Maybe what what JFK meant after he said his famously quoted “Ich bin ein Berliner” is that he actually ate so much in Berlin that he felt like a jelly doughnut. I know I did. (That said, warning: a lot of these are food photos.)
After many years, Vy and I finally took our first international trip together, which incidentally happened by accident. Vy’s work trip happened to coincide with the beginning of my two month sabbatical, and we decided to take on Berlin and see our good buddy Eloise.
Flying in from Amsterdam, I arrived a day earlier in Berlin than Vy. I met up with Eloise at her place in Friedrichshain, and we quickly got started with the eat-stravaganza. She took me to the new location of the famous Berlin döner spot, Mustafa’s Gemüse Kebap, located dangerously close to her place. We picked up a couple chicken kebabs, a couple beers, and made our way down to the East Side Gallery of the Berlin Wall and found a spot near the river to eat.
After realizing I was hungrier than I felt and demolishing the massive döner, we headed for a Turkish market near the canal in Kreuzberg. The rest of the afternoon found us wandering from bar to cozy bar (seriously, every bar was begging for a nap) through Kreuzberg into Neukölln, and eventually ending the evening with some of Eloise’s friends at a taco dinner party. By this time, I had already fallen completely in love with Berlin.
The next day, we eagerly awaited Vy’s arrival from Frankfurt. As soon as she arrived, we ended up at the Boxhagener Platz for the weekend flea market and snacked on some Russian dumplings and greek yogurt-like quark. Heading back, we stopped for another kind of döner kebab (Vy’s first!). We then checked into our hostel, Ostel, about a 15-minute walk from Eloise’s. Our night began to get interesting from there. Since the evening was quickly approaching, we decided to head out and see some of the Festival of Lights attractions in the city. Stopping at Alexanderplatz, we saw Fernsehturm, the TV tower, and happened upon a small festival happening in the town center. Currywurst and some spiked gluhwein warmed us right up as the rain started to come down.
We hopped our way over to a cozy, Russian-themed bar nearby to dodge the downpour, and as we saw the rain let-up, we made our way to another nearby bar/club venue. It turned out to be closed, so we trekked our way through pouring rain to a bar about 20-30 minutes away. Totally drenched, we were all pretty relieved to find some shelter. Somehow still hungry from the day, we ate some weird nachos and cashews out of (the best) vending machine, then topped that off with a few drinks (and maybe a shot or two). Vy had a marker with her, which resulted in some silly handdrawn temporary tattoos.
Eloise found out that her friend was at a bar right across the street, so we made our way over to meet up, and imbibed even more! By 3am (!!!), we had clearly had our share of alcohol, and started trudging back to our homes. But, not without a stop at world-famous (by my account, anyway) Burgermeister. A couple cheeseburgers and fries later, we finally got ourselves to bed at 4.
Needless to say, we had a slow start the next morning. Fortunately though, we were graced with amazing sunshine in exchange for the shitty weather we had the night before. Bleary-eyed and hungover, we went back to Boxhagener Platz to see all the treasures at the Sunday flea market, then had brunch (and a lot of coffee) nearby.
We then took the train over to Museum Island, and saw all of historical Berlin as we made our way to Brandenburg Gate and the Holocaust Memorial.
After a quick stop at Potsdamer Platz, where we got our stamps to “go to” East Berlin, we made our way back to Kreuzberg where we ate at Nansen, a quaint little restaurant with really tasty food. Still super sleepy from the rager the night before, we went back to end our night at Eloise’s (after stopping at Sofa Bar, of course!), and read each other’s tarot fortunes.
The next day we found ourselves with unexpected amazing weather again, and decided to rent bikes, which turned out to be the best way to see the city! Eloise took us to her favorite kumpir (Turkish baked potato) spot in Kreuzberg, where we got drunk off food (again).
We walked it off with some shopping in Neukölln, then hopped back on our bikes to visit the abandoned Tempelhof Airport before Vy had to catch her flight. It was the most amazing spot! A totally empty airfield-turned-public park, where everyone could ride/wheel/run/kite to their heart’s delight. It was definitely one of my favorite spots that we visited in Berlin, and I wish we could’ve stayed longer! After failed attempt to rent Segways (yes, we tried), we took our bikes around the runway, and made the ride back home through Hasenheide Park. It was an amazing autumn day with leaves falling all around us, and a perfect ending to the Berlin trip.
The next day, the rain started again (probably because Vy left!), and after a small kaffee and küchen, Eloise and I made our way over to the Sachenhausen Concentration Camp memorial near Oranienburg. Like we expected, it was a super sobering and eerie experience. Everyone knows the Holocaust happened, but there’s something about being where it happened, and walking on the same grounds where so many atrocities occurred. Everyone there seemed to have a heavy-heart and a very somber experience, but it was definitely one like no other.
Our trip was cut short when I needed to leave to get to the airport to fly back to Amsterdam. Rushing out the door, I gave Eloise a quick squeeze, and promised that I’d be back to Berlin again. After that trip, I definitely intend to.