Take half a day of your time to lose yourself in the back streets of Berlin, the ones that draw you with their sounds, smells and voices, the ones that attract your curiosity.
Let yourself be guided by your sensations, street by street, by the shop windows overflowing with foods foreign to our culture and our daily eating habits. Not only is this possible in Berlin, it’s also easy, because among its four million inhabitants the metropolis boasts the greatest concentration of different nationalities and ethnic groups in all Germany.
First place in any imaginary classification goes to the Turks. According to official sources, 132,000 Turks live in Berlin, the majority in the Kreuzberg quarter. You can’t avoid noticing that on the streets of this part of the city, most of the women wear the traditional veil. Oriental music spills from cafés populated exclusively by Turkish males intent on drinking mint tea, served in the traditional way in glass beakers, or puffing at their narghilè, the smoking water pipes typical of many Mediterranean and Arab countries. Here the imbiss (takeaway food stands) serve Doner Kebabs, the mutton-based snack in flat bread—‘sandwich’ seems too paltry a term!—that beats the MacBurger hands down in terms of sales volumes.
One drawback of Turkish food shops is that often risk purchasing items without really knowing how to cook them or best use them. An alternative way of shopping and widening your culinary horizons is to go to the Maybachufer Turkish market which takes place on Tuesday and Friday afternoons from 12.00 midday to 6.00 pm.
Situated almost on the edge of Kreuzberg,but actually in the Neukölln quarter, the market stretches along one bank of the Landwehrkanal and, as the only completely Turkish market in Berlin, it is probably the city’s most important meeting place for the Turkish community.
The tourist’s eye can range over stalls laden with fruit, vegetables, vine leaves (the basic ingredient of Dolmas, a characteristic Turkish dish of rice bundles rolled in vine leaves), pide bread (flat bread) and simit bread, ring-shaped with sesame seeds. Between a stand selling pistachio nuts and pumpkin seeds and one selling dried fruits and nuts are small mobile imbiss offering, as well as the omnipresent Doner Kebabs, falafel (patties of chick peas, flour, garlic, cumin and parsley), börek (traditional small puff pastry snacks usually filled with spinach and ricotta) and other typical dishes such as pilav, made from burgul (cracked wheat), green chili peppers seared with butter, parsley and finely chopped tomatoes, all simmered in meat broth.
Alongside the foods, the market also has a section dedicated to clothing, with stalls selling shoes, outer garments and underwear, this latter sold—oddly enough—exclusively by men.
How to get there
By bus: From Ku’damm (the local abbreviation of Kurfürsterdamm, the street in the old western part of the city where the top designer fashion shops are clustered) take the number 129 bus in the direction U Hermannplatz as far as the Heinrich Platz. Then head right along Marianerstrasse, as far as the Kottbusser Brücke bridge.
By subway: From Ku’damm take the subway (U-Bahn) line U 15 in the Warschauerstrasse direction. Get off at Kottbusser Tor and from there head along Kottbusserstrasse as far as the Kottbusser Brücke bridge.
On the other side of the canal, the market stretches from the bridge along the Maybachufer on the left.
Simona Malatesta works at the Slow Food International Office
Adapted by Maureen Ashley
Photo: a dish of Dolma