Berlin

By abbieredmon

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I'm playing some major catch-up on cataloging my Berlin adventures!

I've been here more than a week, and though I've spent a lot of time working, I've also visited two different climbing gyms, gone for several runs in some really nice parks, AND visited a few abandoned places in Berlin to take some photos with friends from Instagram.

Oh, and -- of course -- eaten some fantastic meals.

Let's start with the first home run: Café Oliv.

This place is only a couple of blocks from Alexanderplatz, an unmissable landmark with the really massive and utilitarian-looking TV Tower, designed by Erich Honecker and known as "Honecker's last erection" since it was his last major effort before dying, apparently. Heh.

Anyway, so this café is really central and absolutely worth a stop-in.

It's not a big place, and it has a mix of beaten-up wooden tables and sleek modern tables and a really nice wait staff. I had a delicious meal (was it a salad? I don’t actually know) of pumpkin, beet root, goat cheese, greens, and a very tasty chicken leg.

It did not suck.

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This afternoon, I went with a new friend from my hostel to a climbing gym called DER KEGEL, which sounds so German and also mildly inappropriate, as it makes me think of kegel exercises and then I giggle.

At any rate, the gym is very hippie and a bit weird. They sell vegan brownies, and the staff all seemed to be slightly high. But it was a nice space, with a lot of climbing walls, actually — there is an indoor and an outdoor section.

It’s pretty cheap, and even cheaper if you go before 3 p.m.: We got a day pass, shoe rental, and a chalk bag to share for $6.50 euros each.

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This place is a mere block (!) from Café Oliv. But DON'T go to both in the same day. Please. Do yourself a favor and spread out the awesomeness.

I went here for a brunch/lunch of sorts before I shopped around in Mitte for a while. It got really high reviews on Google. The place was busy, not incredibly put-together or clean, but you could see its potential -- what it could be if it was really straightened up and shined. Families, couples, and friends were all hanging out, and you can tell it's a popular place even with locals.

Although my meal took a while to prepare, it was tasty. I had a mixed plate with cold cuts and cheese, fruit, scrambled eggs, and -- POR SUPUESTO -- copious amounts of free bread (of which you are apparently allowed to just grab as much as you want from the big basket on the counter) (germophobes welcome to have a gluten-free meal).

Sadly, I didn't take a photo of my plate, but I did take a photo of a cool building on a nearby street I walked down. That's the same, right?

At any rate, here ya go.

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I'll admit upfront: I have mixed feelings about this place, but not because of the food.

No, the food was truly an impressive undertaking.

I ordered "pancakes" with fruit, jam, and syrup. This is what the menu told me.

What I got?

"Pancakes" of EPIC proportions, thick, dense, and somehow rounded on BOTH sides (do they have a special pan for this? I think I need one), with the perfect consistency. If you dropped these pancakes into the ocean, they would immediately sink to the bottom and stay there for approximately seven weeks before the water finally dissolved them. Unf. The syrup, as usual, was too sweet for me, but the jam was divine.

And the fruit. Well, the fruit.

I have learned that in Berlin, if your meal comes with "fruit," what they really mean is that on your plate will be one piece OR PERHAPS TWO IF YOU'RE LUCKY of pineapple that includes that hard middle part that nobody likes to eat. Or four grapes. Or a very thin slice of a nondescript melon whose taste you can't quite place. But you will receive only ONE of these. Think of it as a little dessert. You will eat around this piece of fruit, saving it for last, because fruit is delicious and sweet, and when you finally get to it, it will have butter smeared on it, or also possibly jam, and it will be a little soggy, but you will enjoy it, dammit, because it's the ONLY FRUIT YOU'RE GONNA GET!

A-hem.

But those pancakes. Damn, guys.

Okay so wait, let's back up. The service at this restaurant is another matter.

When I walked in, a small group had just vacated a table in a corner that would comfortably seat two, but could also sit four, or five in a pinch.

I asked the first waiter I saw if there was room for one for brunch, he looked around, and I could tell he was about to say no. But, I think he saw the look on my face, and he told me I could squeeze in next to these two guys in the middle of their meal at a table by the window. A table which, I might add, was already covered with the accoutrements of their own meal: plates, coffee cups, bread baskets, etc. The waiter assured me, "They're friendly guys."

Okay... I got around the corner and saw the recently-vacated table mentioned above. I decided to sit at that one instead of interrupting the other guys' meal. I hadn't taken my coat off yet, and when I made eye contact with the waiter again, I motioned to ask if it was okay if I sat there.

He said no.

He actually said no!

After some further gestures and uncomfortable shifting in my seat, he said it was fine for me to stay there, but he might need to seat other people at my table later.

I told him that was completely fine -- I love to share.

So, here's my problem with the way he handled this. I agree, seating one person at a table that could fit more is potential wasted space, HOWEVER, awkwardly squeezing another person onto a table with people already half-way through their meal is a bit unnecessary if there is an open table nearby. Sharing is fine! I'm happy to share a table! But I don't think the sharing should begin until it's necessary. And if there's an open table, it's not necessary yet. Know what I mean?

Maybe I'm in the wrong, but I felt a bit slighted -- like, because I'm a "party of one," I don't get the option of having a fresh table. That's just mean. And maybe discriminatory? Ha. I'm probably being over-sensitive about it, but whatever.

Anyway.

Go here; the food is really good. Everything else on the menu looked fantastic. But go with a friend or two, dammit, so you have a shot at a decent table!

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A girl I'd met at my hostel told me she'd been sampling hot chocolates all around Germany, and the best she'd had yet was from this place, a few block away from Checkpoint Charlie, and pretty touristy as it turns out.

In their shop windows, they have HUGE chocolate recreations of the Brandenburg Gate, the TV Tower, the parliament building, all kinds of crazy things. And the EXTENT of their chocolate offerings is truly impressive.

I bought a solid, 2-pound chocolate Brandenburg Gate for my grandmother for Christmas, and a hot chocolate to go for myself. It was pretty good, but I wasn't bowled over.

They do have a cafe upstairs if you want to wait for a seat. There were some pretty decadent desserts in the case up there. I was definitely eyeing them.

My assessment: Overrated, but if you like chocolate, why the hell not.

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On Monday morning, I got a text from a Berlin Instagramer I know:

“Photo walk at abandoned swimming pool. Meet at 11:30. See you?”

I had no reason to say no, so I said yes. And I’m so glad I did! This ended up being an incredible location, and I met some really nice Instagramers from Germany and Indonesia.

We climbed over piles of glass and beer bottles from long-finished parties, empty cans of spray paint, and relics like smashed computers and old lounge chairs. We walked through pitch-black halls and emerged into a yard with eerily empty swimming pools and a greenhouse-like structure with all the windows busted out. We lit a smoke bomb and made purple-tinted portraits in the massive main atrium.

I won’t bore you too much with words.

Called Blub Badeparadies — look at this place!

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I went here for a quick bite because of the positive reviews on (where else?) Google. The Big G hasn't steered me wrong yet.

I ordered a quiche that came with some salad -- a bit underwhelming in terms of taste and temperature, but this place has very nice atmosphere! I'd think I'd come back for coffee or tea when I was less hungry. Or maybe other things on the menu are better.

There's some vintage wallpaper up, a nice mix of 60s/70s chairs and tables, etc. It was a simple place, but I really felt comfortable in it. The service was really good, too -- nice folks there.

Recommended in spite of the uninspiring quiche! Sorry, no photos :(

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I went to a second, VASTLY superior climbing gym tonight. It's on the U2, not even that far out of town, and in a neighborhood I felt way safer in than Der Kegel.

It's bouldering only, and it's huge! Tons of climbing walls of all heights and angles, and some really interesting problems, including a few "feet-only" ones. It is a bit more expensive than Der Kegel, but to me it's worth it. It's also a lot cleaner, and the staff was way more attentive and helpful. This would be my gym if I lived in Berlin!

I realize these posts would be infinitely more interesting if I had some photos to share...

::shrug::

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This place is less than a block from my AirBnB in Kreuzburg, but sadly I waited almost a week to visit it.

It had been on my list, waiting, because of its positive reviews. As it turns out, I wish I'd gone sooner so I could have gone more often!

I LOVE the atmosphere here. A bit dark, simple candles on all the tables, awesome, antique-looking round lights over the bar, great service, and really amazing food.

I arrived just at the tail end of the lunch menu and managed to snag a turkey roll with spinach and cheese, served with potatoes and a salad. It was so nommy, y'all!

I could easily sit in there all day and just drink hot things, read a book, write some poetry, watch the old men -- who are clearly regulars -- tease the waitress. You know, normal stuff.

Please go here!

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Tonight I went to a place just a block or two from the hostel where I first stayed in Berlin, near the edge of Mitte.

After abandoning a bar with a terrible band down in Kreuzburg (the bar was called The Junction -- not a bad spot, but a truly awful band was on!), we took the U-Bahn north to catch the end of a show at Bassy.

This band was The Low-Flying Ducks, and they were five guys' worth of awesome folk rock. I like when a band shows a lot of musicality, and these guys definitely did. There were guitars of all types, keyboards, trumpets, bass guitars, a melodica, a harmonica, and at one point, two of them were playing the same drum kit.

It was super fun, a nice spot, and a good crowd -- I'm sad we only caught the final hour or so. I wouldn't be surprised if I heard more about these guys in the future. Keep your ears open :)

Two post-scripts:

1. Germans are terrible dancers...
2. ...but they are surprisingly willing to just be themselves and go for it, which is definitely respectable. Go get it!

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I saw some cool photography today at the C/O on my last day in Berlin!

They have a new exhibition on called "The Photographer's Choice," which has photographers showing some of their famous or well-known images alongside the contact sheets for the moment. It's really great. It's the perfect way to get to know a photographer in a different way -- to see the choices they make and the strategy they use to "get the shot." It was SUPER crowded as I believe the exhibit opened recently, so trying to enjoy it around all the other people who were trying to enjoy it was tough, but we suffered through, haha.

They also had some photo booths and a green screen where you could take some "selfies" with props and different things. We obviously exploited that by taking a photo of our photo on the screen instead of paying 5 (5!) euros for a print. #sorrynotsorry

(The photos below are [obviously :)] not mine!)

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