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The Barn is a bucolic coffee bar in the Mitte district that boasts top-quality coffee (from Copenhagen's famed fair-trade Coffee Collective) and a local-food ethos, inspired largely by the owner's formative years in rural Germany and his mother's penchant for baking. Ornamented with rustic touches, like bales of hay, knotty wood benches and tables, and a large chalkboard menu, the cafe has cultivated a large bean since it opened two years ago and shows no signs of slowing. I'd make the trip to Berlin just for a cappuccino and a scone.
Every Sunday in Berlin the world of kitschy fleamarket finds and cool hipster crowds meet at Mauerpark Market in Berlin. The market is full of antiques and dusty relics but also mixed with stalls of young designers selling inventive new fashions designs one would find in hip boutiques. If you are in the mood to shop - be prepared to spend an afternoon wandering around the endless rows of stalls searching through piles of flea market treasures. But just when you think you are ready to drop - you can get an energy boost from one of the many food/drink stands intermixed between the stalls. You'll find Turkish delights such as pide (Turkish pizza) or lahmacun to brautwurst, as well as cafes, bars, and organic juice stalls. Mauerpark is not just a place to find unique souvenirs and hot new designers, it is simply a place to people watch and get in touch with the vibe of Berliners. Over 30,000 people visit the market each Sunday which runs throughout the year. And since it's held in a park, there is ample room to get away from the crowds and go enjoy some green space. You'll probably even be entertained by a few tunes as locals bands come to play in the park periodically. More Information: Mauerpark Market Bernauer Straße 63-64 Berlin-Mitte Telephone: 0176 29 25 00 21 www.mauerparkmarkt.de Every Sunday 08:00 – 18:00h How to get there: U2 stop: Eberswalder Straße U8 stop: Bernauer Straße Tram M10 stop :Wolliner Straße
Each fall, crowds of partygoers at Munich’s Oktoberfest lift steins of golden beer skyward and bellow “Prosit!” The German holiday began more than 200 years ago at the marriage celebration of Bavarian Crown Prince Louis and Princess Therese. Many of the locally brewed beers served at today’s festivities are also rooted in history. Lagers such as Hacker-Pschorr’s Oktoberfest Märzen adhere to traditional Bavarian purity laws that allow only water, barley, yeast, and hops. Revelers fortify themselves with grilled bratwurst, salt-dusted pretzels, and roast chicken while they watch men dressed in lederhosen (leather shorts) twirl ladies to the oompah of brass bands. The holiday has become wildly popular outside Germany, but the largest celebration, which attracted more than 5 million attendees in 2011, still occurs on the original wedding fields in Munich, in late September and early October. Photo by Relaximages/Corbis. This appeared in the October 2012 issue.
Munich in winter has it all: Christmas markets (the largest and most famous is in Marienplatz) redolent with roasting chestnuts and mulled wine; historic baroque architecture topped with fluffy white snow; and easy access to the best ski slopes in Germany. But don’t let all the nutcrackers and beer-drinking men in lederhosen fool you. Underneath this traditional holiday-time facade you can also find cutting-edge design and a spirit of humorous irreverence. This appeared in the November/December 2011 issue. Photo by C Reiter.
There’s no better way to experience the festivities of the holidays than Christmas markets (Weihnachtsmarkt) in Germany, and Frankfurt's is particularly beautiful. The markets take place usually in the center of the town, and you'll find all manner of stalls selling a wide array of crafts and tasty regional delicacies, sweets, cakes, food, mulled wine (Glühwein) and other delights. Especially, if/when there’s snow, the atmosphere is absolutely magical. Almost every city, town, and village in Germany has its own Christmas market, and deciding on which one to attend is not easy, as each of them are unique and reflect local & regional culture.
Freshly cut flowers, rustic wood tables, and an artsy crowd pepper this Mitte standout where ingredients are natural and sourced, as you might have guessed, locally. The menu changes almost weekly and features variations of simple dishes like quiches and salads for lunch and a more meat and fish focused selection for dinner. I recommend going midday for the gorgeous natural light that beams through the tall windows lining the dining room.
It’s like a typical southern European market, with shouting and chaos—not very German. Maybachufer between Kottbusser Damm and Friedelstrasse, Tuesdays and Fridays, 11 a.m.–6:30 p.m. This story appeared in the July/August 2010 issue. Photo by Achim Hatzius. See all of Philippe Werhahn’s favorite places in the Neukölln neighborhood of Berlin.
If you've ever seen a piece of jewelry set with lapis lazuli, then you know the shade I'm talking about—a deep, rich blue like a Van Gogh painting or expensive silk. Now imagine an entire city entrance that color, and you've got the Ishtar Gate, one of the gates of the ancient city of Babylon. But this is in Berlin. The structure was built around 575 B.C. during the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar II. The Ishtar Gate was the main entrance of Babylon's eight city gates, and stands almost 50 feet tall. After a period of German excavation in the early 20th century, a replica of the gate was built using original material brought back from modern-day Iraq. The Ishtar Gate is just one of the amazing pieces in the collections of the Pergamon Museum, Berlin's most-visited museum. The other exhibits—divided into three categories: the Antiquity Collection, the Islamic Art Museum, and the Middle East Museum—are equally as mind-blowing. If you've got a hankering to see an enormous sculptural frieze depicting an epic battle between the Greek gods and the giants, then this is also the first stop you need to make on Museum Island. Walking through the gate, you can't help but imagine all the people—not just museum visitors, but men and women through the millennia—who have done the same. Babylon is one of those ancient sites that you know once existed, but it has descended more into mythology that history. But in the Pergamon Museum there is a real, tangible part of it.
A vast majority of Berliners will gladly stop for a good old currywurst on their way back home from a festive evening at the pub. The history of this mouthwatering dish goes back to the 1950s when a German woman was given ketchup, curry powder, and Worcestershire sauce from British soldiers. She mixed these ingredients into a delicious sauce that she poured over pork sausages. She started selling them to construction workers in Charlottenburg who were then working long hours to rebuild this devastated part of Berlin. Nowadays, an estimated 800 million servings are sold all over Germany every year. My favorite joint in Berlin is in the heart of Prenzlauer Berg, the perfect place to stop for a heartwarming meal and some good people watching from the window seats.
Viktoriapark in Kreuzberg is a great gem of a park hidden in Berlin. The park is located on a small hill and is easy to get to with public transporation. There's a beer garden at the top of the hill with great views of the city. The western side of the hill is popular with sunbathers and there's even a small oasis in the center—a waterfall and stream where you can go to cool off.
In Berlin’s Kreuzberg district, here you’ll find racks constantly restocked with coveted labels (Wood Wood, Acne, Kenzo, Opening Ceremony) and supersmall brands such as Stutterheim, a Swedish design house that handsews raincoats. In addition you can enjoy coffee from Voo’s in-store Companion Coffee Showroom, serving specialty coffee and tea and limited baked goods. The store also hosts exhibits, readings, and concerts. This appeared in the August/September 2013 issue. Image: Kalle Koponen
A design nerd like me had to visit this famous experimental arts and crafts school that flourished in the 1930s. The school has since been converted into a museum that displays modernist examples of art, graphic design, and furniture from the movement.
Perhaps Berlin's greatest gourmet coffee shop, the Barn has faced a wave of controversy surrounding its second location, which opened in the Prenzlauer Berg neighborhood last September. At this larger space, meant to serve more as a tasting lab and roasting home than an extension of the intimate first venture, dogs, laptops and strollers, among other things, are not welcome. You can also forget about sugar or anything other than whole milk for your coffee. On a recent visit, the only background noise came from the winter wind slamming against the front windows—no music, just the sound of the next customer's brew coming to life. Ralf Rüller, the owner, considers himself a purist and sought to create an environment as free from distraction as possible; to allow coffee aficionados the kind of transcendental experience their beans and roasting deserves. As he explained in an interview with The Guardian: "The only way for me to survive as a small entrepreneur against big coffee chains, whose margins are much higher, is to narrow what we do and do it better." His approach, albeit contested by local families, has proven successful, and the offering that made the Barn so beloved remains as delicious as ever. The roastery is a shrine for serious coffee drinkers and a welcoming hangout for those willing to part with their digital appendages/boisterous children/over-excited pets for a moment of caffeinated calm.
Even fun has a shelf life. This is what runs through my mind as I walk around Spreepark, the abandoned, dilapidated amusement park in Berlin. When East Germany and the GDR fell, so did many of the businesses operating under the rules of communism. They were never really able to make the transition to capitalism successfully. Spreepark, located in the East German part of Berlin, was one such casualty. Even though Spreepark is "dead," it is now a present-day photographic amusement park. The park is closely guarded, and trespassing is typical but also dangerous, so an enthusiastic, enterprising young man has started running tours on the weekend, providing access to shoot away to your heart’s content. The rides and stands have all deteriorated in place over the years, which makes for an eerie photographic landscape. More Information: Tour information (only in German) – www.berliner-spreepark.de/ – Tours are given mainly on the weekends. If you want to go on a tour, contact him, as he does know a little English and you can at least book yourself into a tour and get access for photography—even if you don’t understand the stories.
Berlin is a sprawling city, which makes exploring exclusively on foot a considerable challenge. If long walks or jaunts underground don't appeal to you, test out the city's bike-share program, Call A Bike. It looks similar to Paris's beloved Vélib but requires a mobile phone. You call the number printed on the side of the bike to register and obtain the code to unlock it. The cost is €0.80/minute, up to a max of €15 in a 24-hour period (payment by credit card only). You can also rent bikes through private structures like Flat Tire Bike Company, just be sure to follow the rules (click the link below for more on that).
People always ask about seeing quaint towns in Germany, but don't want touristy places. I always respond by saying the best and most lovely towns are always frequented by lots of tourists and you will surely miss some grand opportunities for color, atmostphere and photo opportunities. Rothenburg ob der Tauber is a perfect example. I took this picture last September while traveling with some close friends to Oktoberfest in Munich. Very busy time in Bavaria, but Rothenburg was not crowded, in fact, except for the Marktplatz, we didn't see crowds. To miss Rothenburg is to miss a pristine 12th C town. Little has changed, architecturally since the 17th C, and the city walls remain and the Gothic cathedral (finished in 1464) and amazing Rathaus are stupendous (and the climb to the top of the Rathaus is quite an experience).
If you do only one tour during your visit, I suggest the free three-hour "Alternative Berlin" tour run by this company. It is mostly walking, with a subway and train here and there. (Make sure to follow your young, fast, walking tour guide closely; several slow people were lost along the way.) This particular tour dabbles in Berlin's history but mostly covers the abundance of graffiti art that blankets this city—plus you visit the largest and most famous art squall. Since it's free, it mostly attracts the younger international crowd. This outfit also offers several more comprehensive (and paid) tours should you want to go in-depth.
I'll never forget that day in 1989 when the wall came down—and the iconic images that followed. It represented freedom, the success of democracy and the West, and it marked the end of the cold war! It was the Reagan era, Saturday Night Live was hilarious, and MTV was actually cool! So when I got the opportunity to visit Berlin more than a decade later, I had to pay a visit to the wall. The Berlin Wall East Side Gallery is a 1.3km-long section of the wall near the center of the city. Approximately 106 paintings by artists from all over the world cover this memorial for freedom and make it the largest open-air gallery in the world. It is an amazing site and a "must see" on any visit to Berlin!
Name: Philippe Werhahn Age: 30 Neighborhood: Neukölln, Berlin, Germany Occupation: After studying fashion design in Milan, Hamburg-area native Philippe moved to Berlin to open his shop TingDing. He reconstructs items of used clothing, allowing the drape and movement of each piece to guide the final design. Though TingDing has been profiled in Italian Vogue, Philippe says, “I don’t really care about fashion scenes or fashion trends.” Instead, he keeps his pieces accessible to and affordable for Neukölln’s creatives. “Clothes-making is the closest I can get to people.” Neukölln was in West Berlin, on the border. The houses are beautiful—a lot of art deco from the 1920s. There are people living here from before the Wall, during the Wall, and after the Wall. And there are immigrants from Turkey who have been in Neukölln for more than 30 years. Five years ago it was really dodgy—quite dangerous. A friend of mine who is into urban development made deals with the city and talked to the owners of empty shops. If they came down in price, creative people could move in. And it actually worked. All my friends and the people I work with, everybody lives in Neukölln now. It’s kind of rough and interesting, like a contemporary museum. Berlin has never been a rich city, but now the unemployment rate is quite high. I don’t know anyone who’s got a regular job, basically. Everyone does little side jobs. It’s not so much about the money; it’s more about having the opportunity to do creative stuff. Almost every day there’s a dance performance or a little concert here. The prices are very low, so it’s easier to live this kind of lifestyle. I live in my shop. I’ve got a 100-square-meter space; it’s my apartment, the atelier, and the shop all in one. I’m a night person, so quite often I keep the shop open until midnight or so. I don’t have the name of the label outside. I don’t do any advertising. If people are wearing my clothes, that is already an advertisement. Many of my customers are actresses, dancers. They come in and they say, “I have a performance.” I say, “I could do some costumes.” Then after [the show] we decide how we are going to do the payment: “OK, let’s have an event. We’ll have a bar, and maybe we’ll make some money with that.” I made costumes for Quartett Plus 1, a group of classical musicians. They had a concert at my shop; it was completely packed. They used the changing room for the stage. I don’t really go outside this area. Berlin is famous for that: You don’t move around a lot. We call it Kiez, kind of like a block. People in Berlin really stay in their Kiez. I buy everything I need—organic fruit, veggies, pastries, and flowers for the shop—at the Turkish market. There are a lot of designers looking for fabrics, and Turkish people buying all their supplies. I grab a coffee, sit down, and listen to the folk or rock music for half an hour. I’m pretty much on a budget, so instead of hanging out at the bar, I prefer to walk. We’re allowed to drink on the streets in Berlin, so often on the weekends, we just get beer from the kiosks and walk around, talking. When the sun goes down, it’s nice to just sit on the canal, along the water, and have a beer. Berlin changes a lot. The pubs I went to a few months ago, they’re not there anymore. Bars get locations that are temporary or free because the landlords are planning to renovate. They get quite famous and then close. They just disappear and open something with a different name. Things always lose too much when they get commercial. In Berlin, people put a lot of effort into not becoming big. See all of Philippe Werhahn’s favorite places in the Neukölln neighborhood of Berlin:Mama Bar Ping-Pong Café Jacques Popo Bar Turkish Köfte Turkish Market Kinski Club Sideseeing Design Market This story appeared in the July/August 2010 issue. Photo by Achim Hatzius.
It takes some German engineering to surf in land-locked Bavaria. But endless rides are possible on the Eisbach wave, a man-made, standing curl in the middle of a narrow artificial stream that runs through the English Garden. It has drawn both international river surfers—even in winter—and gawking crowds since soon after the wave was created in 2000. The Eisbach wave is located at the southern edge of the English Garden park, near the Haus der Kunst art museum. This appeared in the November/December 2011 issue. Photo by Lee Morgan.
I was drawn to this restaurant because of it's beautiful outdoor seating area, but got much more than I bargained for. Clärchen's is also a dance hall and it has been around since 1913. It's full of fun historical facts: their original placart was painted by Otto Dix, and the hall is one of Franz Biberkopf's hangouts in Döblin's Berlin Alexanderplatz (a great novel to read before or while traveling in Berlin). There is a cover charge to join in on the dancing. If you'd rather just enjoy dinner outside, you can always pass through to use the bathroom and peek at Germans dancing to Elvis. The food itself was nothing to rave about for the most part, though their asparagus soup was one of the better ones I had. I did love the fig and mustard chutney that came on a cheese plate. But really it's the setting that makes me want to go there again.
This is one of the most hectic and lively courtyards in Berlin. Located in Mitte, it is named after the Hackeschen Market, which is across the street. As in many of Berlin's courtyards, the building complex around it consists of offices, businesses, factories, and apartment buildings. In this specific one sits a well-known movie theater, which makes it even busier. As this was the first courtyard and quite successful, today there are eight other courtyards between Rosenthal and the Sophienstraße. All around the courtyards, you'll find numerous bars, restaurants, and clubs. The area has become one of the coolest places to go at night.
One of Berlin's busiest flea markets is in Mauer Park in the Prenzlauer Berg district. The name means Wall Park, after the Berlin wall, whose remains can be found there. The market is open on Sundays only, and visitors and shoppers can find secondhand furniture, vintage shoes and clothes, some old utensils and dishes, and even some leftovers and souvenirs from the Soviet days in East Berlin. Alongside the vintage booths, a food market serves German beer, sausages, steaming sauerkraut, corn, and more.
Teufelsberg was occupied by the Americans and the British during the cold war and served as a listening station. Consider this hill and these abandoned structures one giant hearing aid. It was used for listening to Soviet, East German, and other Warsaw Pact nations’ military traffic. Abandoned after the cold war and left in shambles, it's now one of the many interesting abandoned places around Berlin to tour and learn more about the cold war. In addition, the hill that the old spy station is built upon offers up some spectacular views of Berlin and its wooded areas. It's "open" year-round, and the day I went it was blustery cold, so be sure to take warm clothes if going in the winter, as there are no heated structures. You can tour and photograph the abandoned windowless structures on the weekends for a cost of US$20 and hear all of the spy stories to get your imagination running wild. Tours are possible every Saturday and Sunday at 12:30 pm. If there aren’t enough English guests, the guide speaks German but may answer your questions in English between the stops. More information: http://www.ottsworld.com/blogs/berlin-cold-war/
These 10,000 iron cut-outs are from the Jewish Museum in Berlin. The architect designed this room with a purpose. When you walk on the faces (imagine) they grind together in a shriek/scream of metal against metal. The walking is difficult and uncomfortable to your feet—the combination of noise and discomfort being the point of this particular space. The room itself is a cold, lonely slab of concrete. It achieves everything the architect wanted it to. This is but one of many fascinating things to see at this museum.
Berlin is good for fast food—sushi, kebabs, pizza, currywurst. This style of köfte is from Anatolia, from Turkey. They fry minced sausages and serve it with mint, different herbs, and salad. Kottbusser Damm between Sanderstrasse and Pflügerstrasse. Open 24 hours. This story appeared in the July/August 2010 issue. Photo by Achim Hatzius. See all of Philippe Werhahn’s favorite places in the Neukölln neighborhood of Berlin.
This bar has a living-room atmosphere: couches, sofas, easy chairs, wallpaper. It's got beer from the Czech Republic, a bit like a Bavarian beer. Hobrechtstrasse 61 This story appeared in the July/August 2010 issue. Photo by Achim Hatzius. See all of Philippe Werhahn’s favorite places in the Neukölln neighborhood of Berlin.
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