The Real Berlin

I had never been to Germany but have had enough German friends, roommates or classmates to have a few expectations. I kind of chose a bad time of year to visit Berlin, with short days and temperatures dipping below zero almost all day and night. But in some ways it was refreshing to be there in the ‘off’ season, surrounded mostly by local Germans and Turks. In fact I probably met more people from Turkey in my week there, eating a kebab atleast once a day and couchsurfing in the Neukölln neighbourhood where the joke Berlin is the capital of Turkey really rings true.

to the right of this beautiful cathedral you can barely make out the bottom of the TV Tower, disappearing into the fog

Other stereotypes I enjoyed playing on was Germany’s great reputation for delicious sausages and amazing, abundant, cheap beer. I couchsurfed with three different hosts and two chinchillas, who lived with my last host affectionately nicknamed ‘the little nut’ since his last name is Nuesslein.With all three we made a point of sampling some of Weißbie (hefeweizen) and also great white wines from the region – namely Rieslings and Gewurtzraminer. With my host Bjorn in Potsdam we also grilled up some bratwurst sausage and potatoes, eating swiss chocolates for dessert. It was no Bocuse d’or meal but Im always happy with the rich foods and delicatessen culture in European dining that Iceland doesn’t as easily afford.

the central train station, big and grey

My Icelandic friend Bjorgvin met me in Berlin and we spent one day taking the metro and double decker buses around town seeing all the must-see sights and tourist attractions. Every once in a while we had to duck into a store or coffee house to defrost but we made it almost all day running around Potsdamer Plats, Brandenburger Tor, Museum Island, the Holocaust memorial and the great maze of Hauptbahnof (the main train station). We tried to see the TV Tower but the low cloud line meant you couldn’t even see it when you were standing right under it.

The Tacheles gallery, an open, free alternative art space in an otherwise abandoned, unlivable 5 storey building

One our last day we took up the offer from our host, the little nut, to give us the non-touristy tour of Berlin, what he called the Real Berlin. We started at the eerie Tempelhof airport, visited the Tacheles art gallery, went to East side Gallery to visit a part of the old Berlin Wall, and ended at the best veggie burger restaurant I’ve ever been to. We followed up with dessert from Mustafa’s kebab stand – the best veggie meal and rightfully most famous kebab stand in Berlin.

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