Oh honey, it was paradise.

Well, I’m back from Berlin – at least physically. Besides partying within an inch of my life, I found time to eat several passable doner kebap sandwiches, have some glass noodles at Monsieur Vuong, and kick myself repeatedly as I discovered a Georgian restaurant immediately after a disappointing dinner at a pan-Asian restaurant called “Pan-Asia.” I know – a bad, bad mistake.

But I also hit up Al Kalif, which is my longtime Syrian standby in Kreuzberg (Bergmannstrasse). For the first time, I sampled their merguez – the spicy lamb sausage which I eat more times per week (from Bedouin Tent) than is probably healthy.

The difference in Al Kalif’s presentation is that the sausage actually looks like chopped up little sausages – as opposed to Bedouin’s version, which is loosely packed sans casing, as though it were a tube-shaped hamburger. As I consumed the diced morsels that came swimming in a reddish sauce including onions and peppers, I was happy as a clam and only six euros poorer.

The friend with whom I traveled to Berlin commented about his “Al Farouk” combination platter: “It’s enough food for the whole day.” Indeed, with four falafel balls, hummus, mtabbal, kibbeh, two pitas, and a healthy array of veggies, two could share the six euro portion and save room for one of the excellent array of pastries.

I know it sounds strange, but you should also try the cherry-banana juice – or just buy a couple bottles of the nectar at your local Korean grocery and mix it yourself. An oddly refreshing combination indeed.

I haven’t decided whether to write up any of the other places I hit in Berlin, probably because the lack of sleep has interfered with my ability to remember crucial details such as “what I ate.” Here’s what I do remember:

1. A friend playing fussball (in German it’s called “kicker”) against someone who was described as the “meanest heroin dealer in Berlin.”
2. My traveling companion winning a half-litre Warsteiner drink-off to break a tie at trivia night; my great contribution was knowing the real name of Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson.
3. Visiting my old favorite bar “Bla-Bla” and discovering it partially redecorated. Sadly, the atmosphere wasn’t the same.
4. All of the good deals on used music are at the weekend flea markets. Try the one across from the Pergamon Museum on the west bank of the Spree.
5. I will never, ever turn down a trip to Berlin with friends. Neither should you.

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