Berlin’s Mauerpark springs to life every Sunday with one of the city’s biggest, trendiest flea markets. Flohmarkt am Mauerpark sprawls for more than one kilometer alongside the park on Bernauer Straße.
Packed crowds of locals, tourists and hipsters pour through the market, sifting through vintage wares, hoping to score a one-of-a-kind memento. Anyone can sell anything; stall space can be reserved online, one week in advance. While the market is wildly popular for its unique and varied offerings, it’s also a noteworthy culinary destination. Some of Berlin’s best street food is served up along the market’s maze-like passages.
You can find almost everything at Mauerpark, whether you need it or not: old cameras, record collections, used postcards, doll parts, framed photos, pocket watches, vintage clothing, leather shoes. Prices tend to fall on the high side, but the people watching and extraordinary finds make up for it.
I get lost in a mountain of dusty slide carousels, holding each cardboard-framed Kodak memory up to the sun, squinting at someone else’s family vacation. They took a trip to the beach one summer. The seasons change; they stand knee-deep in snow. There’s a parade with flags, a waterfall, an office building, a new baby. Moving onto another tent, I flip through old photo albums, finger ornate pocket watches and slip on silver rings.
As I push through the crowds, a cheer erupts from behind a row of tents. Another Sunday afternoon Mauerpark tradition — Bearpit karaoke — is taking place. Imagine a crowd of 1500 people gathered in a stone amphitheater, to cheer or jeer the brave souls who dare to sing in public. As of 2012, the karaoke runs on a set schedule, so check to see if it’s happening before you go.
The Mauerpark flea market boasts a dizzying selection of freshly-made street food, from full Turkish meals to vegan burgers. Specialty stands hawk jars of Mediterranean olives, aged cheese and prosciutto sandwiches on crusty rolls. One tiny cart sells ears of yellow corn, another is making espresso. It’s not an easy task to choose between pressed sandwiches, handmade pizzas and freshly-shaved döner kebabs.
While some food vendors dot the crowded main strip, others are tucked back away from the crowds, like tiny culinary oases. I spy a bright green sign for a “Biergarten.” Inside this fenced-off foodie haven: scattered tables, umbrellas, chairs and benches. Three vendors line the periphery, serving up combinations of beer, bratwurst, pretzels, burgers and currywurst. The latter is one of my culinary trigger words; I’m officially on a currywurst mission.
Currywurst is a Berlin thing. Invented in 1949 by the crafty Herta Heuwer, the dish involves pork sausage — boiled, then deep fried — sliced and smothered in a curry-spiked tomato paste/ ketchup concoction. Trust me, it tastes much better than it sounds; this addicting dish is Berlin’s number one street food.
I make a beeline for the beer stall and proceed to order the quintessential Berlin breakfast: a half-liter of hefeweizen, a serving of currywurst and thick-cut French fries. Oh yeahhh. The plump, white pork sausage is lightly fried and smothered in the best-tasting currywurst sauce I’ve ever tried. It’s sweet, tangy and sprinkled with just the right amount of yellow curry powder.
It may only be 11:00AM, but the currywurst stand is buzzing. I locate an empty table and take a swig of my beer. I feel the warmth of the sun on my shoulders as it breaks through the clouds. I dip a French fry into mayonnaise and smile. I think I’m sort of in love with this “breakfast.” Mauerpark is the perfect foodie destination on a lazy Sunday morning in Berlin.