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Berlin Brunches and Christmas Markets

There are those who flock to warmer climes at this time of year and those who wilt at the thought. We are of the latter brigade and adore a crisp frosty winter so it was a treat to see family in Berlin for an early Christmas.

Berlin is an amazing place – once seen, never forgotten.

The buildings are awesome, many still pockmarked from the War lest we forget. Statues of remembrance are gargantuan, generally filled with gestures and life: thrusting weapons; muscular lions; great gilded wings, as opposed to perched stoically on horse or throne. Our ‘Berliners’ have great knowledge of the local food scene so every meal is a joy for the senses. Above all, the folk of Berlin embrace diversity with gusto. Walk down a street and every language is spoken; every fashion style in evidence, often highly individual and fun.

Not to mention the 60+ Christmas Markets! Proud of their heritage, they concentrate on local traditions and don’t rely on poor imitations. Whilst primarily in Berlin for family hugs we gladly joined in the festivities complete with glüwein, raclette and freshly made potato crisps, still warm, served in generous paper cones. A feast for the senses.

First on the list, in one of Berlin’s most beautiful squares was Gendarmenmarkt with dozens

of pretty stalls between Französischer Dom and Deutscher Dom. Ballet dancers performed on stage; musicians played alongside craftsmen; chefs cooking on stalls – there were even snowflakes right on cue!

Strolling towards TV Tower we saw a ferris wheel and investigated. This Alexanderplatz market was smaller but exuded charm hard to beat, with an old-fashioned exquisitely painted merry-go-round and wonderful antique wooden Christmas Pyramid Weihnachtspyramide reaching up into the dark winter sky. Folk were enjoying the experience, sharing, chatting and spending…interestingly not a plastic bag in sight – oh joy!

A walk along the canal led straight to the neighbourhood twice-weekly food market extending a whole block: stalls laden with fruit and vegetables, seafood and poultry, meats and cheeses. We bought an excellent raw milk cheese from Austria and marvelled at an entire stall of potatoes with over two dozen varieties!

As darkness fell we headed for a charming old part of town

where the Alt-Rixdorf Christmas market in the Neukölln district takes visitors back to the 19th century (for one weekend only). Never have I seen such a rich variety of imaginative and traditional wooden handicrafts. The brass band played beautiful carols and comprised of all ages from jolly pensioners to a youth with green spiky hair dressed in shorts! St Nicholas and Santa, both impeccably dressed, entertained the children as they wandered through the crowds – no advance paid commercial booking system or queueing here! On either side of the cobbled street were alleys where coaches and horses would have been. One such place is preserved as a museum housing a display of historic carriages, many of which were handsomely restored and a joy to see.

Our foodie family took us to wonderful haunts to

taste local fare, notably game dishes at this superb lakeside restaurant Café am Neuen See – apparently unrecognisable from its summer plumage with boats along the shore where, for now, there is a curling rink! I counted in excess of four log stoves, drooled over their menu and selected local game from their log-fired oven. Terrific!

Brunch the following day comprised a melt-in-the-mouth ’60 minute egg open sandwich’ served with lime guacamole on a sourdough.

On our final night we were treated to an evening at Lokal on

Linienstraße in Mitte, highly respected for its focus on regional produce, displayed clearly on menus. My Saddle of Fallow Deer, cabbage, roots, pumpernickel and pear;

Homemade Pasta, Brussels sprouts, apple, buckwheat, blue cheese, rounded off with Cheesecake was superb and a night to remember. Everything on the menu was referenced to rivers, lakes and landscapes.

Berlin is truly a buzzing, mildly anarchic, food destination, with a big heart. We look forward to the next time we visit our nearest and dearest there.

Merry Christmas to you all, wherever you may be.

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