Christmas Break in Berlin
The Guru Shop. Still not quite convinced by the fact that I am actually back in Berlin, and actually walking through my absolute favorite place to be – the Bergmannstraße – and passing by this famous little store again, I decided to expand my blog post location to good ‘ole Germany. One week of Christmas break has passed and besides catching up on sleep, spending time with family and friends and untangling Christmas lights to finally set up our tree, I also went out to re-discover what is to me the nicest place to be in Berlin: the Bergmannstraße. Berlin has many sides: a classy side, a historical side, a traditional side, and – what it’s most known for today – an alternative side. There is a reason why Berlin is on the list for the most hipster cities in Europe. One of the places in Berlin that has exactly that vibe is the Bergmannstraße. It’s a place where you can find residents and visitors from all ages and cultures, located in the heart of Kreuzberg, a district in Berlin with an eventful past: Starting in the late 1960s, increasing numbers of students, artists, and immigrants began moving to Kreuzberg. Enclosed by the Berlin Wall on three sides, the area became famous for its alternative lifestyle and its squatters. Today an incredible variety of people from all over the world share a friendly and peaceful neighborhood with old-established Berliners. The reason I love the Bergmannstraße is not only its demographics, it is also a place where you can experience the old and the new Berlin far away from the usual tourist stress, but in while still being in the middle of the city.
It is a true shopping paradise for all those on the look out for something special and outlandish: not only young fashion and original design, but also old records, books, rummage and vintage clothing. Alongside long-established second-hand shops, new boutiques have opened up offering everything from stylish hats at to typical Berlin Jutebeutel.
The street consist of small shops interspersed with cafés and restaurants that offer an insider’s tip of one kind or another. It is a great place for soaking up the district’s bohemian spirit. On Marheinekeplatz, the Marheineke Markthalle, built in 1862 and steeped in tradition is one of Berlin’s few surviving market halls, although it sacrificed its grungy 19th-century charm to a recent modernisation. Still, I always enjoy walking through it, tasting the delicious delicacies and organic regional products offered in little stalls and enjoying the cozy atmosphere in there. There are also various antique bookstores and lovers of mystery and crime novels need look no further than the Hammett Bookstore, where thrillers ranging from Agatha Christie through to Stieg Larson await their bloodthirsty readers. To recover from this, the famous Barcomi´s Café offers an excellent coffee (as well as a delicious cheese cake or blueberry muffin).
My favorite Cafe, however, is the Kaffee am Meer (Café by the Sea). And no, it is not just my first pick because of its wonderful name, but because of the delicious things and the incredibly cozy atmosphere in there. Besides probably the best homemade Chai Latte in town (a must-try) it also has tasty breakfast options ranging from Turkish breakfast with spicy sausage, feta cheese and eggs, to the French version with croissants, marmelade and coffee. Oriental lights made from varieties of blue glass hang down from the ceiling give the whole face a magic touch. And in summer the tall windows are opened, giving you the opportunity to enjoy your favorite drink while jumping out to the café tables surrounded by flowers. Today we didn’t stop by Café am Meer, instead my friend Lara and me headed straight to Swera, one of the Indian restaurants in the street. However, in one of the souvenir shops, I discovered a postcard depicting a painting of the Kaffee am Meer!! I could not believe my eyes!
We walked up the stairs that had been decorated with candles into the cozy restaurant solely illuminated by candles. The atmosphere was wonderful. We enjoyed yummy Indian food and since we were the only ones in the entire restaurant today (it is the first time that I see this usually-crowded place so empty), we had quite a lovely talk with the waiters and enjoyed having the entire place for ourselves. While sipping my salty lassi, Lara told me about things that had happened since my departure. We talked about UWC, Life at LPC, my far-away home Hong Kong and then decided to go for a little walk around the Bergmannstraße. Every corner was decorated with beautiful lights and candles looking like waterlillies.
Of course, what would a day at the Bergmannstraße be without squishing into one of Berlin's famous old-style photobooths, the so called Fotoautomat. You're not a "Berlin Hipster" if you haven’t taken your picture in one of these machines. The Fotoautomat has always been a part of Berlin (and the rest of Germany), hanging around near S-Bahn /U-Bahn and Train Stations, waiting for someone to have their Passport Picture taken or just to have a fun picture as a good memory.
With the introduction of Digital Cameras, most of the older Fotoautomaten were replaced with newer and quicker models. And that was that. Until someone realized that Black and White Photo strips are actually beautiful. Soon enough the machines started being restored, cleaned and reappearing on the streets. For the price of 2 euros you get a strip of 4 photos, that smell like cabbage. Cabbage? Well you see, these machines still operate with a mini chemical lab inside of them. After the photographic paper is exposed, it is then dipped in various chemical baths. This causes the rather odd cabbage smell. Not to mention that the photo flash is unpredictable, hence the pictures turnout hilarious most of the time, and that you have to wait more than five minutes for your photo to be developed. But it is definitely worth it! I love these machines. I love film photography, and I love their novelty value and yet so nostalgic look! There are currently 17 Fotoautomaten in Berlin and squishing into that photo booth with as many people as possible and getting a wonderful strip of memories is just priceless.
A few weeks ago, my friend Selin from California came to Berlin and to indulge in the beauty of Christmas lights and delicious Spanish tapas, we took her to a Spanish restaurant, the Mar y Sol, in the heart of Berlin.A visit there l is like a short holiday, with beautiful old style Spanish country furniture, white walls and Spanish decor.
It was quite a delicious journey that ended in the Bilderbuch Kaffee (Picture Book Café). It deserves a lot more than a brief coffee recommendation. It is a library, a place for art, a gallery and a restaurant all in one. It is the place to be when you want to spend a comfortable afternoon in your grandmother’s living room, while chatting with friends, reading a book or working on homework. On a newspaper-esque paper menu you can find their large selection of their dishes. All of which are named after fairytales – which simply makes my inner child purr with delight. I almost ordered “Die Kleine Meerjungfrau” (the little mermaid) just because of the name and “Der Wolf und die sieben Geißlein” (the wolf and the seven little goats) sounded equally cute, but since we had just eaten, we decided to enjoy Bienenstich (Sting-of-a bee-cake, made with cream and almonds) and coffee.
The best feature of all is that they have a couple of walls lined with books, where you can browse and borrow a book for reading in one of the many comfy armchairs. Other walls and corners display antique tables, chairs and other quaint knick-knacks – they even have a classical doll house. The art displayed on the walls changes every week and can be purchased! It was a wonderful evening and could not have been more perfect.