The number of places in the world is daunting. Now, consider that each of these places has an exponential amount of food to taste. Not only what is interpreted as local cuisine, but also all the ethnic food that has migrated onto the scene. Seems fairly overwhelming, right? If I have learned anything during my year studying gastronomy in an Italian graduate program, it is that sharing about where you come from or where you have visited is a travel experience in itself. In line with this idea, I present a piece of Berlin: the neighborhood of Kreuzberg.
I unexpectedly found myself in Kreuzberg for the first time last summer. It’s funny how things have a way of aligning far in advance of their greater impact on your life. A group of friends and I rented an apartment in the area while visiting the city on vacation. I spent a week exploring the food haunts, shops and deeply rooted Turkish culture that defines this neighborhood. After leaving, one of my friends and I crafted a plan that would get us back to Berlin and, more importantly, Kreuzberg at the earliest possible opportunity. An independent, two-month internship pursuing freelance food writing in Berlin. And here I sit, writing from Kreuzberg.
Kreuzberg is situated in the southern section of the city, technically linked to the adjacent district of Friedrichshain. Originally included in West Berlin before the wall fell, it still harbors much of the eclectic style and free expression from its past. It is heavily Turkish in nature, having been settled by numerous immigrants from Eastern Europe. These facts about the neighborhood translate to unlimited doner kebabs and alternative, graffiti-adorned hangouts.
Besides the Turkish and counterculture residents, those committed to organic and natural foods are quite at home in Kreuzberg. You can’t walk too far before stumbling upon one of the many organic markets commonly sourcing products from abroad due to Germany’s limited produce farming. In fact, while heading to an organic store the other day, I found a new market that I hadn’t seen on a street I had previously crossed a few times. They seem to grow overnight.
Another source of delight in Kreuzberg is the Marheineke Markthalle located on Marheinekestraße. With stalls of foods for breakfast to dinner, varying in nationalities, it is a playground for the food centric types. Baked goods, cheese, meats, produce, teas and nuts line the main thoroughfare inside. Along the walls, stalls serving lunch, selling toys and copying house keys stand in front of the entrances. Self-restraint is essential anytime going near this culinary haven.
Combine these places with tree-dotted canals, cafés in which you could sit all day and the brown, grainiest of German breads and you understand a bit of Kreuzberg. I definitely still have more to explore in the neighborhood and even more in the larger city at hand. Most likely, I’ll have a German baked good and Chai latte in tow while doing so.
Gianna Banducci is studying gastronomy through the Food Culture and Communications Master program at L’Università di Scienze Gastronomiche. She is currently writing and preparing her thesis in Berlin, Germany.
Note to readers: I welcome your feedback about my tales and would like to hear your own personal stories. I invite you to submit any comments or questions regarding travel, food or general life abroad. – Gianna