The Kreuzberg district of Berlin is a very hip area. Hence, it’s the perfect spot for a Kreuzberg District Food, Culture, and Street Art tour.
Tour guide Jannes met me and the other tour participant by the East Side Hotel, just outside of the Kreuzberg district of Berlin, and directly across from the East Side Gallery. The East Side Gallery is the longest section of the Berlin Wall that remains standing – at 1.3kms. It’s covered in graffiti-like art, but it’s not for just anybody to come along and make their mark; artists are invited.
After crossing over into Kreuzberg, our first stop was for a Berlin special; curry sausage, known as Currywurst. I’m not a sausage person, but I dove into this delicious juicy sausage, covered in a ketchup-like sauce with a dash of curry powder on top. You can find currywurst all over Berlin as a typical street food, and there’s even a novel called The Invention of the Curry Sausage!
We washed it down with a bottle of Wostok; Germans call it “lemonade”, even though a lemon never touched it. It’s a lovely fizzy sweet (but not too sweet) drink. Half-litre bottles/servings of both lemonade and beer are most common. I couldn’t finish it, so carried it with me as a refreshing accompaniment to the rest of the three-hour tour.
Next up were Gabelrollmops – pickled herring, wrapped around a dill pickle and held together with a toothpick. The selection of herring in the iconic fish market we visited was formidable, but this particular finger food is a Berlin specialty. The fish market has been passed down through many generations, eventually from a German family to a Turkish family, who continues to keep this institution alive. More than 30% of Berlin citizens who are non-Germans are Turkish. While eating and walking, I learned about the history of what brought Turkish people to Berlin, and how they’ve solidly established themselves as a part of the Berlin landscape and culture.
Along the Turkish theme, we followed the smell of freshly roasting cashews wafting down the street to a nut shop, with a dizzying selection of roasted and candied nuts to choose from.
Between food stops we wandered the Kreuzberg district, discussing various pieces of street art and famous works of graffiti by well-known artists, covering the entire sides of prominent buildings. We looked at courtyards and architecture, and observed the gentrification process in action: older buildings are upgraded and restored, and businesses/tenants are moving out of the area because they can no longer afford the increased rent in this neighbourhood that is progressing from artsy/funky to upscale/trendy.
With an international flavour to the tour, our next stop was a Middle Eastern restaurant for Sahlab: a sweet creamy hot drink, originally made from the orchid roots, but rarely containing this rare ingredient any more. Tones of vanilla, cinnamon, coconut, and rose made it the perfect warm-up on this rainy cool day.
Wandering to our next food stop we looked at more street art, book stores, free art galleries, and engaged in a constant cultural and historical conversation; as Jannes had a wealth of information at his fingertips.
Our last food stop was for Doner Kebab – which is the most popular street food in Berlin. I’ve eaten kebabs like this around the world, but this was by far the best I’ve ever tried. I would have taken pictures, but I gobbled it up before I had a chance!
And of course no food tour of Berlin is complete without a stop at a beer hall for a micro-brewed specialty. We reflected on our jam-packed three hours of wandering the Kreuzberg district, eating to our hearts’ content, and clinked our glasses in “prost” (cheers) to a wonderful day.