Planning a normal Sunday out in Berlin doesn’t usually consider anything before lunch time. In a city where even during the week people start sipping their coffees never before 9am it’s safe to assume that Sunday morning doesn’t exist. It did though for me and my friend Totò who insanely booked a flight back home departing at noon. We hence woke up a few minutes after having laid down and headed to the Kaffeebar for a robust dose of caffeine, served in form of a flat white so good that put immediately this café in my favourite ones.
Alltag in der DDR @ Kulturbrauerei
Knaackstraße 97, Prenzlauer Berg
After breakfast I saw my friend off to the U-Bahn station and plan to go to the Kulturbrauerei. In this remarkable building an exhibition has been recently opened, exactly one week after my last visit. It’s called Alltag in der DDR (Everyday life in the GDR), it’s free and offers a rich display of objects, footage and stories to paint an accurate picture of that life was in East Germany. It would have been a perfect warm up before my Wall-filled afternoon plan, but I decided to go back to bed and postpone the visit to the next day. Of course the museum is closed on Monday.
On this page you can find the opening times and even a video.
Lunch and bratwurst
To get closer to the area I intended to visit in the afternoon I perfectly planned a lunch at the famous Konnopke Imbiss. I missed it at my first visit in Berlin, I couldn’t fail now. I’ve already gave it a first scan a few days earlier, peeping through the big windows and drooling on the pavement. That juicy currywurst (apparently the best in Berlin?) with a rich side of chips would have surely saved me from my hangover.
But another disruption of my plans was on the way: two friends of mine invited me to a park to assist to the most important world competition of Fistball, which a sort of proto-volley where people in a field punch the hell out of a ball throwing it across a rather low net. I couldn’t miss such opportunity so I headed off to Wedding, mainly attracted by the prospective of cheap BBQ. It was really worth it: the grilled steak was juicy, the sport was really entertaining and I was surrounded by Germans, a rare occurrence in Berlin.
A Sunday afternoon in Berlin would be wasted for me if I don’t go to the Mauerpark, and so we did after the exciting Fistball finals. If you followed to my plan and went to Konnopke Imbiss it would be a short walk to the Mauerpark. The park, a former rail interchange turned death strip now hosts a massive flea market selling everything from antiques to local art and cheap clothes, ideal for stocking up on souvenirs and postcards, while the other side of the park is dotted with live bands. One edge is still marked by a stretch of Wall, where graffiti constantly change. But the arena is where the main act happens: the Bearpit Karaoke, an event started only five years ago but became an institution attracting every Sunday thousands of people. The rules are simple: singers signs up, choosing a song and, one by one, are called to sing and humiliate themselves in front of a roaring crowd. Why so many people want to do that to themselves will always remain a mystery to me. We enjoyed most of it, the best ones are always those outstanding, either outstandingly good or crap, but all of them gave me the satisfying pleasure of sneering sarcastic comments. However here I learnt that the difference between public humiliation and crowd-pleasing triumph doesn’t necessarily depend on the vocal skills but, mostly, in the confidence in delivering the performance.
Before entering the park we sensibly bought some cheap beer at the only Spätkauf in the area, just around the corner in Oderberger Str. Opposite to it there is the Bonanza coffee heroes where, in case you just woke up and skipped all of the above, you will be brought back to life by the skilled baristas with some of the highest quality I’ve ever tried.
Bernauer straße Wall memorial
Once the party was over I thought it would be wise to set back to that gloomy mood that’s very much appropriate to a Sunday evening. Walking east after leaving the park, I quickly reached the beginning of the Bernauerstraße memorial (or Gedenkstätte, which became one of my favourite German words), that reaches all the way to Nordbanhof, 1.5Km down the road.
Part of the original Wall is preserved or, when not, it’s replaced by countless iron rods. As simple as it is, I found it the most dramatic testimonial of that era: with its intact and graffiti-less concrete slabs, and the death strip left empty as it was, it gives a very realistic idea of what it must have meant to have a wall running all along the road in front of your house. Or maybe not because I cannot even get close to thinking what it means to take the decision of leaving all your life behind and jump off the window of your house as the wall is being erected, to be safe on the other side.
Jazz and cigarettes @ Manouche
Tue – Fri 17:00 – 00:00, Sat – Sun 15:30 – 00:00
I abandoned the wall memorial as dusk was suitably settling like a thick silk blanket on Bernauer Straße and, with a head full of thoughts, I head back to Kreuzberg. My feet instinctively steered me towards the Manouche, a sweet little spot not far from the Landwehrkanal. Barely visible from the street, it’s a cosy basement bar with a vaguely French atmosphere, serving delicious crêpes and, generally, good mood. On most Sunday nights they have live jazz music in one of the two back rooms, in which case it gets very crowded and smoky.