Berlin

Forever Berlin

Next Thursday I’m travelling to Berlin again, for the second time this year and the fourth time in two years. Despite the frequency of my visits, I’m still hugely excited, not least because I’ll get to visit my favourite burger bar, Burgermeister, eat a McRib, and most importantly, get to have an absolutely amazing and authentic döner kebab.

I’ve already spoken of my love for Berlin, a city beyond comparison to anywhere else I’ve ever visited. Truly my favourite place, each of my visits has been markedly different due to the time of year and group of people I’ve been with, as well as where I’ve stayed.

For my first and second visits, I stayed at the very decent Meininger hostel opposite Mockernbrücke station (however, they no longer own that hostel). The second visit last summer, a group of six of us rented a small apartment in Prenzlauer Berg for three nights. For my birthday in January this year, my partner and I stayed in the opulent Pestana hotel adjacent to the Tiergarten, and enjoyed the sauna and swimming pool when we weren’t out exploring.

This visit, we decided we fancied staying somewhere a little different, and thus we’re spending our first night at the Ostel, an East German theme hotel. Arriving in Berlin a couple of days after the 25th anniversary of the fall of the wall, this seems appropriate and also quite exciting!

So, with only a week to go until our departure, I’m already very excited to return to my favourite city. I can’t wait to go to familiar haunts as well as discover some new ones.

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Burgermeister, Berlin

Alongside travel, food is one of life’s most wonderful pleasures in my opinion. One of the things I enjoy the most when travelling is the opportunity to try new foods, or variations of foods I already know and love. For example, I’m spending a week in Israel this coming September, and ever since I booked my flights I’ve been driving myself wild thinking about all the amazing food I’ll be able to savour.

Similarly, at the end of last year, after having arranged our four days in Berlin, we immediately set about trying to locate places to eat that we’d both overlooked on previous visits. One of the first that came to my partner’s attention thanks to TripAdvisor was Burgermeister. At the moment in the UK there’s an ongoing trend for “trendy” and “gourmet” burgers, which although delicious can often be financially ruinous and served by irritating staff who seem to believe they’re New York hipsters. Thankfully, Burgermeister’s utterly delectable burgers are both unpretentious and relatively cheap.

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Based on a quick browse of their website (http://www.burger-meister.de/), we knew we had to put Burgermeister as a priority on our list of things to do during the trip. As we were ravenous upon arrival in Germany it was the very first place we went, en route to our hotel. After landing at Schönefeld and taking the AirportExpress train to Ostbahnhof, we doubled back on ourselves to Warschauer Straße, changing to the U-Bahn to travel one stop across the Oberbaumbrücke. Located under the elevated tracks of U-Bahn line U1, just across the road from the steps up to Schlesisches Tor station, Burgermeister serves amazing food.

Burgermeister’s burgers are without a doubt one of the most delicious things I’ve ever put in my mouth. Additionally, the menu isn’t too big or too fancy, and the overall quality of the food is absolutely excellent. From the seven meat (and one veggie tofu) options available, I decided upon the Meisterburger – fried onions, mustard, bacon and barbecue sauce atop a plump, meaty burger, all sandwiched between two toasted halves of sesame-seeded burger bun. To accompany this flavourful feast of flesh and sauce, I ordered a side of perfectly cooked pommes (fries) and a bottle of Rothaus Tannenzäpfle beer. Juicy, saucy, meaty burger, crunchy bacon and onions… the Meisterburger had it all. I dipped my fries in creamy mayonnaise, and washed it all down with delicious pilsner.

It was almost a shame that it all filled me up just right (and I have a depraved appetite) and thus I had no room for another burger – the Hausmeista (mushrooms, cheese, bacon) sounded amazing. If I were going for the full blow-out, I would have gone for the Meister Aller Klassen – two burgers, double cheese, bacon, BBQ sauce and jalapenos. We considered returning for another go at a later point in the holiday, but with only three full days at our disposal and kebabs, currywurst and other exclusively Berliner treats ahead, we decided that our first mouth-watering visit would be the only one for that trip. Next time…

From a cost point of view, this place has it just right. For two Meisterburgers, two portions of fries and two bottles of Rothaus, I paid around €10. As with the majority of takeaway food available in the city, you can eat something that’s delicious, filling and authentically Berlin without spending a horrendous amount of much-needed Euros.

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Burgermeister has been going since 2006, and in the years since its inception has expanded slightly to include a covered standing bar area (see top photo) as well as the original picnic tables outside (which is still how it appears on Google Street View, from 2008). These true masters of burgers (a clever play on words; in a traditional sense, Bürgermeister means “master of the citizens” in German). Admittedly, it is rather small, can be cramped, and during busy periods it can be difficult to get anywhere to perch within, or anywhere to sit on the few picnic tables outside. HOWEVER, any and all minor tribulations are forgotten once you’ve placed your order and are sipping an ice-cold Rothaus within smelling distance of the food. The food, the food…

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Burgermeister, Oberbaumstraße, Kreuzberg. Closest station is Schlesisches Tor, or Warschauer Straße if you fancy a walk across the beautiful Oberbaumbrücke.

Berlin

Fernsehturm and Alexanderplatz station

I didn’t really know how to begin this blog, as I’m pretty new to blogging (writing, not reading) and moreover I’m still deciding what it is I want to say with it. So, to accompany a rather rambling start, I’ve put up a picture I took on my last visit to what is, without any shadow of a doubt, my favourite place that I’ve visited thus far.

Overflowing with all the epithets one ascribes a city such as this despite none of them being truly descriptive enough, Berlin is, put simply, wonderful. I’ve made four visits in the past ten years, three of them in recent rapid succession, and if all the usual irksome entanglements of life such as work and rent and bills were not preventative factors, I’d most probably fly there today.

Each of my four visits has been an almost entirely different experience; the first, an end of school A-level German trip (myself, three classmates and our teacher, the whole class); the second a brief two-night stopover eight years later at the beginning of a three-week InterRail jaunt; the third a group holiday with friends the following summer; and most recently, on which I took the picture at the start of this entry, a long weekend at the beginning of this year with my partner, as a joint birthday celebration. My age, the company, the budget and the itinerary may have differed on each visit, but Berlin has always been the same; exciting, enthralling and edifying.

There are some places you go and almost immediately there’s a connection or a spark, a feeling that this is somewhere you definitely want to be, somewhere that you should be, almost as if you can’t believe it’s taken you this long to get around to being there. On each occasion, Berlin has always given me that spine tingle from the moment I’ve stepped off the plane.

It’s not difficult to ascertain what does it for me. It’s most likely the fact that I love the history, architecture, taking the U-Bahn to different parts of town, having beer and cigarettes together, döner kebabs, David Bowie and Iggy Pop, kaffee und kuchen, the German language, Jägermeister, currywurst, Christiane F and Lola rennt. For me, Berlin has it all. I can’t wait for my next visit.

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