From Istanbul With Love
Berlin’s sizeable Turkish population has bestowed the capital with a wealth of food, culture, and street life to discover, Hilda Hoy found.
No need to go far for the sensational tastes and colors of Turkey.
Various waves of migration have left indelible imprints on Berlin throughout history, but one of the most significant is surely the Turkish. Facing a labor shortage in its post-WWII economic boom, West Germany negotiated a treaty with Turkey in 1961, and over the next several decades, Turkish migrant workers came in droves. Many ended up staying and, today, there are approximately three million people living in Germany with Turkish roots – the largest ethnic minority in the country. About six percent of Berlin’s population can claim Turkish descent.
One enduringly vibrant epicenter of Turkish culture is Kreuzberg, in the neighborhood radiating outward from Kottbusser Tor. The best way to experience this heritage, naturally, is by eating, and there are plenty of options. Hasir (Adalbertstr. 10–12, www.hasir. de) is renowned for being the birthplace of the now-ubiquitous döner kebab sandwich, but it faces plenty of stiff local competition for good noshing. Nearby Doyum (Admiralstr. 36, www.doyum-restaurant.de) makes some of the best Adana kebab (spicy ground lamb skewers with rice and salad) around, while
Adana Grillhaus (Manteuffelstr. 86, www. 2 adanagrillhaus.de) is famous for its succulent grilled lamb chops. Wherever you dine, try a glass of cold, creamy ayran, a salty yogurt drink.
Work off the meal by taking a stroll through the twice-weekly market on Maybachufer, commonly referred to as the “Turkish
market.” Every Tuesday and Friday from 11:30am–6:30pm, locals flock to the banks of the Landwehr Canal to score bargains on fresh produce, olives, cheese, bread, and spices. For a snack and some people-watching, make a stop at Smyrna Kuruyemis (Oranienstr. 27), where you can sip strong black tea and nibble on freshly roasted sunflower seeds or Turkish delight as you watch the street life on one of the neighborhood’s main arteries. Or head down busy Kottbusser Damm to La Femme (No. 77), which makes decadent sweets as well as kumpir, buttery baked potatoes with a mind-boggling range of toppings. La Femme is also a spot for Turkish breakfasts of simit (chewy bread rings coated in sesame) and menemen (scrambled eggs with onion and tomato). Give the body a little TLC after all the gluttony at the hamam, or Turkish bathhouse, at Kreuzberg’s Schokofabrik women’s center (Mariannenstr. 6, www. hamamberlin.de). The traditional exfoliation and soap massage treatments will leave you feeling like new – but sorry, gents, this one’s for ladies only.
Turkish cuisine is defined by a variety of meat-based dishes, fried vegetables, olives, lots of Mediterranean spices and garlic, yogurt, sheep cheeses, and delicious honeydipped pastries.
Left: Turkish tiles. Above: one of Berlin’s many kebab shops; This image: strong black tea, Turkish style; Right: chicken kebab on its spit.