Monday, 7 December 2015


Off to Berlin. Look at that cat. It's a German cat, you can tell. I've never associated cats with chocolate, but then again I'm not German. I don't think like them.

Some German chocolates, or "schokolade" or whatever-the-hell they call it in their language that isn't spoken anywhere else because their empire was stillborn and yet they are the economic powerhouse of Europe so perhaps they had the right idea I don't know. Katezenzungen ("cat's tongues") are an odd concept, basically standard milk chocolate in the shape of cat's tongues. The German mind is impenetrable. Best of the lot was the Halloren Kugeln, a squidgy liqueur.

Berlin isn't famous for its food, but then again Norway isn't famous for its space programme, so what's the problem? Germany's national dish is currywurst, which is essentially sausage with curry sauce and curry powder on top, served with fries. I popped off to Konnopke's Imbiss to try this dish. I realise at this point that I'm interchanging Berlin and Germany. I understand that Germans think of Berlin in the same way that Americans think of New York, or British people think of London. It is richer, more sophisticated than the rest of the country, and for that reason outsiders hate it because it makes them feel inadequate.

The only other places I have been in Germany are Dresden, but only for a day, and Vienna, which is actually in Austria, so I can't really place Berlin in context, besides which I can't be bothered. I tell you one thing. These things from DayZ, they're real! I saw them from the train to Dresden.

Konnopke's is named after Max Konnopke, who moved to Berlin in the 1930s to sell sausages. The stand was built in 1960 - it was probably a good idea to hold off building a permanent location until after the 1940s - and then rebuilt in 1983 and then again in 2010, after renovations to the train line that runs over the the top of it, so it's almost certain that Marlene Dietrich and her luscious thighs never visited the place, although she had a thing for sausages.

Konnopke's is a tourist attraction now. I am a tourist and it attracted me, so on that level it was a big success.

It's hard to escape from the TV tower

Konnopke's is nestled underneath the U2 line - it's just outside Eberswalder on the U2 to Pankow, in the former East Germany. The place is apparently still run by the family although there has been a disagreement which has resulted in a breakaway faction that I didn't visit.

What's the menu like? There are several options which boil down to sausages, fries, and beer. I skipped the beer and bought one sausage plus ketchup and fries, which came to €3.80 (€3.50 for the food, 30c for the ketchup, which is essential really). This was in November 2015, I understand it was cheaper a few months ago.

Don't you just hate the kind of people that photograph their food? They're not living a life, they're constructing a public image. The food was surprisingly bland, basically boiled sausage plus ketchup with some curry powder on the top. The fries were fine. €3.80 is about £2.70, which is cheaper than a sandwich from Waitrose, so this is a rare case of a tourist trap being good value.

But I'm not sure how to evaluate the price of things in Berlin. The ordinary stuff we have in the UK - McDonald's, Burger King, Starbucks, bottles of Pepsi and so forth - is relatively expensive in Germany, whereas beer and wine is very cheap. Living in the UK it's easy to take McDonald's for granted, but in many other countries it is a prestigious luxury treat. My hunch therefore is that Konnopke's currywurst is expensive compared to local street food, but nonetheless it was a fab breakfast and I got a free fork, which came in handy later.