Berlin

laugencroissants

A few things to know if you go to Berlin. Don’t cross the street unless the crosswalk light is green (you’ll likely get a scolding), hardly anywhere takes credit cards (cash works everywhere—and people are happy to give change), the coffee is great (so drink as much as you can, since you’ll need it), and the city changes quickly, from being gray and bleak at one moment, changing into a sunny and inviting place just after you turn a corner.

Another thing to know is to remain on the constant lookout for laugencroissants, which I’ll get to a little later.

schleusen krug berlin radio tower

I wasn’t sure what to make of Berlin before I got there. I’d heard it was hip, perhaps a little wild, kinetic, and quite vibrant. I was only there for a few days, but I managed to ping from one side of the city to another, exploring the various districts and neighborhoods, and unlike a lot of other big cities, I found everyone to be relatively cool and not stressed out and frantic. Berliners seem to be trying to fit into their new skin, often appearing in different guises.


You can find everything from food shops that display sausages like fine jewels, to down-and-gritty snackbars (Imbiss), where the wursts are thrown on the griddle, and shoveled in with toothpicks while standing under a gritty S-Bahn station while the trains rattle overhead.

german espresso German bread

Although it’s a modern city, the past is always poking through contemporary Berlin. In the middle of the city, a bombed out church is a constant reminder of what happened just a generation or two ago. It’s a city that brings a lot of emotional responses, and the austere abruptness of the Holocaust Memorial, which has met with some controversy, seems like an odd choice. Still, it’s hard not to walk through the immense, dark concrete slabs and feel the sense of disorientation and sense of solitude that the monument is meant to evoke.

rognacki

Someone asked me how I felt going to Berlin, and I had to respond that when I was younger, I didn’t understand Germany (or Europe) as I do now and we Americans haven’t had a war on our soil in over a hundred years. Whereas in Europe, there’s millions of people who’ve lived through having their countries occupied, been forced from their homes and businesses, experienced critical food shortages, and gone through ethnic cleansing and other atrocities.

So it’s interesting to walk the streets of modern day Berlin, where the future is uncertain and the city doesn’t quite seem to know where it will go next. But it is a city that is moving forward and there’s a good deal of construction, and a civilized, respectful attitude that permeated the city.

barcomi's

Sure, there’s pockets of hipsters, but they don’t have the annoying appurtenances that one finds in other places: they’re not glued to their cell phones, I saw few chain-smoking, and most were actually polite.

oatmeal bread Berlin

The city of Berlin is so huge that you can’t possibly walk around it all unless you have legs of steel. And even all the wonderful kaffee served at the coffee shops, which are everywhere, can only fuel you so much. Still, I tried to see as much as I could and if you go, buy a day pass (tageskarte) for the public transit, since I found myself hopping off and on it a lot.

berlins street

Distances on the map, which might look miniscule, can take an hour to trek across—I’m not kidding. After even a half-day of walking around, I needed a break. And while I love to meander around new cities, to discover new places, it’s best to set out with a plan and a map…or stick to a neighborhood, like Mitte, and do some exploring there. Then relax in a cafe for a while, which in my case was often with a giant salted pretzel in hand, before tackling another.

graffiti berlin in Berlin

I don’t know if Germany is a destination where people venture in search of gastronomic treasures, but I found plenty of very good, fresh food. Hearty German loaves packed with grains are my favorite kind of breads, and several hefty brote filled in any of the spaces in my suitcase to bring home. And it’s wonderful to go into a restaurant like Barcomi’s, and have a glowing, fresh salad and a glass of cold apfelsaft (apple juice) mixed with sparkling water.

german breakfast

And I also had the most wonderful käsekuchen, otherwise known as cheesecake, that I’ve had in a long time. (I dare say, it was better than what I’ve had in New York.) The wedge I had tasted like it was just made that morning with none of that stale, refrigerator taste. Instead, each bite was like eating fresh, tangy cream cheese, barely lightened with quark, snugly baked against a buttery, spicy crumb crust. It was excellent.

German cheesecake

While I was reveling in the fresh food in the places that my friend Olivier took me to, I was also anxious to hit some of the spots that a few readers recommended when I put the word out on Twitter that I was heading to Berlin.

I was told not to miss Rognacki, in Charlottenberg. Walking up the mall-like shopping street, I was having a hard time imagining anything very interesting around there to eat. But when you reach Rognacki’s, and step inside, you immediately know that you’ve found somewhere very special. This all-edible-things-German shop was where I was told to be on the lookout for schillerlocken, or smoked shark neck. I guess I should’ve looked harder (er..or maybe not), but I loved the place, especially the cafeteria-style service where I had fried fish and a vinegary kartoffelsalat (potato salad).

When I was done standing at the counter, and how downed the last bite of crisp fish and cold traubensaft (grape juice), I put my empty tray on the knee-high shelf below, like I saw everyone else doing. As I headed for the door, on the way out, the pastry display yelled HALT!…and I couldn’t help it, and ordered a square of caramelized Bienenstich (Bee-sting cake) along with yet another fortifying cup of rich German coffee.

more meat almond pastry

Berlin also means currywurst, which is the unofficial food mascot of the city. If you’re one of those people who needs to know what farm the pork is from or what the names of the pigs were, I can’t say you’re likely to find many place like that for currywurst in Berlin. (Although I did later find out that Witty’s on the Wittenbergerplatz is the place to go for that.)

currywurst imbiss

Most people hit the Imbiß (snack-bar) places to get their currywurst fix. Two of the most famous are Konnopke’s and Ku’damm (Kurfürstendamm 195), with simmering sausages kept warm on the stainless steel bins in this little wedge of the place tucked in between the chic shops.

currywurst

Konnopke’s is a holdover from East Berlin and located right under the S-Bahn station. With the train rattling overhead exactly at six minute intervals, it’s not the kind of place you linger, but it’s a lot of fun and a good place to catch a glimpse of old Berlin mingling quite well with the new.

Konnopke's Imbiss currywurst

Currywurst can either be sausage with curry powder sprinkled over, or made with curry powder seasoning inside. Either way, if your German isn’t very good, you’ll likely get a blitzkrieg of ketchup (ketchup) blitzed over the top. I’m not a big fan of ketchup, but since my comprehension of the German language is almost null (null), ketchup seems to be the universal accompaniment. Note to self: Memorize the German word for mustard, (senf), for next time.

kollwitzstrasse

I’d mentioned that English is a language where there’s often many words to describe something that other languages condense to one word. What German does is combine a string of words into one long, tongue-twisting mouthful. I guess it’s part of the famed German efficiency, but I had a little bit of difficulty with the language. However everyone was very friendly when I tried my hand at it, and usually responded in good English, except for the ketchup-wielding currywurst vendors, who were racing to keep up with the constant lines in front of their stands.

laughencroissant berlin graffiti

One word that I really needed to be certain to nail was laugencroissant, which is a pretzel-croissant, a hybrid that has the flakiness of a butter croissant, but sturdier, with the texture of a pretzel. And if often finished with a few sesame seeds and a bit of crunchy salt to bring the difference home. Laugencroissants are on my short list of best things to eat in the world, and worth the trip to Germany just to get them.

meat

Another highlight of Berlin is the KaDeWe a chic department store with an immense food hall. Covering the entire sixth floor, Alec Lobrano, who lives in Paris, told me it makes La Grand Épicerie look “poverty stricken”. And boy, was he right.

When the escalator arrived at the sixth floor, I never saw food lined up like that, with things from all over Europe. There was obscure German baking ingredients, coffees from Italy and Columbia, Cuban cigars, separate cheese departments for Italy, France and Germany, rows of Swiss chocolates, and piles of German breads and pastries, stacked neatly in glass showcases.

(There were also plenty of rest rooms. Unlike Paris, Berliners seem to make it a point to have them easily located in most shops and public places, and don’t give you a hard time if you need to make use of one.)

cortado coffee berlin barstool

Another department store food hall which is terrific, and a bit less expensive, is the Galeria in the Alexanderplatz. All sorts of wonderful things, from bright-green limequats to knobbly cords of fresh horseradish, were there. It was there that I picked up four pudgy German loaves of dinkelvollkornbrot and vollkornbrot to take back home with me.

easyjet

Although the agents at EasyJet kept pulling me out of line, insisting that my bag was too long, until I snapped a picture of my bag tucked neatly in their metal carrier, they reluctantly let me go without paying one of those infamous surcharges.

(I don’t have a beef with EasyJet, or surcharges. But I am unclear why three different agents were hassling me about my suitcase, which obviously conformed to their standards.)

eis bread/brot

Speaking of airports, right before I left I was able to squeak in a kaiserschmarrn, an enormous broken-up puffy pancake, with Luisa, who just moved back to Berlin after a long absence. Our schedules didn’t quite jibe, but we caught each other for a nice chat and dessert at Cafe Einstein, before I raced to the airport on the very efficient train. I had just two hours before my flight, but as we were saying goodbye as we went our separate ways, and I expressed concern I’d make my flight, Luisa said to me, “Don’t worry. Berlin is a well-oiled machine.”

berlin bus

And sure enough—and in spite of the airline employees best efforts to thwart me, I made my flight, with enough time to grab a sandwich at the airport, made with bread that they made on the premises, as evidenced by their flour-covered counters and baskets of flax and sunflower seeds.

When I walked through the terminal, the smell of warm yeast infused the air, and my sandwich made of air-dried beef stuffed between the just-made bread with a handful of organic arugula, and a freshly-squeezed, pulpy glass of orangensaft, was a surprise, and a very happy ending, to this delicious trip.


A Few Trip Notes:

If you go, you’ll want a good map of Berlin, as well as one for the transit system. The BVG website (in English) has maps and fare information. Berlin has lots of bike paths through the city and I was planning on renting a bike for three days (which cost €9/day), but the rainy weather put a damper on that plan. I found the one-day pass (€6.10) useful, although there are others. Get one that covers zones A and B. (If coming or going to the airport, you can buy a single-use zone C ticket for €2.80.) All prices are subject to change.

As for guidebooks, I brought TimeOut Berlin and Berlin Made Easy, which I referred to on a few occasions and the TimeOut guide has good maps included.

If you’re looking for a separate map, I do recommend the Streetwise Berlin Map, which is designed to be easy to use when moving about.

My friend Luisa writes Berlin on a Platter, noting foods and places of culinary interest.

Visit the Berlin Tourism Website for additional information.


bookcoversite.jpg


104 comments

  • thanks David! I’ve bookmarked this page for future visits.I finally have a food guide for Berlin as well, now :)

  • I LOVE Laugencroissants! I was also excited to see you went to the Schleusenkrug – one of my favourite haunts when I lived in Berlin for six months (although its probably not at its best in the rain!).

  • the smell of warm yeast infused the air, and my sandwich made of air-dried beef stuffed between the just-made bread with a handful of organic arugula, and a freshly-squeezed, pulpy glass of orangensaft, was a surprise, and a very happy ending, to this delicious trip.

    I could swear that I’ve smelled this at this very minute :) Merci pour le voyage :) .

  • what a great time to be in berlin! the food looks lovely (except the currywurst, can’t say i’m a fan sorry). i’ve always liked dark dark seedy bread, so german bakeries made me very happy.

    bis bald!
    -The Paris Food Blague

  • I’m giggling at the “I’m in Berlin, Bitch” sticker up there. Thanks for including that photo.

    I really loved reading this. Not only a little bit of vicarious travel on this spring morning here in Paris, but it is incredibly informative in its comparisons with Paris — the similarities and differences are cool to read about. I was impressed with the facts that there are a bounty of restrooms and there are no problems in using them and also this: “Distances on the map, which might look miniscule, can take an hour to trek across—I’m not kidding.” I have been kind of freaked out by the opposite in Paris — that the distances on maps of the city are mere meters, not kilometers. I bet that took some getting used to.

    I appreciate knowing the about the food in Berlin — the laugencroissant sounds really good. A pretzel-croissant, OMG. As if a pretzel or croissant alone is not great stuff, someone had to go and combine the two! They sound like they rock. (I went and checked out the prior posts you linked, too. I can see why you sought them out in Berlin!)

    I dunno, David: this post makes me feel like you could turn into the new Rick Steves or Anthony Bourdain! What with your fantastic photos and travel information — what would you call your travel show if you had one? ;-)

    Congrats on the awards on the book and I am off to vote now!

  • On a recent EasyJet trip, the French agent rejected my bag and wouldn’t even let me show that it fit in the sizer. I had to pay 22 euros on the spot to check it. On the other end, the Italian agent was all smiles and when I tried to check it, insisted that I could carry it on board. I guess the rules are open to interpretation.

  • david, I don’t speak german except these few words: “ohne ketchup, mit senf”. All you really need to know to order great sausage on the streets of german speaking cities ;)

  • I actually just visited (and blogged! :P) Berlin too, and had a similar feeling about the Holocaust Memorial (apart from the teenagers running through it shrieking and laughing… what the?!). Sadly I was recovering from a cold that wiped out my sense of taste and smell, so I had no laugencroissants :P Even my kasekuchen didn’t look (or I’m guessing taste) as awesome as yours!

    I do wish your trip had preceded mine though… you always give such amazing advice :)

    Lastly, I too loved exploring KaDeWe – and couldn’t help taking photos of the “American” aisle stuffed with pop tarts and microwave popcorn…

  • Fantastic post David! I visited Berlin for the first time about 10 days ago, and completely agree with everything you said. I was exhausted after trying to walk around the city on my first day; after that I bought the tageskarte and made use of all the public transport options.

    Your photos are so much better than mine! Love them!

    @Hannah – there were teenagers doing the same thing when I was in the Holocaust Memorial museum. Very frustrating!

  • Last summer I lived in Berlin for several weeks, and your assessment of Berlin is quite similar to how I felt about it. It is a city that doesn’t yet know where it’s going – but that makes it a place where you can find anything. The art and music scene is really fascinating and broad.

    If you make it back to Berlin someday, there’s a bakery down the street from Barcomi’s (I believe the name is Balzer’s, on Sophienstrasse) where the woman, who has owned the bakery for years, still makes handmade, fresh pastries every morning. She has the best fruit kuchen and mohnkuchen and kase pastries that I had anywhere in Berlin.

    And of course, after trying her pastries, I made a few of my own (and blogged them).

    Happy spring!

  • As a native Berliner, this was definitely fun to read for me. I’m sorry you didn’t love the currywurst, but let me give you this piece of advice: Don’t order a “naked” currywurst with mustard on it. They will likely not take kindly to that. Instead, go to “Bratpfanne” (Schloßstraße in Steglitz, U-Bahn Schloßstraße). They put a spicy tomato sauce on their wurst instead of ketchup. Much better.
    There’s also very good Middle Eastern food in Berlin. Try “Rissani” (U-Bahn Görlitzer Bahnhof). They’re cheap and authentic.

  • After living in Hamburg almost nine (nein, wirklich??) years, I am still bowled over by the bread and coffee. Unbelievable! I never drank coffee until I came here, and now I need two mugs every morning to get jump-started. And don’t get me started on the schinken… lecker schmecker!

  • I had no idea that Berlin was so diverse and had great food. I should have guessed because all of Europe has great food. The Bienestich looks really cool too.

  • Who needs Rick Steves when we have your blog?

  • Sounds like you had a real good time. I would love fresh pretzels and laugencroissants.
    And I just had lunch. (drats).

  • Hello David. I have been following your blog for quite a long time and have loved the posts talking about the quirks in life being an American abroad in Europe. I am living in Germany studying and working for the entire year, and I have definitely found some similarities. Your explanations of the German food are spot on – brown, dense, big – but incredibly fresh and delicious nonetheless.

    I had very similar views on Berlin (I am typing this from there now! It is my second time visiting here through my Praktikum\Internship) and the city is confusing, but also fascinating. Ugly and also beautiful. I am doing a shameless plug, but I captured some of my first impressions of bringing these observations on my blog. The coincidence that you were just there was great. I wish I could have read this post a few months ago for the advice! Now I have one day left to track down some of these places!

    Normally I am a blog lurker here, not commenting, but I really enjoyed this post so I thought I would say hello.

    Grüße aus Deutschland!
    Chris Crachiola
    http://www.ccdeutschland.blogspot.com

  • Julia: Thanks for the tip. Yes, I’m not a fan of all that ketchup, but next time, perhaps I’ll just go with a pile of those gorgeous grilled onions…if I can memorize that word, too!

    Katy: I always thought guidebooks had their place, although this morning (Thursday) I met a visiting friend at my market (the largest in Paris) and she said that she tried to go on Tuesday, but it was closed. She showed me the entry in her Lonely Planet guide, and sure enough, it wasn’t correct. I’m certain it was a typo or something, but the market dates don’t change in Paris and I was surprised they got that one so wrong.

    Linds: Next time I’ll stop in there. Berlin is a hard city to categorize and in my few days there (and in a few lines here), it’s impossible to get it all in. Am looking forward to going back in the summer, when I can explore more.

    Hannah & KT: I think because the memorial is interactive, kids naturally want to run around and ‘play’ with all the blocks and undulating surfaces. I might think that sometimes that’s what the artist intended: for these things to honor the dead, as well as be a place to celebrate the present.

    (I didn’t take any pictures in the KaDeWa, because I assumed, like in the department stores in France, it’s interdit to snap photos. But I was tempted to buy the Reese’s Pieces in the American aisle…in spite of all the other gorgeous stuff around!)

  • This post makes me want to hop on a jet to Berlin. Thanks for all the information and what great pictures. By the way, I think that you meant public places when discussing the restrooms.

  • As a native Berliner (from the former East) it’s so much fun, reading your post!

    I recognize most of the places from the pictures and would have loved to share a piece of kuchen at the sowohlalsauch – around the corner of Kollwitzstraße – with you.
    Berlin is always worth coming back and checking out new places. So many things change at such a fast speed.

    One word about the Holocaust Memorial: It was a huge controversy when it was built; how it was built and where. There was a discussion going on in the media on how people are supposed to behave. But at the same time Peter Eisenmann – the architect – made it clear, that it should become a part of Berlin without rules and regulations how to behave.

    Anyway, loved the typo about the rest rooms in “pubic spaces”… :)

    Yikes!…And that one wasn’t even intentional! Thanks for pointing it out…I don’t want to get in trouble : ) -dl

  • Maybe the best Berlin post in a Blog I have read.
    I am no done yet, too much to do this morning.

    I always was a Munich boy, having yet to venture to Berlin. Thanks for the images.

  • Hi David,

    I wish I had realized you were hitting the streets of Berlin earlier. As foodie, blogger and networker I would have loved to meet…

    Anyway, even though I don’t agree on your opinion on public restroom policy (I hate that often they charge you), I very much enjoyed reading your report.

    A couple ideas for a next visit could be:
    – ‘Goldhahn & Sampson’ in Berlin-Prenzlauer Berg, a lovely, cosy store with great food and spice selection plus hundreds of cook books and excellent cappuccino. There is a couch to relaxe on while browsing through cook book volumes.
    – ‘cucinotto’ in Berlin-Kreuzberg – a basement store for cooking supply
    – ‘Coledampfs’ in Berlin-Kreuzberg – yet another individual cooking supply store

  • David, you brought two things to my attention quickly. Bienenstich (Bee-sting cake) is the first item, for more than four years I’ve been trying to locate a “great not just decent’ recipe for this cake with little luck. I bought the huge Mimi Sheraton book on German-Jewish cooking just for the recipe she included, but it didn’t turn out as wonderful as the Bienenstich purchased at a small Vermont roadside deli-cum-gas station!

    Subsequent Google and Web searches brought little of interest and I even tried a query around Passover to Joan Nathan on the NY Times —getting little in a response there. I recall it as a tender yeast-based cake. As the dessert maven here do you have or know of a really, really great recipe? Maybe I should check your archives. Your picture shows a Bienenstich like the one I remember.

    Next, “kaiserschmarrn” that you reference as a puffy pancake. Any relationship to a Kaiserschmarrntorte (sic) by chance? It’s been years since I made one of those (thanks to a Jeremiah Tower recipe – he said it was his favorite cake, and I can understand why. It’s not the typical cake Though it does take time and effort to make one). Or is the dessert you had a totally different item?

    Laugencroissants sound fabulous. Must add it to my to eat list. KaDeWe is on my must do list. First heard about the place AFTER returning from a trip to Berlin years ago…when someone said, “of course, you got to KaDeWe?” NO! Now you tell me!

  • congratulations on all your travel writings, david
    i just came back from paris and used many of the tips you give us daily on your FB site – it made my trip very memorable, and my whole family was grateful

  • Wow, I’ve never been to Berlin, nor had much desire to go, but it sounds like a really dynamic city! Thanks for the tips!

  • Aaaah Deutschland, now I’m even more homesick. The Bienenstich and Brot!!! I wish I could go but Easy Jet does NOT fly from San Antonio,TX and prices are ridiculous.
    PS: Currywurst with mustard is verboten!

  • I never thought I would find a city to come even remotely close to Paris, until I went to Berlin. Twice within six months. I LOVE that city– brilliant coffee, cake, beer, mustard–and friendly, cool people. And Cafe Einstein? How I wish they delivered!

  • When we came to Paris last December for six months, we flew nonstop into Frankfurt because of the size of our dog (40 kilos) and the kindnesses of Lufthansa Airlines. (Long story). From the airport personnel to the hotel van driver who picked us up at the airport, avec chien, four suitcases and HUGE kennel, to the hotel personnel loving the Hund, strangers on the street directing us to a safe place to run a golden retriever, and the clerks at the rental car agency, the German people couldn’t have been more friendly. I wished we could stay for a while, and now this post makes me want to go visit. Plus I love those words strung together. How easy.

    We are Italy and France fanatics, loved a small trip to Andalucia last winter, and now must add Germany as well because of your post… Thank you, David! We will go home with many wonderful things to say about Europeans–including, by the way, many kindnesses shown to us by Parisiens. I could go on and on.

    If you’re talking about the Richard Lenoir market, which is two blocks up from us, I too read in a guide book that it was open on Tuesday. Some things you learn by doing, but that’s a shame, to miss something due to misinformation, if your time is limited.

  • David, Thank you for the post on Berlin. To date my only experience with Germany was the Frankfurt airport (which was full of cigarette smoke and soldiers) on a layover several years ago. I’ve never really been interested, but now after reading your experience I am intrigued. Thank you for opening my eyes. I love your blog!

  • I’ve never really considered visiting Berlin, and now I’d like to jump on a plane and go, if only for the KaDeWe food hall. Thanks for this vivid and enticing post!

  • I guess I would fly anywhere for a laugencroissant, but you are right: the Berlin hospitality is the best. Last time I was there a friend of a friend (who I had just met) insisted on packing a lunch for me to take on the train. Into a bag he placed a bottle of wine and some apples, and then he sliced open two pretzel rolls. Inside each roll he put a few handfuls of meat and a giant slab of butter. Wrapping it all up he said “we Germans use butter like a cheese.”

  • I would rather not take offense at those teenagers running through the Holocaust memorial. What it stands for must certainly be respected and remembered. But those kids have no idea. One day, they might learn about it. In the meantime, it is what it is, a visible part of Berlin’s cityscape, and thank goodness it is there.

  • Oohhh i miss Berlin and Germany, must go back to visit my family soon, cousins there waiting!

  • I love Berlin and love the foods, and agree with everything you said, especially:

    you have to learn more about senf (German mustard!)

    I can’t believe you didn’t return to Paris with a suitcase of senf, Moi fave is Handlmaiers, sweet and spicy, and I love the toothpaste-shaped tubes of mustard, so convenient for picnics.

    I love spicy German ketchup, but German mustard: on meats, breads, cheeses, for cooking is the best, hands down. btw you can buy several varieties in Paris, there’s a Bavarian deli in the Ternes marche. I lived in Paris 7 years, j’adore les moutards, but try the German mustards!

  • Thanks for another wonderful post, David. Very interesting, well written, and fantastic photos.

  • I’m surprised that you weren’t sure about Berlin being a possible gastroniomic destination. Paris’ gastronomy (aside from the fashon industry) is partly a reflection of the best of France as a whole, is it not? When I think of the renowned delicatesen foods in NYC (that I’ve only heard about as well), I think of all of Germany and the rest of the old Eastern Bloc countries. Berlin would be a natural destination for many that would visit Germany on those whirlwind tours that the travel industy arranges for tourists. I think they would expect to find the finest of the countries foods showcased by many speciality shops there . The cured meats and sausages, cheeses, breads and pastries I’ve sampled are memorable and I’ve sampled many of those foods where I grew up very near DC. My father was very partial to them, probably from his war experiences, and knew the best places to get them, but I imagine those probably paled incomparison. (but then I have to imagine a lot, never having visited!) I guess my upbringing has always made me curious to visit that part of Europe for the food as well as the history.

  • David, I’ve never commented on your blog before, but this post made me want to head immediately to the airport. I spent a summer in Berlin when I was in college, and I absolutely fell in love with the city. Thanks so much for your post — it reminded me of all the wonderful things I love about Berlin.

  • Wonderful post! I’ve never had the urge to go to Germany, but now I’m not so sure. . . That cheesecake is the tastiest looking thing I’ve ever seen–except maybe the laugencroissant.

  • What a fabulously detailed and expressive review of Berlin! My sister has always raved about it but I’ve never been: now I’ll have a foodie’s abridged guidebook to take with me if I ever do!

    I also enjoyed your description of the German language as being part of their famed efficiency…I always found it a maddening mouthful when I learned it growing up.

    I love the idea of this kind of city review…I should do this more often when I travel!

  • Hey David – beautiful post on Berlin!
    just my two (german) cents…A REAL currywurst cannot be had without the ketchup – it’s kinda part of the deal!
    If you do not like the ketchup just go for a regular Bratwurst with Senf – really good stuff too ;)
    And just to mention – there is a small typo here… It’s Rogacki not Rognacki – and that store I love even more than the KaDeWe. Truly the best produce and well chosen too without being completely overwhelming.
    But all in all I am just happy to see you had fun. Keep up the great blog (…and try to visit the Winterfeldmarkt next time… ;) )

    Greetings from Berlin will have a beer on you in the Schleusenkrug sometime!

  • Thanks David — great post about a city I had never even considered visiting, but will now! Also voted for your book on the IACP website.

  • It’s funny, because just yesterday my classmates came back from end-of-year trip, which this time was to Berlin. I didn’t go because it was too expensive, not because I didn’t want. Actually, I am dying to visit it, and I’ve bookmarked your post in case I can finally do it.

    For the moment, I should be satisfied with Barcelona (which is not a bad option either)

  • Great review of Berlin and its cuisine (somehow I missed the Laugencroissants when I was there!). But I’m surprised you didn’t mention the prominent Turkish influence, as seen by the many doner kebab places scattered throughout the city. On practically every street corner, it seems, you can see a giant slab of meat rotating languidly near the window of one of these shops. They’re almost as emblematic to Berlin as the radio tower or the bombed-out church.

  • I think this is officially my favorite post you’ve ever done. :-) Germany is dear to my heart and I travel there as often as I can. You’ve done a brilliant job capturing Berlin and your photos are fantastic. :-) Thank you for this wonderful vicarious journey. :-)

  • Thank you, David! As I’m German I was very interested in your blog about Berlin and you described everything very well, fantastic! Concerning the “Laugencroissant”: I learned pastry cook about 20 years ago and at that time no one in Germany ever thought of “Laugencroissants”. But a few years later a clever fellow has invented the Laugencroissant and now you can get it in almost every bakery.

    Concerning the “Currywurst”: Currywurst is always with ketchup. If you want a sausage with mustard please order a “Bratwurst” with “Senf” (mustard). Then you will get the same sausage as used for the Currywurst but without the Ketchup.

    Best wishes
    Sigrid

  • I also want to add, for anyone who plans to traveling there, that Berlin can be tricky for vegetarians or those who are health-conscious. The German diet is rather carb- and meat-heavy, and it’s hard to find a restaurant where you can just sit down and have a nice salad. My girlfriend and I don’t eat meat but we occasionally have fish, so we were able to get by ordering smoked salmon tossed with pasta in a light cream sauce (this seemed to be a standard menu item at many restaurants). It was a lot heavier than anything we’d eat at home, but we’d split an order and all that walking helped burn it off. We also had falafel quite a few times at the aforementioned kebab places. And although we got strange looks from the hotel staff the first time we asked for meatless breakfasts (which would normally be a roll with butter, accompanied by cheese, sliced deli meats, and if you’re lucky some canned fruit on the side), they were great about remembering to omit the meat the rest of the time we were there.

  • Wow. So much better than a guide book. I never would have thought I would want to visit Berlin. But now? All I can think about is how soon I can get my passport (oh and funding) so I can go.

  • You have such a talent with words! This post was fantastic and like taking a vacation to Berlin on a Thursday afternoon :) My mom is German, but I’ve never been to Germany and would like to some day. BTW, PBS was airing “Gourmet’s Diary of a Foodie” last Saturday and I was surprised to see you :) It must be an old episode since the layout of your blog has changed since, but I was excited to see you and had my husband race in to catch that part of the episode.

  • Hi! I’m @heyessa on Twitter. I am so glad to read you did make it to Konnopke’s, truly a Berlin institution. And KaDeWe is something else, isn’t it? Thank you for this brilliant write-up. It sums up everything I want my friends to know about this city I now call home. Ich hoffe, dass Sie uns wieder besuchen werden!

  • David,

    for a different type of cheesecake, I recommend the “gâteau au fromage blanc” from Finkelsztajn in Le Marais. I still dream about it.
    And, IMHO, Berlin is the best place in Germany for food. Thanks for the post!

  • Hi David, I’m such a huge fan of your blog and when I read that you’d visited my city, I felt so excited. You’ve put your finger on it that Berlin is a hard city to categorise but feel you still really captured the things that make it so special for me. Like you, I adored the cheesecake from Barcomi’s and just bought her latest book to brush up my kitchen skills. KaDeWe is one of my staples for ingredients and I find it hard to resist LeNôtre cakes. Perhaps Currywurst is an acquired taste; I love it at Currywurst 36 in Kreuzberg on a Friday night (the place is always packed day or night), although right next to it is a stand for vegetable kebabs called Mustafa’s which I also can’t resist. Come back soon!

  • David, like one of your other followers said, “you’re so much better than a guidebook!” Am I ever in agreement and now can’t wait to visit Berlin – not that I was ever opposed to the idea – but now I may just change it’s position in the queue of “places to go while living abroad.” And loved that you covered a lot of cafe/coffee culture – one my favourite things about a new city that I enjoy exploring further.

    Thanks for the wonderful Berlin review!

  • When I read “Don’t cross the street unless the crosswalk light is green (you’ll likely get a scolding),” I was immediately reminded of a trip to Vienna last year. The Viennese are the same way, standing at attention (even on deserted street corners at 2am) until the little man turns green, while in Paris the walk/don’t walk signs are almost completely ignored. In Vienna I contemplated my own mortality; in Paris I feel alive.

    Berlin is my oldest daughter’s favorite city, although I’ve not yet had the opportunity to go. As always, your writing makes me feel as if I were there.

  • As usual, very lovely pics. Berlin was already on my to-go list, but now I want to go even more, just for the department store food halls!

  • Great post- I was born in Bad Tolz when my father was stationed in Germany. Moved back to the States when I was two years old. My mother had a German nanny who spoke to me in German when I was a little shit. So when I hear German, even though I can’t speak it, I can understand it, well most of it. An imprint of sorts in my memory.

    A few years ago I had the chance to revisit Germany. Stopped in Cologne, and had the most magnificent pretzel one can imagine. It was huge. Took me a few hours to complete the consumption. I want to go back, and will, preferably in Oktober, and you know what that implies…..

    Thanks David.

  • Moi: Because I was only traveling with a carry on (or so I thought!) I couldn’t bring back anything like mustard. But I do like that bakery/take-out near the place de Ternes.

    Tupper Cooks: That’s such a gift that parent can give their children: to have them learn a language when they’re very young, when it’s easy.

    Will: I was stopped twice recently by the police in Paris, for going through a red light very late at night on my bike. The streets were completely deserted, but I’ve learned my lesson. And both times, talked myself out of a pretty expensive ticket…

    Vanessa: Thanks for your tip! Much appreciated ❤

  • david
    i just love your photos…like a mini road trip for me w/ snacks.

  • David,

    The reason you can’t get a currywurst without ketchup at a currywurst place is that oftentimes, the curry is in the catsup itself, not sprinkled on before the ketchup is added. If you go into a German grocery store, you’ll find “curryketchup/ currycatsup.” At least you could 30 years ago. And, as I remember, it was branded either Heinz or Hunt’s.

    Good post, Berlin’s a great city.

  • Currywurst! Laugen-anything! Bienenstich! My goodness, I’m having heart palpitations. I can’t believe you hit on so many of the things that make Germany feel so good.

    Maybe Currywurst and Laugenbretzeln or Laugencroissants are pretty mainstream, but I, like Marlene, discovered Bienenstich several years ago and spent a long time seeking out a recipe. Not enough people know about this, so thanks for spreading the word.

    I’d give anything to be standing in a German bakery picking out a dozen rolls right now. Anything.

  • I never had a desire to go to Berlin – until I read this. Now I’m starving and looking up airfares to Berlin.

    Danke, David. Danke.

  • Thank you for a great article on Berlin. We were there in 2006, but did not have the pleasure of experiencing laugencroissant – how did we miss that? Oh well, I guess we will just have to go back!

  • I have never been to Berlin, but I have been to the City Bakery in NYC where I daresay they have a pretty great pretzel croissant. Try it when you’re in town…you’ll be happy.

  • Nooooooo…David outed my favorite city in the world :) As a New Yorker, I found my true home in Berlin. That’s all I have to say… I used to go on and on about how much I love Berlin, but now that I’m older I prefer to keep it to myself :P

  • I also enjoyed reading your views on Berlin.Seemed so odd to see someone put to paper, what I had felt so many years ago when I moved to Berlin. I am Scottish and moved to Berlin in 85, and even then it was a relaxed place! The food has just gotten better over the years.

    I am so glad you enjoyed the trip,just a pity you did not have time to visit the lakes and forests, which are not far from the city. This is my first time writing to a blog! So you must have impressed me, and many others. Spring, summer and autumn are the best times here, so hope everyone who visits enjoys their stay here.

  • As always, this post was a delight to read.

    And apropos as well, as I’m currently floating the idea of moving to Berlin (from San Francisco). It’s mostly whimsy, but a small part of me believes it could really happen.

  • Great post on Berlin. Going to keep it for reference! We have been going for 10 years for the opera and finding the other treasures you mentioned mainly by chance. The KaDEWE is a dream on the food floor—love all the different kiosks for champagne “break” too. Go to the fish area and sit at the jolly counter for a lunch of freshly grilled whatever you choose. You pick the fish and then watch while they cook it for you. Must admit you have found more places to go than we ever had time to do. So, now we must get back for another visit soon. And you are SO right about the coffee. Nothing like a milchkaffee in the morning. If possible stay one night at least at the Adlon. Great place, great history.

  • Glad you had a good time in Berlin. it really is a place to see more than once. i love this post, you nailed the feel of the city nicely. Too bad isn’t Veld (the chocolate shop on Helmholtzplatz) closed recently. That was always worth a visit, they had such a wide array of good chocolates from around the world.

    Take a bike next time you go, it’s fun in Berlin and if you ever, for some reason, happen to wind up in Munich and need a guide… ;-)

  • I can remember 2 times in my life where I truly wanted to die or was ready to pass on to the other side- one of these times was when I was in Berlin, no joke.

    David, you are SO right about the size of the city. I planned a one day backpacking trip, deceived by those city maps, thinking how wonderful that all the attractions were close to one another. At the end of the day and having walked about 25 miles without planning on it, I was at the Pergamon museum, ready to make Pergamon altar my final resting place. It is so funny looking back at the photos, my eyes rolling back with a definite loose look at the mouth……..

    Yup, Berlin is NOT a small city. o_0

  • You are a treasure. Thank you for posting this just as we are planning a trip to Berlin in August or September. As we can drive there in about 6 hours, we will hitch on our bikes, just as we do when we travel anywhere local. I can’t wait to bike around the city making frequent laugencroissant stops.

    Not to be too optimistic, we’ll remember to bring raingear …

  • What a wonderful portrait of the New York of Europe, that tremendous melting pot that is today´s Berlin. You will find more Russians here than anywhere outside of Russia and if you speak German you will find them a pretty wonderful bunch.
    The most extraordinary memorial of the Soviet era is that palace of kitsch that is the
    embassy still in use near the Brandenburger Tor on Unter den Linden, makes you think of Las Vegas every time you pass by (and that is nothing compared to the inside!)
    The Galeria on the Alexanderplatz is actually the legendary Kaufhof (please use that name) now very much remodeled but still remembered as the former shop window of communist East Germany which in turn collapsed with the coming down of the Wall in l989. The former East Berliners (the Ossies) love to congregate on the fifth floor cafeteria with kaffee and huge pieces of cake, easily recognised actually but I will not reveal how. The less crowded wonderfully sumptious food department of the Kaufhof is these days also a better choice than the rather chaotic one of the KaDeWe.
    I see no mention of that grand German speciality,the EISBEIN served with utterly delicious sauerkraut (“choucroute”).
    As for the enormous display of all kinds of fine German food in Berlin as all over Germany, I believe it is with Germany as with France: food is about more than food, it is about conquering one´s identity after years of endless horrors.

  • My beautiful and artistic sister just came back from living in Berlin for 6 months. She absolutely loved it. It’s supposed to be uber cool. I went on a work trip last year but really just saw the inside of a hotel room and the conference centre, so I don’t think I’m a good judge of what it has to offer. I’d love to go back and explore after reading this.

  • hi david,

    i loved reading about your berlin trip. since i live in berlin myself i like hearing what people think about it, and it’s even more interesting to hear what you think about it. ;)
    i just wished i came across you the other day when you ordered your currywurst at konnopke’s, as i live close by.
    glad you liked the laugencroissants!

    ps: as far as i know, currywurst always comes with a ketchupy sauce, not senf. otherwise you have to order a bratwurst. ;)

  • Nice read. I’ll take your words for that croissant, and the gorgeous currywurst. German language comes in mouthfuls. I doubt I’ll be able to get through to them.

  • I love Germany, the food there is wonderful. I didn’t see those currywurst places when I was in Munich, I wished that I did. I love the bread and beer there. I love the fact you can start drinking at lunch. It is unfortunate that you can do that here in the tastes. It is a shame that fast food in the US isn’t like fast food in Europe. We would be all happier people if our fast food was that delicious here.

  • Wow! Just reading all the comments is amazing. There’s someone in there born in Bad Tölz. My dad was stationed there and I spent ten years there myself. And then the Hendlmaier Senf! That, I think, is also Bavarian and a must when you have a Weisswurst there (here).
    And yes, the Holocaust memorial. Big controversy with all the kids jumping around on it. Started some discussions here.
    It really is amazing how you write about a place and give so many people a warm feeling. It is the next best thing to being there.
    Thanks, David!

  • Ah David you make one long to go to Berlin this very minute. Seems you never took the bus, a very well run wonder not to be missed.
    And as for the Konditorei – the patisserie – one does note that great wall of whipped cream covering every HUGE piece of cake.
    The whipped cream on all patisseries is prevalent in the Germanspeaking part of Europe including Scandinavia, indeed even exists in the States – however true the cream has evolved into icing. But the look of the finished cake is the same.
    Why all the whipped cream?
    Why this tradition. Does not exist in France.

  • Going to the food hall in KaDeWe was one of my Berlin trip highlights. That place is just amazing, I could have easily spent a few hours there.

  • Really surprised you have never made it to Berlin before as you are so close and it is such an AMAZING city. I dragged my husband there two summers ago, and now all he does is talk about going back. We both were completely enamoured with this city.
    Reading your post was a great revisiting of my own experience in many ways.
    Thanks!
    :)
    Valerie

  • Laugencroissant! When I was 19, I was an intern at the German Bundestag and overwhelmed by the city. I guess that’s what happens if you grow up in a village in the Bavarian Alps, but ok, that’s a different story.

    Every morning I walked from Bahnhof Friedrichstrasse to Bundestag and on the way, I have a warm Laugencroissant from Dütsch, a bakery chain that actually has pretty decent Laugenproducts. Lots of memories have come up reading your post.

    If you liked Berlin, you should really go to Prague and Budapest!

  • Berlin has much to offer, but culinary delights are not really part of it. Enough said about the currywurst/ketchup-combo. (In fact, that’s german currywurst. Because Germans love to put sauce on anything …) In Austria we say, if you want to have a decent meal in Berlin, you better go look for an Italian restaurant. Or a foreign chef. And I, for as long as I was living there, unfortunately have to admit, that’s true.
    I am surprised you liked the coffee, because it has not the best reputation (drip coffee…).
    I am not saying you can’t find good food in Berlin, it’s just that very often you have to pay a high price for it. And what is offered at normal supermarkets, bakeries and restaurants is by far below the quality-standard in Paris.
    But glad you found some places you liked!!

  • I don’t know , David, who asked you (and why) how do you feel about going to Berlin, but I guess- according to what you wrote that you answered him – that this was not what he meant by his question. It’s maybe not a subject to discuss on a food-blog, – and I loved Berlin too, very much- but how did you FEEL walking in the streets of Berlin? Do you really understand Germany better now? “Severe food shortage’, “ethnic cleaning”, ,”countries occupied” “forced from their homes and business”, “other atrocities”? That’s it?
    By the way, did you visit Wannsee?
    Sorry, but I really don’t like currywurst. I prefer the schnitzel.
    Simona
    PS: Kaisershmarren is an national Austrian dish, named in honor of Emperor Franz-Joseph

  • You made me so nostalgic for Germany! Never made it to Berlin, however. But the bee sting cake….lovely!!! I love German desserts! We lived in French part of Belgium, so i never mastered any German, but NEVER had a so, so meal there….Berlin sounds not unlike Frankfurt, or even Munich…although, I’m sure a bit more cosmopolitan….

    BTW…just finished The Sweet Life in Paris and could soooo relate to your observations….living near France and visiting Paris as much as possible….I miss it so much….yet some of the idiosyncrasies are hilarious….
    Thank you for such an entertaining and delicious book and blog.

    Au Revoir & Auf weidersehen

  • You got my vote!
    I loved your book, and I love your blog. I read every post. You are a total inspiration. I can’t thank you enough for all you give all the time. I enjoy your writing and insights immensely. Thank you David!

  • Thank you for this lovely post about Berlin! You just bumped this city from third place to first on my list of next-to-visit. Your dialogue and photos are FABULOUS!

  • My husband and I really love cooking together. We have come up with the best marinades and all kind of things we would really love to share all of this goodness with everyone, but i don’t know the first step about making a book of it to give this special divinest to all of the other earthlings out there. ;0) first time putting any of my emotions out there about anything, to all who may or may not have every been in this state of mind.
    Thank you for reading or not
    Patricia (Trish) Haputa

  • David,
    I had the best trip down memory lane reading your latest entry on Berlin. I lived in Germany (Detmold) for a year as a Rotary Scholar. Kaiserschmarrn and the coffee are two of my favorites, as were the Turkish Doner Kebabs, which someone else already mentioned. I always found myself ordering things “ohne” – especially my fries since I don’t like them smothered in mayonnaise. You have such a gift for writing and I just wanted to say thanks for prompting such fun memories!

  • Hi David,

    Thank you for writing such a beautiful and delicious article on Berlin. It is one of the my most favourite cities in the world. Have been there 4 times and would like to gg back more often , though it’s a long flight from Singapore. What you written effectively captured the essence of Berlin and makes my heart pine for it. M glad that you enjoyed Berlin:) Thank you.

    Erica

  • I have found something amazing for you to do from now on, write books about all the good to eat and see in all those European places around Paris… Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Geneve, Brussels, Stockholm, Oslo, Lisbon and the sky is the limit… You have the guts, the public and the perfect suitcase…

  • Stephanie: Currywurst, I think, is something specific to Berlin. Don’t know if they have it in Munich, but if they do, I don’t think it’s celebrated with the same veracity as in Berlin.

    Claudia: Yes, all I need are the funds to do it all ~ €€

    Jane & Susan: Glad you liked the book, and thanks for your vote! : D

    Karen: I was told the Turkish food was wonderful in Berlin. I did have one ‘doner kabab’ that wasn’t spectacular, but I know there are places that are likely better than the stand I hit.

    alvarosa: The coffee in Berlin was spectacular. I mostly drank the espresso, which was made with top-quality coffee, the machines were flushed between coffees, and each one was far better than what one normally gets in Paris (which is surprising, but true). The shops that sell coffee really spend the time to make it right, and seem to be proud of their ability to make the coffee well, too.

  • Halo David,
    Wow, I loved Germany while I lived in the Army for 3 years and of course because I was born there too. Currywurst with ketchup is the only way to enjoy it, kein senf bitte!
    Love all your bread porn, isn’t German bread fabulous?! Germans do make great food, if you ever go to a town in the south called Wangen, you should try a place called Fidelisback, it’s a bakery that has the best Pork Laeberkase I ever tasted, with a basket full of delicious breads and a Mass of bier, your in heaven!
    Thanks for the trip down memory lane, even though I wasn’t allowed to visit Berlin because of my lousy soldiering, the rest of Germany was still my playground..

    Tchüß!
    Jeremy

  • I loved this! I love it when people draw attention to this amazing city – I think it gets overlooked on people’s trips to Europe but i have yet to meet a tourist who didn’t absolutely fall in love with it. Its a powerful place to visit. I have almost lived her 2 years now and I just can’t imagine leaving (and don’t worry – i have been trying to learn the language that long and haven’t really gotten anywhere. German is hard!)

    The bakeries are for sure the highlight too – in addition to the Cheesecake you have to try all the different types of Quark pastries. Just south of Berlin is also famous for its Pickles (Spreewalder pickles – as the area is called the Spreewald). If you visit in the summer you can’t miss getting some fresh Senf Gurken.

    You just missed Asparagus season as well – this area is famous for its Beelitzer Spargel (aspragus from Beelitz – a village just outside the city). I am greatly anticipating seeing it show up at the farmers market in the coming weeks!

    Oh – and I have a laugencroissant every.single.morning. I might have to venture out of my house right now and go get one. So good.

  • You can get currywurst everywhere in Germany but nowhere here it is celebrated as much as in Berlin!

    In Munich you can get the best Laugenbrezeln ever, in Frankfurt you can get amazing “Frankfurter Wurst”, “Apfelwein” and “Handkäs mit Musik”, Hamburg is the only place to get really amazing “Franzbrötchen” (the best butter-cinnamon rolls you can get) and “Labskaus” and in Lübeck you can get the best marzipan (Niederegger)… Germany is full of local specialities that taste best where the come from!

  • oh, what a wonderful trip! I am going to Berlin in September. I have not been there since the summer following the fall of the Berlin Wall. It was before reunification, but the borders had been opened. An amazing time to be there and I am anxious to see how things have changed and what remains from my memories. Thanks for some great ideas to start with.

  • Great article, I’ve lived in Berlin for the past year and a half now, and felt so proud to read your words, hehe… even though I’m Spanish myself! But what a great city… it’s nice to know you came and liked it that much.

  • Hey David,

    while you’ve been exploring my beloved hometown Berlin, I’ve been just a few days in Paris. So I finally understand why I couldn’t meet you at one of Paris’ culinary hotspots then ;D . Before we went there I’ve been rummaging through your website to find the best hints concerning where to get the most delicious treats – and we just found it at L’as du falaffel, Laduree (these Macaroons are to die for – INCREDIBLE!!), Gerard Mulot and all Boulangeries…Mmhhhh!!! I actually love the german baked goods as well, but the parisienne Cakes are just out of space.
    I definitely fell in love with this beautiful town – won’t be our last trip for sure.

    Solveig from Berlin

  • I used to live around the corner from Barcomi’s. It’s ridiculous that one can squeeze so much great taste into such a tiny cafe. I miss their luscious, dense espresso cheese cake and their date-and-walnut muffins, even though, in reality, the climb up the stairs back to the sixth-floor loft probably didn’t make up for the calories consumed.

    Pretzel croissants have recently started showing up at the Berkeley farmers’ market on Saturdays. Clearly, a comparative long-term study is called for.

  • Oh wow, looks like you had an amazing trip! So jealous!

    “I don’t know if Germany is a destination where people venture in search of gastronomic treasures,”

    It definitely is for me! (My partner is German and I love all the German homestyle cooking – wurst, sauerkraut, linsensuppe, bratwurst, kartoffelbrei, bratkartoffel……… plus their incredible sausages, hams and breads!!!!!!!!!! Yum yum).

    xox Sarah

  • I loved this post, you did a perfect job of describing all the wonderful tastes and sites of Berlin. I’ve been there a few times and relish the beauty of this city in transformation. Thanks for sharing!

  • I went to Berlin about 18 months ago, not really knowing what to see or do. It was just so huge. I want to go back now, armed with all the wisdom of retrospect. Thanks for this post, which brought back memories AND added some things to my list for next time. I commend you on finding some delicious-looking treats among the multitude of Käsebrötchen and Kaffee!

  • Pity you missed the Rote Grutze and Berliner Weisse! perhaps next time…

  • Bookmarked. :)

    I was born in Berlin and lived there for about four years but barely remember anything. I really want to go back at some point and this post will be tremendously helpful. Beautiful photos by the way!