Perhaps we were overly ambitious. Jordi and I met on the Bernauer Straße platform at 7:00 a.m., groggy, sleep-wrecked, and hungry. So hungry, I, at least, was on the verge of hangry. I should have known better than to skip breakfast before embarking on a journey from Schöneberg at the southern end of the ring to Prenzlauer Berg in the north, even if our plan was to spend the day running around the city eating.
But we went ahead and shot a few scenes in the bluish early-morning light. We had some time before Bonanza, the first stop on our tour, opened at 8:00 a.m. By the time we walked the length of Bernauer Straße, past the Mauerpark flea market and clusters of iron poles marking where the Wall once stood, we were both so excited for coffee.
Bonanza was suspiciously dark. At first, we chalked it up to Berlin’s lackadaisical approach to opening hours. Upon closer inspection, we realized that it didn’t open until 10:00 a.m. on Saturdays. Feeling the tired pull a lack of caffeine can have on a serious addict, and by this time both pretty hangry, we called it quits, took the train up to Osloer Straße and had breakfast in Jordi’s apartment: croissants from the little bakery downstairs, thick slices of soft, mild cheese and coffee boiled on the stovetop moka. At 10:00 a.m., we took the train back down to Bernauer Straße and started over again. As if 7:00 a.m. had never happened.
There was a lot going on behind-the-scenes in the making of this little film. Mainly because, have you ever tried talking to a camera all day? It is hard.
You’re so preoccupied with trying to sound smart, funny, and natural all at the same time, that you end up sounding like a parody of yourself – which is, of course neither smart nor funny nor natural. Let’s just say, I don’t think I’m going to be the next Food Network megastar. And I’m really ok with that.
What makes walking around the city with a camera interesting, however, is the way it makes you see your surroundings with new eyes. You’re conscious of how you want to present it to other people, how the stories you tell reflect your personal experience. Berlin has so many different neighborhoods with distinct personalities and focal points, it almost feels as if it’s a city made of mini cities. In general, you’re fiercely loyal to your Kiez, as its called.
I’ve always lived along the U7, in Kreuzberg, Neukölln, and now Schöneberg, so the area around Bernauer Straße is less familiar to me. I’ve been to Mauerpark, of course – everyone in Berlin has been to Mauerpark – but this was my first time to Bonanza, one of the third-wave roasters setting up shop with increasing frequency in Berlin, something I’m extremely excited about.
My first exposure to really great coffee was during my study abroad semester in Melbourne, where no matter where I went, the coffee was rich and strong, but not bitter or burnt-tasting. It’s hard to go back to anything else after coffee like that. For whatever reason, there are a lot of Australians opening coffee shops in Berlin right now. They’ve popularized the flat white, which you can now find in almost every café, Australian-run or not. (Even Starbucks does a version. It is… awful. Just, you know, so you know.)
Bonanza is everything a good coffee shop should be – it has great atmosphere, plenty of places to sit, and excellent coffee. Though I’d never been there before, it became my coffee of choice a few weeks later during the Berlinale, when they served their excellent flat whites from a truck right by the ticket office.
Freshly caffeinated, Jordi and I headed down south to my part of town. When I first moved to Berlin, I lived in the Bergmannkiez in Kreuzberg in a fifth floor walkup where the shower was in the kitchen. It was a fantastic apartment, full of books and big windows, the perfect place to arrive in a strange new city and feel at home. And it was the perfect neighborhood to start exploring Berlin.
On one of these ventures, I discovered Soluna Brot und Öl, a bakery with an unassuming front, but big windows offering a glimpse of the massive clay oven inside. As soon as you open the door, you’re beautifully overcome by the warm, yeasty smell of baking. And the breads on offer are unique – dark, crusty loaves with a fine dusting of flour, small boules chock full of dried cherries and walnuts, and hearty lengths of pain de campagne. But my favorite thing to do back then was buy a few of the little rolls flecked with caraway seeds and sea salt along with some good cheese and salami, and eat it for breakfast alongside fresh, hot coffee back in my sunny apartment.
Since moving, I hadn’t been back to Soluna in a long time, so our visit was also somewhat nostalgic. I bought one of those rolls I so fondly remembered, a creamy, perfect wedge of brie and ate my breakfast as we walked through the rolling green of Hasenheide, scattered with stark winter trees, to the next neighborhood I lived in in Berlin and the next stop on our tour: lunch.