Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Schöneberg ist Schön

We haven't been on any big adventures lately (although the intermittent spring weather has allowed for a few nice outings (a long walk from train station in Potsdam through the woods to Albert Einstein's summer house in Caputh with BR & co. with well-earned Spargel (if all Spargel was this good, I would understand what all the fuss is about), a very nice walk from my apartment past the zoo (great view of lounging kangaroos through the fence) to the western end of the Landwehr Kanal concluding with a delicious picnic with egg salad and homegrown cress, and a long-awaited visit to the Holländische Viertel (Dutch Quarter) in Potsdam (no idea what all the fuss is about) and a lovely stroll through Babelsberg Park.)) While we are gearing up for upcoming adventures (Return to Barcelona (will it be as magical as I remember it? Do I still speak Spanish? How much ham will I be able to eat in three days?) and The Effect of DC Summer Weather on a Certain German (aka almost an entire month on the East Coast!!!), I will leave you with a few cool things in my neighborhood:

1. There is a saddle shop around the corner. I'm not a horse person at all, but I love the fact that two minutes from my front door, I can buy handmade reins and a saddle and other leather horse paraphernalia.

2. A few doors down is a little Italian coffee place, mostly selling expensive espresso machines and other overpriced kitchen equipment, but they also make espresso and capuccino (no Milchkaffee here!) and the like. The store is owned and staffed by real Italians with a good understanding of what coffee can be (it's hit or miss when it comes to good coffee in this town). By now I can usually tell by looking which places will have undrinkable coffee, but so many seemingly nice places have just average coffee. It's discouraging, but a good reason to grind my own and drink at home or patronize our very local businesses). My favorite thing about the shop, though, is their mascot, this funny French bulldog who can always be found lounging on the rug inside the shop or (in nicer weather) keeping watch near the door.

3. A few streets away, over the S-Bahn tracks is The Museum of Unheard of Things (Museum der Unerhörten Dinge), which is about the size of my pantry (another thing I like about my neighborhood is that I have a pantry). This free museum is the pet project of Roland Albrecht and he displays small objects, such as a plastic bird representing the canary of Fraxern, a crystallized rose similar to the one Goethe had, and other totally random things on the shelf and walls lining the tiny room. My completely unfair beef with the museum is that the description for each object is a full page, single-spaced, back and front in German. I am a very, very slow and unhappy reader of German and so I must admit I didn't understand a lot of what I saw, but I really like the spirit of the museum and the fact that I can pop in on my way to the grocery store.

4. I grocery shop a lot. Sometimes six times a week. I love to grocery shop and while I do find food shopping in Berlin not quite up to what is was in the other cities I've lived in (oh the covered markets in Barcelona! or the Union Square Greenmarket in NYC!), things have improved since we moved. I've shopped at more than my share of the organic markets in Berlin and I can say only good things about the Bio Company (at least the one on Hauptstrasse). The produce is fresher than in any of the other organic markets I've used, the quality of the meat is truly impressive, they make a real effort to stock local products (it's not perfect, but I have to take what I can get) and the service is practically American. A good grocery store may not make or break your neighborhood, but it makes a huge difference in my life.

5. One of my main gripes about Berlin is that you can't go out for ice cream after 8 pm. I guess there must be a few exceptions, but most ice cream places close at 8, which means that if you go for an after-dinner stroll or want to grab a cone after an evening movie, you're out of luck. Germans eat a lot of ice cream and according to my observations, most of it is eaten in the late afternoon. This doesn't work for me because it ruins my American dinner (not the case for the Germans who are happy to eat some cheese and bread and wurst (aka Abendbrot) whenever they get hungry. Anyway, once in a while I decide I need an ice cream in the afternoon (early enough not to spoil my supper, of course) and my favorite place is Inka Eis. The ice cream is good if not great and they specialize in Latin American flavors, most of which I know and miss from my former life as a Latin Americanist. I always get lúcuma, which takes me back to my junior year abroad in Santiago de Chile. Lúcuma is a subtropical Andean fruit - I've never seen it fresh and have also never had it outside of Latin America (maybe it has followed açaí to New York?) - it's delicious in ice creams and mousses with a flavor that is something of a cross between caramel, maple syrup, and sweet potato. Who knew I would rediscover this treat in Berlin?


Martha said...

What a nice reminder to all of us to enjoy the small pleasures of our own neighborhoods. Your neighborhood sounds delightful!

Anonymous said...

I have just discovered your blog. For really good ice cream, even after 20H (passed by today at 22H, it was still open, und full), try this: http://www.vanille-marille.de/ I do not think you'll regret it ;)

Abbie said...

I've just found your ice-cream post here in England in late November, but I had to tell you about Caramello on Wühlischstrasse in Friedrichshain. On summer days it's open till late for wonderful organic ice cream. But it shuts all winter until the spring, unfortunately. I miss Berlin!!!

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Well I don't know if I'm ever going to come to Berlin, but thank you for this guide, it's very well done!
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