Mike and I loved Berlin. Some places I’ve traveled seem to have more tourists than actual residents. Berlin was not like that at all – aside from a couple of popular sites (Checkpoint Charlie & The Bradenburg Gate) we didn’t feel like tourists at all as the city buzzed with locals going about their day. The city is full of interesting contradictions: It’s a bright, spunky, modern city full of reminders of it’s painful past; and the graffiti covered streets are full of law-abiding, conscientious citizens (Maxi said that in Berlin, wallets never get stolen and are always returned when lost, and it’s safe to walk the streets no matter how late). We also loved the prices in Berlin. Despite being on the Euro, compared to most of Europe, we found Berlin to be quite affordable, with dining out somewhat on par to what we’d spend back home.
But let’s get to the food!
As a modern city, Berlin has every sort of ethnic restaurant imaginable – and therefore plenty of options for vegetarians. We walked past countless Falafel stands, Indian restaurants, and more. On one of our nights out, Maxi took us to a hip sushi place near Prenzlauer Berg, known for their battered and fried sushi rolls served warm. Mine were full of avocado and assorted veggies, of course, instead of fish.
Before dinner, we walked around the Prenzlauer Berg neighborhood, which is a gentrified area popular with families. We spotted the adorable vegetable playground (pictured above), and also popped into a Natural Foods Grocer, where I ogled this display of all vegetarian products. Have you ever seen so many different types of Veggie Brats in one place?
As for actual German food, it was hit or miss for me. At one restaurant we visited, the vegetarian options were all different variations of vegetables drenched in cheese – tasty, but not at all balanced.
On the other hand, the best meal of our entire 3-country trip was at a Volckswirtschaft, a German restaurant in the Friedrichshain neighborhood, recommended to me by Maxi. Friedrichshain, located just a couple U-bahn stops from city center, is a hip neighborhood populated by twenty-something young professionals. Dozens of eateries, bars, and t-shirt shops line the graffiti covered, yet safe streets.
Volckswirtschaft was a cozy, intimate cafe buzzing with couples and friends lingering over coffee or wine. Our server spoke excellent English and kindly translated the entire German menu for us, as no English menu was available (i.e. an off-the beaten path gem!). We also loved the wine he recommended. And to me, the food was simply unforgettable: Schnitzeled Tofu, pumpkin-potato mash, well-dressed braised red cabbage, and gooseberry cake for dessert. This dinner was so wonderful that even though it was a day early and unplanned, I officially declared this meal to be my Birthday Dinner of 2010.
After this wonderful dinner, we met up with Maxi again and she took us to a couple of very hip bars in Freidrichshain, including one who’s decor was supposedly inspired by lungs (pictured below), and another bar with couches and old-fashioned Nintendo systems which we played. Thankfully this tired Mike out enough that I didn’t get dragged to any of Berlin’s world-famous techno dance clubs: Not my scene!
The next day, our last day in Berlin, Mike and I spent some time wandering around the Tiergarten, Berlin’s equivalent of NYC’s Central Park. We grabbed a leisurely lunch at the beautiful Cafe Am Neuen See in the park, known for it’s Biergarten. While I wasn’t impressed with the service (we were completely ignored for about 30 minutes, before we moved to an indoor table to get some attention), the setting was absolutely stunning – so peaceful and relaxing. I was also very pleased with the salad of greens, fingerling potatoes, and a lemony-yogurt dressing that was filling and lovely.