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Surprise Sunny Saturday: Where's the Nearest Market?

With the best of studious intentions, I was sitting in the Staatsbibliothek Berlin (Berlin State Library) this Saturday and decided my enjoyment of that building's marvelous architecture and resources could be satisfied any other non-sun-shiny day, posing a great question for Berlin:

"Where is the nearest market?"

Within seconds google maps found my answer, the Winterfeldt Market in Schöneberg, just a 5 minute bike ride away.

Given the high number of markets in Berlin, at least 8-10 notable ones, I wondered, what would make this market unique? What stood out to me first was the amazing friendliness of the people running the stands.  They weren't just nice; their eyes smiled as their lips smiled. They seemed genuinely happy to greet me and tell me about their specialty. Or just to smile. Because Berlin has many conformers to the strict abstinence from public smiling, the vendors here provided a happy bubble of market joy. Just from that experience alone I highly recommend visiting this market.

Adding to the contagious positivity of the vendors, the products available for purchase tantalized my curious mind: "what does strawberry leaf tea taste like? ... Peruvian nutrition powders? Hmmmm... cheese made with red wine? ... How many kinds of Chorizo can there be??" I used to be vegetarian and I don't have any idea; clearly more than I thought. Speaking of vegetarianism, the food options at Winterfeldt Market can satisfy just about any hungry tummy of the vegan, vegetarian, pescetarian or all-round meat eating sort: Bavarian white sausage - vegetarian version as well (see van above); Chinese noodles; fried zucchini patties; Turkish food; Kaiserschmarrn - basically an American style pancake torn to bits and topped with something delicious like vanilla cherry sauce; fish sandwiches; Raclette; and on and on. It took a good three rounds through the market to choose what to taste, and what to taste first.

In background: Chinese noodle stand
and hot punch stand
Having recently entered the new year of 2015, the famous dish Raclette - very popular in Germany during the holiday season - was my choice. I have eaten Raclette the modern way, melting pre-sliced swiss cheese in a small pan underneath a grill to then smear on a piece of bread or vegetables - a great social dining experience; but how it was prepared in the market was what drew me. The name "Raclette" comes from the French word racler, "to scrape."  Traditionally from Switzerland, Raclette was originally prepared by holding a large chunk of swiss cheese near a fire and as the cheese melted, it was scraped off onto the dinner plate to be eaten with, for example, potatoes, meat, and pickled onions. In the Winterfeldt Market, the vendors placed a section of the cheese wheel below a heater or grill and, once enough cheese melted, scraped the top layer onto a piece of bread. The vendor then followed with something I hadn't seen before: sprinkling over the cheese a colorful mixture of paprika, black pepper and parsley. What can I say? I was happy with my choice.

Once I awoke my stomach with Raclette, she was ready for more and the search for the next dish began. I had walked through the market and I saw a stand serving Döner and Börek, but these are probably one of the most common eatables you can find on the streets of Berlin. Knowing from personal experience how delicious and diverse hearty Turkish dishes can be, I hoped for a stand celebrating that and, considering the high Turkish migrant population in Berlin – appx. 200,000 – the chances were good. To my utter delight I spotted a stand billowing clouds of steam, and as I inched closer, I could first smell and then see the source: great big pots of Turkish cooking. The two women preparing the food seemed flattered by my enthusiasm and amused by my inability to choose just enough for my stomach.

To delay my decision a little longer, I asked them about their food and where else they sell it. These women, probably like most other food vendors, cook and sell their food at several markets in Berlin through the week. 

Me: “So, is there a best market in Berlin? Which is your favorite?”
Vendor: “Oh... Bernauer... Schönlein Strasse... and Mauer Park, of course! Ummmm Hackescher Market is also very nice.”

Needless to say, there are a number of markets to explore in Berlin and choosing a favorite might not be an option. Eventually my stomach urged me to stop dilly-dallying and order. I chose okra mixed with chickpeas (far right) as well as eggplant with ground beef (second from the left); I used to be vegetarian and I thought I hated ground beef... but for the purpose of trying new food and because eggplant is a favorite, I went for it! Let me just say that the eggplant made my eyes roll in pleasure. 

After I finished, I noticed a young woman sitting next to me scooping up the last remnants of her meal as well. Curious to hear what she thought of the market I struck up a convo. Malienda, from Slovakia, was only visiting her friend for three weeks and hadn't yet seen much of Berlin. She asked me if I knew the area and if I could suggest nearby galleries to visit. I couldn't, but my smarter-than-me phone could. So I handed over my phone and thought, "what a great question for Berlin".

By Aislyn Rose
Can't leave Berlin for the challenge and simultaneous celebration of the "me" in me is just too exhilarating. For now, at least. From Utah, USA. In Berlin since Jan 2011.

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