A few weeks ago, The Engineer and I went to Berlin to see Darling Daughter who is spending a semester there.
It was wonderful. Not only were we able to spend time with our beautiful girl, we also got to explore a city neither of us had previously visited.
Shopping for food in a country where you don’t speak the language is a small adventure. One grocery store visit reaped an interesting mixture, when the pack of what we thought were breakfast sausages turned out to be more like small kielbasas and the bread rolls proved to be the type you need to bake. This was a problem. We had a stove, but no means to light the oven. So I split the sausages in half and grilled them in a pan, then did the same with the rolls. These were served up as sausage sandwiches complete with garlic butter.
We didn’t mean to buy garlic butter, but when we opened the foil-wrapped stick, that’s what it was.
The cheese was better, a hunk of “Old Amsterdamer” that was delicious on the remaining rolls, with (garlic) butter and cucumber slices.
Maybe that’s the trick to grocery shopping in a foreign language — only buy fruit and vegetables you can easily recognize.
Still, where’s the adventure in that?
We also had an Indian meal. It wasn’t bad. It just tasted like the chef had read about Indian food but never actually tasted any. (We fared better in Amsterdam, stumbling across an Indian restaurant that was so good we ate there two of the three nights we were in the city.)
The “Mexican” cuisine we tried in Berlin was equally unusual, chorizo quesadillas, beautifully presented with a lovely little salad and artistic drizzle of sauce. The chorizo, however, tasted more like our breakfast sausage than any chorizo I’ve ever tasted before.
Again, not bad, just not what we expected.
German beer is also as good as you’ve heard, especially if you’re a fan of lagers and pilsners like me. It’s always served in the glass appropriate to the style and brewery.
I loved Berlin’s cafes, where we were able to enjoy latte macchiatos and beer nearly every day.
I’m not sure why we Americans make such a distinction between socializing over a beer or visiting over coffee, but I’ve noticed it’s nearly impossible to get a good one of both at the same place in the U.S.
In Berlin, cafes are clearly an integral part of the city’s culture, with fresh flowers on the tables and snuggly blankets so outdoor customers can enjoy fresh air even when the weather is brisk.
It’s also not uncommon to see someone drinking a beer while waiting for a train or enjoying the sun in a small city park, often carefully setting the bottle near the waste container for the city’s homeless to retrieve and cash in for the deposit.
Yet during our stay, we saw few, if any, people who were obviously drunk.
One day, Darling Daughter took us to Hannibal Restaurant, where we shared one of these with her and her friend Kevin.
Another morning, we went to a cafe near our apartment for a bit of brunch.. I wasn’t very hungry so we ordered the breakfast for two (see below). Fresh fruit, juice, cheeses, meats of all sorts, salads, scrambled eggs, and a huge basket of fresh bread. Wow!
Germany is also known for wine and, on the advice of our AirBnB landlord, we visited a neighborhood wine bar/shop called NOR (Not Only Riesling), which specializes in German wines. It was here I tasted a dry Riesling, something I didn’t know existed. Call me ignorant, but I’d only previously sampled the sweet versions readily available in any U.S. supermarket.
If you visit Berlin, be sure to try a Doner Kebab. This handheld meal can be most closely compared to a gyro, but the bread is crustier, and there’s a larger variety of condiments to choose from. Alas, we demolished ours too quickly to get a picture.
You must also eat a Currywurst, mainly so you can say you did. This is a German hotdog, served with ketchup mixed with curry powder, with more curry powder sprinkled on top and fries on the side. Interesting, but I’m not sure I’d eat it on a regular basis.
Don’t worry about the calories. If you do Berlin the way we did Berlin, you’ll walk it off.