Berlin is not really a city of big name sights.
Aside from the Brandenburger Tor, Reichstag, TV Tower, and what remains of the Berlin Wall, there are not many internationally recognisable buildings or monuments in the German capital.
Rather, Berlin is known for its collection of distinct neighbourhoods, all with their own unique vibe and, perhaps more importantly, their own culinary offerings.
So doing a food tour, our favourite kind of tour, was high on our agenda.
Since we are so in love with the south east corner of Berlin that has been our temporary home this last visit, when Eat the World gave us the choice of three different areas of the city to choose from, we elected to do a tour of Kreuzberg, the smallest but most densely populated of the 12 boroughs that make up modern day Berlin.
We met Beate, our guide as well as four American tourists and two locals in Graefekiez, one of the greenest and most pleasant parts of Kreuzberg, and were introduce to the borough.
Beate explained that most locals identify more with their direct neighbourhood (or kiez) than the borough they live in, and that indeed many modern boroughs are actually parts of old east and west Berlin melded together, meaning that from one end to the other, they can be drastically different in many respects, as we would see over the course of the tour.
We sat down at our first stop, an Indian restaurant, who served us up a tasty bowl of coconut and lentil soup. As we looked around at the pleasant square we were sat in, Beate pointed out how few buildings had ornate decoration on their façades. In fact, as much of Graefekiez was undamaged during the war, most of them used to. However, in the 1960s as a result of the Bauhaus movement, residents were paid to remove them to make them fit in with the minimalist ideals of the popular style.
Moving on from there down the pleasant tree-lined street, we ducked into a rockers bar, which seemed an unlikely stop on such a tour. As the omnivores in our group enjoyed a small, hot bowl of chilli con carne, and we a bowl of fresh tomato, onion and coriander salsa (unfortunately it was too dark inside to take a decent picture), we heard about how this place had been visited by big names such as Metallica, Bruce Springsteen and Die Toten Hosen, back when the area had not been such a desirable place to live.
It was then time for something sweet, so just around the corner we were given a small piece of brownie from an organic bakery. Unfortunately, the brownies were not vegan, but we went immediately from there to a popular Italian ice cream place with a queue coming out the door and had a scoop each. Fortunately, they had a wide selection of very good fruit sorbets, which were dairy-free. I went for mango.
By this time, we were right by the Landwehr Canal built in the 1840s to relieve traffic carrying coal and other resources along the river Spree.
Beate explained that the canal constitutes an noteworthy boundary within Kreuzberg, as the population of the area north of it is 51% Turkish, making it the area with the highest concentration of Turkish residents in the whole city. This of course means a lot of Turkish food to be had in the area around Kottbusser Tor.
Our next stop, a Turkish bakery, gave us a quick taste of a typical pastry from Turkey: börek, puff pastry filled with spinach and goat’s cheese (meaning it is unfortunately not vegan). We didn’t stay there long, and were quickly whisked off to another, more up market Turkish restaurant to try what most Europeans think of when they think of Turkish food: kebab.
Served in many different forms, the dürüm, grilled meat with salad wrapped inside a flat bread and eaten with the hands, is arguably the most popular version in Germany, and many people say it was actually invented in Berlin by Turkish immigrants to suit the fast paced lifestyles of Germans who didn’t have time to sit down and eat, and from here it was exported back to Turkey.
As non meat eaters, Zab and I didn’t try the dürüm, but instead were given a small, fried pastry filled with white cheese, which was rather disappointing. I would have much preferred to receive a small plate of hummus with bread or perhaps even some grilled vegetables, which I saw was indeed served in that restaurant, meaning it would have been easy to adapt the stop for vegans.
As we walked to our final stop on the tour, Beate explained the change in architecture compared to the calm, tree-lined streets of Graefekiez where we had started. Much of the area around Kottbusser Tor was bombed very heavily during the war, and when reconstruction began, the emphasis was put on making homes for as many people as possible.
As a result, there are many ugly, high rise buildings around, which give the area a whole different, and certainly much more urban feel.
At our last and final stop, we were greeted with a whimsical message.
Stepping inside, we were could see that the owner of this cute café and bakery made every effort to celebrate chocolate in all its forms: cakes, brownies, sweets, bars and drinks. As a taster, we were given a shot of silky smooth hot chocolate (this time with a vegan option!). Unsurprisingly, we didn’t leave without buying a bar of chocolate for ourselves.
Overall, I enjoyed this tour with Eat the World, though compared to other food tours we’ve done, found the food samples rather small. Given that this tour only costs €30, however, I realise that is actually very good value for money for all the fascinating insight to the local area you get, which was well organised and presented. Since the tour is as much aimed at people living in Berlin as it is at tourists, this seems very reasonable.
My only complaint is that the tour does not cater well to people eating vegan, despite the fact that every place we visited did indeed have something vegan for sale (I checked). Of course, I understand that this is a cost issue again, but personally, I wouldn’t in general mind paying a little more for 100% vegan samples.
- Cost: as mentioned about, this tour is €30 per person (€15 for children) which includes all food and tour services, but not any drinks you may wish to purchase
- Times: the tour only takes place in English on Saturdays, beginning at 11.30am and finishes at 2.30pm (there is more availability for the tour in German, and in different areas of Berlin)
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Many thanks to Sarah of Eat the World who kindly arranged a complimentary tour for us. Our opinions are, and always will be, our own.