greetings from berlin

Berlin. I mean, seriously, Berlin!

I had no idea what I was getting into the first time I came up. It’s not just the counter-culture, the punk, and all the people mixed together. The Turkish quarters with portions of hummus so huge that they are hard to devour in two, the bite-sized baklavas, and the impeccably prepared coffee; the coffee that smells like home and maybe even feels like it. The Middle Eastern restaurant, Sababa, in Mitte district. Then a whole afternoon reserved just for Ethiopian food. My devotion to it knows no limits and I’ve been away for too long.

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From Berlin with love.

The bike rides from east to west, and not realizing when you’ve crossed the line. And by the way, biking around Berlin is the best way to experience the city. East Side Gallery; what it represents now. My friend and I biked through the entire wall and I kept thinking of him. He’d been there before and — I am pressed hard to admit this — based on his loose recommendations of what I might like, I was kind of retracing his steps. Berlin feels a little bit like stepping back in time; seeing all the memorials and the marks of the past. Like walking through a cloud or a ghost, if such a thing existed.

I came with no expectations, walked away with so much. But you do have to know the history in order to understand the city, at least some of it. Without being able to connect the dots, I am not sure my passion would be the same. Berlin captures me with its rawness and history. The past and the present mixed together, I felt as if I could relate to the city on some strange introverted level.

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Kreuzberg.
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A simple question. Or something.

Berlin.

Photo booths and Club Mate. David Bowie paraphernalia in places you wouldn’t expect them. Parks, plenty of parks. Summer in the city. Memorials and museums. Spectacular coffee and food places. Streets of diverse, incredible people. PhD. students who look like they are homeless; then they open their mouth and you find out they speak eight languages. Jazz, new-age pop, reggae, and classical music; everything goes. You don’t even think about it. Oh, and Kreuzberg, the colorful neighborhood that I fell in love with. I’d definitely take a flat around there but settled for a flat white. Even in Berlin (especially in Berlin!), I followed the coffee.

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The Barn.
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Five Elephant.

The Barn, naturally. It’s my number one. They are pros and they are gorgeous. Roasters disappointed the first time and then they disappointed the second time. The coffee was scorching hot and couldn’t be even touched for ten minutes. Also: not strong enough for my Southern European tastes. But that’s just me. Bitte! Coffeehouse was a love at first sight. A little Greek shop tucked away unassumingly on a street. Apart from an excellent flat white, I walked away with a lovely homemade lavender soap. And saving the best for last: Five Elephant is a must, without a doubt.

In Berlin, you listen to the beat of your heart and let it lead you.

coffee stories, iii.

Coffee beans.
Coffee beans.

There is a story being told in the Congo. There is coffee in the Congo; excellent coffee, coffee with the potential to heal a nation. These two things, on the loop, on my mind. Images of Lake Kivu, the hills, and Congolese coffee farms. My heart bleeds. Second day at World of Coffee Dublin 2016. I wrote an article for Think Prague: 6 coffee shops in Prague. My heart skipped a beat when the legend that is The Coffeetographer featured my article in her own Coffee Stories. I draw inspiration from her and I am grateful for this mention. Thank you. I am back at my corner coffee shop in Žižkov; my barista prepares a warm flat white with a smile. An extra cup for when I am having a bad day. I don’t leave the house without my KeepCup anymore. My mom bought me a handmade džezva complete with intricate details and a small spoon from Sarajevo; I look forward to strong coffee with a pinch of cinnamon. The weather has definitely announced summer in Prague and there’ll be more of iced coffees from now on, too. Lavender or mint, perhaps. Here’s to summer.

a year in breakfasts | prague

Late autumn, October, maybe
One morning, after a night of heavy rain, icy wind and lots of turning around in the bed, I felt weak and demotivated. It was still early on, the early days. I had only moved to Prague and I wasn’t sleeping well. I wasn’t sleeping at all actually. The first month was tough and that particular cold morning there weren’t many things that could fix my state of mind except for two: a cup of strong coffee and a nutritious breakfast. Karlín is a district close to the city center by public transport, yet still a little off the beaten path. In those first months, the streets of Karlín became my favorite to explore when there was nowhere else to go. And it all started with the discovery that gloomy morning. Můj Šálek Kávy is located in the heart of the district and it was exactly what I needed. Homemade granola with yogurt, scrambled eggs, a toast with a grandmother’s strawberry jam; I am always pressed between these choices. Only one thing is certain: a flat white, creamy and strong. The first sip always feels like a hug. At this coffee shop, it’s nothing short of that.

The beginning of winter, cold December
First Love’s little sister visits me in Prague every few weeks and it is a tradition now that we stop for a coffee and a four-course dessert set (her, not me). On one such weekend visit, we’d woken up early, more out of habit than necessity. There isn’t much available on Sunday in Prague, and especially not very early in the morning. IF Café opens at 9 o’clock, and it became the perfect choice. When things fit into each other, and little effort is needed for the day to flow smoothly. That’s how we are, me and her. Walking over from Jířího z Poděbrad through the downward streets to Belgická in Vinohrady where the coffee shop is located, we dissected our lives and laughed hard. We laugh so hard sometimes, there isn’t enough oxygen around us. B is a baker and her passion is desserts, sweets and anything with an insubordinate amount of sugar. So our favorite place isn’t a surprise really; IF Café is first and foremost a bakery and patisserie. Their coffee is not particularly to my liking, but the breakfast! Oh, man. It’s everything one could wish for.

Almost spring, early February
My parents came to Prague for a visit. Some of it was for work, most of it was for me. As far as I am concerned. Which is to say, I’m happy when they stay with me. There is familiarity in our different characters and personalities; in our morning habits and the way we take our coffee. All different from each other yet we are one blood. One thing that we share in common, the one thing I definitely, hundred percent inherited from my parents: the love for breakfast. Wanting to try a new place, we headed to Home Kitchen by the Old Town Square. Then the next day, and two days later, again. That’s how good they are. From the selection of soups, eggs, granolas, and fruit salads, main courses, and deserts; we all found something we loved and wanted to taste again, and again, and again. With four locations in the city (one near my office), Home Kitchen quickly became the go-to place for breakfast any time of the day.

Definitely summer, the first day of June
I knew K. through our websites for years but we first met in Hong Kong five or six years ago; he could have flown anywhere in Asia but he chose the city I lived in at the time. Quite humbled by this, I met him for a coffee by the harbor and showed him around town. Slowly, but surely we became friends. Years later, on my own trip to Prague, we met again. Now that I am living here, he became the person I can call anytime for a coffee or a breakfast. Which has as of late become a regularity more than anything else. On the first day of the first summer month, we had two breakfasts. Coffee room and Café Jen. Two places I cannot recommend enough. Outside street seating is what you should hope for, but these two spots tend to be crowded that you’ll be lucky if you get a seat. But we did. On both counts.

coffee stories, ii.

Coffee in Rome
Coffee in Rome. By Kristina Gill.

Patti Smith and coffee. If you haven’t read the M Train, you must. Marcus Anderson’s jazzy album And Coffee is an excellent choice for your mid-afternoon coffee break. Kurt Cobain drank cappuccinos. I’d never seen that photo of him before and it is my favorite now. Two summer coffee recipes: mint mojito pour over and lavender iced coffee. You’ve probably never heard of coffee cheese. Now you can try it at The Coffee Collective in Copenhagen. If you find yourself in Copenhagen, have a coffee at the Coffee Lab as well. There’ll be more on coffee in Scandinavian countries from me soon.

coffee stories, i.

Coffee stories.
Coffee stories.

On coffee, being a roamer, and wanting a deeper connection with your city. 10 stories she wants to write in the future. The official trailer for the Minimalism documentary, which is out this month. Line & Shape & Color posted a series of posts from Croatia and they are all amazing. I look forward to being back home later this month. There’s more to life than buying stuff. If I could be anywhere this weekend, I’d be at the Barcelona Coffee Festival. One writer’s journey on self-discovery through the Czech language. Susannah Conway published her second book – Londontown – and I can’t wait to get my hands on it. Paying tribute to Afeni Shakur with Dear Mama. A nod to my own mama; thank you for everything. Truly. Kavárna co hledá jméno opened on Monday and it is perfect. I am happy there. Alicia Keys released a new single In Common after four years of being silent; I’ve been listening to it on repeat.