Heading to Berlin…

























Posted: April 26, 2012 at 11:26 am.

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A Hot Summer in East Berlin

esshats_b2This Thursday head on down to the Filmmuseum for a screening of Heisser Sommer  — an East German musical from 1968.

“Once upon a time in the East, there was a Bloc-buster of a film genre — one that the unrestrained could call the ‘The Red Commie Musical’. These films came packed with tunes, drama, dance, romance, sheer wackiness and — most endearing for the modern Western viewer — a solidly alien conception. Who knew musicals could help sell the idea of a worker’s paradise?…”

Read more here.

Posted: November 4, 2009 at 9:46 am.

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On Wall and Currywurst

berlin1My feature on the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall (and the 60th anniversary of the rise of Currywurst) is published today in the Globe&Mail. It was a hard one to write mostly because it is such a dense and telling tale. I   visited Berlin a few months after it happened and the images that still stick was of children playing in the watchtowers and the big bales of collected barbwire —  forming  5-10  meter high tumbleweeds of rusting iron. So anyway  I had to leave a lot of wacky facts out of the article in the name of readability. Luckily I have no such constraints here. Oh, and if you want more on ostalgia just check out my previous  Globe&Mail feature on the 15th anniversary….

berlin2Funniest story I heard was from my esteemed hosts Mr and Mrs Cameron (who have been living the revolution in Mitte quite a few years now…)  who told me of a group of West Berlin friends who  found a hole in the wall and went for a look in East Berlin. When they returned they found the hole had been closed up — they were stuck! But luckily, for them the Wall properly fell the next day.

There are a few tricks for the visitor to  differentiate between former East and West halves. East Berlin has much more animated and jaunty figures in their crosswalk lights. Linguists now also know that it just takes 29 years, the time the wall existed, for distinct dialects to develop.

By 1980 an estimated 100,000 West Berliners were living life in a subculture — via cafes, communes, squats and generally radical lefty politics. (Today the most affluent of this generation support some of the largest organic supermarkets in Europe.)

You know you are buying an authentic GDR postcard by its flimsiness — and by the fact that you are overcharged for it.

And in the world of currywurst:


I had some earlier thoughts on sausage. The mighty currywurst is apparently called the “white trash plate” in Cologne and Dusseldorf but “chancellor’s plate” in Hannover. Also interesting: Gerhard  Schroeder was known as the “currywurst chancellor”.  And Volkswagon developed their own recipe  that can only be bought in factory canteens. In 1982, the singer Herbert Groenemeyer sang passionately of his nightly desires for the mighty wurst  (this YouTube clip is not for the queasy of stomach but boy does Herbert sing from the heart).

berlin4Now for something completely different:

After all that heavy street food (especially since you’ll also have to pay tribute to the Turk, Mahmut Aygun, who invented the now universal Doner Kebab here in 1972), there’s nothing like Japanese noodles. Cocolo (Gipsstrasse 3, 0172 3047584, ) serves some of the best Japanese noodle soup on the planet. Owner Ollie not only cooks but also built everything — from the furnishings to the  service to the kitchen — from scratch. Inspiring! Also, Restaurant Schoenbrunn is a lovely and  fancy place to dine in Volkspark Friedrichshain. Aid digestion by climbing the  nearby hills which were  built from the debris of WWII.

For dessert, one can pop into a baker for a Berliner (more commonly known as a Pfannkuchen in Berlin itself), the pastry JFK accidentally referred to in his “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech to half a million bewildered Berliners in 1963.

But  to conclude:
Mir ist alles Wurst!
Es geht um die Wurst!
Sei keine beleidigte Leber wurst!

Posted: October 24, 2009 at 10:16 am.


Some thoughts on sausage














I was just in Berlin researching the 20th anniversary of the Fall of the Wall and the 60th anniversary of currywurst. What a town! And what a vibrant street snacking culture! That is, if you like sausage (though respect must also be given to Mahmut Aygun who invented the donor kebab in this very same city in 1972). The mighty currywurst now even has its own Currywurst Museum. I took the above photo there: it’s a 3D map of all the currywurst stands in Berlin. Very handy!  And  can now  someone please come up with iPhone application version of this? More on walls and wursts coming soon…

Posted: September 8, 2009 at 1:38 pm.