was on.
While we were in Germany we also made it to Dortmund, a town which in itself is not that exciting but is home to a legendary football stadium known for its incredible atmosphere and the massive 25,000 seat grandstand known as the ‘yellow wall’ because of the sea of fans that take residence there every game. It was an amazing experience even for those of us who aren’t big soccer fans, with non stop chanting and cheering going on for the entire 90 minutes.
And last but not least, another memorable experience in Berlin was visiting the East Side Gallery, a part of the former Berlin Wall which is now an memorial for freedom, and consists of 105 paintings by artists from all over the world, completed in 1990. The state of it is actually a bit sad, with a lot of it covered in completely meaningless graffiti but it was still a very interesting walk, and there is a new (paid) memorial at the northern end, where you can walk through a number of rooms and see some really interesting videos and photos from the period of the Wall standing and after it fell.
And so ends our time in Berlin, our time in Germany and our time in Europe. It was an amazing trip full of good food, amazing sights, plenty of laughs, a few terrible beds, some new friends all contributing to a fantastic and memorable holiday. Now, back to reality!