by yoshi nakamoto, drummer for the aislers set, eux autres and still flyin’. his hometown is san francisco. in 2009, while on tour with eux autres he met laura in berlin and fell in love. in 2011, he moved to germany to live with her. they have two cats, felt and billie holiday. yoshi works as a video producer for a language learning publisher.
best venues there are lots and lots of venues throughout this city and lots and lots of touring bands that come visit. we’re blessed here. two of the best shows (electrelane and black dice) that I’ve seen in berlin were at festsaal-kreuzberg. I loved the venue marie antoinette the night that je suis animal played, je suis animal is absolute magic, I love them. I always look forward to seeing shows at rotor salon, o tannenbaum and schokoladen. ¶ earlier this year I saw the magnetic fields and amor de días play in a beautiful church, passionskirche. If you have the chance to catch a band there, make sure you do, there’s a beautiful mood inside. ¶ if you’re around on a wednesday night, spend an evening checking out the free jazz nights at b-flat and zosch, in the mitte district. from 8 – 10, la foot creole play new orleans style jazz in the very nostalgic-like cellar of zosch. after you’re done with that gig, walk a short few blocks to b-flat for their weekly jam session, which is great for fans of be-bop and on till late.
best vintage/thriftstores KDW, housed in an old GDR supermarket that still looks like it’s straight out of the 1970s, complete with counters and deli signage intact. this place is crammed with furniture, books, records and relics. ¶ there are fantastic flea markets spread out in the city every sunday like; mauer park, arkonaplatz, hallentrödelmarkt treptow and boxhagner.
cheap eats the picadillo burrito, homemade chips and guacamole at ta’ cabron. the daily special at hamy. the ramen and gyoza at cocolo. the pizza at zia maria or il casolare. the pho and spring rolls at monsieur vuong. currywurst at curry 36. the gemüse kebap at mustafas (icons of berlin street food, mustafa and curry 36 are on the same block of mehringdamm, you can’t miss them because there are lines all day long. I’d recommend hitting up both and sharing). the falafel or schwarma plates at babel or maroush. gözleme at knofi. the jiaozi (vegetarian or pork) at wok show.
not so cheap eats when you come visit me, I’ll take you to schwarzwaldstuben on the first night and you’ll likely want to return on your last night in the city. this is my favorite place to eat in berlin, the food never fails and the mood is rather relaxed. I usually always ordert the schnitzel and the rothaus beer on tap. there are great vegetarian options here—the spätzle or the maultaschen. the place isn’t too expensive and you can easily get out of here having spent a little under 20 euros. ¶ the food hall on the sixth floor of the department store kadawe is food porn. a mesmerizing medley of food and drinks from all over the world. there are over 30 gourmet counters spread out on the floor where you can have a seat and treat yourself to whatever your heart desires. the fish bar is first-rate.
vegetarian-friendly eats viasko, straight up vegan and straight up delicious in a british pub-like atmosphere. yellow sunshine has a tasty vegan currywurst in addition to veggie/vegan burgers. I’ve never been to cookies cream but I’d like to—it’s on my date-night list.
best ice cream sicilian pistachio at vanille-marille.
best neighborhood prenzlauer berg. I live on the street schönhauser allee and I love that I can walk out my front door and be in one of the hearts of the city. it’s the best neighborhood for walks. the kids these days gravitate toward kreuzberg and neukölln, which is where many of the bars and venues are.
cheap haircut hoshi mitte. it’s not necessarily cheap, but if you happen to have difficult hair (i.e japanese hair), the all-japanese staff know how to navigate it and fashion it into something chic.
best drinking holes das gift in neukoln. co-owned by barry burns of mogwai and featuring a great selection of scottish whiskies and ale. I’d definitely recommend ordering a few pints of the zirndorfer landbier, a franconian beer that’s near impossible to find on tap in berlin. das gift has the best jukebox in germany—you can select from playlists curated by david cross, mike joyce/smiths, bob nastanovich/pavement, deerhoof and many of your other favorite artists. ¶ when it’s not winter, I go to prater garden in prenzlauer berg as much as I can. my local drinking hole is the oldest biergarten in berlin. a lovely place to drink especially when the sun is out or at night under the strings of lightbulbs. they serve sausages, pretzels, roasted almonds and many other biergarten-y food. perfect for birthday parties (unless your birthday is in the winter!). ¶ drinking on the street, in parks, in the subways, while walking your cat on a leash is totally OK. even the cops are drinking beers on their beat. you don’t ever have to be without a beer in your hand.
best coffee or tea houses bonanza.
cool cinemas hackesche höfe kino. you can see your woody allen and your lars von trier here. if you want your hollywood blockbuster, hit the cinestar sony center. if you happen to be in berlin in february, don’t miss the berlinale film festival when the city becomes the film capital of the world for ten snowy days. I make sure to catch a film at the beautiful friedrichstadt-palast, which usually is home to musicals but opens it’s curtains for film during the festival. the berlinale jury president for 2013 is wong kar wai! that man is magnificent!
best used bookstores another country. a secondhand bookstore where you can borrow any of their books for 1,50 euros.
best place to see art my first choice is always the martin-gropius bau, I’ve seen really, really wonderful exhibits by ai weiwei and olafur eliasson. there is usually a great photo exhibit up at the C/O berlin. you can have a very hands-on experience at the DDR museum. it’s small but smart at the bauhaus museum.
best local bands stereo total, of course. I found out about an awesome berlin band, make out!, on my friend chantal’s excellent berlin gig guide the craze. sadly, I found out about make out! just as they were playing their last show. I saw hamburg’s the honeyheads here back in may and I fell for them hard. and since I’m bringing up hamburg, I must give a shout out to trip the light fantastic and to andreas dorau, who is the könig of german pop!
parks and green spaces berlin is green. parks are everywhere and are the most popular destination when the weather is nice. germans love parks … ice cream, hand-clapping to songs and barbeques. my favorites parks to visit are treptower park in treptow, viktoriapark in kreuzberg, schoßpark in pankow, tiergarten, humboldthain park in wedding. the little park that surrounds the wasserturm prenzlauer berg is a nice spot to read a book.
unmissable highlights berlin is a big city and a very bike-friendly city; and cycling through the city is the best and funnest way to see it. renting a bike is easy and cheap. I’d suggest heading over to templehof—the former international airport that has been turned into a public park—and speeding down the runway. bike through tiergarten, stop at the schleusenkrug biergarten and have a glass of my favorite german beer, andechser. head over to treptower park and visit the grand soviet war memorial, prepared to be impressed. cycle out to my favorite swimming hole, krumme lanke in the grunewald forest. In any direction thay you pedal, you’ll run into (not literally, I hope!) something pretty cool to see. berlin is a special place, I feel so fortunate to live here, I hope you visit soon.
photograph: gail o’hara