This morning I had a nice slow start while Aimee went out to a driving theory class. I had a lazy morning, showing Lisi a few things on the ukulele (which she picked up really quickly and will no doubt be running away with by the end of the week) and when Aimee came home we made soup with the veggies she had left from last time she was at the food co-op. There were lots of long skinny potatoes, parsnips, a butternut squash and an apple. Aimee also put in some curry spices and some onions. While the soup was boiling, Aimee made some bread with beer – I don’t have the exact recipe but you use the beer instead of yeast to make the bread rise.
We had already decided that we would go to the Christmas market in the Spittelberg district today, so once the bread was out of the oven and the soup was off the boil, we took the tram towards the market. We got off a couple of stops early and Aimee showed me the Museums Quartier and the Volkstheater (People’s Theatre). We continued through the Museums Quartier and towards the market, past a strange piece of art which actually had an unintended double meaning.
The artist had made the “weed” as in the drug into a verb, and as you can see has conjugated the verb in the present tense here. There’s also the sense of weed as an unwanted plant, which is nicely conveyed by the plant which is growing over it. In Endlish we also use that word for getting rid of unwanted plants, like weeding the garden. Unfortunately, the most obvious (and correct) interpretation of that set of words has nothing to do with any of that, and instead just makes it look like everyone went to the toilet. It’s probably funnier without my explanation, come to think of it.
Once we got to the market I was very pleased to see that, as promised, it wasn’t just a lot of rubbish being sold out of sheds. In fact, there were actual artists and confectioners, food stalls and the like all set up around the streets in Spitttelberg. The first place we stopped was at a stall with lots of different kinds of schnapps. I tried one that was made from some piece of a pine tree – even if no one could agree which bit. The first one had added sugar, the second one was without, and the third one had been distilled and was made from (I think) pine seeds…or perhaps needles… they got progressively stronger as they went on. The last one was really very firy, but they all tasted/smelled very strongly of pine! Very Christmassy!
After a few more stalls we came to a little cluster of food stalls, and of course I had to have a Bratwurst. They were the same price here in the market as they had been in the Wurstelstand by the U-Bahn, but I think the U-Bahn one was better. I suppose they’re there 365 days of the year! After we had sausages we also went to the stall with Erdäpfelpuffer*, which are like grated potato fritters. We had to wait in the queue for a while, but that meant we got to watch the process.
The Erdäpfelpuffer are cooked in a huge flat cast-iron pan, a couple of metres across. There are coals underneath, and a lake of bubbling fat deep-fries them. The pan has a special spiral barrier all the way around it, and as the Erdäpfelpuffer cook, you push them around the pan towards the centre of the spiral. This means that you can always keep track of how cooked each one is, as well as making it easier to fish them out when it’s time. They are turned over halfway around, and when they come out they are drained for a short time to get rid of some of the oil.
While we were waiting (and Aimee used her defensive queuing skills to prevent the older couple behind us from sneaking past) the guy working the stall used a big leaver to raise the boiling pan of fat up, and restock the coal underneath. I wouldn’t like to be anywhere near that while it was being moved! We finally got ours and painted it with garlic before sharing it out. It was very crispy indeed, and made a good accompaniment to the sausage.
We continued our wander and came across a stall selling bagged candy rock, called nob-nob. I know. The guy working there reeled off a huge list of flavours and I tried the lemon one. It tasted of lemon candy rock, as expected. I also saw some nice big fresh pretzels – sweet ones! I grabbed one for later and put it in my bag. I promptly forgot about it.
We popped into a lovely community space where Lisi used to work. It was a small courtyard surrounded by rooms on two levels. The roof is movable and can be closed if it’s cold or raining. Inside the courtyard was a stall that was not quite yet selling hot glühwein (mulled wine), but there was quite a crowed gathered under the fairylights which had been strung across the ceiling.
We went back through some more stalls and then went up to Westbahnstraße, which is a lovely street with lots of different shops selling interesting things. Aimee was there looking for a diary, but there are also lots of photography shops, shops selling scissors and knives and shops selling brightly coloured childrens’ toys and clothes.
There’s a shop devoted to Finnish things, and also a shop that only sells pepper mills. There was also this mending shop.
My favourite shop was probably the shop selling musical instruments from all over the world. In the window it had all kinds of instruments, including a kora, which I had seen someone busking with in Bristol. Inside it had the usual section of kids’ instruments, but also a glockenspiel section, a gong section, a bongo section, a flute/pipe/whistle section, and a room full of stringed musical instruments – balalaikas, zithers, harps, mandolins… and a lot more things that I had no idea about.
Our next stop was Prosi, a huge world supermarket. It was absolutely packed and is very well described as a WORLD supermarket. Everyone from everywhere was there, and so was everything they eat. We picked up a few things, including sushi rice for making Christmas sushi.
The place was extremely busy, and we came out with a good haul. Aimee put me on the tram back to the apartment and I got back there and dumped the 5kg of Basmati before popping out to the local supermarket for some fresh veg and a few other things.
Later, I remembered about my pretzel. It was apple and cinnamon flavoured – much nicer than the horrible salty ones!
*Erdäpfel is the same as kartoffel – potato. It literally means Earth-apple, like pomme de terre in French.