Turkey in Berlin

Today, I’m featuring a guest post from the gorgeous Marta López, a Spanish travel writer based in London. I rarely include guests posts on Perking the Pansies these days (and never for profit) but when Marta asked if I’d like to publish her article on the trendy Kreuzberg district of Berlin, serving up one of the coolest cities on the planet with an authentic Turkish twist, how could I refuse?

So ladies and gents, I give you…

Turkey in Berlin, Five Reasons to Visit Kreuzberg by Marta López

The German capital hides lots of history and monuments that you definitely should explore when visiting the city for the first time. Once you have done all those things mentioned in your travel guide, there’s still a stop for you at one of the coolest and more colourful districts in Berlin: The Kreuzberg or as it’s also called “the Turkish Berlin”; a very trendy quarter that houses the most alternative culture in the city. This is the home of anarchists, bohemian souls and of course the large Turkish community in Berlin.

These are my top 5 reasons to visit this district in the German capital. And remember, Kreuzberg feels neither East nor West!

1.      It’ s a very multicultural area

It used to be the black sheep of West Berlin (a sort of Bronx in Berlin) and now the truth is that it is the area with the most personality in town. 40 % of the population here is Turkish and the rest of the neighbours are immigrants, especially in the side known as “SO 36”. Every year there is a big festival called “The Carnival of Cultures”, a four day urban festival that reflects the quarter of different faces and cultures. Next year the celebration will take place on the 4th June. Do you fancy a bit of multicultural atmosphere?

2.      You’ll find the best kebabs ever!

Kreuzberg is far from picture pretty and perfect but it´s really cool! Thanks to its large Turkish community living in the area, when you visit the district you will find an endless list of local Turkish bars where you can taste authentic and spicy kebabs. Top tip: Pop in at Imren Grill (Boppstr 10, Berlin) and try their tasty and juicy meat! Did you know that the Donner Kebab was actually invented here? The inventor was a Turkish expat called Kadir Nurman who has just died last October in Berlin.

3.      It’s full of exotic markets

There are lots of colourful markets surrounding the district. Visiting the Turkish market in Maybachufer (note that the market closes on Mondays) means literally transporting yourself to the beautiful Mediterranean country. Here you’ll find exotic textiles, different kind of hummus and lots and lots of people searching for the best products at the best price. Top tip: Try the Turkish pizza; it is out of this world!

4.      You’ll find an alternative culture

It is the home to Berlin’s punk rock movement, as well as other alternative subcultures. From graffiti covered lanes to random museums and galleries like The Berlinische Galerie, which contains Berlin art dating from 1870. But it’s not all about underground art. The Kreuzberg district is also the Mecca for fashionistas! Here arrive all the up-and- coming designers, so if you fancy unique accessories, don’ t hesitate to visit High-Lite (Bergmannstraße 99, Berlin) -We could say it´s a bit like any Shoreditch store in London.

5.      Best nightlife atmosphere in the city

Who said that in Germany it’s not possible to go out until 6.00 am? In Kreuzberg the nightlife starts late and seems to end early in the morning! Most of bars here have that bohemian charm that will encourage you to stay for hours. Don’t miss out clubs such as Lido (Cuvrystraße 7, Berlin) which is in an old cinema from the fifties and runs parties on the weekend, or Monarch Club (Skalitzer Straße 134, Berlin) based in a building that offers amazing views and the best electronic music. If you are a young clubbing addicted adult, you can’t miss it!

Getting there

Transport

Berlin-Tegel Airport (TXL) is located only 8 km from the centre of the city so reaching the centre will take you around 20 minutes. The city buses are the best option. They stop at different points through the city; the main stop in the centre is Alexanderplatz, located in the heart of the Mitte area. If you need to travel from Berlín-Schönefel Airport (SXF) to the centre of Berlin, you can choose between three options: The regional train, the B-Bahn train and the bus that runs on a regular service.

Where to stay

If you are looking for accommodation and you want to stay closer to the alternative scene, you can search hotels in Berlin near Kreuzberg with Expedia. Remember this is probably the most budget-friendly side of the city!

Author Bio:

MartaMarta López is a travel writer based in London.  She loves travelling and discovering new cultures. When she isn’t writing on her laptop, she can be found around the city looking for the coolest urban art. Follow her adventures on twitter @Martazepol

Sweet Swedes and Wretched Russians

My faith in our distant Nordic cousins has been mercifully restored by the arrival of Joel and Mikaela, a sweet couple from the northern pinelands of Mother Svea. They own a Tepe house on the level beneath us. Joel is a tall, slim, handsome older man with silver hair and a laid-back charm. His wife Mikaela is the archetypal Aryan beauty, a blue-eyed blond bombshell. Their warm and kindly disposition is a welcome respite from the grumpy old Danes next to us. They invited us in for tea. Their grand villa is a picture of understated Scandinavian chic. We chatted away for hours, a delicious smörgåsbord of wit and wisdom.

I recalled my first visit to Stockholm when I was a hormonal adolescent. The little local grammar school I attended laid on the most incredible journeys designed to broaden horizons and expand the mind. One early morning in 1975 twenty or so sweaty boys boarded  a train at Victoria Station and headed for the coast. We sailed on the morning tide to Flanders where we began our grand passage across the great North European Plain.

First stop Berlin. It was the height of the Cold War and we spent two days exploring the cruelly divided city, escorted through the wall at Checkpoint Charlie. Onwards east, our carriages were pulled by an ancient steam locomotive that choo choo’d through a flat, monotonous landscape. As we neared Poland our party was raided by a detachment of East German border guards brandishing Kalashnikovs. The mean-looking, chisel-chinned troopers in tight beige uniforms rifled through our belongings and ransacked the couchettes. Perhaps they were looking for Levi jeans. Calm was quickly restored and we continued our incredible journey. A brief stop in Warsaw precluded an excursion to the city. We continued on across the Soviet border to Smolensk where the entire train was silently raised from its bogies and placed onto a new set of wheels to fit the wider Russian railway gauge.

Second stop Moscow. Tsar Brezhnev was on the Soviet throne and we were tightly chaperoned by an over-painted woman in cheap scent. She was tailed by the KGB. Shops were empty save for Russian dolls, and strangers approached us in Gorky Park wanting the clothes off our backs. Moscow was drab but the metro was palatial. The Kremlin was magnificent and Red Square was vast and windswept. Lenin in his marble tomb looked like a Madam Tussauds’ dummy. The comrades around us looked fed up and miserable as they shuffled dutifully past the macabre exhibit.

Third stop Leningrad that was. The Venice of the North was a more visually pleasing spectacle with imposing baroque architecture painted in multi-coloured delicate pastels. The majestic enormity of the Winter Palace containing the Hermitage Museum was too vast to comprehend. As if Peter the Great’s grand imperial capital wasn’t grand enough we embarked on our fourth stop, a day trip to Novgorod, one of the most celebrated cities of medieval Rus. This ravishing city is twinned with Watford of all places.

Fifth stop Helsinki across the Gulf of Finland. This picturesque and verdant city reminded me of a mini-St Petersburg. Our whistle-stop excursion was all too brief.

Sixth stop stunning Stockholm where we expected to see a sex shop on every corner. It was the sexual repressed seventies when buttoned-up Brits were convinced that emancipated Swedes were at it morning noon and night. We were disappointed.

We steamed back to Blighty across the cold northern seas in a Ruskie rust bucket that saw service in World War Two. We shared the wreck with a party from an all-girl’s school in Scarborough. I watched the boys chase the girls and wondered what all the fuss was about. Our teachers allowed us to take a drink at the bar. Perhaps this is where my gradual but certain descent into alcohol dependency all began.

Final stop Tilbury Docks and back to earth with a bump. Three weeks for 150 quid which my parents saved for months to pay. All in all a fantastic adventure that was a little lost on a bunch of post-pubescent fourteen year olds whose main preoccupation was masturbation.

PS Perking the Pansies has few followers in modern Russia but I spied a lone flasher in Novgorod the other day.