June 26, 2009

Episode 1: Berlin - a tale of wurst and Brandon-Burgers...

East side gallery - Berlin

We here at Team Pretty Bake were finding ourselves in need of a much deserved holiday, so promptly jetted off to the Northern hemisphere in search of sun and misadventure. To save you the misery of enduring a long-winded holiday brag, I will endeavour to focus on our favourite culinary experiences and then offer "Miss Emily's top 5" holiday highlights for each location, so that we may all retire with a vague sense of shared satisfaction (and you will detest me only a little).

Our European escapades began in the delightful city of Berlin where we were welcomed by the dear Dr Menzies who had graciously agreed to put us up in his retro-kitsch pad for the week.

The urban landscape of Berlin was intoxicating, and the eclectic array of architecture and buildings portraying a complex history were most certainly both diverse and vivacious, understandably affording the city the deserved title of zeitgeist metropolis.

Alias - Friedrichshain, Soldier boy - Potsdam

Berlin's famed trend-setting popular culture was ever apparent, and it was easy to fall in love with its industrial-chic personality.

We found ourselves most fortunately based in the fashionable borough of Friedrichshain, famed for its concentration of bars, clubs and cafes. While Berlin's coffee failed to meet my lowered expectations (even with numerous forewarnings), Simon-Dach-straße was a beautiful strip on which to spend a sunny afternoon, and kaffee laden managed to provide the least cringe-worthy of hot brown beverages on offer.

Simon-Dach-strasse - Friedrichshain

Of course, a visit to the German capital would not be complete without the consumption of some kind of wurst, and where better to partake in the wonders of a sausage-bretzel-mustard combo than in the delightful Tiergarten biergartens?

Weisswurst mit bretzel im Berlin's Tiergarten

This leafy and relaxing sausage experience was followed by a visit to Konnopke's Imbiss (one of Berlin's most famous wurst wagons) in the bohemian locality of Prenzlauer Berg for the curiously popular currywurst. I can't say it was really to my tastes, but eating wurst and chips covered excessively with ketchup and a sprinkling of curry powder from a paper tray with a teeny fork huddled on the median strip of a major road under a U-Bahn station with dozens of locals does seem to be an essential Berlin experience.

Currywurst at Konnopke's Imbiss

As a thank you to Herr Menzies for surrendering his normally peaceful abode and sharing gutes pfingsten with us (say it out aloud and you'll see why it's amusing), we prepared a meaty dedication in the form of a Team Pretty Bake burger. Some of you Melbournites may be aware of the infamy of Miss Rose's crazy burgers, and knowing Brandon's appreciation for these delicious monstrosities, we sought to reproduce a burger of epic proportions that had a distinctly German flavour. And so, I give you… the Brandon-Burger (electro-paddles at the ready, everyone):

Brandon-Burger construction

A toasted seed bun, moistened with ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise, condimented with caramelised onions and pickle, and followed by a seasoned pork/beef mince patty, cheese, sausage, bacon, and egg finally topped with a token gesture of lettuce and red cabbage…

Yes I know, oh my indeed.

Our cardiovascular systems were, however, thankfully rescued by Karl and his delicious erdbeeren, some of the most strawberry-ey strawberries I have ever had the pleasure of eating.

Karl's erdbeeren

And so from the pinnacle of a quintessential Berlin culinary occasion, I will descend to offer you five of my more favourite German experiences:

1. Berlin street culture – medium-density living executed with gorgeous utilitarian precision, accommodating friendly, attractive locals with their friendly attractive dogs, and surrounded by tree-lined cobbled streets offering one of the better cycling infrastructures I've had the pleasure of witnessing.

Marx, Engels and the Fernsehturm - Alexanderplatz, Berlin wall - Potsdamer Platz

2. Architectural history – walk the streets of Berlin for a day and you will wander past historic edifices exhibiting exquisite attention to detail nestled alongside spectacular modern creations. The history offered by this majesty is both fascinating and profoundly humbling, and the opportunity to visit some haunts of one of my favourite literary debauched detectives was exceptionally pleasant.

Berliner Dom, Sony Center - Potsdamer Platz, Reichstag

3. Medizin historisches museum – one of the coolest, goriest museums I've had the pleasure of visiting; the medical history museum of Berlin was quite frankly spectacular. A floor exhibiting archaic instruments most frightening to the modern patient was followed by a comprehensive collection of intriguing pathological specimens and a fascinating forensic display exhibiting some of the atrocities of which we humans are capable. Highly engaging to the scientific mind, the level of gore may not suit everyone, but how can you go past a 60 kg mega-colon I ask?

4. Tiergarten – in Europe there is a different kind of green, the seemingly greeniest of greens, and wandering through this sprawling and peaceful common is most certainly good for the soul. Aside from the naked Germans who are somewhat confronting for us conservative visitors and perhaps a little bit much before lunch, it would be a most spectacular place in which to lose oneself of a lunchtime.

Berlin's Tiergarten

5. Kaiser Wilhelm gedächtnikirche – of all the poignant reminders of one of the darker moments in human history, this memorial church was especially moving. I don't know why, but for me the immense sadness given off by this relic was profoundly touching.

Kaiser Wilhelm Gedachtniskirche

And so, as we made our way to a Paris-bound easyjet free-for-all, I couldn't help but reflect, "Ich liebe Berlin"...

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