Berlin is like a crème brûlée for the timid: one must crack the surface to get to the good stuff. “Cracking the surface” involves cutting through graffiti-daubed parks that seem a bit shady, snaking down grim alleys spattered with paint and dog shit and marching under shady bridges to reach the belly of the beast.
I’m not a risk taker at all though, and I believe in trusting your instincts. I have a reputation with one group of friends for bailing on a night out right before the evening turns sour. I would say it’s like a ~6th sense, but I get pick-pocketed all the fucking time so fat lot of good it is to me. My top tips are to always know where you’re going and always know what you’re looking for. If something seems off, even if you can’t pinpoint exactly why, take a step back, stop walking or change direction.
Berlin felt like a really safe city, and I only mention the above because if I had been alone, I would have changed direction and missed Emma Pea because I had no idea what I was looking for.
Before my brother and I left for Berlin, we created a map of veggie hangouts, rock bars and interesting cultural stuff like museums dedicated to computer games, so whenever we were in a new area, we could check our map and see if anything awesome was nearby. One evening, we were trotting around Friedrichshain, somewhere between our hostel and our aunt’s flat, when we realised we should probably eat. We checked our map, and a vaguely bland-sounding veggie café was right on the street we were standing on. “Excellent!” we exclaimed, and then we walked up and down the street and found nothing. “It should be right here,” Henry said, pointing his phone at a large impenetrable stretch of wall. Eventually, we found a gateway and were immediately offered marijuana. “Seems legit,” we thought, and continued on into the belly of a warehouse district. Sheet ice glimmered across the concrete and in the distance, we saw a light.
Opposite a late-night climbing club packed with people scurrying up climbing walls, we found this tiny little café-bar serving up Mexican-style veggie cuisine. It was cheap, warm and vibey, with a separate bar area open until the early hours. We tucked into a tortilla and a vegan bean burrito (although it came with unvegan dips – my bad though, I could have asked what it came with and ordered guac or salsa instead).
I’ll be honest: the food wasn’t mind blowing, but it was cheap and hearty and fresh as a daisy. The atmosphere of the place was second to none, though and the staff were great. Definitely worth seeking out for the spirit of adventure and rest assured – the location is perfectly safe.