berlin (sunday, 1/7)

Sunday I explored the artistic side of Berlin.

If Saturday taught me anything, it’s that there are advantages to looking at everything. There is a strong culture of graffiti in Berlin, one that took me a while to appreciate. It can be silly, cheeky, irreverently located, accidental or well-conceived.

My first destination on Sunday was the East Side Gallery, a 1.3km long section of the Berlin Wall in Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg. In 1990, the east side of the Berlin Wall was painted over by 105 artists, creating murals to document the era of change and feelings of hope for a great and free future Berliners were experiencing as the wall fell. As of 2009, restorations began on paintings badly damaged by erosion, graffiti and vandalism. It was an interesting space to visit, this open air gallery on the side of the road. There is only a limited amount of sidewalk space and a very large amount of tourists. I was constantly weaving through my fellow amateur photographers, a skill I thankfully picked up on the streets of New York. Not every layman can play pedestrian-soccer. After walking the entire length of the East Side Gallery, here are some of my favorite murals.

I love the “grandma, I made it” tag

In an alley at the end of the wall, an open-air art fair was in session. It had started to drizzle, and I was wearing a flimsy pink kaftan, so I took the opportunity to duck under a few tents. I mean, to appreciate the local art scene.

And to have a cappuccino. I always take the opportunity to have a cappuccino.

Later on, I found myself at the Neue Nationalgalerie, the famous “temple of light and galss” as designed by Mies van der Rone. Opened in 1968, this museum houses works from the earlier half of the 20th century from artists like Much, Picasso, Warhol, Kirchner, Klee, Feininger and more.

It took me a while to realize I was in the right place. The ground floor looked like it was under construction. The only people I could see was the salsa class out back and a very handsome photographer. I’m not saying I shadowed him around the courtyard, but look at what’s out there

Broken Obelisk (1963) – Barnett Newman

The ground level of the museum, it turns out, is a purposely designed free space, to be used for artists’ temporary exhibitions. The more permanent collections are housed one level down, away from damaging daylight. These were some of my favorite pieces.

I really enjoyed my time at the Neue Nationalgalerie. I love anything that challenges deep set perceptions and preconceived notions. I’ve been to many museums in my time, and while this may not have been my favorite collection, I loved the architecture.

Riding my culture high, I continued my walk up Postdamer Straße. I stopped by the Sony Center in Postdamer Platz to use the free WiFi. Remember when I saw The Amazing Spiderman a few nights back? This is above the massive center where the cinema is located.

Yeah, it’s crazy.

I know I had sworn I would not go back to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe during the day, but I just couldn’t help myself.

I definitely prefer it in the lonesome evening. It’s a powerful memorial, but the effect is slightly lost when you’re trying to avoid shrieking teenagers.

I kept walking towards Brandenburg Tor, where the Euro 2012 celebrations were already underway.

It was still pretty early, but I did have to pass through a security checkpoint. Where I was going to hide anything under my kaftan, I don’t know, but thanks for the pat down-good times, Berlin.

I was starving at this point, so I decided it was time to stop and have my very first currywurst.

Guess what. I don’t like currywurst. I couldn’t finish it, that’s how much I disliked it. It’s obnoxiously sweet and lacking in the “subtle spice” Lonely Planet had promised me. Now I was walking through Tiergarten, focusing on appreciating the beauty of this gorgeous afternoon and ignoring the sorry excuse for a lunch in my belly.

Thankfully, I had a gorgeous dinner to look forward to. After Alba scored Spain’s 2nd goal in the 41st minute, my gut told me two things: 1. this game is over and 2. you’re still hungry. With my sequins on , I headed to Fischers Fritz. Focusing primarily on seafood, Fischers Fritz has held two Michelin stars for 5 years.

I think I brought the average clientele age to a round 56 years old when I took my seat. This is definitely the sort of place you bring your dear Auntie Mildred to show her your wonderful table manners. It’$ ju$t that $ort of place, if you get what I’m $aying. It has the typical charm one can expect from a place that is decorated with crystal chandeliers, candlesticks and white table clothes. As for the background music, I’m almost positive it’s what was performed in Versailles when it was in use – except they probably had a much better bread basket than Fischers Fritz.

Alright, down to the food.

After placing my order for appetizer and main, and following a lengthy discussion with my sommelier, the first amuse-bouche arrived. This is salmon on cream of parsley and beetroot with grapefruit jelly. Gone in a second, mm mm good.

The second amuse-bouche to arrive was a cream of cabbage soup with macademia nut in an espresso glass, turbot filet on parsley and a “crabcake carpaccio” with aged balsamic vinegar. I loved the soup, and I’m not usually a lover of anything cabbage.

For my appetizer, I selected the langoustines et caviar d’omble chevaleir – a carpaccio of Atlantic langoustines, sour cream and char caviar. The texture on this plate was wonderful, the softness of the carpaccio, the subtle pop of the caviar and the light crisp of whatever the hell that green thing was. The only thing I did not enjoy was the sour cream – I thought it was too pungent and a bit unnecessary.

My entree was a magically assembled dish, one that involved a tableside sauce preparation and pour. I had ordered the solet et girolles, filet of Dover sole with chanterelles, roasted bacon with cream of potato and caramelized hazelnuts. Holy fish, batman, this was AMAZING. I’ve never had Dover sole before and all I know about it was that this is a fish that changed Julia Child’s life. I’d say it certainly made me a very happy lady. Dover sole, you win. You win, times 100. Maybe it was the bacon? Maybe it was the mushrooms. Don’t care. Dover sole, it’s a gold star for you in my book.

By the way, that entire table setting was just for me. Intense? Not at all.

The service at Fischers Fritz was impeccable, and I found I was constantly saying thank you for something – water, more wine, a plate pick up, a plate drop, more water, etc. At the rate of constant attention I was receiving, it’s likely the most I said all day.

I opted to skip dessert, but as I’ve discovered to be the norm with most Michelin starred restaurants, a small sweet nibble was unavoidable.

To be fair, I don’t really remember what this was – a basil and parsley sorbet in condensed milk? Let’s go with that. All I can remember with absolute certainty was that it tasted like the Blue Print Cleanse’s green juice, and that association doesn’t exactly call up fond memories.

These two small dessert plates were subsequently brought out, and I was so excited with all the little treats surrounding me, signing the check was a nearly painless act. Nearly.

I wouldn’t recommend Fischers Fritz for a first-timer in Berlin. While I enjoyed the meal, Berlin has so much more to offer in terms of vibrance and culture. But that’s just me.

The East Side Gallery is located on Mühlenstraße, along the Spree River near the Ostbanhof S-Bahn. It never closes.

The Neue Nationgalerie is located at Potsdamer Straße 50 and open everyday but Monday.

Fischers Fritz is located inside the Regent Berlin at Charlonttenstrasse 49. Reservations are recommended (unless there’s a major soccer match on) and “smart casual attire” is required. Bring your best set of table manners.

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