This is a post about Berlin, or How I Ate So Much Asian Food (and Pretzels) in Germany.
It’s taken me awhile to start blogging regularly again but I’m now back with more photos and commentary around my trip to Europe five months ago. Following from my post on Croatia, our next stop was Berlin via Cologne.
I think my bunched up socks on the floor really frame this photo.
We stayed at the 25hr Bikini Berlin hotel located right next to the Berlin zoo. I think the hammock in the photo speaks for the entire hotel, it was a really vibrant and fun place to be. It had the vibe of a lot of the European hostels I’ve been to in the past but with much fancier stuff. I wish I took more photos of the modern co-working space located at the reception which also had an unlimited supply of free Haribo gummies, the chic and expensive bicycles that hung on the wall of each guest level, and the to die for interior and unlimited breakfast spread at the Monkey Bar on the top floor.
Downstairs is a super cute cafe where we often had our morning coffee. They also stock a wicked Philadelphia cheesecake from Five Elephant.
Fresh prawn rice paper rolls
My first actual meal in Berlin wasn’t remotely German, it was Vietnamese food at popular food haunt Monsieur Vuong. Growing up, I often made fun of my family who were always Asian-cuisine inclined, to the point of searching for fried rice in places like Rome. Now that I’m at the ripe age of my twenty-somethings I’m now also a shameless Asian food tragic. There’s just something about refreshing rice paper rolls or a steaming bowl of comforting soup, in this case pho, that makes your inner Asian feel at home no matter where you are in the world. Particularly after the food we were eating in Croatia, this was absolutely just want the doctor ordered.
Cha gio spring rolls, Vietnamese spring rolls filled with prawns, water chestnuts, taro potatoes and vegetables
Pho Hanoi, Vietnamese soup with fresh chicken stock, tender strips of chicken breast, rice noodles and Vietnamese herbs
Glass noodle salad Mekong, spicy salad with glass noodles, chicken, peanuts, coriander and Vietnamese herbs.
This noodle salad was amazing and the reason why we came back the very second night. The waitstaff actually recognised us from before. The Vietnamese food at Monsieur Vuong is on par/better than a lot of the Vietnamese food I’ve had in Australia.
Daily special, black squid rice noodle salad
We spent a full day out with the intention of hitting all of Berlin’s top historical and touristy spots. We walked the entire way clocking in well over 30 km from morning until way late until the sky had turned dark. First on our list was checking out the Berlin victory column. The way the gold trimming repeats around the column and then glistens at the top in the form of a statue of Victoria certainly does invoke a feeling of triumph. The column also sits at a large intersection. When you climb right up to the top, you can see cars the size of ants circling around.
It was quite a climb and there are benches every few floors so people can rest and give way to others behind them as the winding staircase is so narrow that it can only accommodate a single file.
The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe was one of the most illuminating stops for me throughout the whole Berlin trip. The site has 2,711 concrete slabs of varying heights, arranged on a grid that slopes, all dedicated to the approximate 3 million Jewish Holocaust victims.
It gives off a bit of a cemetery vibe and it’s interesting how the different heights and the slopes together give a really altered experience, making you feel like you’re in a place that doesn’t make sense. Despite the sombreness of what it represents, I found it really peaceful.
I’m sure people will have mixed opinions on this but the fact that children were running around and playing throughout like a maze made it seem like the monument was both about the horrific past and honouring history as much as it was about looking towards a hopeful future without mass atrocities.
The East Side Gallery is of course a must visit. I took lots of videos on Instagram stories (which have of course long disappeared) but snapped a photo of this wall because it was my favourite, not least because Batman and Joker are thrown into the mix. It was a shame that all the walls had cages up so you couldn’t really get a good photo.
‘My God, Help Me to Survive This Deadly Love’, probably the most famous of the Berlin Wall graffiti paintings.
One of the recommendations given to us by Jonny, who knows what a food fiend I am, was to check out KaDeWe, the department store near our hotel as it had a pretty luxurious food hall. Think Harrods in London or David Jones in Sydney CBD except on a much larger scale. There was no end to the amount of cakes they had on display or cured meats and cheeses. But finally arriving at the very top of the building was LeBuffet, which had an incredible display of food that you could pick and choose and then sit at a table and eat. The layout was similar to that of a buffet except they had prices along each section, indicating that you would have to weigh and pay for it at the end as opposed to an all you can eat fashion.
This ended up being one of the most expensive meals we had in Berlin! Clearly I should never be allowed to do this again because not only was I unable to portion economically, my eyes were also much bigger than my stomach so we didn’t come close to finishing this all. I can’t remember the exact amount but it was about 57 Euros which is 81 AUD or 270 MYR. It doesn’t sound like a lot but remember that Berlin is a really cheap city and we definitely had a four person meal including drinks for less than this price.
Jonny and Armin took us to Potsdam for a day trip of just looking at really nice castles and wondering if we can rent them on Airbnb.
It’s super beautiful there and I can see why Armin in particular loves Potsdam, it’s so green! Just like our times walking over the hills and fields in Lappis.
It was a really great day to be out, there were so many castles I lost count of who stayed where.
Hello MTV, welcome to our crib
We never had a proper sit down German breakfast, it was mostly just grab’n’go pretzels. The one time we did come close was eating at Cafe Einstein Stammhaus, one of the top rated breakfast spots in Berlin. It calls itself Viennese breakfast, not that I know the difference.
We opted for Einstein-Frühstück für 2 Personen /Einstein breakfast for two. It came with a selection of cold cuts and cheese, home marinated salmon, chicken salad with madras curry, fresh fruit, yoghurt with berries and maple syrup, a boiled egg, and a variety of bread and spreads.
The yogurt was really delicious and the smoked salmon was particularly fresh. Besides the pretzels, rye bread is a big staple here in Germany and the one that Cafe Einstein served up was one of the best I’ve had on the trip. I’ve been a huge fan of rye since Stockholm days but never found anything in Australia that stood out to be good.
We spent almost an entire day dedicated to walking around the Berlin Zoo that was next to our hotel. Do note that there are two zoos in Berlin and we were told that this one was the better one to go to.
I usually hate birds but the ones at the zoo were gorgeous and relatively well behaved.
They also make great art subjects, this is probably my favourite #iPhoneOnly shot that I’ve taken this year.
I way prefer aquariums to zoos and the Berlin Zoo is large enough that it also has an aquarium exhibition within it. There’s something really serene about watching fish swim and jellyfish float. I also love that aquariums also usually have dim lighting, I love the glow of the fish tanks in the dark.
Made it to one vintage shop, Picknweight in Mitte. Colour coordinated vintage shops are a new kind of incredible.
One of the nights, we ventured to Markthalle Neun in Kreuzberg and um, had more Asian food. Known as the mother of all street food events in Berlin, it was founded in early 2013, and one of the first event series to kick off the concept of street food in Berlin. We can never pass up a bao, and the filling for these were kick-ass, even if they came with cucumber. The bao bun itself doesn’t hold a candle to the amazing Belly Bao back in Sydney though.
Another huge favourite of mine that night was this little tofu stall.
Perfectly well seasoned tofu-on-a-stick, kind of like a vegetarian’s alternative in a country where meat sausages are currency.
I know I am starting to look hopelessly Asian but another bao wasn’t my choice I swear.
We ate lots but made sure to save space or expand our stomachs to make space, for Burgermeister. It was only recommended to us by everyone who spoke to who had been to Berlin.
It ended up being a pretty nice burger with a really fluffy bun and the right amounts of all the toppings however I found the patty itself a tad dry. I guess my slightly let-down expectations after a much hyped burger, is mostly a testament to Sydney’s burger game, it really can’t get much better here.
Chips were tasty.
Still have the London bits to post but *spoiler* Berlin was by far the best part of Europe 2016. I also just realised I have no photos in this blog post of these pretzels I claim to be eating my weight in everyday, but that’s how good they were. That ain’t no semi-food blogger got time to take photos of that. Thank you for such a rad time.