Eat/See/Love: Berlin

6 Oct

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I think it’s safe to say everybody knows that the two main passions of mine are music and traveling. So this blog post is going to focus on Berlin and Copenhagen – two cities I recently visited on my own for a short break (mainly because I went mid-week and no-one got time off, but also because I’m actually getting a lot out of my solo adventures at the moment)!

So, why Berlin and Copenhagen? Berlin I wanted to go to because everyone I know who’s been cites it as one of the best cities in Europe. Copenhagen because I’ve never been to Scandanavia and the people are meant to be lovely, the air clean and full of hidden treasures. I’m going to do the blog in a sliiiightly way and do an EAT/SEE/OTHER/LOVE format (mainly because I didn’t go to see any gigs when I was out there and there’s so much to talk about I need to sneak in an extra section)…

SO: off we go with Berlin.

EAT: I’m in Germany. On my own. So naturally I need to go and have shnitzel in a trendy bar/eatery. And VOILA – I found the best schnitzel I’ve ever had.

Schwartzwaldstuben in Mitte is a large bar decorated in kitsch hunting lodge style and when I rocked up at about 8pm the place couldn’t have felt cozier. The music playing was right up my street (Hot Chip, Passion Pit etc) and as I was on my own I was given a seat at the bar, which got me chatting to the rather handsome barman and his friend. I was recommended their seasonal ‘Autumn Wine’. Now, I’m not a fan of wine but I was promised it’s sweet and doesn’t really taste like wine. He couldn’t have been more right and I ended up having three glasses of the yummy stuff.

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On to the schnitzel. Rather than veal, I went for pork schnitzel with fried potatoes (which to my delight were cooked with herbs and had pieces of smoked bacon included) and they came with a salad which was essentially long ribbons of cucumber. The fact the cucumber had been cut into ribbons made it very soft and far ‘wetter’ than cucumber usually feels when you eat it, which complemented the strong flavour and texture of the schnitzel and potatoes perfectly.

The schnitzel was flavoursome, perfectly cooked, as were the smokey potatoes. You also get a LOT for your money at Schwartzwaldstuben. The food was immensely satisfying and was everything schnitzel should be. The menu’s first page reads as below – and the fact that all of their money goes on decent food couldn’t be more true.

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SEE: Obviously, there is plenty to see and do in Berlin. The city, like most European cities has a rich history, a lot of which is to do with Germany’s troubled past. Whilst there I visited not only the Reichstag building and Brandenburg Tor (the famous archway pillars located in the city center), but also the Berlin Wall East Side Gallery (more on that later), Checkpoint Charlie and the Typography of Terror exhibition.

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However, somewhere many people wouldn’t think to visit is an abandoned theme park, called Spreepark, in suburban Berlin. It was the only amusement park in formerly GDP-run East Berlin. In 2002 the park was declared insolvent and has been falling into disrepair ever since. It’s a great place to visit, because it represents the part of Germany’s past which the city is trying to forget but illustrates it in such a haunting way due to fact this place is a theme park and meant to be fun.

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The place is shut off from the public with huge fences but by wandering into what seems like the middle of a dense forest you can take a peek at what’s left of the park. The giant ferris wheel, rollercoaster, tent and model train and dinosaurs all loom in the distance. It’s a novel and unusual thing to do when visiting Berlin, but at the end of the forest walk along the outskirts of the park, you come to the River Spree. There’s a beautiful boat and you suddenly emerge from a desolate, abandoned park to a beautiful river with great scenery and a floating pub, full of life. Definitely worth a visit!

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OTHER: I want to give special mention to two other things I did in Berlin. The first is Burgermeister. Oh. My. God. The burgers this place are cooking up, in what used to be public toilets, are incredible. I went for the tofu burger with peanut sauce along with chips served with mango curry sauce.

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The burger bun was perfect – seeded, squidgy but held its shape. The main attraction though is their sauces. They were absolutely amazing. The mango-curry sauce was zingy but with a kick afterwards. The saltiness of the chips worked perfectly with it. The peanut sauce worked wonders in a burger and I would highlight recommend checking the place out if you visit Berlin.

The second is my visit to the East Side Gallery. Below are a number of photos which highlight the variety of artwork you’ll find lining the wall. Transforming it from something oppressive to something creative and which signified the liberation of East and West Berlin. Perhaps it’s because they’re my favourite band, but some of the graffiti I found to be very Radiohead-esque, especially the line “the cracks are beginning to show” (this being written on the wall really made an impact)! Anyway, take a look at some of the amazing shots below and ensure you visit the East Side Gallery if you ever find yourself in Berlin.

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LOVE: I came across this quote: If Paris is the city of love, Berlin is the land of fuck. Whoever coined the phrase couldn’t be more right. Berlin has many sex-clubs for people of all persuasions. Straight, gay, transsexuals, swingers, people into S&M, orgies and more: you can find what you want in Berlin. Prostitution is legal and Berlin has an openly gay Mayor who visits the sex clubs with his partner. So: liberal city.

Personally, I wish London was a little more like this. True, I’m not looking to hire a male escort but a more open and liberal attitude to sex could do a hell of a lot for the UK. Sex is so open and accepted as a way to entertain yourself over in Berlin and that makes total sense. It’s something everyone has done, most people enjoy but we still have this “SSSSSSSH don’t talk about it” attitude. Not that I think you need to spill the beans about your ex life to everyone, but I dislike that a woman can’t talk openly about her sexcapades in the UK without being immediately labelled a whore (well, in my experience anyway).

The KitKat Club is the most famous sex club in Berlin, however Insomnia is also another popular one. I was in the district where Insomnia is located, so obviously I decided to see who was rocking up. And you know what? They’re everyday people. The women don’t look like porn stars and the men aren’t old and creepy. I saw a number of people queuing to get in to their all-day special called Kinky Gang Bang (wonderful title) and some people turned up in gimp masks and PVC and others went in wearing jeans and a t-shirt.

I think the point I’m trying to make is: somebody articulating an interest in sex doesn’t mean that that’s all there is to them. In Berlin if you go to a sex club, it’s no big deal. Sex is a profession with private health care and a pension in Berlin and sex is something that’s simply catered to. So, basically, people of the UK: chill out. I think becoming a little more laid back about people’s enjoyment of sex isn’t the worst idea in the world.

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