After the Holocaust, World War II and The Cold War, it's true Berlin, Germany is no stranger to tragedy or misfortune. In the same respect, this city is equally familiar with the strength and resolve it takes to rebuild. With centuries of wars, triumphs, and failures- Berlin proved itself to be unlike any other.
One year after a horrifying terrorist attack, I visited this city that never stops moving forward. It was at this time last year that an Isis influenced terrorist drove a stolen truck through Breitscheidplatz Christmas Market in West Berlin, killing 12 and injuring 56 others. During my time in Berlin this New Year, I paid a visit to the Brietscheidplatz Market. Undoubtedly filled with city character and Christmas charm, my experience at the restored Christmas Market was both enchanting and heavy-hearted. As I walked past the wooden huts with twinkling lights, mulled wines and juicy bratwursts, I paid my respects to the victims who lost their lives.
I hate to say it but, Berlin puts New York City's Christmas game to SHAME. You know that big tree we have? The Rockefeller one? Berlin has like 10 of those bad boys... on every block...
There are also multiple Christmas markets, one bigger and better than the next. I went to four markets and probably ate and drank at 100 vendors.. so I'm about to break it down for you.
For your German meats, any of the vendors are brätwurst all-stars. But, if you see a sign that says: "Spezialitäten vom Holzkohlengrill" you've hit the gold mine. I'd also like to send a big thank you to my boyfriend for willingly holding up a wiener in a foreign land for me.
If you're not in a brät mood, order the slow roasted pork shoulder or pork knuckles. May not sound appealing, but I promise it's so tender and delicious. Just to cover our basis, we ordered it prepared two ways. The first was slow roasted kebab style:
The second was shredded up on a toasted bun like this:
Either way it's being slow roasted on a fire like this in the middle of any market you go to:
As for the fish...anyone who knows me knows I'm in a love affair with smoked salmon. So walking down the street and seeing filets of salmon being wood-fired smoked right before me was a small dream come true.
Mind you we had just eaten a full 3-course lunch when we stumbled upon this fish fire heaven. But I had to order one. Which they humbly served on the same toasted German bread, with housemade creamy dill sauce.
As for a different variety of cuisine, Berlin is almost as Westernized as we are. They've got sushi, they've got burger joints, damnit they even have pho! Since I can't go more than 72 hours without scratching my sushi itch, we went to Kamiko in the neighborhood Bergmannkiez in East Berlin. Aside from some bangin' steamed dumplings and maki rolls, Bergmannkiez is a great little neighborhood to go visit. The streets are filled with cafés, parks and shops all with an authentic German energy. But back to the sushi...
And for arguably the best breakfast I've ever had: Commonground, located in a district called Kollwitzkiez. This is their Norwegian smoked salmon with organic soft scrambled eggs, lemon, parsley ricotta & cucumber caper salsa on sironi toast.
And this is their signature two poached eggs on sironi sourdough toast with avocado smash, slow roasted tomato, salsa verde and bacon.
Taking a break from food here... (sue me!) I also got wrapped up in the city's history. The facts behind World War II and the Holocaust aren't anything I hadn't known, but seeing so much of where it all went down in person proved to be striking.
After the Holocaust and the end of World War II in 1945, the Cold War broke out with the Soviet Union. This lead to the building of the Berlin Wall, which separated the communists of East Berlin from the citizens of West Berlin. They built this wall right down the middle, killing anyone who dared to pass...and I got to see it. It may not look like much now, but in the mid 1900s this wall represented not only the separation of a city, but the divide of a country. From famine, poverty, genocide... this wall symbolizes all that Germany has suffered.
For Spielberg fans out there...you've likely seen the film Bridge of Spies with Tom Hanks. In which case, Checkpoint Charlie might come to mind. I got to see Checkpoint Charlie in real life, which for those who don't know: when Germany divided into four sectors during The Cold War, the American sector was guarded at the entrance and was given the name "Checkpoint Charlie."
A photo from 1961:
And the photo I took of it, in 2018:
In a poor attempt to segway from German history to pizza...we also hit up some seriously delicious Italian food during our stay. I know New Yorkers love to claim rule over the best pizza, but realistically, Germany is closer to Italy. It only makes sense that they'd serve up some fire thin crust pies. We went to L'Osteria, where their slogan is "La mia pizza, la mia pasta, la mia passione."
And for some pasta, we went to Shan Rahimkhan's Bistro which looks over the Weihnachts Zauber Christmas Market. I can feel my pants getting tighter just looking at this.
This is Weihnachts Zauber Market, which is mostly filled with clothes, jewelry and other little trinkets. But have no fear, you can still get glühwein here.
For those wondering, glühwein is the holy triumvirate of mulled wines. I had never heard of it let alone tasted it prior to my arrival, but after one sip I was hooked. It's loaded with the usual spices and rums but then I swear they do some voodoo German magic to it that elevates it to the next level. It also tastes so good and warm that you forget there is alcohol in it. Maybe I threw up in my hand one night. Maybe. Scheiß drauf!
Berlin also has their version of Smorgasburg, it's called Markthalle Neun and it's only open on Thursdays. Inside a big warehouse are all different food and drink vendors with big tables and benches. With a surprising amount of vegan options, we attempted to try a tofu burger from Tofu Tussis. It was good but also validated the fact that we are definitely meat people.
So we immediately washed down the tofu with some steamed peking duck dumplings from a Japanese vendor called Wunderbar.
At some point we got full and had to do something non-food related. A cool place worth checking out if you ever visit here is Raw Gelande. It's a rundown area in East Berlin where every inch is covered in graffiti.
And the Berlin Cathedral Church sitting near the famous TV Tower on the right called "Fernsehturm" in German. Many locals have a distaste for the TV tower, as it was built in the late 60s by the German Democratic Republic to be recognized as a symbol of communism throughout the country.
I left Berlin filled with history and newfound stomach rolls. I leave you with this photo of Nutella covered poffertjes (aka little fluffy Dutch pancakes).