Archive for May, 2009


Es ist zu früh, eine Äußerung zu machen, aber …

It’s too early to make a pronouncement, but … it seems to me that there are two ubiquitous foods in Berlin, which are, together, somewhat representative of the city.

Currywurst - my first German meal in Berlin

Currywurst - my first German meal in Berlin

There’s the very Berlin-ish, very traditional Currywurst, which as the name indicates is a sausage (wurst) smothered in a ketchup-like substance and topped with curry powder. It has a bit of a kick. It can be served on a roll or not. I opted for “not” because I also wanted to eat its traditional accompaniment “Pommes Frites” (a French loan term for “french fries”). The fries are often served with mayonnaise. But I opted for ketchup instead.  Needless to say, my first meal in Berlin was not the healthiest.

It didn’t really help that I bought these on Gendarmenmarkt (more another time … when I understand more about its past and present significance) on my first night in Germany. Not only were they overpriced (9+ Euro with my bottle of water, which seemed like a lot when it’s supposed to be the “every-man’s food”), but I was super self-conscious about ordering wrong. I also didn’t understand some of the questions asked of me, which would usually amount to: “With or without a roll?” and “Mayonnaise or Tomato Sauce?” Simple, but I was nervous and still getting accustomed to Berliners’ speedy speech.Pommes Frites

Currywurst is tasty. It’s certainly not healthy, but I won’t pretend I don’t like its flavor. I’ve had it one other time since. The thing I’ve noticed, though, is that although it’s a Berlin must-have, I only ever see tourists getting it. Does that mean it’s not accurately described as the city’s main fast food? No, I doubt it. It’s probably just that I’ve been to the most touristy of places.

The food that I see many, many, many Berliners buying and eating, however, is Döner Kebabs. Brought here by the many Turkish immigrants to Germany, Döner are everywhere. In the U.S. we’d call them “Gyros,” but the flavor, “bread,”  and the toppings are quite a bit different.

Mein Falafel Döner mit Salat und Sauce

Mein Falafel Döner mit Salat und Sauce

I’ve had several Döner already, mostly because they’re tasty, cheap, everywhere, and always include some vegetables. The most common kind is Hähnchen (chicken), cut from an upright spit. At the shop right near my house, I had this Falafel Döner (pictured on the left), which has been my favorite so far. It cost only 2,30 Euro (which is about $3.13 U.S.)! The salads (four different types, actually: one that’s just lettuce and onion, another with corn and cucumber, another that seems to be slightly pickled cabbage, and another with more tomatoes) and the sauce, piled in the freshly grilled flatbread, were very filling even with only three small falafels (chickpea patties) in the mix.

This is a Mediterranean/Middle Eastern dish, but it’s everywhere here. Berliners seem to like it even more than their own cuisine. And, as my time in Berlin has already taught me, it’s just one of the traditions of immigrants or of other lands (like France or the U.S.) that has been so assimilated into German life that it’s now fully German.

In Berlin wohne ich im Kiez “Pankow.” Es war DDR vor dem Mauerfall. Hier ist mein Bahnhof:

Me, tired but still smiling, in my U-Bahn Station, Vinetastraße

Me, tired but still smiling, in my U-Bahn Station, Vinetastraße

Translating and expanding on the above: I live in the neighborhood called Pankow (although it’s closer to Prenzlauer Berg than most of Pankow). This area was in East Berlin/East Germany before the wall fell.

I live with a host whose name is Barbara, she’s a journalist and early childhood specialist/consultant. She has two children, twins (“Zwilling” in German), who are grown. In another room lives a boarder, Sigrun, whose husband and daughter are in the U.S. right now. Her husband is an American. Her English is impeccable. But, so she says, that’s why she doesn’t have to practice it with me!

Meine Aussicht

Meine Aussicht

Barbara, Sigrun, and I live on the fourth floor of an apartment building. That was a tough climb the first day with all my luggage, but since has been lovely, especially because of my great view out my window. Flowers are in bloom these days, and you can see some flowering trees in the park across the way. One night when we had a big thunderstorm, I had a great view of the lightning. I closed my windows, though, as we have no screens so there’s NOTHING to protect the house from the rain if I leave the windows open. (Note to self.)

Children (Kinder) behind my apartment buildingChildren (Kinder) behind my apartment building

I’ve heard lots of children outside playing. I think a little boy lives in the room below me. It’s about a 4-5 minute walk to the U-Bahn station. There are icecream parlors, flower shops, fruit/veggie stands, fast food places (to be discussed later), etc. right on the same street, Berlinerstraße, as the U-Bahn entrances. The only negative is that I’m about 30 minutes from the Goethe-Institut, which isn’t that much, but means I have to get up earlier or wait longer to get home after a long day.

My abode for 2 months.

My abode for 2 months.

Goethe-Institut

Während meines Deutschen Kurses versuche ich, nur auf deutsch zu sprechen. Natürlich kann ich nicht allzeit das tun, weil ich geheiratet bin und mein geliebter Ehemann kein Deutsch spricht. Mein Blog wird auch auf englisch sein, weil die meisten meiner Familie und Freunde amerikanisch sind. Aber ich werde probieren, etwas Deutsches für jedes Post zu schreiben. Vielleicht am endes werde ich mehr dabei lernen.

The doorway to the Goethe-Institut-Berlin

The doorway to the Goethe-Institut-Berlin

So, above was my current philosophy of blog posting. It went a little something like this: During my German course I’m trying to only speak in German. Naturally, I can’t do that all the time, since I’m married and my beloved husband doesn’t speak any German. My blog will also (and mostly) be in English, because most of my family and friends are Americans. But I’ll try to write something in German for every post. Perhaps by the end I’ll have learned more by so doing.

That means, while I’m at the Goethe-Institut-Berlin, I am trying as best I can to speak only German, to really make this immersion an immersion. So, if you want to read my blog regularly, I’ll probably throw in some distracting German. If you’re not a German-reader, just look further down. Don’t be discouraged: there’ll be information for you too! … Just not with as many guttural sounds to be had. And for that, the English language needs to apologize.

Is it just me, or does that look like a personalized greeting to one special Frau Kara??

Is it just me, or does that look like a personalized greeting to one special Frau Kara??

a normal sight for me

a normal sight for me

As a student in an intense New Testament Ph.D. program, sometimes I feel my interest-world closing in around me. I learn more and more about this collection of 27 books—and especially the one, awesomest text of them all, the Gospel According to Mark—but in so doing I become dumber and dumber about other things. For instance, I used to know what a mole is in chemistry. I used to play the trombone. I used to draw and paint and work in a church archives. Most of the time now, I read about the New Testament, write about the New Testament, and grade unending stacks of papers on the New Testament.

Cuban food

Those of you who know me, of course, know that I buck against this singularity of focus. I listen to podcasts religiously and attempt to be full of facts regarding the world around me. I love German and am starting an adventure to be better at it. I have pop cultural interests: TV shows, music, and movies to which I have degrees of allegiance. I like to read and have broken my former, pitiful trend of only reading for school by reading at least six novels since October.

Baltimore Bomb, anyone?

Baltimore Bomb, anyone?

But the interest that I don’t have to put forth effort to sustain is most broadly categorized as an interest in adventure. This craving for the new and strange takes two much more specific forms: 1) a fascination with (or addiction to) travel; and 2) a desire for weird, special, or interesting food. These two expressions of my love for new experiences are fantastic in combination!

A Philadelphia mosaic

My travel destinations need not be exotic. I’m happy with a trip to Halo Farm and the Trenton Farmer’s Market just down Route One from our home.

I’m thrilled with a new museum exhibit or a ticket to a play in a nearby theater. I’m even more ecstatic when a trip for a professional conference gives the opportunity to get in tune with the pulse of a new town and try some local specialties. I love to camp and hike and go to the beach. I love a good roller coaster and the shrill scream that belongs with it.

In the Cascade, Idaho snow

Not only to I love travel and eating while I’m traveling (or home, trying out a hidden, local gem), but I have opinions about these things. If you travel somewhere I have been, you’ll probably have to hear about these opinions. So, a travel and food blog has been something that has been percolating in my brain for a few months now. It also gives me increased license to indulge my penchant for taking food photos (often to the chagrin of my long-suffering husband).

So, when my trip to Berlin came together, I thought that this would be a perfect time to begin. I’m going to want to update friends and family, but might prefer the interactive format of a blog better than a weekly mass email. Honestly, though, I hope it won’t stop here. Charlie and I have gotten really good at finding an adventure around every turn, something that punctuates our everyday life with some spice, literally or figuratively. Here it goes.