Notes from a Summer Tour Part 4.2: Berlin, Germany

7/13_Berlin Discovered

Berlin ended up growing on me a great deal.  Walking amongst the living history was amazing, just needed a little help pointing it all out.  Our local guide Alex is the man, and an incredible wealth of knowledge.  To paraphrase one of the first things he said to the kids when the tour started; Berlin is unlike most world-class capitols of Europe or elsewhere.  You look at Paris and the beauty is immedietaly striking.  Spend five minute in New York City and the energy is undeniable.  The history and allure of Rome is unavoidable.  But Berlin takes some effort.  You need to look deep.  Notice the artillery holes still dotting major landmarks.  Think about who shot them/who defended them, and for what.  You need to stop for a minute, use your imagination, and picture what the street you are on must’ve been like when a wall ran along it dividing a city, a country, and a globe in two.  The stories of life here a mere 20 years ago, let alone 70, are inevitably equal parts heart-wrenching, humorous and inspiring.

berlin wall

soviet art

berlin squat

berlin sunset

On the flip side, finding the amazing Alice and Wonderland/Adult play ground/Squatter art spaces that make up the nightlife was like something out of an urban fairy tale.  Our first night out we stumbled across Katerholzig.  This place is an outdoor Shoots and Ladders-esque ramshackle collection of “areas” patched together next to the Spree river.  Reminded me of the Fakehaus in West Philly late 90’s, if anyone remembers it, but this place is 50 times bigger.  The seemingly abandoned building the “club” seems based around has a huge rocking cat sculpture as the Jester holding court dangling from the roof.  First night we went was swing night, and the people were fucking swinging!  The other night nights seemed more techno-y, but place doesn’t really even start to get good until 2AM (way past our bed times).  We always had fun wandering the compound, finding new nooks and dance floors.   Another favorite find was Clarchens Ballhaus.  The building goes back to 1913, and there is definitely an old school vibe here (especially with the grumpy staff).  Cool outdoor beirgarten and another labyrinth of a watering hole.  Apparently some scene from Inglorious Bastards (which I still have to see!!!) was shot there.  For me, the kicker was the rockabilly band jamming out in the sweaty main hall.  We were on our way out but the music literally stopped us in our tracks.  We joined the geriatric crowd to twist and jitterbug the night away (really just about 20 minutes before we had to go, but still fun…). Berlin is definitely a place I would like to come back to and party all night, before I get too old…


katerholzig from the roof clarchens ballhaus clarchens ballhaus band

The sausage-fest here was certainly a departure from the Mediterranean diet of a week ago.  I shit you not, I had at least one sausage a day for my entire stay in Germany.  And it was fantastic.  Between the steady diet of tubed meat, pretzels and liters of beer, I was in a perpetual state of flatulent, bloated happiness.  Bratwurst, pig knuckle, snitzel, pretzels the size of a bike wheel, spetzel, mustard, and beers as big as waste baskets.  I happily ticked years of my life every night around dinner time.  To be honest, my former veggie self found the sauerkraut the tastiest part of the meal. Perfect for being mopped up with pretzel.  One of the last days we ended up eating lunch at a farmers market, and all of Hackeschen Markt smelled amazing.  The Turkish influence I had learned about was representing WAY better here than just the questionable curry-wurst.  I picked the stand that smelled the best (although tough decision), and ordered the thing the lady was handing  out.  The sign said “KOFTEDURUM- Lecker (delicious)!”, and she was obviously fixing some fresh ass grub.  What I was handed was a few of hand rolled balls of meat and peppers, seasoned with middle eastern tastiness and wrapped up in a thin pita-like flatbread.  The kofte and couscous salad were like nothing I’d had before (even though I’ve tried to make kofte from internet recipes) exactly, in a great way.  The exotic spices were slow cooked into the ground meat balls, and the tomatoes, lettuce and lemon cut through with every bite.  Delish, and a nice change from long, phallic meat meals.

bratwurst 1

brats times 5

fancy brats

kofte durum

I’m fully taken by Germany at this point.  Berlin was a place of much thought for me.  Life, love and the pursuit of happiness.  The heavy, intellectual zeitgeist of the city is an apt setting for this activity, especially if you have to work and can’t just party for three days straight (which is an enticing option).  With the back drop of Germany’s difficult past, I kept finding myself draw to make comparisons to my own country.  Such tragedies could never happen again.  Right?  Look up the Reischtag Fire Decree and what it caused, and then re-think the Patriot Act.  Just saying.  An interesting look at our current history at the very least.  Anyway.  Next, and last stop is Munich.  Looking forward to seeing “rural” Germany, although I know Munich is a vibrant city.  That said, I’m pretty sure I’ll be seeing some lederhosen and true beirgartens in the near future (can’t help but say that in Stimpy’s voice…).




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