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GREAT ESCAPE Eastern Germany

With 2018 almost here, start planning now for a road trip of a week or longer that’s at its most glorious in spring and summer. We’ve updated the design of the Great Escape section to bring in more diverse travel experiences – in Germany’s east, we take a food tour, go canoeing, discover reborn architecture, get a feel for rock-climbing, and more.
Joggers follow the Reichstagufer along the banks of the Spree, with the ever-present sight of Berlin’s Fernsehturm (TV Tower) on the skyline

See how Berlin gets through its day on a city food tour and beer tasting

A SYMBOL OF BERLIN, THE BRANDENBURG Gate is hard to surpass. Born out of royal pomp, and scarred by war, it was blocked off for 38 years by an infamous wall, its very purpose denied. But since 1989, a generation has grown up free to follow the rising and setting sun through its arches. You don’t have to push your imagination far to see openness and resilience embodied in the stone portal; for Samantha Reidie though, the same qualities are enshrined in a paper plate of chopped-up sausage, slathered in a piquant tomato sauce.

‘Currywurst is the food of the people,’ says Samantha, an ex-Londoner who moved to Berlin seven years ago and now leads Bite Berlin food tours around the city. Outside a hole-in-the-wall shop, she tells the modern legend of Herta Heuwer, a food vendor in the rubble of late-’40s Berlin, who traded alcohol with British soldiers for ketchup and curry powder. These she mixed into a sauce for good old German pork bratwurst, served with chunky potato fries, and soon she was selling the dish up to 10,000 times per week. Today, Berliners get through 133 helpings a minute. ‘I think it’s a very special dish, because it represents how Berlin rose from the ashes,’ says Samantha, holding aloft a disc of currywurst on a wooden fork. ‘People used whatever resources they had available and in this case it was food fusion too.’

Berlin’s eating habits have not just been swayed by a dubious British take on Indian spices. As Samantha ducks into shops and eateries for more tastings, she picks out other strands in the gastro-historical tapestry: French Protestant Huguenots exiled to Berlin in the 1680s and a Vietnamese community built up since the 1970s – from a once-divided country to a once-divided city. In a typically Berliner kneipe (pub), Samantha orders Rotkäppchen – though this sparkling white wine comes from a company that started in 1856, it is strongly linked with East German times, when it was one of the few prestige brands in that country and one of even fewer that are still going strong today. Most patrons though, prefer to toast with a drink that has older roots. Samantha points to the Roman writer Tacitus, who said of German tribes: ‘A liquor for drinking is made of barley or other grain and fermented into a certain resemblance to wine. To pass an entire day and night in drinking disgraces no-one.’

Food tour guide Samantha Reidie pours out a glass of the classic local tipple, Rotkäppchen
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Find the complete article and many more in this issue of Lonely Planet - January 2018
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