You Kicked (Our) Butt, Berlin

We rolled into Berlin in sunshine! Yes, the weather again is making the headlines, because apparently it’s pretty much taken over much or all of what we think and talk about. Mostly because it’s been terrible (as you know by now) and we’ve been so utterly unprepared for it (which you also know.)

But the thing we realised is that it’s not overcast days or even the rainy days that were getting us down; it was the cold. And it’s much much warmer now than it was, so even with some rain here and there and the (mostly) overcast days we’ve been encountering, it’s pretty great. Because we’re not freezing.

So. Berlin. Pretty great.

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We were staying at a super cute apartment that I completely forgot to take any photos of. But it was cheap and cute and we loved it. Well, the bed and the shower kinda sucked, but we could cook our own meals and it was a peaceful, cosy place to come home to at the end of the day.

On our first evening, we ventured out in search of groceries. And then, about 45 seconds after having left the flat, the rain started. And then the thunder started. And then it started to POUR. I somehow remembered to grab the umbrella (thanks Beth!), and we were able to run for cover under while looking frantically for the grocery store. We couldn’t find a grocery store as we panickingly looked up, blinded by pelleting rain at the German signs. Nolan motioned to keep on moving, so,  jumping from puddle to puddle, we carried on, getting giddy as we somehow stumbled into a really amazing little bio market. And by amazing, it was better than any grocery store we could have imagined. And given that we were so soaked, had it been an abattoir or a zipper factory, we would have stopped in to have a look. But an organic food market! They had cheese and meat and fish and produce and lots of prepared food and even some guy playing the piano! The piano!  I almost cried with happiness at our dumb luck. We bought so much stuff, waited out the thunderstorm and went back to the apartment post thunderstorm and made a delicious first meal in Berlin.

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That was mostly a great big fat delicious salad. Which I haven’t had since London? Paris, maybe? Anyway, my body was definitely craving some greens, and we ate well.

The next few days were mostly walking around, seeking out good coffees and pastries, and taking in the sights.

We were staying in Kreuzberg and were about a 45 minute walk from the Brandenburg gates.

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We wandered around the Memorial for Murdered Jews of Europe, which felt very austere and heavy. We were both really moved by it.

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Then stumbled into the wall. And read about Hitler in 1933 at the site of the former Prussian Palace – turned Gestapo Headquarters – turned torn down memorial site.

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We said what’s up to Goethe and Marx and Engels.

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These haunting and beautiful sculptures were outside of a Jewish cemetery near our flat.

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A park bench and currywurst spot.

We ate some ice cream, drank a beer and called it a day.

And then did some version of the above all over again the next day. And, as has become our habit in each city, we went out for a cheap yet decent meal. Trying, as much as possible, to stick to the cuisine (or something they’re known for / do really well) of the country. I braced myself for another big slab of meat. Or maybe in this case, a pounded, breaded and fried big slab of meat.

Nolan’s pick: Wirtshaus zum Mitterhofer. I have no idea what it means, but it looked tasty. It started to rain on our way over, and then proceeded to pour, so we were soggy upon arrival. Without a reservation.

As aside. We never have reservations when we go out to eat here. In our country, reservations are usually reserved for more posh places and need to made several weeks in advance. I know in Europe it’s just considered good manners to make reservations. Often the same day is fine. It’s so they are expecting you. You get treated better, everyone wins. Except when you have a Canadian cell phone that charges long distance, minutes and roaming and ends up adding 600% to your next bill. (which actually happened. My phone is now safely on airplane mode). And we don’t speak the language.  So generally, we don’t make reservations. It’s just part of the fly-by-night kinda trip we’re on here folks, and I just wanted to make sure we were all together here.

So we find the restaurant, shake off our wet coats and slosh in with our soaking wet shoes, speak virtually no German and have no reservations. Maybe you can imagine what happened. We waited. A long time. At first without anyone really speaking to us. We told the guy (again) we were 2 and then I gave a really sad, scrunched up apologetic kinda face that meant ‘we know we screwed up, but hey we’re just a couple of soggy, hungry tourists, and maybe, just maybe you won’t make us go back out into the thunderstorm after having walked ALL the way here, to your very lovely restaurant for 40 minutes’ look. It did nothing. The guy  looked at us and shook his head again. But not in the good up and down way, but in the NAH back and forth way. He went over to the bar and looked at his book. Looked at us. Looked at the book. And shook his head again. And then walked away.

Um, did that mean we were meant to leave? It was unclear. We waited some more. He looked at us again, this time rather impatiently. And shook his head NAH again.

I responded with a the shoulder shrug / head to the side, crazy/sad eyes look in response. He looked away.

We shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot, dripping water on the floor. Staring longingly at the tables of people and their food and huge steins of beer. Our stomachs rumbled.

Other people walked in, laughed and spoke loudly and jovially to the waitstaff and then were ushered back to the depths of the restaurant. Finally, after, I supposed, being enough in his way, and figuring he couldn’t get rid of us with a few mere head shakes, he motions for us annoyingly to sit at the bar. And then he said a bunch of things in angry German to us that we took for, “hey, you can sit here and order a drink and then when a table becomes available, I’ll move you there. Okay?”  Again, I don’t speak German, but by the context, that was our guess. In reality, he probably said “Listen dumbnuts, sit here and get out of my way before you leave, ok?”  Fair enough. But the woman working at the bar looked at us and pointed to the beer list. I got a sweet little Alkoholfrei number (they have them EVERYWHERE here! I love Germany!) and Nolan got whatever they gave him. He liked it. Then the woman working at the bar plopped down some menus in front of us and asked us in perfect English what we’d like to order for food. There was a stern look and no smiles, but at least there was a common language. We loved her! Where the hell was she when we were standing there stranded with head-nod guy? We explained to her patiently that head-nod over there thought there would be a table for us and we were going to have a drink and wait. She shook her head brusquely, and gave us a very definitive head nod back and forth. Again, the universality of the head nod! I’m really getting the hang of German.

So, finally figuring out that perhaps we were just going to eat at the bar, we settled in. Hey, I love eating at the bar! No problem! See how great we are, head-nod guy?! This is waaay better than awkwardly standing over and dripping water onto people eating.  We dug into the menu. Yes, we understood none of it. Nolan was all about the Weiner Schnitzel, probably because it was the only words on the menu we vaguely recognized. Actually, we didn’t know what Weiner was (veal, apparently – thanks, google) but we knew Schnitzel! It was something.

Me, I’m not all that into meat these days. I eat it – sometimes I even crave it, but generally (and especially since the pregnancy), I really don’t want meat that much, and sometimes really can’t eat it.  And we’ve been eating a LOT of meat on the trip, and today was a day I just couldn’t do it. So there was that.

But wait! Specials on the board, the stern-looking English speaking girl says. She points to the board behind us. And I even almost possibly even recognized something.  Käsespätzle mit Salat. I even figured out that it would be spaetzel with cheese and a salad!  And it’s not meat! And it has greens along with it! And check out my sweet German figuring-out menu skills!

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We were feeling pretty proud. We clinked beer steins, and settled into our bar stools. Head nod guy must have approved, because at some point in the next fifteen minutes, he gestured to us to follow him to a table in the back. But we had to be out by 9:30. That gave us over an hour! Done deal, my friend! Things were really turning up Maggie&Nolan!

Well, that’s really the meat of the story, friends. After that, as you can imagine, the food came. It was massive and tasty and we ordered a couple more beers and I ate my body weight in cheesey noodley goodness.

We were out before 9:30, and we might have even got a smile upon leaving and we waddled home. The end.

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