Green Week Berlin 2015: Paint The Town Green!
Yes, this week it is International Green Week in Berlin. For those of you who have been living under a rock for the last few weeks, International Green Week is a huge exhibition for the food, agricultural and horticultural industries, now in its 80th year. The official partner country this year is Latvia (where I lived for four years before moving to Berlin), though there are a total of 1,689 exhibitors, among them 671 foreign exhibitors from 69 countries.
OK, OK, you're thinking, that all sounds very impressive but why on earth would I want to go to an agricultural and horticultural exhibition? I have to admit the same thought crossed my mind as I dragged myself out into the sleet on Tuesday afternoon. Luckily, the S5 drops you practically at the door of Messe Berlin (Station: Messe Süd) so there's only minimal freezing involved.
I arrived at around 2pm and walked in the door, where I was relieved to see that there was no queue for tickets, despite the hundreds of people standing around. I handed over €14 for a ticket and an extra €2 for a map. (I'm not really sure why as I can't read maps. I blame it on the charming German ticket man...)
Funnily enough, despite Latvia being the partner country, Russia has pride of place just inside the main entrance. (Latvians might not find this funny.) While most countries had stands, Russia had taken over an entire hall. Traditional Russian folk music assails your ears, while stallholders try to ply you with fatty meat, dumplings, caviar and vodka. As I was still feeling a bit chilly, I decided to warm up with a vodka.
I took a lemon one off the tray, took a swig, told the girl it was very good, and started to walk away. Turns out I had to pay €1 for it, something I felt she could have told me before I drank it. I saw a few other people caught out this way as well – in one rather entertaining case, a German lady put a dumpling back into the seller's hand after being told she had to pay for it. Basically, if you think you get an all-you-can-eat-and-drink-buffet for your €14, think again. You have to pay extra for everything.
I left Russland and entered Bioland where a woman was giving a talk entitled “Kühe mit Hörnern und Namen”, which I translated as “Cows with horns and names”. This may or may not be correct but it gave me a chuckle.
As you wander round this area, the distinct smell of dung grips your nostrils and you know you're nearing the animal section. A few cows had their heads in a trough down the back of the room and I watched a calf having a pee before heading to the main animal hall. A man was doing a ploughing demonstration with two horses, while another girl rode around on a showhorse. This was vaguely entertaining for around three minutes, but the real draw was the alpacas. People had surrounded their enclosure and were all oohing, aahing and snapping the cuteness.
At this stage, I started feeling a little peckish (nothing to do with the alpacas) so I stopped at a stand selling traditional Swabian Maultaschen, a new favourite of mine. This one didn't disappoint and also only set me back €1. While I was eating, I got chatting to a lovely German couple who were quite fascinated by an Irish girl living in Berlin and eating Swabian food at an agricultural exhibition.
Feeling sated, I suddenly found myself entering Thailand. The wonderful smells that hit you as you walk in are only slightly offset by the sight of people getting foot or hairy back massages right in front of you. A Thai woman was doing a rather harmless-looking dance but she got a big cheer from the merry beer-drinking Germans, nonetheless.
Now I was really curious as to the whereabouts of Latvia, the partner country. I walked out the back of one hall, dashed through the sleet, and doubtfully acknowledged the warehouse-like structure in front of me. But it turned out that this was the place. A Latvian folk band were entertaining people with some traditional music, while confusing them by speaking Latvian in between songs. I had a
cake for old times' sake.
This building also housed the Lithuanian, Estonian, Irish, British, Norwegian, Swedish and Portuguese offerings. The Irish effort was, I would have to say, lazy. Or great if you really like Guinness. I don't.
Brits and Americans missing their home comforts won't be disappointed though. The Brits can stock up on real cheddar, tea and shortbread, toffee and fudge, or treat themselves to fish and chips, while the Americans can find sugar coma-inducing Oreos, Twinkies and Lucky Charms.
Knowing that I would have to face the sleet again very soon, I was tempted by a voluptuous Romanian lady selling a plum brandy called “Dracula”. (Well, could you resist?) At just €0.50 for a shot, I can't say I particularly liked it but it definitely warmed me up. However, I fear that more than one shot could be lethal.
All in all, would I recommend visiting Green Week? Absolutely. It was a great day out with something for everyone. Go alone (as I did), go with friends or take the family along. There's plenty of entertainment for kids, and food and drink lovers will be overwhelmed by the amount of choice.
But now you'll have to excuse me. I need to go and try to get the taste of “Dracula” out of my mouth...
International Green Week runs until the 25th of January. For more information, visit Green Week
By Linda O'Grady
Linda works as an English teacher, writer and editor, and has been living in Berlin since September 2014. She also shares some of her more irreverent thoughts on life as an Irishwoman living in Germany in her blog - Expat Eye on Germany.