The Best of Berlin in September

Exberliner, Berlin’s leading English-language magazine, in September samples exquisite American coffee, tries out a new social network for artists, nibbles on Swedish candy and tours the city in style with a re-designed Rickshaw.

The Best of Berlin in September

American roast

The phrase “American-style coffee” doesn’t usually get Europeans excited, but Massachusetts-native Kris Schackman has boldly set out to change this. On a romantic vacation to New York 18 months ago, Kris brought Sophie Weingensamer to his favourite Brooklyn coffee roaster. Originally from coffee- centric Vienna, Sophie was blown away. Less than a year later on a chilly December day in 2010, Five Elephant was born just south of Görlitzer Park. In keeping with the new American style pioneered by his mentor Steve Rao (author of the barista’s bible “Everything but Espresso”), Kris keeps his roasts light to emphasize the quality of the beans. He sources coffee directly from the African farmers who grow it – a policy he says gives him increased control over bean quality and at the same time puts more money in the hands of the farmers themselves. The shop’s most popular brews remain the Euro- typical espresso drinks (from €1.20), but if you’re ready to give your taste buds a superior kick, you should definitely try their filter coffee (€2.80-3.80), which uses the best brewing method to bring out the specific flavours of each bean from Kris’ house selection of roasts. From her bustling kitchen in the back of the café, Sophie churns out tray after tray of delicious baked goodies – from the succulent cheesecake (Kris’ grandma’s recipe) to delicious apple or chocolate delights – which Five Elephant currently sells to a dozen cafés around Berlin. Convincing Europeans that Americans can do something right can be difficult, but Kris and Sophie make a persuasive argument.

FIVE ELEPHANT| Reichenberger Str. 101, Kreuzberg, U-Bhf Görlitzer Bahnhof

Social net artwork

When you want to find someone to fix your sink, you know to call a plumber. Even in Germany, land of overcomplication, this undertaking is fairly straightforward. But what if you need someone to design the set for your post-BDSM modernist performance exhibit? Unless you already have contacts here, it can be hard to know where to start. Enter Júlia Marí Bernaus and her three business partners (another Catalonian and two Scots). Over the past year, they raised Artconnect Berlin from just a little baby blog to a full-grown app, and on August 1 released it into the wild. Artconnect Berlin is an English-language social networking website designed to bring Berlin artists of all nationalities together in a place where they can share ideas, plan projects and make new connections. It’s a mix of the new and the familiar – a user’s main page doubles as a live-updated portfolio of his projects and collaborations. At the time of writing, the site remains a little rough around the edges, but new features are added weekly, and the member base is quickly growing in all directions. Need a pornographic portrait painted? Artconnect’s got someone for that. Need a 16th-Century painting restored? They’ve got someone for that too. Berliner artists like Reynold Reynolds and Matthias Planitzer are already active members. The notorious Peaches hasn’t gone quite that far, but she graciously distinguished the launch party with her televised presence. Do Júlia’s ambitions reach beyond the German capital? “It’s about Berlin right now. Maybe – maybe after we’ve conquered Berlin, we’ll think about other cities.”


Scandi candy

You’ll get a sugar high by just stepping into this colourful pick-and-mix candy shop on Wühlischstraße – the 111 Nordic specialities on offer include marshmallow mushrooms, butter beans and salty liquorice skulls that would go great with a black metal soundtrack.

HERR NILSSONS GODIS| Wühlischstr. 58, Friedrichshain, S-Bhf Ostkreuz, €1.60/100g, Mon-Fri 12-20, Sat 13-18

Rickshaw reloaded

The three-wheeled auto-rickshaw, or tuk-tuk, has long been delighting westerners in Asian countries like India and Thailand. Now Berlin’s Öko-hippy visitors (and residents) can get a taste of the Far East without mucking up their carbon footprint by taking a sightseeing ride on one of the world’s first fully electric, marvellously sustainable tuk-tuks. Started in March by American-German duo Adam Rice and Wolfgang Knörr, Etuktuk currently offers 75-minute tours for up to five people per vehicle along an attraction-rich route through the city. Operating until the end of October, the company offers heated blankets and glasses of Glühwein to warm up sightseers on colder days. Though the original motorised rickshaw is infamous for being dirty, loud, smelly and environmentally lethal, its electric counterpart is quiet, comfortable and eco-friendly. But don’t take our word for it: as long as you’re a driver’s license holder and willing to partake in a 15 minute “driving clinic,” you can get behind the wheel yourself… just beware of taxis who can’t hear you coming!

ETUKTUK| Zimmerstr. in Mitte near Checkpoint Charlie, 4-5 passengers, €25/pp; 2-3 passengers, €30/pp; 1 passenger, €60; Kids 12 & under, €10; Wed-Sun,

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EXPLAINED: Berlin’s latest Covid rules

In response to rapidly rising Covid-19 infection rates, the Berlin Senate has introduced stricter rules, which came into force on Saturday, November 27th. Here's what you need to know.

A sign in front of a waxing studio in Berlin indicates the rule of the 2G system
A sign in front of a waxing studio indicates the rule of the 2G system with access only for fully vaccinated people and those who can show proof of recovery from Covid-19 as restrictions tighten in Berlin. STEFANIE LOOS / AFP

The Senate agreed on the tougher restrictions on Tuesday, November 23rd with the goal of reducing contacts and mobility, according to State Secretary of Health Martin Matz (SPD).

He explained after the meeting that these measures should slow the increase in Covid-19 infection rates, which was important as “the situation had, unfortunately, deteriorated over the past weeks”, according to media reports.

READ ALSO: Tougher Covid measures needed to stop 100,000 more deaths, warns top German virologist

Essentially, the new rules exclude from much of public life anyone who cannot show proof of vaccination or recovery from Covid-19. You’ll find more details of how different sectors are affected below.

If you haven’t been vaccinated or recovered (2G – geimpft (vaccinated) or genesen (recovered)) from Covid-19, then you can only go into shops for essential supplies, i.e. food shopping in supermarkets or to drugstores and pharmacies.

Many – but not all – of the rules for shopping are the same as those passed in the neighbouring state of Brandenburg in order to avoid promoting ‘shopping tourism’ with different restrictions in different states.

2G applies here, too, as well as the requirement to wear a mask with most places now no longer accepting a negative test for entry. Only minors are exempt from this requirement.

Sport, culture, clubs
Indoor sports halls will off-limits to anyone who hasn’t  been vaccinated or can’t show proof of recovery from Covid-19. 2G is also in force for cultural events, such as plays and concerts, where there’s also a requirement to wear a mask. 

In places where mask-wearing isn’t possible, such as dance clubs, then a negative test and social distancing are required (capacity is capped at 50 percent of the maximum).

Restaurants, bars, pubs (indoors)
You have to wear a mask in all of these places when you come in, leave or move around. You can only take your mask off while you’re sat down. 2G rules also apply here.

Hotels and other types of accommodation 
Restrictions are tougher here, too, with 2G now in force. This means that unvaccinated people can no longer get a room, even if they have a negative test.

For close-contact services, such as hairdressers and beauticians, it’s up to the service providers themselves to decide whether they require customers to wear masks or a negative test.

Football matches and other large-scale events
Rules have changed here, too. From December 1st, capacity will be limited to 5,000 people plus 50 percent of the total potential stadium or arena capacity. And only those who’ve been vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19 will be allowed in. Masks are also compulsory.

For the Olympic Stadium, this means capacity will be capped at 42,000 spectators and 16,000 for the Alte Försterei stadium. 

3G rules – ie vaccinated, recovered or a negative test – still apply on the U-Bahn, S-Bahn, trams and buses in Berlin. It was not possible to tighten restrictions, Matz said, as the regulations were issued at national level.

According to the German Act on the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases, people have to wear a surgical mask or an FFP2 mask  on public transport.

Christmas markets
The Senate currently has no plans to cancel the capital’s Christmas markets, some of which have been open since Monday. 

According to Matz, 2G rules apply and wearing a mask is compulsory.

Schools and day-care
Pupils will still have to take Covid tests three times a week and, in classes where there are at least two children who test positive in the rapid antigen tests, then tests should be carried out daily for a week.  

Unlike in Brandenburg, there are currently no plans to move away from face-to-face teaching. The child-friendly ‘lollipop’ Covid tests will be made compulsory in day-care centres and parents will be required to confirm that the tests have been carried out. Day-care staff have to document the results.

What about vaccination centres?
Berlin wants to expand these and set up new ones, according to Matz. A new vaccination centre should open in the Ring centre at the end of the week and 50 soldiers from the German army have been helping at the vaccination centre at the Exhibition Centre each day since last week.

The capacity in the new vaccination centre in the Lindencenter in Lichtenberg is expected to be doubled. There are also additional vaccination appointments so that people can get their jabs more quickly. Currently, all appointments are fully booked well into the new year.