Berlin’s Awesome Vegan Food Options

As we have mentioned before, Dan and I have mostly been using AirBnB during our European travels to find places to stay. This means that for the price of two hostel beds (usually) we can stay together in someone’s second bedroom and have access to a kitchen. This is a very good perk for budget travelers. So, following in our European footsteps we used AirBnB for our place in Berlin as well. We stayed in a great apartment with a small but adequate kitchen.

We were in Berlin for one week. We use the kitchen only once. What can I say? Berlin has too many vegan options and is just too darn affordable for these New York City vegans. In fact, we ate so much food in Berlin, I’m just going to share the highlights. (But I will not be covering the delicious Mio Matto or Voner, as Dan did such an excellent job of that the other day)

Kopps:

Kopps Vegan Restaurant

Kopps Vegan Restaurant

This is a very elegant vegan place. We had a few dishes that were good but not fantastic, but this Lentil Burger was too good to not mention.

Lentil Burger with amazing fries

Lentil Burger with amazing fries

And the fries! I have never in my life had fries that good. No idea what they do to them, but yum. Plus having fries at a vegan place is the best because they give you vegan mayo to dip them into, which is a very European (and tasty) thing to do.

Chay Viet:

They may not actually have their own website, but damn do they make amazing vegetarian Vietnamese food. We actually went back to Chay Viet later in our stay because it was so good the first time! Due to the lack of website, and thus menu, you will have to deal with vague food descriptions. Sorry! But trust that everything shown below was delicious, and they have menus in English so no need to worry about the language barrier.

Tofu and banana (?) skewers with peanut sauce

Tofu and banana (?) skewers with peanut sauce

A delicious pancake appetizer

A delicious pancake appetizer

A super tasty basil leaf appetizer

A super tasty basil leaf appetizer

Dan's rice noodle and veggies dish

Dan’s rice noodle and veggies dish

Dan's soup with fried wontons

Dan’s soup with fried wontons

My coconut curry with veggies over rice noodles

My coconut curry with veggies over rice noodles

Not pictured above (because the picture came out blurry) is the super tasty fried banana dessert over coconut sauce I shared with a lovely Berliner friend. Also not pictured (because we forgot to take one), the fantastic iced lime, soda water, and cane juice drink I got both times we went to Viet Chay!

Cookies Cream:

Hidden entrance to Cookies Cream

Hidden entrance to Cookies Cream

Yes, this place is hidden in an alley behind a hotel and impossible to find if you don’t read the fine print on your reservation. It is rare to find a vegetarian restaurant on the cutting edge, but that is what Cookies Cream is. Innovative food in a swanky atmosphere. The prices match though, so keep that in mind. Also, I wish they had more vegan options, so we could have tried more things. Something to work on, Cookies Cream. Also, these are not actual menu descriptions because to see their menu online you have to sign up for their mailing list. No thank you…

Salad with cabbage, mandarin orange slices, and chocolate shavings

Salad with cabbage, mandarin orange slices, and chocolate shavings

Amazing eggplant dish with corn sauce and green beans

Amazing eggplant dish with corn sauce and green beans

Mushroom dish, with mushroom foam, squash sauce, and some balled veggies

Mushroom dish, with mushroom foam, squash sauce, and some balled veggies

Sweet and sour cherries dessert. Amazing.

Sweet and sour cherries dessert. Amazing.

Sun Day Burgers:

Sun Day Vegan at the Mauer Park Flea Market

Sun Day Burgers at the Mauer Park Flea Market

They only sell one entree out of their little truck at the Mauer Park Flea Market (an amazing thing to visit in Berlin itself), but it is a good one: A burger which consists of a whole wheat bun, tofu steak marinated in soy sauce & ginger, lettuce, tomato, beet root, cucumber, caramelized onions, fresh coriander, sprouts and topped with a smoked chipotle chilli, mango chutney, or Thai peanut sauce. All for 4 Euro.

Dan's Sun Day Burger with peanut sauce and a healthy bite taken out of it (by Dan, of course)

Dan’s Sun Day Burger with peanut sauce and a healthy bite taken out of it (by Dan, of course)

Dan got the peanut sauce and I got the mango chutney and we both recommend what we got. The burgers weren’t really burgers, but they were epically delicious.

And, perhaps the best for last:

Sfizy Veg:

Sfizy Veg

Sfizy Veg

What is there bad to say about this place? Maybe it is inconveniently located to most everything in Berlin, but I don’t care. Get your butt over there because the food is outta this world good. No, they don’t have an English menu. Yes, the menu has about 200 items on it (really). No, you will not be able to choose and will just end up pointing at something. But don’t worry. It will be fantastic!

Giant German menu

Giant German menu

Dan's organic beer is simply called Beir. My blood orange drink.

Dan’s organic beer is simply called Bier. My blood orange drink.

Traditional bruschetta and a mushroom variety

Traditional bruschetta and a mushroom variety

My pizza with artichoke hearts, olives, and four (4!) kinds of vegan cheese

My pizza with artichoke hearts, olives, and four (4!) kinds of vegan cheese

Our awesome Berlin guide's pizza with veggie ham and four (4!) kinds of vegan cheese

Our awesome Berlin guide’s pizza with veggie ham and four (4!) kinds of vegan cheese

Dan's pizza was a green pizza: pesto, cheese, olives, tomatoes, arugula, and grated vegan parm

Dan’s pizza was a green pizza: pesto, cheese, olives, tomatoes, arugula, and grated vegan parm

Half-eaten vegan tiramisu. Too tasty to remember to take a picture of until it was half eaten.

Half-eaten vegan tiramisu. Too tasty to remember to take a picture of until it was half eaten.

In case you can’t tell, Berlin is a vegan haven where most people would least expect it: Germany. But don’t let the Germans’ love of all things wurst (braut and curry come to mind) discourage you. Germany is filled with vegans and vegetarians and Berlin is definitely a hub for amazing vegan food. So go forth and enjoy. We certainly did!

Board Games and Vegan Treats: Berlin’s Friedrichshain Neighborhood

I have a little travel secret. When I go to new places, I often google around to see if there are any cool game stores in town. When Molly and I are home in New York, we often play board games with some friends. It has been fun traveling around the world and seeing what kind of games people like in different countries. But Berlin really took the cake because Berlin has a “play cafe” called Spielwiese.

Spielwiese storefront, Berlin

Spielwiese storefront in Berlin

We were quickly hooked and actually stopped in twice more. Let me illustrate what I mean by a “play cafe”.

Spielwiese, Berlin

Molly with Powergrid! Surrounded by other board games

They have hundreds of board games and card games of all types imaginable. You pay a small fee to use the games and can stay as long as you like to play. Spielwiese also rents our their board games. There is a small cafe (sadly, no vegan options) and a refrigerator full of people-pleasing beverages of both the alcoholic and non-alcoholic varieties.

Spielwiese Berlin

Molly and I playing Powergrid

If board games are your scene, and you happen to be in Berlin, I highly recommend checking out Spielwiese. It’s a unique cafe with offerings that you do not see very often. I do have some good news for you gamers located in New York City. The man working at Spielwiese informed us that a similar style cafe will be opening soon in New York near NYU.  The Uncommons currently has a Kickstarter campaign if you are interested in supporting or following the project!

The only problem with Spielwiese is that they have NO vegan food. What are two hungry vegans to do? Lucky for us, there are some excellent options in Berlin’s Friedrichshain neighborhood.

You know you have arrived in a veg-friendly town when you see not one, but two Veganz locations – a supermarket where every product is vegan! The store location pictured below at store location at Warschauerstraße 33 is about a 5-10 minute walk from Spielwiese.

Veganz, Berlin, Vegan

The inside of Veganz in Friedrichshain, Berlin!

The model for Veganz is clearly working. According to their site they plan to have 21 stores open throughout Europe by the end of 2015. (Maybe New York next?? Please?!?) Veganz is great for picking up a wide variety of grocery and household items to cook up your own vegan feast! If you are in the mood for baked goods in Berlin, the Veganz locations also house the vegan bakery Goodies. Their chocolate croissants and cinnamon buns come highly recommended by us!

Goodies, Vegan, Berlin

Vegan baked goods from Goodies! (Housed in Veganz, Berlin)

After a marathon shopping session at Veganz you would be wise to check out Mio Matto. Mio Matto is a vegan restaurant conveniently located above this same Veganz store at Warschauerstraße 33. The restaurant opened just two weeks before our visit to Berlin and upon our arrival they were already on top of their game. Each dish really blew us away. Check out the pictures below of our feast.

Berlin, Vegan, Mio Matto

Antipasti for two at Mio Matto in Berlin

Vegan, Berlin, Mio Matto

Vegan Calzone at Mio Matto

Vegan, Berlin, Mio Matto

One of many pizza options at Mio Matto

Vegan, Berlin, Mio Matto

Vegan Hot Chocolate!

Vegan, Berlin, Mio Matto

Cannoli at Mio Matto

Yes, the dishes were as good as they looked. What surprised us about the food was its affordability. Most of the pizza and pasta dishes were in the $8 – $10 (USD) range. You will find a huge menu here of mostly pizza and pasts dishes. There are other less carb-filled options too. It was a great value for a nice evening of vegan dining.

If you are looking for something a little bit more quick and casual, but just as delicious, you should head to Voner. It is just down the same street as Spielwiese. Look at these spuds!

Vegan, Berlin, Voner

Vegan “special” fries at Voner

Do yourself a favor and get an order of these”special” fries. Molly and I agree that they are the best vegan cheese fries we have ever had. They are seasoned fries that come topped with cooked onions and vegan cheese sauce. Yum yum. We ordered two additional items from the menu including the signature vegan doner! Doner is the same as shwarma, as far as we could tell. Voner makes their own vegan doner “meat”, and it is really very good!

Vegan, Berlin, Voner

Vegan Doner at Voner!

Vegan, Berlin, Voner

Vegan Cheeseburger at Voner

Voner takes the crown for quick and affordable food. Our entire meal – with a local beer – was around 15 euro and it was far too much food! The fries and doner are worth the trip – or perhaps multiple trips!

There was too much great vegan food in Berlin to cover in one post. Please check back soon for more Berlin coverage!

Everything is not okay all the time

Reichstag building, Berlin

You should always give bad news with a pretty picture: Reichstag building, Berlin

So, obviously on this blog we try to highlight awesome things we have seen, done, and eaten however this is a misrepresentation of long term travel. I’m here to tell you the truth.

Sometimes everything freaking sucks. A lot. Your 5-hour train ride is so full that you have to sit on the floor by the bathroom. You have a week transit pass and on your last day on your way to the train outta there a transit cop stops you and says your transit ticket expired yesterday. Here is your 40 Euro fine! That sight you wanted to see? Yeah, today is the one day of the week it is closed. In fact, today is the one day of the week EVERY sight is closed. (All of these things happened to us in the last week.) Everything that can go wrong does. And it stinks. And you want to call it quits and go home to your comfortable bed where everyone speaks your language, you know all of the rules, and no one is yelling at you in German.

How do I convince myself to keep going in a situation like this? Well there are a few things that do it. One: Onward travel. We have lots of onward travel already booked. Money spent months into the future that we would be wasting if we went home now. And I hate waste. Two: Places to see. Berlin may have ended with the crappiest morning that I have had in a long time, but the next places we are going all excite me. I cannot wait to discover their secrets. And if I quit, I may never get to these places. Ever. Three: Pride. This may be the dumbest reason, but possibly the most powerful. I said I was going to travel for 6 months, so I will be traveling for 6 months. I may never get to do this again. A bad day/week isn’t a good reason to give up on this amazing experience. Plus people will talk! Just kidding. Who cares what other people think? This is about not letting myself down. I can do this and I wanted to do this so badly. I just have to think back to those reasons and move forward.

And just ignore that Berlin S-Bahn fine. Right?

A lovely day trip to Bremen, Germany

“A week in Hamburg?? What are you going to do for a whole week in Hamburg?” was the response we heard from some people when we mentioned our travel plans. Well, part of what we were planning on doing for a week in Hamburg was to take day trips to smaller nearby cities. The second day trip we took was to Bremen, Germany.

Honestly, I had never heard of Bremen before Dan started doing some research into potential day trips from Hamburg. But once we decided we were going to go there, whenever I mentioned it to anyone they said “the musicians of Bremen?!”. I had no idea what they were talking about, but upon our arrival to Bremen I learned!

The Musicians of Bremen

The Musicians of Bremen

This is a rooster on the back of a cat on the back of a dog on the back of a donkey. The story is a bit weird, but in the end the animals live happily ever after, and that’s a story I can get behind. See the Muppet version of the story (parts 1-6) here.

Anyway, Bremen is a short hour long train ride away from Hamburg. Once we got to Bremen, the walk to the old city was about 5 minutes. The old city, which no longer has any of its old walls or gates, is still exceptionally beautiful.

A Bremen windmill

A Bremen windmill

The old city is on an island, so we figured we would just walk around for a few hours. We had plans to watch the Bremen vs. Hamburg football match (that’s soccer to you American folks) at a beer garden somewhere in the city at 3 in the afternoon, so we have a bunch of hours to kill until then. Then, just 10 minutes into our walk we spotted these buildings across the river just outside of the old city:

Yes, that building says KABOOM! on it.

Yes, that building says KABOOM! on it.

We had to check it out. It looked like it was perhaps a comic book art exhibit, and guess what? It was! Plus, it was free admission, so we had ourselves a little bit of artsy fun! By the time we left it was after noon. Back across the river, in the old city, we spotted what looked like a craft fair.  This was no crappy NYC-style street fair, folks. People were actually making crafts right there next to the river. We saw two guys with lathes making little wooden objects. One guy was making wooden spindles for yarn. Weird and random, but fun to watch!

Then we saw a guy making rope! Actually making rope! What a nice change from the plastic stuff most people buy online, made by machines, for pennies.

Man twisting rope with his helpers while a crowd of people look on.

Man twisting rope with his helpers while a crowd of people look on.

Who knew rope-making was so fascinating??

We continued walking, Dan secretly wishing he could buy all of the awesome stuff for sale at the market, until we got to a tunnel taking you under the road back to one of the oldest parts of the city. It was about 5 minutes to 1 at that point. We walked between all of these old, beautiful buildings that have found new like as stores selling crafts and unique trinkets. Then we walked through a small square filled with people. I couldn’t figure out why they were all standing there until we heard the bells.

The Glockenspiel of Bremen.

The Glockenspiel of Bremen.

What an awesome coincidence! Bremen’s Glockenspiel played us 10 minutes of music and the tower bit on the left of the picture turns every 30 seconds or so the whole time with new images of famous Germans throughout history. It was so, so great. I especially liked that the chiming of the hour at the start of the music was actually the same exact tune that the bell at my university played every hour. Oh, nostalgia…

Then we headed north a few blocks which lead us into Bremen’s town square.

Bremen's Rathaus

Bremen’s Rathaus

This is where the Musicians of Bremen are located (just to the west of town hall), and the Rathaus (town hall), Bremen’s cathedral, and Bremen’s parliament building. We checked out all of the buildings, going into any that were open (and all that were open were free!), but then it was time to get some lunch!

We began walking east, and on our way off the island we spotted a beer garden and made a mental note to head back there for the football game! Eastward we walked until we reached our destination:

Tom and Karo!

Tom and Karo!

Tom and Karo is a vegetarian restaurant that is really vegan with a cow’s cheese option. It completely knocked our socks off!

Dan's vegan cheeseburger with fires and a hummus dipping sauce. Dan says this is the best vegan cheeseburger he has ever had.

Dan’s vegan cheeseburger with fires and a hummus dipping sauce. Dan says this is the best vegan cheeseburger he has ever had.

My vegan fish burger with fries and mango curry dipping sauce.

My vegan fish burger with fries and mango curry dipping sauce.

The food was so good that we ordered food to go for dinner later that night, which was great, too, even though we ate it about 8 hours later! Also, the decor is pretty eclectic and the bathrooms are covered in animal rights stickers, which was awesome.

On our walk back to the beer garden, we took a slight detour to the other super old, craft area of the old city of Bremen. It should be noted that the old city of Bremen is very small, it probably takes 15 minutes to walk across east-west, and 5 minutes north-south. It is perfectly sized for a day of exploring. Yet somehow the city of Bremen actually has about 550,000 people in it, so obviously the old city is not the entirety of the city. The tiny crafty area we were in was a perfect example of why cities in the middle ages tended to just go up in flames, though. Some of the side streets were as little as 3 feet wide. It would be pretty easy for fire to pass from house to house with all the houses that close together!

Then it was game time! We found a bench at the beer garden, each got a brew and a pretzel, and settled in to enjoy the game. I had a wheat beer and Dan had the beer garden’s original beer, which he enjoyed in a big ‘ole beer stein.

Beer and pretzels are made for each other.

Beer and pretzels are made for each other.

The game was Bremen vs. Hamburg, and actually took place in Hamburg while we were in Bremen! Woops! But this is apparently a big rivalry, so tickets were actually very expensive anyway. We though this was actually the perfect way to experience the game. It didn’t hurt that Bremen won 2-0 so everyone in the beer garden was singing songs and cheering their heads off. A good time was had by all.

Germany is really the first place that Dan and I have gotten to get out of the big cities to explore the smaller cities and towns, and we have really enjoyed it. We plan to do more small-town exploring as we head south!

Anywhere in Germany we should try to visit that you have been and loved?

Madurodam and Miniatur Wunderland

The Hague’s Madurodam and Hamburg’s Miniatur Wunderland are big attractions in their respective cities. They take historic buildings and skylines and break them down into accessible miniature replicas. The architectural accuracy of the models alone at both sites makes them worth visiting. However, they each have a number of additional features that you will remember for years to come.

Madurodam is pretty straightforward as a tourist attraction. The models there focus exclusively on The Netherlands and will give you a great representation on the architecture across the country. I can tell you this; many people had a lot of fun putting together Madurodam.

Madurodam, The Hague

Madurodam, The Hague

Scattered around the park are dozens of videos (in Dutch, but with English subtitles) that explain buildings, Dutch culture and weird facts. The humor really strikes a tone with all ages. Even if you think looking at scale replicas isn’t your thing, you will be pleasantly surprised. You can try your hand at a simulated flower-auction, purchase a pair of mini-clogs delivered by truck from a mini clog-factory, watch model boats go through fully functional locks and lift weights that look like cheese wheels!

Madurodam clog factory

Madurodam’s mini-clog factory!

Madurodam, Dike

Madurodam – Molly is holding back the flood!

I personally enjoyed the birds wandering through the outdoor site clashing in scale with micro buildings and vehicles. Tons of fun. Pro tip: Don’t go when it’s raining.

Madurodam, Binnenhof

Madurodam, Model of Binnenhof in The Hague

Madurodam is a great way to feel like you’ve seen all of Holland in about two hours. Just a note, it took us three hours. We were simply having too much fun.  If you want to see more of the world in miniature, you need to head west to Hamburg.

Miniatur Wunderland – e.g. ‘Miniature Wonderland’ – is Hamburg’s most popular attraction for good reason. It is the largest model railway in the world! There is a good chance your first reaction will be “Who had the time to put this whole exhibit together?” As the truth would have it, there are many people spending a lot of time painting and crafting these convincing scenes.

Miniature Wonderland - Switzerland exhibit

Miniature Wonderland – Switzerland exhibit

The level of detail is astounding. Figures just millimeters high are bursting with character. It’s like playing a huge 3-D version of Where’s Waldo without knowing exactly who you are looking for.  The scenes themselves also have their moments of levity as well if you look closely.

Miniature Wonderland - Santa and Frosty!

Miniature Wonderland – Santa and Frosty!

Miniature Wonderland - Rabbits in School

Miniature Wonderland – Rabbits in School

Miniature Wonderland Tractor Race

Miniature Wonderland Tractor Race

Miniatur Wunderland has permanent exhibits which feature Switzerland, Scandinavia, Germany, Austria, and the United States. (Coming soon – Italy!) The models effectively capture some of the most recognizable features of these regions. Authenticity of these regions is also enhanced by day/night cycles. Speaking of authentic, the working replica of an Airport is a wonder to behold.

Miniature Wonderland Carnival

Miniature Wonderland Carnival at night

In addition to these giant exhibitions they also have several rooms devoted to special exhibits which capture historical moments in miniature form. You can spend the entire day looking at miniatures and still feel like there is more to experience. We spent 6 hours at a very crowded Miniature Wonderland!

We enjoyed both of these museums and would highly recommend a visit to one or both. You will be surprised how compelling and engaging something so small can be!

For more pictures of Madurodam and Miniatur Wunderland, please check out our new Travel Gallery page!