November 22, 2011

Berlin's Worst Tourist Trap?

East Side Blick - Friedrichshain

Last week, as I happened to cross the Admiralsbrücke on the way back home, I found myself stuck in the middle of a loud demonstration of dreadlocked young Berliners. They were the angry, disenfranchised youth of a city in turmoil. They needed a well-earned outlet for their anger. But instead of doing something useful like occupying the Reichstag or Potsdamer Platz, they decided to demonstrate against the tourists.

It may only be my problem, but why this burning hatred for tourists all of a sudden? True, I occasionally make fun of lard-assed tourists. I will be the first to frown at drunken Spaniards vomiting in front of the few available Berliner landmarks after a night out at Berghain. Moreover, I refuse to go to touristy places and will always make a point out of showing I actually live here, thankyouverymuch. But from here to demonstrating against tourists? Why on earth?!

At the end of the day they bring in money, experiences and impulses. And we also enjoy being tourists in other places. The only reason I am here is because I once had the chance to enjoy this city as a tourist. Imagine what would have happened, had I landed straight on to an anti-tourist demonstration? Of course, you may say I have always been a good tourist. I respect the locals, try to embarrass myself ordering things in their language, I never vomit on the pavement (just on a cat once, but it was a mistake and it was inside a flat. So there you go). But this is all beside the point. Tourists have rights too.

The point is, however, that tourism changes cities. City centres become appropriated by shops catering for people who will not be coming back anytime soon. Aesthetics and quality usually suffer as a result. This often means locals avoid the most representative parts of their cities, leaving them instead to hoards of people who buy “My sister went to London and all she got me was this lousy T-shirt” T-shirts. When was the last time you heard about a Parisian going for dinner at the Eiffel Tower? Or a Berliner going out for a fun evening at the Brandenburg Gate? You haven’t, not in a long time, and that’s because these places have been forfeited to tourist-aesthetics and prices. But isn’t it a pity? Wouldn’t it be nice to dine and simultaneously have one of these views that are usually reserved for tourists?

A new mission thus materialised: to find a spot where locals can feel like tourists and enjoy a Berlin landmark. For some reason I had the bad idea to start by testing the East Side Blick on the Spree-bank just next to the Eastside Gallery. I know, the daft name “East Side Blick” should have sent me a clear warning. When I entered the place and saw the bored expression on the face of the girl behind the counter I should have turned on my heel and left. The final straw should have been the menu (somewhere between a bad canteen and a bad idea of a restaurant) or maybe just the plastic ambiance? But I stayed nonetheless.

We should begin with the positive vibe. On a sunny day, the location actually is as stunning as Berlin gets. Being on the Eastside-Gallery bank, you don’t get any of the bleakness of the actual Eastside gallery or the O2 Arena. You get to sit on the riverbank, look towards a couple of nice buildings in Kreuzberg and even more importantly: the Oberbaumbrücke in all its glory makes for a truly pleasing setting.

And now to the less positive things. We started with the antipasti (priced at 6.80 €) and a Kartoffelsalat (for nice 1.60 €). The potato salad might have actually been home made. The antipasti was nothing but. Take a chunk of frozen mix of antipasti vegetables (mushrooms, courgettes and the lot), heat them up in a microwave (to get that extra soggy feeling) and sprinkle soy sauce all over them. 


Main courses? Ahem... they didn’t have any real salmon in stock (the only real main course on the menu was a salmon-steak. Probably hadn’t found any at Lidl?), so we ordered one dish of penne with smoked salmon and rocket salad (8.80 €) and another dish of pasta with shrimps and tomato sauce (8.70 €). The shrimp pasta was edible. The sauce had come directly out of a can and there were a few shrimps to be seen lurking in it. The smoked-salmon dish, however, was nothing less than horrifying. Dried/burnt strips of salmon, a bit of olive oil to make it sound Mediterranean and lots of dry rocket leaves. 

Truly horrid pasta
Bad pasta
I know, I should have known. The only place around Eastside Gallery is basically there to exploit tourists. So why would anyone take advantage of a splendid location and actually make something out of it? It doesn’t have to be pretentious. It doesn’t have to be posh. But even basic studenty pasta can be done right, and if it is done right, it can be enough to make people come and savour the presence of Berlin’s central waterway. Unfortunately, however, there is no reason to stop at East Side Blick. 

Overall Mark:
East Side Blick
Mühlenstraße 70-71, 10243 Berlin

Größere Kartenansicht

1 comment: