Winter in Berlin: an introduction (+ personal favorites)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Whelp, that about settles it. For the past few couple of weeks now, temperatures have been steadily dropping, even dipping below zero degrees (0C/32F). As part of the irreversible march towards the long and brutal German winter, Berliners are ditching fall wardrobe pieces for warmer, heavier, and more utilitarian apparel. And moving, along with their cigarettes from parks, plazas, and canals, indoors to the many comforting, living room-esque, inviting bars, coffee shops, and cafés strewn across the city. Too, in the spirit of the holiday season, I have decided to share a few of my favorite Berlin dives, hangouts, and haunts. They are listed below, in alphabetical order, along with a brief description and their respective address.

  • Ä: cheap and pioneering Weserstraße bar with a fun, youthful vibe. Weserstraße 40
  • Bar Raval: sleek tapas restó across from Görtlizer Park, one of multicultural Kreuzberg's main social arteries. Lübbener Straße 1.
  • City Chicken: with its sparsely decorated interior, comprised of industrial-style seating and Islamic Qu'ran quoteings, this Sonnennallee Lebanese restaurant is best-known for their over the top portions of delicious spit-roasted chicken served with almost uneatable portions of hummus, garlic sauce, salads and French fries. Sonnenallee 59.
  • Engels: cozy Neukölln cafe with a rustic interior up front, and comfy couches and pinball machines in the back. Good cake and lounge-like ambiance. Hurrfurthstraße 21.
  • Five Elephant: located on the quiet southern side of Görtlizer Park, this coffee shop, complete with its own in-house roasting operation, is the real deal. Heavy emphasis on sustainability and fair-trade; the friendly staff travels to and sources coffees from environmentally-friendly farms in Central and South America. And the cheesecake is to die for. A personal favorite. Reichenbergerstraße 101.
  • Hamy: cheap Vietnamese restó on Hermannplatz. The Tagesmenü - daily menu - changes daily, and comes in at only 4,90. Hasenheide 10.
  • KaffeeBar: Ich mag KaffeeBar! Lovable coffeeshop and British expat hangout in the Graefestraße kiez. Graefestraße 9.
  • KaffeeMitte: superb people watching and Italian sandwiches in Mitte. Surprisingly good hot chocolate, too. Weinmeisterstraße 9.
  • Liesl: neighborhoodsy bar on a dark Neukölln side street that, to me, epitomizes the Berlin "living room" bar. Nogatstraße 30.
  • Luzia: more trendy and flashy than the other bars listed here, but nevertheless a very dark and enjoyable hangout popular with the gentrifying Kreuzberg set. Oranienstraße 34.
  • Nam Định Quán: deep in the former East, this legit pho joint is inside of Litchenberg´s vast, seemingly never-ending Vietnamese shopping center. Herzbergstraße 128-139.
  • Natasha und Henrich: kinda smokey, but otherwise a solid bar with a nice selection and attractive interior as far as Neukölln bars go. The locally-brewed Potsdamer Stange is worth a try. Or three. Weichselstraße 44.
  • Sankt Oberholz: Rosenthaler Platz café and creative hub popular with techies, start-up workers, and bloggers. Rosenthaler Straße 72.
  • Senegambia: Gambian-owned hole-in-the-wall on the quiet Reichenberger Straße. The beef maffé is superb, and though the restaurant's interior is loud, brash, and rather haphazard, the food is every bit on part with Paris' Senegalese offerings. Reichenberger Straße 72.
  • The Barn - Roastery: Mitte coffee shop and roaster best known for its in-house roasting operation and elaborate coffee-making displays/exhibitions. And no strollers/wifi/toilettes/sugar policy. For serious coffee lovers only! Schönhauser Allee 8.
  • Voo: Scandinavian clothing and street style store with a heavy Danish slant and pop-up coffee operation run by current World Cup Tasting Champion, Cory Andreen. Oranienstraße 24.
That aside, I have also posted a small collection of photos taken during this transitional and often unpredictable month of the year (November). In addition to the requisite architecture and fog-themed shots, I have included a few of the cozy, cave-like warm spaces where the majority of the city's social engagement and interaction typically plays out during the course of winter, included a few from my list above. With these, I have kept in mind a particularly relevant German saying: "Es gibt schlechtes Wetter, sondern nur die falsche kleidung". Rough translation: there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing. Enjoy, and stay warm!

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