This morning KJ and I got up early to catch a train to Berlin. We grabbed some coffee and food at the station and soon were off at 250km/h! We chatted, napped and read a bit on the three and a half hour ride and then stretched our legs on a short walk to our hotel from the train station. It's a nice spot near the river in the main downtown area of the city.
After getting settled in the hotel our first stop was Museum Island, which as one might except is an island with multiple (five) museums on it. We chose to visit the Neues Museum which houses a vast collection of Egyptian and prehistory artifacts, including the iconic bust of Queen Nefertiti. The collection was great and well presented, and the building itself was interesting too. Originally completed in 1855, the museum was heavily damaged in WWII. The reconstruction was only just finished in 2009 and is an interesting combination of modern architecture and historical preservation. Wherever possible they gathered pieces of the old museum from the rubble and restored them to their original spots in the building. The missing parts were rebuilt in more modern ways. This allows you to see what the museum used to look like, while giving reminders of the destruction of the war. I really liked it.
The other interesting thing I noted was a small sign at the entrance indicating that some important parts of the collection were looted by the Soviet Union after WWII and have still not been returned, "in violation of International Law." Russia continues to feel that the items are rightfully the property of Russia as partial repayment for the destruction of Russian museums by the Nazis and for the over three million Russians killed by Germany during the war.
After the museum we popped over to a reasonably authentic Chinese restaurant for lunch. KJ struggles to find good Asian food of any kind in Dortmund and is super excited to be in a big city like Berlin where it is possible to access such things. We had Peking Duck, dumplings, broccoli, tea, and soup. It was great.
Next we hopped on the subway to "Checkpoint Charlie" station, which as you'd imagine is under Checkpoint Charlie. The checkpoint itself isn't much and is super touristy, but even that is kind of interesting in how much things have changed. We stopped for a coffee at an awesome cafe in the area. KJ got a Chai Latte, but with oat milk instead of regular. I didn't even know oat milk was a thing but it's delicious! San Francisco needs to get on that train.
After coffee we walked to the Topology of Terror, a free museum documenting the rise of National Socialism in Germany and the horrors committed by the Gestapo and SS across Europe. The museum has both indoor and outdoor components and is built on the former site of the Gestapo and SS headquarters. It is partially a memorial to the people who suffered in the basement torture chambers which are partially preserved as part of the outdoor exhibition. One edge of the outdoor section is bordered by the longest extant section of the Berlin Wall. The museum is insanely detailed and very heavy, but I am glad I went and I am very impressed with how well history is being preserved.
Next we walked on to the Holocaust Memorial which occupies an entire city block and is filled with 2711 unmarked concrete slabs of varying heights arranged in a tight grid. You can walk among the slabs in any direction you like. At first it didn't seem like much, but as you walk through and the slabs tower above you or you catch glimpses of other people far off down a row it begins to feel much more powerful. Part of the goal was for it to be impossible to ignore, and they succeeded in that.
After the memorial we walked quickly back to the hotel to get ready for dinner. KJ and I both enjoy a nice restaurant and so before leaving San Francisco I booked us reservations at a popular place in Berlin as a way to thank her for hosting me and showing me around. einsunternull is located near our hotel and serves a ten course meal each night inspired by what's fresh and in season. This is not heavy German fare, it is modern international cooking.
To start I had a dry Reisling and KJ had an herbed sparkling juice and this was paired with fresh bread, tiny potatoes filled with garlic butter and baked, spinach purée with fresh veggies, and an amazing carrot broth. I can't speak enough about the carrot broth. According to the staff it was just carrots and water and a bit of oil, but it tasted so good! Like pure essence of the most perfect carrot ever. We couldn't get over it.
To drink I spoke with their ultra-hipster (man bun, big beard, octagonal glasses frames) sommelier and was able to get a bottle of whiskey barrel aged doppelbock that was quite excellent. I wasn't able to get a lot more detail out of him but I was happy with my choice.
Next up for food was pickled radish with watercress greens and a cream sauce topped with dryed, shaved beef heart. This was followed by mushroom "bread," a layer of raw thinly sliced button mushrooms over two layers of sauce, each different but each creamy and crunchy and delicious. We devoured this super fast as it was so so good.
The third course was sous vide lamb served with celery sauce and a bowl of pickled celeriac root. This was excellent, although not life-changing. The fourth course was local trout roe topped with sorrel, cucumber and elderflowers and was totally amazing. For the fifth course we had a simple but very rich onion broth with spruce needles that had soaked in olive oil for six months. It was unusual and quite nice!
The sixth course was three strips of crisply cooked chicken with a perfectly formed runny warm salted egg yolk for dipping. This was accompanied by creamed chicken liver suspended in chicken broth with spices. Basically it was the chicken course and I really liked it.
The seventh course was two layers of different cold purées made of carrots and nuts topped with a layer of pickled carrots. Carrots must be their thing at this restaurant because this dish was almost as amazing as the carrot broth.
The eighth course was the one misstep of the meal from my point of view. It was a layer of cooked enoki mushrooms topped with black currents and bacon and covered with a mushroom and vinegar jelly. It was unattractive and not incredibly appetizing.
The ninth course was a return to form with dried black salsify (a root vegetable) over cold creamy yogurt and topped with yogurt chips and powdered woodruff. I've never had black salsify or woodruff so the flavours were new and unusual and I enjoyed the dish.
Finally the tenth course was beetroot cooked for three days, powdered, and served over elderberry-rose purée topped with powdered caramel and mint leaves. This was a superb way to finish.
Except then there was more! As a "going away sweet" we were served four pieces of fresh buttercream coated in flour and lightly fried. And yes that was as amazing as it sounds.
The restaurant was great with exceptional service, a great atmosphere and lovely food. We had an awesome time eating and chatting and catching up. However the meal took four hours and we found ourselves physically exhausted by the end. We walked quickly back to the hotel and went to bed.
High speed rail is great!
Stack of enormous (non-edible) Ritter Sport at the Berlin Central Station
Berlin Central Station
Walking to Museum Island
In the Neues Museum, with original columns and rebuilt walls that show the damage from the war
Really awesome statue
Huge rebuilt domed room with a real oculus
The Berlin Wall outside of the Topography of Terror
The Holocaust Memorial
Walking in the Holocaust Memorial
The stage for dinner
The amuse-bouche with the epic carrot broth
Pickled radish, watercress greens, shaved beef heart
Lamb and celery
Trout roe, sorrel, elderflower
Onion and spruce
Carrots and more carrots!
Crazy mushroom and vinegar jelly on more mushrooms
Black salsify, yogurt, woodruff
Beetroot, elderberry-rose, powdered caramel
My beer and the fried buttercream