Photo Potpourri – Karneval der Kulturen

I think you have figured out by now that I love food.
My German teacher said that eating & drinking don’t count as hobbies in Germany – whatever.  Food is definitely my hobby – cooking, eating, admiring, reviewing…I love every thing about it!  So I was overjoyed when I learned that a cultural festival featuring food from around the world was happening in Berlin!  The Karneval der Kulturen (carnival of cultures) is a yearly street fair/giant party/parade that takes place in Kreuzberg over a long weekend.  The carnival highlights and celebrates the many different cultures present in Berlin.  At the parade, people put on traditional costumes from their home countries and put on a show for the crowd.  It is a hugely popular event – we read that the parade alone attracts around 1 million attendees!  Unfortunately, we didn’t make it to the parade until it was over but we did hit up the street fair a few times!  The carnival was a great way to enjoy the beautiful weather, get excited for summer, and eat a lot.

P.S. Pictures of yummy food & fun times from our trip to Bulgaria will be coming soon!  We had an amazing time and took a lot of pictures, so editing them all may take a while. 🙂  I’m also hoping to have a new layout up soon that I coded and designed myself!

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1. Empenadas and arepas!  Good Latin American food is so hard to come by here so, naturally, we were thrilled to see booths ran by actual Latin American people.  These were delicious!  I don’t think the booth was ran by a specific restaurant so we probably won’t be able to have these again until next year.

2. This Vietnamese burger from District Mot was awesome!  Between the steamed rice bun, pickled veggies, the chip, cilantro, and good beef we couldn’t get enough.  Hopefully we will make it out to their restaurant sometime enjoy another one!

3. Berlin’s finest!

4. I think this dish was called ‘Funky Chicken’ and was served at a West African booth.  Anywho, it was a crunchy fried chicken kabob sprinkled with curry powder, served w/ salad and a dressing similar to Thousand Island.  It was very tasty and matched well with the passion fruit beer I had from the same stand.

5. This may have been my favorite dish we tried at the carnival because fish is not something we eat often here.  This delicious chunk of salty smoked salmon topped with a dill sauce came from a Finnish booth – it was to die for.  The outer edges of the fish were sooo salty and sooo crispy…it was amazing.

6. This is a very small fraction of the trash that was left behind after the parade.  We ventured out at night after the parade and it felt like walking into apocalyptic ground zero.  Thousands of beer bottles lined the streets, some nicely arranged into large piles for the bottle collectors who return them for money; broken glass everywhere; paper plates & napkins drifted eerily down the street, and still the Berliners partied on!  Every so often along the 6 km parade route we stumbled upon an impromptu dance party outside of some cafe whose owners were (brilliantly) selling beer on the street and blasting dance music.  It was a strange sight to see but made for a fun night!

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Berlinburger International

As I’ve mentioned before, Berliners love burgers. Which is funny because the German word for ‘citizen’ is bürger, haha…  Anywho, we popped into a popular local burger joint in Kreuzberg called Berlinburger International (aka BBI) on a cold Thursday and left happy & very, very full.  BBI has a tiny storefront on Pannierstraße (near Hermannplatz) that often has a long line out the door.
What BBI lacks in space they more than make up for with their big burgers!

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Is your mouth watering?  In the front of the picture above is the cheeseburger with jalapeños that I ordered and in the back is the Mexican-ish burger Alex had.  Note the giant pile of guac spilling off of Alex’s burger.  That’s right, real guacamole with chunks!  This is hard to come by in Berlin.  As you can see, the burgers are loaded up with toppings, including far too much salad for any normal sized mouth.  Consequently, most people were pushing off most of the greens and eating it like a little side salad, which is definitely not a bad thing in my book.  I was also very, very happy that they gave me such a generous portion of jalapeños. 🙂

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We also had some amazing potato wedges which were good enough to rival KFC’s, especially when smothered with ketchup & mayo.  At first I thought the portion was a bit small but trying to tackle both the wedges and a burger in one meal is quite the challenge.

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Above is a picture of BBI’s tiny, tiny storefront.  I kind of like how their logo looks like it belongs to a government office.  It would be awesome if all Berlin government buildings served me delicious hamburgers to go with my inevitable long wait times.  Just an idea…hint, hint.

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Nothing pairs better with a big burger than a big bottle of a light beer!  This Augustinerbräu is a go-to bottled beer for us and it looks very beautiful against the background of BBI’s graffitied tables.  The seating arrangement at BBI isn’t the best, but considering the minuscule space they are working with the only thing they could maybe do is add more outdoor tables.  They do have a few seats inside – although you are likely to have someone in the queue rubbing up against you throughout your meal.

I don’t think I will ever be able to confidently deem a restaurant the best burgers in Berlin – there are waaay too many burger joints in this city to single out just one!  As soon as you think you’ve had the best one another juicy burger dripping in toppings comes along and makes you reconsider.  Regardless, BBI is an excellent choice for big burgers at a low price, despite the lack of seating.  For more info, check out BBI on their website and on Yelp!

Photo Potpourri – Week 10

We are busy here in Berlin.
In between starting German classes 5 days x week, learning basic programming, household chores/feeding the Big Hog, and trying to fit in some gym time, there’s not much space left in my day for bloggin’.  So I apologize if I go a little M.I.A. for the next few weeks!
However, we did take some time off from serious pursuits last weekend to hang with old & new friends.  There was a programming conference in town last week which gave Alex the perfect opportunity to meet new people and talk about his true love (coding) at the same time!  We met some really cool nerds, found some new hangouts spots, and – in true Berlin fashion – stayed out ’til the sun came up.
Another highlight of the weekend was our first American-style German football game!  It felt like a high school or middle school game, but it was still super fun.  Between the smaller-than-average field, pre-teen cheerleaders, streakers, and the World Cup-style announcing (“FUUUUMMMBBBBLLLEEEE!!!”), nothing was quite ‘American’ but it was definitely unique.  The most authentic thing about the game was the dismal weather – it was cold & rainy, just like any Monday Night Football game in November!
Here are some very misc. photos from the past few weeks, including a couple I rescued from Alex’s phone (aka where photos go to die).

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1. Throwback to May 1st (known as May Day) which is somewhat similar to Labor Day in the States but with more rioting and Molotov cocktails.  From our apartment we watched a few thousand riot cops and protestors parade down our street.  Apparently the May Day protests used to be much more raucous and violent but are now more of a party/rally about whatever people have beef with: anti-capitalism, pro-communism, immigration rights, peace in Korea, etc.

2. It’s rare that we shell out the cash for a nice cocktail so I made sure to soak up every Don Draper moment of this Old Fashioned from Würgeengel in Kreuzberg.  Würgeengel is a really cool spot – good mood lighting, red walls, intimate table settings.

3. American football!  We headed over to the stadium at Mauerpark to watch the Berlin Adler do their best at tossing the ol’ pig skin.  Even though the gameplay was a little lackluster, we had a blast eating hot dogs, drinking beer, and cheering for the home team (who obliterated the other team).

4. This is just a random picture of the sign in Alexanderplatz that, appropriately, was taken by Alex.  No story here, I just liked it. 🙂

5. Our awesome friend and former Maid of Honor mailed us a care package full of American goodies!  And a hilarious note explaining each pick.

6. Included in the care package was this super cool necklace featuring a map of the Washington DC area where we used to live!  I love it.

7. Another throwback from a few weeks ago when we were chillin’ at a Starbucks, searching Ebay for bikes*, and realized we were across from Checkpoint Charlie (white building on the right).  The surrounding area is always bustling with tourists visiting the museum and spending all of their Euros at the souvenir shops.

*Note: Yes, this means that we now own bikes.  Which also means that I now ride said bike almost every day.  Me.  I am still a little scared of bikes but the convenience is winning me over.

 

Where the Wild Things Are

I was missing home a little this past weekend.  
It is cherry blossom season in D.C. and all of the pics on Instagram of the pretty trees has made me nostalgic.  When we went to the cherry blossom festival last year there were hardly any blossoms on the trees (thanks to bad storms) and we had to go back a few weeks later to get the full effect.  Despite the lack of blossoms, we had a great time with friends chillin’ at the marina in Southeast, drinking $14 Corona-rita’s (yay D.C.), and eating kebabs.  Who would have thought that a year later we would be eating kebabs in Germany?  Generally speaking, I don’t miss home too much yet but occasionally something triggers a little homesickness.  Usually this feeling is linked to events we won’t be able to attend – graduations, weddings, concerts, holidays, etc.  To cure it, I try to remember all of the things we can do because we’re here!

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I haven’t seen any cherry blossoms here in Berlin but there are plenty of little surprises to discover in the city.  Recently Alex and I were exploring our new neighborhood and decided to check out Volkspark Hasenheide, a large park nearby.  It is definitely one of my new favorite spots!  The park has 50 acres of open spaces and forested areas and is home to an open-air theater, mini-golf, dog parks, playgrounds, a rose garden, and my favorite feature: a small zoo!
The term ‘zoo’ might be a bit of an exaggeration for the small enclosures which mostly feature barnyard animals, but either way it was such a cool thing to find in a park!  And it doesn’t cost a penny – or rather, a Euro cent.
After perusing the zoo we took advantage of the warm(er) weather by relaxing in one Hasenheide’s many open fields.  The park was bustling with picknickers, cyclists, slackliners attempting to cross the valley.  I am really looking forward to spending lazy weekend days hanging in the park when the weather warms up and summer finally arrives.

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Special places like Hasenheide help to curb the homesickness that comes with expatriating.  It is important to remember that, while you may be missing things back home, there is always something new and exciting to do/see in your new home.  You just need to go out and find it!

To see more photos from Hasenheide park, click the link below!

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