Like the pocket of a winter jacket after a long summer, Berlin is full of surprises. For example, there’s a bar near me that has an unassuming cupboard standing in one corner. You’d think it was just part of the hip retro furniture, but pull open the door and… well, wow. The floor has been cut away and some rickety wooden steps lead down to a basement full of threadbare armchairs, usually a DJ and even some room to dance. It’s kind of an urban Narnia for those of legal drinking age. I’ve yet to see a lion down there, though. Or James McAvoy in his Mr Tumnus getup. Continue reading
A moving day in Berlin is a rite of passage, and like any rite of passage, everyone (of a certain age) does it pretty much the same way. You hire a van with a blue sea lion on the side, get all your willing friends together, and then spend the day trying to organise everyone into some kind of chain up the stairwell and playing Tetris with your boxes and yucca plants in the back of the van. When everything is finally in the new place, you all sit around drinking beer and eating hunks of Turkish bread with budget cheese, ham, and paprika crisps. After a while, people start drifting off home. If anyone sticks around, you’ll usually end up in a bar or café, soothing your aching limbs with cake and/or more beer until you all start to doze off at about 7 p.m.
In my case, we ended up at the Café am Engelbecken. I had no idea the place existed, but it’s just around the corner from my (now not-so) new home. Engelbecken is the name of a small man-made lake that sits on what used to be the Luisenstadt canal. The canal was at the heart of decorative gardens designed by Peter Joseph Lenné around 1850. It later became stagnant, and work on filling it in began in the 1920s. The lake was kept as an ornamental feature, and now the former route of the canal is a green space that sits on the border between Kreuzberg and Mitte. Continue reading