December 3, 2012
Berlin, Day 7, Part II: Konnopke's Imbiss, DDR Toy Museum, Chocolate, Schnitzel, and the Reichstag
Remember that time when I warned you about the BVG messing with your well laid-out plans with service changes? Yeaaaah. Thankfully, the BVG sets out clear signs with directions in English so tourists like me don't curse them forever.
And so tourists like me can get currywurst at Konnopke's Imbiss.
As far as I can tell, Curry 36 and Konnopke's Imbiss share the title for "Berlin's Most Famous Currywurst Shop." That doesn't mean they're the best, but when you're a tourist with limited time, you do things like eat the most famous something-something.
Since we had already eaten doner kebabs and desserts that day, Kåre and I shared a wee order of currywurst with fries and mayo (€3.20). While Konnopke's sausage was a bit different from Curry 36's, I couldn't tell you if one is better than the other in meat or sauce quality. They're both crazy cheap, satisfying, and probably health-sucking. I'd give the edge to Konnopke's for having more places to sit and stand, though—an indoor seating area in addition to the outdoor standing tables. Also, their line felt more orderly than Curry 36's mob-like line.
I washed it all down with a bottle of Berlin's specialty soda, fassbrause, specifically a Rixdorfer fassbrause. Sweet, fizzy, and fruity (apple-flavored, methinks), it's good for kids and for teetotaling adults. Otherwise, I'm guessing most people would drink beer, which seemed to be about as cheap as bottled water.
Onkel Philipp's Spielzeugwerkstatt
I'd like to believe that most people over the age of 10 walking by Onkel Philipp's Spielzeugwerkstatt (Uncle Philipp's Toy Workshop) would respond with, "HOLY CRAP [points excitedly] LOOK AT THIS FREAKIN' TOY STORE [flails arms] OH MAH GEERRDD," but if that were the case there would've be more child-ness adults in there besides Kåre and me.
But...look at this freakin' toy store:
My inner five-year-old had a seizure.
Toys attack you from all sides: new and used wooden toys, dolls, model cars and airplanes, puzzles, board games, plush toys, and more. Floor to ceiling, wall to wall, and probably other dimensions undetectable by humans. It's gloriously chaotic and organized at the same time, if that makes any sense. The disorganization didn't feel like neglect, but like a result of a deep appreciation for toys. Or an unhealthy obsession with toys, but I'm pretty sure it's the former. Owner Philipp Schlünemann doesn't just sell toys—he repairs them, too, hence the "workshop" name.
But the definitive sign that this isn't your average toy store lies behind this door:
Slide the tombstone door aside and squeeze through the small opening...
Carefully step down the narrow spiral staircase into the basement...
And welcome to Philipp's DDR Toy Museum, open since 2002. Here's some back story from Bates Magazine:
Philipp found himself aggravated by how quickly East Germans were discarding their childhood toys for the more brightly colored and enticing Western toys. "People simply threw away not just toys, but aspects of East German history. So I decided to collect them."
Philipp collected the hell out of those toys. The world is better for it.
Let's keep looking around:
Philipp (at least, I'm assuming it was him) sent us into the basement with a remote that controlled a few select spotlights and motors that made some of the toys spin around, such as the toy house in the photo above. Yes, Philipp went all the way with this.
Admission costs €1. Do it.
I must thank Moments of Perfect Clarity for being the Google result for "toy stores in Berlin" that pointed me towards Philipp's.
There's a cute kid's international bookstore across the street, Mundo Azul, if you're looking for more kid-friendly stuff.
Fassbender and Rausch
We headed down to Mitte for a quick stop at some touristy chocolate shops. First, Fassbender and Rausch, a family-run chocolate shop and cafe dating back to 1863.
I should note that since I'm not a serious chocolate aficionado—most of my chocolate I eat is everyday Norwegian chocolate since Kåre so lovingly foists a handful of Norwegian chocolate bars on me every time we see each other—I didn't do much chocolate shop research. Fassbender and Rausch is Berlin's most famous chocolate shop, if Google is any indication. Exberliner has more recommendations. The cafe seems to be a big draw, although I didn't have enough time to try it. The store is huge and the prices aren't bad—certainly worth a visit if you're into chocolate or want to look at huge chocolate sculptures. Thanks to sssourabh and Charlene for recommending it!
Ritter Sport's Colorful Chocoworld
A few blocks away from Fassbender and Rausch is Ritter Sport's Colorful Chocoworld. I guess it could be considered the German equivalent of the Hershey's store in New York City, except Ritter Sport's chocolate tastes a bagillion times better. (I'm eating some right now to remind myself. Yup. It's just research.) Some stuff you'll see while squeezing through the mob of customers:
- The design-your-own-chocolate bar counter.
- Cheapo 100-gram chocolate bars for €0.85, about $1.10. (I'm not sure how much the bars usually cost in Germany, but in NYC they're around $2-3. Which is still cheap in my mind.)
- Special edition chocolate.
- Mini chocolate bars a-plenty.
- A tower of gigantor chocolate bars.
For dinner, Kåre, Diana, and I went to Swabian restaurant Schwarzwaldstuben to meet up with Berlin-based Serious Eats contributor Conor. He recommended the restaurant when I asked for something German. My reward: schnitzel.
Thumbs up for the "paniertes schweineschnitzel mit kartoffel-gurkensalat," or breaded pork cutlet with potato-cucumber salad (€13). I'd be lying if I said I remembered much about it since I ate it almost eight months ago, but I know I liked it. Because fried pork + crisp coating = success. I especially liked the light potato-cucumber salad for its noodle-like ribbons of thinly shaved cucumber.
One of my friends also highly recommended their kässpätzle. Wish I could've tried it!
We shared their kaiserschmarrn with sliced apple and vanilla sauce (€6) for dessert. These sweet, caramelized pancake bits were better than the version we tried at Schnitzelei, but took an oddly long time for them to make it compared to our other dishes. Not sure if they had forgotten about the order until we reminded them.
I also tried a sort of local soft drink, Wostok—"sort of" local because even though the company is based in Berlin, it's a revival of a Soviet-era Russian soda called Baikal and its recipe is almost the same as the original. You can read more about it in Dizzy Frinks' interview with the company's creator, Dutch photographer Joris Van Velzen.
The drink's website describes the flavor as "early morning in a pine forest, flavored with a bit of eucalyptus and a hint of Siberian ginseng." I'm sure it was pine forest-goodness in a bottle, but as evidence of my overly stuffed nasal passages, I could hardly taste anything aside from sweet and fizzy. :( I should've blown my nose while drinking it.
Aside from the pancake delay, the dinner was great. Homey, well executed food in a cozy but not cramped space. Thanks to Conor for the rec!
Our last major stop of the night: the dome of the Reichstag, the seat of the German parliament, the Bundestag. I wouldn't say it's a must-visit, but since it's free, I figured we may as well go. I registered online a few days into the trip and got a reservation for 8:30 p.m. Check out more information here if you want to visit.
Your visit includes a free audio tour. Just make sure you pick the right language. I...did...n't. It definitely would've made the walk up the dome's spiral walkway more interesting, especially when there wasn't much to see outside without the sun's help. I'm glad I visited, though—the dome is beautiful and the night sky made for some interesting photos:
- The dome is open at the top. I'm glad it wasn't raining.
- So many purple seats.
- Goodnight, Reichstag.
A few more snapshots from the night...
- Goodnight, Brandenburger Tor.
- Goodnight, Hotel Berlin, Berlin. It's a large and impersonal hotel, but the service and rooms are nice and it only cost us about $580 for the week.
- Goodnight, Haribo gummies for a measly €0.89 a pack. Don't miss your chance to buy a buttload of gummies. I ended up buying more expensive Haribo gummies at the airport when I realized too late that I had a German vs. American Haribo gummy bears taste test on my hands.
- Goodnight, gay fetish cruising bar.
Onkel Philipp's Spielzeugwerkstatt
Choriner Str. 35, 10435 Berlin, Germany (map)
30 4490491; onkel-philipp.de
Open Tues., Wed., Fri., 9:30 a.m. - 6:30 p.m.; Thurs., 11 a.m. - 8 p.m.; Sat., 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; closed Mon.
- Berlin, Day 1: Dessert for Lunch, Sandwich for Snack, Schnitzel for Dinner
- Berlin, Day 2: Three-Hour Guided Tour, Ice Cream at Fräulein Frost, and Dinner at Hasir
- Berlin, Day 3: Computer Game Museum, Ostpaket, Humboldt Box, Berlin's Oldest Restaurant, DDR Museum
- Berlin, Day 4, Part I: Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp
- Berlin, Day 4, Part II: German Tapas, Schnitzel, and Chipped Pancakes at Schnitzelei
- Berlin, Day 5: Curry 36, Pergamon Museum, and Swabian Food Overload at Die Feinbäckerei
- Germany, Day 6: Moritzburg or Bust (By Way of Dresden)
- Berlin, Day 7, Part I: KaDeWe, Mustafa's Gemüse Kebap, and Konditorei Buchwald
Posted by roboppy at 12:30 AM
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