Berlin has long ranked as an über vegan-friendly city, so when we the stars aligned to give us an overlapping school and university spring break plus cheap air fare to Europe from WOW air, we went for a week! The overnight flights with two small kids in tow were, as expected, brutal but it’s only a matter of degree compared to ANY flight that long with 2 small kids. And once we arrived, we established ourselves comfortably in an airbnb in the Prenzlauer Berg neighborhood to take in the city as locals.
Many insisted beforehand that everyone speaks English there, but numerous interactions proved, awkwardly, that it’s not necessarily true, especially out of the tourist area. Our German was just good enough to ask questions that we couldn’t understand the answers to.
We sampled some (too few) of the zillions of exclusively vegan restaurants in the city:
Kopps epic vegan brunch buffet
We hit up some destinations via their amazing public transit:
Templehofer Feld abandoned airport, where you can rent bikes and pedal around the abandoned runway. This spot has an amazing history of use by the Third Reich (perhaps the last place with intact Nazi eagles decorating it) and then by allies to drop food supplies into East Berlin during the Cold War.
Alternative Berlin tour, Topography of Terror, and Berlin Wall memorial were also worthwhile.
I admire that Berlin does not cover up the dark aspects of their history, they share, learn, and change. Perhaps that’s why veganism has so easily taken root there.
Most striking about our visit was how very mainstream veganism is. Yes, there are more vegan only restaurants than you will find in any American city by far. What really excited us, though, was that you could stop into a dingy S-bahn station convenience store and find pre-wrapped fast food sandwiches with big “VEGAN” labels. Burger and steak restaurants had “vegan” painted on their signs right along with “beef”. Every restaurant menu we passed had legitimate, labelled vegan menu items that were not “the token hummus” but just creative as any on the menu. We tried to hit up all of the vegan spots but when we ran out of our on-the-go supply of bananas and had to stop in a random Vietnamese restaurant they had a whole vegan menu. This happened more than once! The little convenience/grocery store (where no one spoke English) in our neighborhood had deli cases of vegan meat and cheese right along with the standard options, and V labels abounded. Even the Currywurst Museum, a museum dedicated to the history of sausage in Germany, had big displays out front advertising their vegan currywurst!
Not that it isn’t extra nice to have so many exclusively vegan places, like supermarket chain Veganz, but the sheer ubiquitousness of veganism in Germany gives me heart.
Of course, the very night we returned, desperate and starving enough to stop at Taco Bell with two sleeping kids in the back, the employee recommended cheese items to us as vegan yet was unsure whether rice was. Still, times are changing and our vegan Berlin experience was like a trip to the future!