Monday, 4 May 2015

Germany – Sweet, sour and stomach-enlarging

May 1-3

Berlin, Germany’s capital city, is not simply about history. It is a place where you can have many fantastic, and unfortunately some less so, experiences. Last time I was here, four years ago, the central reason was to sample Berlin’s nightlife. This tour has been more gastronomic in nature.

Our authentic Berlin meal came about during a conversation with two friends living in Prague, Suzanne and Andy, who lived in Berlin before moving to the Czech Republic. They were also spending their long weekend in the city and were planning on meeting up with friends at a local German restaurant they used to frequent when living there. An invitation was sent our way and, very soon after our epically long walking tour, we found ourselves in a south-western suburb of the capital, outside a simple-looking restaurant.

Inside was a busy old lady reminiscent of Peggy Mitchell from Eastenders, chequered tablecloths and beer. Lots of beer, served in stone steins. Exactly what was required after a long slog around some of Berlin’s monuments.

The reason this place was chosen was because of its haxe. Rather than describe it, I’ll let you observe the picture below, though I’m sure it won’t do justice to quite how massive the pig knuckle was. Delicious and unfinishable, even for me. Those who know me will now be aware of how big it must have been.

Needless to say, breakfast the following day was eaten simply because it was included in the price, and very little of it was touched. It was breakfast on the following day, however, when our sour experience of Berlin occurred.

The previous blog is a more detailed description from one of Hannah’s sisters of what happened. The very short tale is that we were asked on the U-bahn to produce our tickets. We did this, only to be told that our tickets were invalid as they had ran out at 3am the previous night. This didn’t tally with what we had been told we’d bought, which was a 48-hour pass known as a ‘Welcome Card’.

A heated argument ensued in which police were called to mediate, but the ticket checkers (who were very rude and aggressive) refused to back down. Eventually, to avoid the prospect of being arrested, we had to pay an extortionate fine: €240. What really got us was the fact that it was obvious that we weren’t trying to cheat the system, yet were being belligerently told otherwise. The fact that the very same problem happened to three young Italians on the very next train we boarded suggested something murky about the system to us.

Most of the Woodhead family left shortly after this happened, making their final experience of Berlin a very negative one. Thankfully for us, our final adventure was very rewarding. Our walking tour guide had said there was an event in a suburban park every Sunday where Thai immigrants would take their native foodstuffs and cook it for each man and his dog to buy. A bit of research located the park for us.

The tastes were certainly authentic. From the heat of lemongrass in a fish soup to the searing spice of the chillies you could add to your fried noodles, this was Thai street food at its finest, gently concocted with the care a family member would take when cooking for their family.

I guess the advice we would have for anyone visiting Berlin is this: check your transport ticket very carefully before buying it to ensure you’re getting what you asked for, and then use that ticket to whisk yourself off to Preussenpark on a Sunday to enjoy some brilliant, not-so-local food. If you’ve left enough room in your stomach after sampling Berlin’s native delights…

Love you all


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