Eating the city: Berlin, Germany

It’s not all meat and potatoes… well, I mean, there is a lot of that, but it’s really, really good!

Potato dishes

Why get it:
Germans do potato particularly well – there’s a lot more to it than mashed potato with meat. Dishes like this one from Zur Rose make it a kind of replacement for pasta, without making it just like gnocchi.
We got ours from: Zur Rose, Weinbergsweg 26, Berlin 

 

Goulash and potato dumplings

Why get it:
When you’re travelling through Germany in winter, you want warm, hearty comfort food. That’s goulash with the aforementioned mashed potato. It may look like dog food, but the meat is fall-apart-in-your-mouth soft, the sauce is rich, the sauerkraut is the perfect food to cut through the richness of the goulash, and mashed potato is always a welcome addition.
We got ours from: Georgbräu, Spreeufer 4, Berlin

 

A cured meat and cheese breakfast spread

Why get it:
It’s not all rich, hearty food – places like Alpenstück are breaking the stereotype with some really basic but delicious options for the modern traveller. Everything is so fresh and simple, it’s the perfect change from the typically heavy meals you’ll eat later in the day.
We got ours from: Alpenstück Bäckerei, Schröderstraße 1, Berlin

 

Pork knuckle

Why get it:
For that heavy meal later in the day, you can’t beat a crispy-skinned pork knuckle. This is the quintessential German plate of meat: juicy, soft pork under a crispy, salty layer, sitting on yet more sauerkraut with a side of yet more mashed potato. Sounds like it’d be getting repetitive, right? Wrong.
We got ours from: Weihenstephaner, Neue Promenade 5, Berlin

 

Traditional German sweets

Why get it:
After all that meat and potato, you’ll be wanting some sugar to balance things out. And Germany does sweets just as well as they do meat and potato. Some delicious options to look for are strudel biscuits – basically a jam covered butter biscuit with ‘crumble’ on top, and nussecken, an absolutely delicious nut/apricot jam/chocolate concoction (click on over to get my recipe for them!) that you really have to try.
We got ours from: A tiny little café that I can’t remember the name of…

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Eat & drink here: Der Pschorr, Munich, Germany (modern beer hall)

Der Pschorr
Viktualienmarkt, 15, Munich
http://www.der-pschorr.de/der-pschorr-munich-city-centre.html

We were about 48 hours into the Berlin leg of our trip when we began to suspect that these awesome beer halls we’d heard so much about might not be as easy to find as we had expected.

A bit of Google investigating revealed that beer halls actually aren’t a German thing; they’re a Bavarian thing. As in, stop looking for them in Berlin and wait to get to Munich. In preparation for the next stop, husband compiled a list of beer halls declared by the internet to be worthy of our time and stomach space. One of those was Der Pschorr, located in the Viktualienmarkt.

We figured we’d drop in for a post-market shopping beer before moving on for lunch. Spoiler alert: we didn’t.

As beer halls go, Der Pschorr was unrecognisable from the stereotypical underground, dimly lit affairs of the movies. Instead, it was modern and flooded with natural light, still with warm wood finishes and flooring, but you couldn’t imagine pot-bellied old men throwing steins around there. It was more of a hip young bucks night or millennial business meeting kind of place.

I was skeptical. We were there for traditional, old school, not shiny and new. But we took a seat and husband had a beer. He said it was excellent. And in a fantastic throw back to tradition, a small barrel was brought to the bar while husband enjoyed his first beer – this was to be tapped open then and there. He hadn’t tried beer right out of a freshly opened barrel before, so he tried that, too. Excellent again.

Meanwhile, we were getting hungry, so we ordered the snack platter, thinking we’d get a small tasting platter €16.90 seemed pretty reasonable). Wrong again – it was huge, and the variety was great! We had a huge assortment of cured meat, pâté, terrine, cheeses and pickled vegetables, and it wouldn’t have been at all out of place at any fancy restaurant back in Melbourne. And I have to say that despite initial assumptions based on the tacky outfits, the staff were wonderful – they couldn’t have been friendlier or more helpful in their recommendations, and were super efficient, even as the place started to fill up.

While the older, more traditional halls were amazing, this modern twist on an old favourite was a really pleasant surprise – I just wish we’d have had time to go back for a meal!

 

An art gallery with a difference: Urban Spree, Berlin, Germany

Urban Spree
Revaler Strasse 99, Berlin
http://www.urbanspree.com/

If you’re not a big believer in “what’s meant to be, will be,” let me tell you a little story that may change your mind. After a long day in Berlin, I was flopped on the bed in my PJs having a look at the Berlin city map on my beloved Sygic Travel app to see what else was in the area of a particular Christmas market we planned to visit the following day. I saw a little logo right near the market and clicked on it: Urban Spree. The description read “This eclectic space hosts concerts, workshops, exhibitions, markets, festivals and other artsy events – just dive in and explore this vibrant place.” Great idea! Until I looked at the rest of the day’s activities and realised it was one of those days we’d be doing lots of stuff I’d enjoy/stuff that husband just tolerates because he loves me.

Fast forward to the next morning, and off we go to the Christmas market. We walked from the train station and followed the blue dot on the phone’s map towards the area of the market. And found ourselves in an absolutely incredible area that can only be described as hipster art gallery meets the apocalypse; we accidentally turned up at the back entrance to the market, which happened to be the front entrance of Urban Spree. And husband thought it was awesome, anyway. Meant. To. Be.

It’s actually kinda hard to describe Urban Spree. The website says:

“Urban Spree is a 1700 sqm artistic space in Berlin-Friedrichshain dedicated to urban cultures through exhibitions, artist residencies, DIY workshops, concerts, an art store and a large Biergarten.

Within Urban Spree, the Urban Spree Galerie is a 400 sqm independent contemporary urban art space. Set in a 70.000 sqm postindustrial compound in the heart of Berlin, the gallery benefits from its large urban grassroots ecosystem and offers its invited artists and photographers an ideal space for experimentation through ambitious on-site residencies.”

On the day I visited, without having read any information about it other than what was on the app, what it looked like to me was a crappy old industrial area full of abandoned buildings left to decay. Which was then taken over by a band of entrepreneurial hipsters and artists who decided to make something beautiful out of it. What you have to understand here is that I’m a Melbourne girl; I’m spoilt, I’m used to great street art projects, and it takes a bit to impress me. Urban Spree totally knocked my socks off. The bars and shops and galleries within it weren’t open on this particular day, but that only made for a better experience – there were only a few other people around, so we got to wonder around this phenomenal area in peace. Instead of snapping a photo and running to the next mural, we got to actually look at the pieces; I’m quite an introspective creature, so I couldn’t have been happier with all of that physical and mental space to take it all in and mull it over.

I imagine it’d have a pretty awesome atmosphere in full swing with people all around, live music playing and drinks flowing, but if you’re there for the art, I’d really recommend visiting early in the morning. We spent a good hour walking around before we finally made it to the Christmas market, and could have easily spent an hour more pouring over all of the artwork. With the rise of artists like Banksy, it’s really great that cities are slowly forming a more progressive view on art in its many forms – what would have once been considered graffiti on derelict buildings is now seen as real art, and the casual, outdoor gallery that is Urban Spree is getting a new generation involved in art in a way that the stuffy art galleries of old never could.

   

Oktoberfest!

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October. It’s that time of the year, when the hoards flock to German bier halls all over the world to revel with the masses, fill their steins and generally just get messy with friends and strangers alike. And, just because we couldn’t make it all the way to Germany (not yet, anyway… plans are in motion for a legit “in-Germany” Oktoberfest soon) to celebrate, didn’t mean we weren’t going to have some fun anyway!

This weekend saw our humble little backyard host a mini-Oktoberfest with a few friends and a lot of food and beer! Husband and I, both being huge foodies, had heaps of fun planning out the menu and getting it all ready, including the home made pretzels that I somehow managed to master (recipe coming tomorrow) and the delicious array of meat in tube form we procured from the Preston Market – Kransky, Bratwurst, German salami… all so good!

We couldn’t stop there though, so there was also sauerkraut, potato salad, and Black Forest cookies (give me another few days and I’ll put this recipe up too!) – actual slices of cake or apple strudel are just too hard to eat when you’re a few drinks down!

Anyway, here are some more pictures… it was a great night with great friends 🙂

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