Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Prenzlauer Berg: my new home

I have been holding off from publishing any more posts - even though I have so much to talk about - because I wanted to wait until I had some steady ground under my feet. There are some things you don't really want to document on the internet as you go along. I get self-conscious that readers might perceive me as floating around the city all day with my greatest hardship being deciding where I'll go for coffee, when the reality is the opposite. I'll make a specific post about it when I'm ready, but for now, I'd like to introduce you to my neighbourhood.

You may have only heard of Prenzlauer Berg from the Beirut song. Luckily, I'm here to help you put a face to the name.

Forming part of the greater borough of Pankow in north-east Berlin, Prenzlauer Berg has become typically one of the more expensive neighbourhoods in the city, but I'm paying a pretty decent rent price given the amenities. I am absolutely spoilt for choice when it comes to cafés, restaurants and shops. The area is also very well connected; I can get into Mitte, Friedrichshain and Wedding without much bother at all.

Parts of Prenzlauer Berg are quite popular with h*pst*rs (can we have a moratorium on this word?), but it's also got a reputation as being rife with upper-middle-class families. I guess that since parts of it are so kid-friendly, in some ways it cancels out the light pressure that you sometimes feel from people your own age. I guess I am trying to say that I feel welcome here and I don't feel like I have to put on airs when I leave the house.
The main adjective I would apply to Prenzlauer Berg is "laid-back". Yes, this is a word that people tend to associate with Berlin in and of itself, but I find that it's particularly the case with this area. Whenever the train emerges from the U2 tunnel into the daylight, approaching Eberswalder Straße station, I feel this wave of calm wash over me.

My new love is the tram, whose lines, I believe, only run through the former SED-ruled Berlin. Before, I always joked that I don't trust trams and buses because you don't really know what you're getting or whether you'll actually be on time, because of traffic. But I do like how on a tram, you can actually see your surroundings. It brings back fond memories of living in Linz, too (the tram is known as die Bim in Austria).

I have made it my mission to try all the ice cream parlours in the area before they close for the winter months. At 1€ a scoop, how can I resist? Most of them offer sorbets - even chocolate sorbet, which I didn't think was possible before I came to Berlin - making them very vegan-friendly. My favourites? Das Spielzimmer, Naschkatze and Süße Sünde.

While Kreuzberg and Neukölln are home to a significant Turkish population, you see very few Turkish businesses around Prenzlauer Berg. Vietnamese Berliners are based largely around Prenzlauer Berg (for historical reasons, which you can read about in this article). So, I've had the chance to try some Vietnamese food for basically the first time. Chay Asia is an all-vegan maki/sushi place that really surprised me; sushi isn't something I ever crave, but sitting outside on a not-too-noisy-not-too-quiet street on a Friday evening, while sampling sharp new flavours, hit the spot.