Category Archives: Travel

Food and Drinks Berlin

Although the guide books I had been reading did not credit the traditional Berlin cuisine as being anymore sophisticated than ‘Pig and Stodge,’ Berlin offers so much in the way of adventurous, hearty and affordable food. 

There are many multinational restaurants. We visited Thai, Japanese, Indian and Greek as well as traditional  ‘lokal’ fare.  The areas we found best to explore were anywhere away from the centre, but not too far that it became slum-like.  Kreuzberg, Prenzlauer Berg and just off the side streets of Mitte, avoiding where the prostitutes trawl, there are excellent places to dine and sup.  Although my favourite area to explore had to be, where we stayed, in Fredrichshain.  We found the staff, quality, wealth of places and prices made Fredrichshain a great area to trawl.  Here are some places I liked and remembered.

Fredrichshain

Bariton Cafe Bar Restaurant, Weserstr. 23 – nice bar, cool innards and has cocktails for  €3.50 at happy hour, though I stuck to Augustiner.  Here’s their facebook link  http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=47253738116&v=wall#!/group.php?gid=47253738116&v=info

  

 Hirsch Bar, Kopernikusstraße – reviewed in Ex-Berliner as a gastro pub, this was a lovely addition to our stay.  The bar opened earlier in 2010, and is extremely accommodating and lovely inside.  The food sizes are smaller than most places in Berlin, but are excellent quality and filling.  The house pilsner was crisp and €2.50.  Here is a link to their website http://www.hirsch-friedrichshain.de/

  

 Hops & Barley, Wühlischstr 22/23 – excellent and friendly micro brewery, try their spezialbier it changes all the time, mine was fantastic and a nice change to the taste buds as I had been drinking so much pilsner.  This place even offers accommodation, it only serves bar snacks.  Here is their link http://www.hopsandbarley-berlin.de

 

  Kino Intimes, Boxhagener Straße 107 – the bar with the cinema, excellent to sit outside in the biergarten on a sunny day.  They do the biggest meals I have seen and exceptionally well priced and wholesome.  This area is full of great bars to plod onto when you’ve finished.

Kreuzberg

Eckstück,Wrangelstraße 20 this cafe only opened in August 2010 and if you like it gritty, this is the place to dine.  We were the only people in there and I did get a mobster vibe.  All that said the food was really good and cooked fresh in the kitchen that is in the bar, if you want burger and chips or massive chicken salad you could do worse, but you could also do better.  Here’s their website http://www.eckstueck.de/cms/

Cafe Taz  Presso, Rudi-Dutschke-Straße 23this place had a Manchester “Green Room” vibe, which we returned to numerous times in our stay.  The food and coffee were excellent and the price amazingly inexpensive.  The menu changed daily and for €3 for chicken kneidel soup and a baguette don’t expect to come away hungry.  One of the best coffees I had in here. http://www.taz.de/zeitung/tazcafe/

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    T A I S U, Rudi – Dutschke – Str. 28 this place was sold to us by the 50% off lunch time menu, I had 12 pieces of sushi (albeit veg option) and miso soup for  €5.  It had the feel of a chain, but the lunchtime menu had good options, though annoyingly as in every chain like Wagamama they never serve your food at the same time as the person you’re with.  All I can say is that my sushi must have been rolled fresh as it took so long to get from the server to me, it was very nice though and a good place to sit back and watch the neighbourhood bustle by.  Although this was good enough there were a lot of Japanese restaurants about that may be lots better so check them out, just head to the area and see what you can unleash. http://www.sushiwok.de/

Knofi,Bergmannstr. 98 – this was a lovely little Greek deli serving 5 tapas dishes and a lot of pitta for €11.  Me and Adam purchased a bottle of €6 merlot, but stick to the house in a carafe, as the wine is poor and the corkage is €8.  This place was so charming and looking at their website it appears that there are three of them.  It was a lovely place to sit in wicker chairs and reflect on the day. http://www.knofi.de/

Phuket, Mehringdamm 67 – We visited this lovely Thai restaurant on our first time in Berlin and were tempted to go back, but we branched out to Knofi instead.   The food was well prepared with lots of lemongrass as I remember, and Adam’s massaman was true to the Thai taste.

 


 


A Berlin Guide to Museums, Galleries, Memorials and Parks

Art Galleries, Memorials, Museums and Parks

As far as capital cities go, Berlin is inexpensive in comparison.  The museum pass is just €19 and allows admission into many of the main exhibitions for free over 3 consecutive days.  We purchased this card on both trips and found it a good way to see a lot of what we wanted, as well as encouraging us to go and see other things we wouldn’t necessarily have gone to if it wasn’t already included in the cost of the card.  We purchased the cards both times from the Tourist Office at Brandenburger Tor, but you can buy it from many of the museums that accept the card as payment.

My best museums and galleries to visit with the card:

Red are my favourites

Area: Hauptbahnhof/Central Station

  • Hamburger Bahnhof Gallery – Modern art gallery highlights include Andy Warhol, Cy Twombly and Roy Lichtenstein.
  • Museum für Naturkunde – Highlight the largest exhibited skeleton of a dinosaur to greet you.



Area: Museum Insel/Museum Island +Mitte

  • Alte Nationalgalerie – 19th century art.
  • Altes Museum – Greek and Roman art.
  • Markisches Museum – Plotting the history of Berlin.
  • Neues Museum – Classical art with the modernised building in the old structure, awesome.
  • Pergamonmuseum – Massive Altar stolen from Pergamon, great building to run about in.

Area: Bahnhof Zoologischer Garten

  • Museum für Fotografie – The Helmut Newton collection, fantastic exhibition of important photography of fashion and portrait shots from 20th century.

Area: Kulturforum + Potsdamer Platz

  • Berlinische Galerie – Art and photography from 1870 to present day, amazing model replicas.
  • Judisches Museum – The Jewish museum designed by Daniel Liebskind (architect for Imperial war museums and Twin Tower Memorial), unbelievable experience.
  • Kulturforum – Houses many museums and next to Musikinstrumentum museum.
  • Neue Nationalgalerie – Fantastic use of space as this building hosts the permanent exhibits of 20th century art in the basement.

The Best Museums, galleries, memorials and parks to visit that are free:

Area: Museum Insel/Museum Island +Mitte

  • Deutscher Dom – Amazing building to explore.
  • Knoblauchhaus – One of the few 18th century houses remaining in Berlin.
  • Memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe – Memorial designed by American architect Peter Eisenmen, a piece to be experienced.
  • Neue Wache – The New Guard house, used as a war memorial since 1931.
  • Reichstag – Never been personally, but it would be on my most favoured list.  First time in Berlin, at the height of summer, the queue was massive and second time round it was shut due to terrorist threats.
  • Tacheles Gallery – Ex department store on Oranienburger St, now an artist commune.
  • Tiergarten – Massive park in Mitte, which was the park of West Berlin before reunification.

Area: Friedrichshain

  • STYX Project,The Old Brewery – Amazing warehouse to explore if you like art to be presented as gritty sometimes, Landsberger Allee 54.

Area: Kreuzberg

  • Tempelhof Airport The old airport that ceased operating in 2008 now a massive park.

Area: Kulturforum + Potsdamer Platz

  • Topographie des Terrors – This was the location of the Gestapo’s main office and now the site tells the story of it’s history.

Worth paying for individually

Area: Kulturforum + Potsdamer Platz

  • Museum für Film und Fernsehen – €6 entry, through infinity mirrors to see some stunning reminders of the epic films of Berlin.
  • Martin-Gropias-Bau – Fantastic building, look what the individual exhibits are before choosing which one to go to, €6 entry per exhibit.

Further Tips

  • State Museums are Free Thurs from 6pm till 8pm and Hamburger Bahnhof from 2pm.
  • The Temporary Kunsthalle no longer exists.
  • Do not visit the Anne Frank Zentrum, unless you like the idea of viewing a super imposed Anne Frank’s face with 14 year olds that looks like an S Club 7 photo shoot.
  • You get a guide to all the galleries, museums, palaces and memorials with map, opening hours and transport links when you purchase the museum card.

Berlin the Return

And how the seasons have changed.  As it was here, Berlin was a snowy one, Germany was embedded in the thick white flakes.

We visited sights new and revisited others changed by winter. There were laughs, pains and very cold fingers, but hand warmers, ear muffs and gluhwein helped to stave off the most part.  I hobbled around like a limp dog, as I had injured my knee, whilst Adam proved a shoulder to lean on.

We stayed in Berlin this time for 9 nights, the memories are too many to recall and this is my recount in a whistle stop tour of the highs and low, places to visit and to avoid, and drinks to indulge and deny.

Our arrival 14/12/2010

We had a tight connection as our first plane was delayed so with 5 minutes me and Adam legged it through Munich’s terminal, it turned out we had time for a double espresso (provided free in the Lufthansa suite, as the plane was delayed.  Arrival in Berlin to snow, Warsteiner, Augustiner, and en route to the Magnet club to see Best Coast supported by Sky Larkin.

A good gig, though it made me realise I’m not that into indie pop at the minute.  We had fun though tanked up on Berliner pilsner and bopping in Germany.

15/12/2010

Our first full day and we started as we continued, cramming in the city.  This was marketing out day, as we visited too many Christmas markets.  We started out with breakfast from the Netto next door, still quality and so inexpensively priced.  Off to the Museum für Film und Fernsehen, which was a new museum for us.  As with all the exhibitions in Berlin it was a real treat, done to a quality that makes them a sensory indulgence.  We entered through a chamber of infinity, which was dozens of mirrors placed so that you went on forever, I could have stayed with my head hung upside down all day.  We then went on to be guided through the film history of Berlin, visiting the classics such as Metropolis and Wings of Desire.  We had already visited market one before this point at Potsdamer Platz, which actually turned out to be the worst one, it’s a strange place and reminds me of the feeling I get in Spinningfields, Manchester. We went on to market number two, Gendarmenmarkt, which cost one euro to enter.  We mulled up at €3.50 a pop, and sat inside to watch some sort of dancing, a little warmer we made our way to Prenzlauer Berg to get a decent beer, where Adam spotted Brew Dog fly posters in the urinals.  Next, to an Indian tea washed down with mango liqueur.  We finished our day tiddly at the Lucia Christmas markets, which by far were the most fun and set in the cool Kollwitzplatz Kultur Brauerei, which used to be an old brewery.  As the temperature collapsed me and Adam were delighted to warm our bums by sitting on a radiator with fur coats suspended overhead.  The end to a lovely -10 °C day.

16/12/2010

In search of the freebies before we purchased our 3 day museum pass, off we head back to Prenzlauer Berg.  First call of day, Americano from one of the many bistros of the area.  We visited the Prenzlauer Berg Museum about its history, which is all in German, but worth a look round for the heating and the building, again like no other you go to.  We visited the oldest water tower in Berlin, Wasserturm, and saw the post lady delivering to the flats below the tower, which is adjacent to what used be a machine hall used as the first concentration camp in Nazi Germany in the first half of 1933.  Off for a bizarre African inspired lunch at one of the many independents, at €8 for us both we couldn’t grumble.  We then went to the spectacle of Zeiss Gross Planetarium – Prenzlauer Allee, but it was shut bar the entrance, so we stayed in there until it became apparent that it was mull-o-clock.  So off we trotted via the H-bahn to Charlottenburg Christmas Markets, and that’s when it hit us that we didn’t want to see another German Christmas market again on this trip.  Fatigue kicked in and so we returned to the City Ost Hotel before recapturing our passion for the city and finding the Hausbrauerei Hops and Barley, which was in walking distance from our hotel.  It was reviewed in this month’s Ex-Berliner and was a real treat, the house special, Spezialbier was excellent and only €2.80 for 0.5L.

17/12/2010

Start of the museum pass extravaganza.  Served by the same old stroppy tourist office man as last time we bought our passes for €19 each and headed off for Berlinisches Galerie, but this time round without the yellow lettered front entrance that was instead snow filled.  I was convinced from an article in the local paper that there was an elevator bed you could pay to go on, this exhibit does not exist . . . The article was for the Soma exhibition that we viewed from the non paying side of the fence in the Hamburger Bahnhof Gallery, which contains reindeers and an elevated bed which you can pay €1000  a night to stay and trip out on reindeer urine. We found a cafe that became a highlight of the trip Taz Prezzo, and I ate a chicken noodle and kneidel soup for €3, followed by a coffee and accompanying dark chocolate bean (always a nice added touch.)  Off to Märkisches Museum, which was a new and hidden gem, as me and Adam trawled its vastness with nobody else in the building except from the suspect staff.  For dessert we finished with a trip back to the awesome Jewish Museum, mainly to see the building than revisit the exhibits.  Then for the two treats of the evening Hirsch bar, where we dined had 2 beers each and an espresso for €26, 0.5L of their own house lager is €2.50 and really good, then back to resample Hops and Barley.

18/12/2010

First new treat of the day Neue Nationalgalerie, which I hadn’t realised existed last time.  Wonderful permanent collections of 20th century art span the basement, and the new exhibit shown on ground level.  Back to Hamburger Bahnhof Gallery to peek at the reindeer from the stairs, it smelt like reindeer and looked a typical German set up, in being an excellently constructed piece.  To the Neues Museum, which blew us away in its scale and its strength in combining old and new architecture. Each and every building lends to a particular uniqueness, and that is what is so exceptional about the utilisation of form and function in this city.  For dinner we decided to sample a bizarre place called Dr.Eckstuck – Kreuzberg, again located in Ex-Berliner, but reviewed by the nurse with a short uniform, so maybe I should have guessed the sort of vibe it would have.  The boys toilets were splattered in porn and the staff looked like they were from Lock Stock, but the food was really good, we were the only people in there.  Well it was Saturday night in Berlin so we felt it our duty to find a club, and we located West Germany as recommended by Hey Manchester Chris.  Bizarrely, seen as every club in Germany doesn’t get going until 3am this one was winding up as they had a gig night on and it was the last night for them this year.  The venue is apparently owned by the brother of the guy who owns Islington Mill, so it was cool to have that connection and dance to Four Tet.  Whilst being a bit merry and thinking I was being smooth, I asked for a cocktail of what the beaker was, only to be ripped off with cheap vodka and rola cola for €4.

19/12/2010

An awesome start to the day by visiting the Helmut Newton Photography Exhibition, which was the perfect start to a Sunday and the perfect antidote to a hangover, especially as I had purchased a gluhwein for €1.50 from the pizza place across the road from our hotel  – mit schluss as well of all things!  A lovely Thai lunch of ramen and green tea before visiting the Kulturforum, which had a cool typography exhibition and many galleries to explore.  We decided on a tamer evening with a couple of beers and a Netto tea, no schluss for me as in the morning we were going on the 7.54am train to Leipzig, to visit where mine and Adam’s friend Thea was born.

20/12/2010

Leipzig, the trip I had been hoping to do, but had proved rather more expensive than anticipated at nearly €80 for a 2 way ticket, me and Adam found Interconnex, a German semi-budget website where we purchased set times at €19 each way.  We set off early, which was a fun but a confusing start to the day, which caused us to somehow succumb to Kamps coffee.  The train ride was magical as we travelled through the snowy countryside of Germany and watched as the bright orange in the sky came up.  We arrived at Leipzig Bahnhof (Europe’s largest railway station), which has 3 floor shopping mall, and garish decorations to adorn it’s beautiful construction.  We limped out to try to find the tourist info which had moved, but eventually found it and to our delight saw that everything on the map was walkable.  Our first stop was to find the Neuroorthopädisches Zentrum für Physiotherapie Leipzig to see Teddy Hurst’s art.  We found it easily and saw the pieces Thea’s husband had produced when he lost his ability to speak after suffering a stroke and art became his means of communicating.  Me and Adam were moved by the strength of his pieces, though we felt bizarre to be walking around looking at them whilst patients were in rehabilitation.  The next stop was to see the Schul Museum, where we saw the memories of Thea’s school days in a room with a reconstruction of the original school floor that was used to help Thea remember the names of her class mates.  It was a really moving place for me to visit and we went on to find the street where she had been evacuated from in the war, only to not find the house as the paving stone tribute to her father was covered under the thick snow.  For lunch with a worthy Augustiner and then to the Coffee Baum Museum.  A couple of coffees later and we headed back to the peculiar train station to purchase goods for our outbound journey.  Tired but pleased we had achieved this voyage we rewarded ourselves with drinks in a side street off Mitte, before we went in pursuit of, the no one goes there in Winter, Tacheles Gallery.  We wondered where the prostitutes that had lined the streets in summer had gone to, but as we looked with closer inspection at the furry bomber jackets and patent thigh fur boots, we realised a valuable lesson that prostitutes too feel the cold, much to our amusement we went happily to bed.

21/12/2010

This day resembled 28 days later as we started the day by visiting Stix Gallery, which is an abandoned brewery that houses a gallery.  Me and Adam crept about the dilapidated building half expecting the ceiling to crumble in and the gallery was closed.  The start of the plane worry that we might not make it home for Christmas, as Adam watched on the sleeping bundles at Heathrow airport.  I cried in to my coffee about not getting home for Christmas where as Adam the voice of reason showed me the way back and we visited the old airfield of Tempelhof Airport left as it was, but not a soul to be seen.  The Topograpie des Terrors put it all into perspective as we looked on the different levels of reality.  Another lovely Thai meal 12 pieces of sushi and miso soup for €5, Taz Presso for coffee, then to Knoblauchaus one of the few 18th century houses left in Berlin, this was a freebie and a very different space to see.  I wanted to squeeze in one more, but we thought sod it and went for an amazing Greek meal at Knofi, a bottle of red and 5 dishes for €25, we got exceptionally drunk and slept heavily.

22/12/2010

Last day of the trip and we started it well with the “WeltWissen – World Knowledge” – 300 Years of Science in Berlin exhibition, at Martin-Gropias Bau.  The wonderful periodic table exhibit and shadow play was a magnificent start to the day.  We went for another truly satisfying lunch at Taz Prezzo, whilst Adam creamed his off with an apfel and quark strudel.  We had 3 more places we wished to go Galleries Lafyette for a joke and warmth, the war memorial near Museum Island, and the Temporary KunsthalleGalleries Lafyette kept us amused for 5 minutes, the war memorial brought all the cold stinging sensations into real perspective as the statue lay their covered in snow and the Temporary Kunsthalle proved very temporary, as it no longer existed.  Our decision was made for a delightful evening of a revisit to Intimes cinema bar, which we had visited on our first evening here in Berlin last time.  The food was even bigger than we remembered and you couldn’t get bigger in our eyes.  Adam’s chicken Schnitzler and chips came with a side salad to accompany his side salad and mine came with a full filed loaf of sun-dried tomato bread, quality indeed and that was what our entire experience of Berlin was filled with.

The memories of Berlin are so many and this is just a snapshot of what I have written down, kept, and can recall.  To follow a rundown of where to go and where the places are, until then Happy New Year everyone and Happy New Year Berlin.


An anticipation of a return to Berlin

Despite the fact that it is going to be sehr kalt, I can’t wait to go back to the Berlin, especially at this festive time of year. The city blew my socks off in a way that I had not anticipated.
Here are some of my musings from the first full day of my last visit . . .

Today is 3rd night of my visit, sat in a Prenzlauer Berg cafe Kollberg, drinking a pilsner. Reflecting on yesterday, highlights have been Netto where I bought 1 Karotte und honig juice 59c, 1 fruit smoothie 89c, 1 large Sharon fruit 59c (beautiful my favourite fruit of all)

Me and Adam set off for Alexanderplatz where we sought out our first coffee of the day. Scuppered at the Altes Museum cafe by our weary legs – we paid too much for a double espresso. Off to Linden Straße, lined with lime trees, which have been replanted. There are some very strange shops, Mercedes with a cafe, Nivea with a cafe and ghastly beaches in the middle of the street. We spot Segafredo and later Adam grants me my wish, though not a patch on the Paris meze meze.

I confess I succumbed to a Starbucks frappucino 4,40c for lemon sugar – my blood levels were low, this was my justification.

We join a walking tour at Brandenburg Tol, with a guy leading who we’ll call Kai for we both knew such a chap. He takes us to the memorial where we see how it fits into our modern day understanding. A Jewish American architect designed the site and it is open to interpretation. But, of course things are put into circulation about what it means that we take as our own. It moved me as a place that says we are privileged, it’s a reminder of over 11 million Jews who died and a reminder for all those who have past due to injustice. It was an amazing experience to walk against the pillars to bigger unknown and holding strangers in my thoughts. We catch back up to the walking tour at Hitler’s bunker, now a dog shitting site and a car park. The reasons well thought and fitting, this makes me appreciate the good people of the world. There’s no way to bring back Hitler’s end site as a memorial – there is apology written all over this place. Now to the tax office as it once was known, once the Ministry of Ministries! 1952’s ideal of communism pictured on the wall juxtaposed against the picture of the people on the ground in 1953 who were massacred there.
Adam had the hunger and I knew mine would creep, so we jumped back on the u-bahn to reach our awol suitcase and a pastrami sandwich and salat mit tuna fisch and yoghurt, refuel and the afternoon begins.

We got off at Alexanderplatz and attempted to make a visit to the film museum, but ended up at Sony Mecca centre. Very bizarre everyone was dressed like those green squidgy toys out of Toys Story, wrapped in lime green blankets. We went through the park after me throwing a hissy fit about my hands needing washing. Through the tiergarten and we purchase our museum passes. To Altes Nationale Gallerie, Adam felt faint and so we need a rest to Prenzlauer Berg, a beer around the park, we got amazing food in Butter. I had chickpea and chicken casserole, Adam nachos and chilli. We make our way to mitte, to a not great place where we meet a chap from Amsterdam, who was nice.

Then to Tacheles gallery – an old department store now an artist commune, we stroll through mitte and the prostitutes galore, past a shop named Dom with spangles.

A beer and two shisha lovers Christopher and Amil drink with us, in a bar that I can’t remember the name of. We went onto sit outside a late shop and drink traditional Berlin beer and sampled club mate a guarana based drink. Played fußball – I sucked, it was 4 in the morning we succumbed to Burger King, large hot choc and cheese burger. Slept till 1.30 today

What I am looking forward to:
– Revisiting the incredible Jewish museum and seeing what light falls on it in winter
– Drinking cafe Einstein, and getting our free coffee from Best Western because we returned within 4 months
– Having a day trip to Leipzig where my friend Thea Hirst has an exhibition her and her husband Teddy were involved with setting up
– Wrapping up warm and trawling the streets, whilst drinking mulled wine
– Going to see Best Coast on arrival in the magnet
– Having a new experience in a magical and bustly city that doesn’t sleep too heavy


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