Now, this may be a slightly controversial viewpoint to some people, but I think the way Berlin is maturing currently is amazing. People have decided to make their dream businesses (FOLKDAYS anyone?!) in the only city that could make them a reality, and because of them, Berlin is evolving with a new wealth of creativity and entrepreneurial inspiration. And yes, this wave of creativity has made friends with the idea of making some money, and to some people this isn’t in keeping with the spirit of Berlin, but I think it absolutely proves the heart of Berlin, its independent nature, and the various relative freedoms afforded to Berliners that makes taking a risk possible.
It’s also a city with a million faces. I mean, how many capital cities can you roll out of bed on a Sunday after partying all night in one of the best clubs in the world, jump on a train, and arrive in a forest less than an hour later and spot wild boar pottering about in the undergrowth or at very least a bird of prey or two?
Giving tips on your own city can be a tough process though. The places you like to visit are most likely the local, unspoiled, lesser-known corners of the city that you really want to preserve / save for yourself and your friends. I for one have a bad side that would rather not share too much information so I can always get "my" seat at my favourite bar, or know I can always get a slice of my favourite flavour pizza whenever I head out for one. But then you have to catch yourself and think about how you should really support these wonderful businesses that always take such good care of you, ask about your recent whereabouts or where your dog is on that particular day - these places where you are made to feel local and accepted into a community within this constantly shifting city.
In this spirit, we - the FOLKDAYS team - would like to present you with our winter edition Berlin city guide. This list of places won't throw many surprises out to our friends here in Berlin (they’re all there already, enjoying these places with us!), but they're our favourites and give you a snapshot in 2015 of the places that make us proud to live here.
Wilmersdorfer Str. 145/146
To just call Rogacki a deli probably wouldn’t give you a big enough idea of the place. In this food heaven, there is a counter dedicated to each and every deli subcategory, and a canteen where you can buy all the different completely, horrifically wonderful German beige and brown foods. Potatoes done every way, hunks of meat from all the animals, and of course that classic Berlin speciality “Bouletten” – delicious meatballs the size of burger patties. Fill your tray, eat standing like the locals, and don’t invite any vegetarians!
This place is a real mystery: it is super central, right in the heart of Neukölln, and really good but nobody seems to know it. Be aware: if you do not pay attention you will walk right past it too. On the not very charming part of Karl-Marx Straße, this tiny Japanese restaurant is a real keeper. The food is great, and the prices as good as the quality. It’s also family run (when it’s packed all members of the family help to prepare the sushi), and has been in business for over 20 years. But most importantly the menu offers a lot more than just sushi: Tabibito is a proper Japanese restaurant. I LOVE the gyoza as well as the home made curry chips and tempura dishes. If you want to be sure of a seat, make a reservation, because this place only fits about 20 people.
Drinking: Das Hotel
Das Hotel is easily the most perfect spot I have found for a late afternoon glass of wine when you’ve had enough weather for the day. In fact, to get even more specific, you want to go there on a Monday or Thursday before 7pm. On these days, you will have the divine pleasure of meeting Karsten behind the bar. This Kiel-born giant not only has the best voice in the world (I can't even describe!), but is also gifted with a wealth of charm and great taste in music. If he's working, you will find something fantastic on the record player at a volume that is perhaps more respectful to the music than conversation, but perfect for reading and sipping a cold glass of Riesling.
The place to be, in the area to be in, and one of the many corners of party heart of Neukölln – Weserstraße – Beuster is the perfekt place to get the party started. The simple menu of around ten dishes (presented to you on a large mirror that is presented to each table) won't take up much of your energy, which you can then spend trying all the great cocktails and long drinks on offer. But be advised: the salad is VERY delicious, but definitely a sound foundation for drinking your way through the list. Believe us. We have been there. We have done this.
After months of not quite getting round to going to Roamers, when I finally did you can bet I was kicking myself for that lost time. It’s such a beautiful place to stop for a coffee and something delicious! The staff can get pretty swamped during busy times, but they’re always open and thoughtful to the needs of their guests; and whether taking a seat below the many hanging plants, or tucked into the steamy window, you’re always in a great spot. And if this place is great in the winter, I can only imagine how perfect it will be to sit outside there on a summer’s afternoon with a book.
Reichenberger Str. 101
Please don’t talk to me about a good New York cheesecake if you’ve never been to Five Elephants. If you want to try a piece, come early: it’s often sold out by the time afternoon arrives, which is a very good reason to start the day with a big ass slice of the BEST NY cheesecake I’ve ever had (at least in Berlin!). Actually, the coffee is the reason most people go there – it’s freshly roasted round the corner from the café, and my coffee connoisseur sister says it’s in her top 3 worldwide list of coffee spots. They pay especially close attention to the temperature they serve each coffee at in order to bring out the best in their carefully roasted beans.
Culture: C/O Gallery and Helmut Newton Foundation
Hardenbergstr. 22-24 and Jebensstr. 2
For an afternoon of photographic culture, you can't do much better than visiting C/O and the Helmut Newton Foundation, which sit a convenient few minutes walk from one another in Ku'damm. At C/O you will be treated - at any given time - to shows from some of the most important and influential photographers the world has ever known, and snapshots from history’s photo album. Stop for a coffee to refresh your eyes, then drop into Helmut's world. Yes, there are a lot of tits and pubic hair, but there are also self portraits, and work by his wife and collaborator June, known in her own right as a photographer under the pseudonym Alice Springs. It’s the personal side of this collection that really flesh out the life of this master, and - in the case of June's self portrait at the time of his death – can really break your heart.
Take a walk through the forest, and up the hill. Sip from your hip flask and feel the cold air on your face as the great structure of Teufelsberg suddenly looms over you. This Cold War era listening post looks like a dick and balls (sorry, but it absolutely does!) from the outside and most days you can take a tour of what’s left of the building. Once you’re up there, on a clear day you’re treated to wonderful views, and there are incredible acoustics in the top chamber. On a quiet day, the guide will mostly leave you to your own devices, so read the fascinating history before you leave home, and just enjoy the magic of reverberating sound.
Nightlife: Clärchens Ballhaus
Berlin fully deserves its reputation for nighttime revelry, and it can be overwhelming to decide what to do from one evening to the next when you’re faced with so many great options. But to highlight something truly special to Berlin, Clärchens Ballhaus is a great location to dance late into the night. Set in one of the city’s great old surviving ballrooms, you can really feel what the Berlin party scene of the 1920s would have been like, whilst taking to the floor for a waltz with a new friend. You would be hard-pressed not to have a great time here, even if you’re not a fan of the dance, being a spectator will bring you almost as much joy.
Text and Photos by Ruth Bartlett