There are persistent reminders of Berlin’s dark history in the form of small bronze plaques in the sidewalks before some homes occupied by Jewish people, some Hitler-era architecture, police officers guarding nearly every synagogue I have seen, and then some. However, I am repeatedly charmed at what I find all around me. There is so much creativity in Berlin—this town is bustling with brilliant artists, entrepreneurs, fashion designers, musicians, and performing artists. The ubiquitous graffiti and artist squatting settlements, sometimes quite beautiful, to me are a testament to the Berliners’ commitment to self-expression.
The locals I have met have been, for the most part, highly accomplished, dynamic, and passionate. Thanks to some local friends, I’ve gotten to meet entrepreneurs, creative industry professionals, and all-around cool people in some very delicious settings. Our first outing was to a neighborhood joint called Lokal, which in English means “local.” It was extraordinary. We feasted on ochsenbacken and one of the most delicious cheesecakes I have ever had, and polished off a bottle of champagne while debating life, love, and technology. What a treat!
I’ve come to appreciate traditional German cuisine as well as the modern because sometimes, a plate of schnitzel and potatoes is just the thing to make cold, blustery days bearable. There are plenty of opportunities to taste cuisine from other countries as well. For instance, at Visite Ma Tente in Prenzlauer Berg, I can feast on an all-French cheese plate with an assortment of pâtés while down the road at Vino e Libri, I can enjoy authentic Sardinian pasta dishes. Best of all, there is a sizable Vietnamese population, so I can get my nuoc mam fix whenever I need it. Over all, the food scene is pretty impressive for its diversity, quality, and low prices.
It’s a far cry from the Berlin my parents knew when they spent a month here in the 1980s. Actually, the current trends seem to have only really taken off in the past five years. People have been drawn here by cheap rents (which have been climbing as a result of the influx), central location within the continent, and counter culture/artistic community. It’s the new kid on the proverbial block in terms of a tech scene. Food-wise, it’s an enormous melting pot, with restaurants representing cuisines of all cultures. I have noticed a lack of German specialty food shops, though. I haven’t seen much great German cheese in the city (although there is some). Much of the cheeses come from France or Italy. The dedicated cheese shops I have seen have huge stocks of French or Italian cheeses, but relatively few local cheeses. It’s the opposite of Paris, where I feel I could hardly walk a block without seeing at least one butcher’s shop and one cheese shop. I think that as the population influx continues, and the city continues its gentrification (for better or for worse), demand for these kinds of shops will increase. We shall see! I suspect we will see more cheese shops in time.