Day 153 and 154: Berlin to Nonantola

I wanted to eat something very Berliny for my last meal. I didn’t know exactly what that was. We’d eaten quite a lot of German food and kebabs and only Bop wanted to eat currywurst again. So I did some research and found a cool/hip/trendy/swang-chic Hawaiian/Indian/German/Vietnamese/Vulcan restaurant where young people like to eat.

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Creative, delicious and cheap. I like to rate restaurants on whether I would go if they were in my hometown. I have a lot of specific categories. This restaurant would place in – if it was close by I would go once every two weeks. Thats pretty good.

During our meal we had a debrief – best and worst meals in Berlin and thoughts. It was a bit of struggle. Nothing much was shit but what excellent things had we eaten? Kofte on day one, a kebab on Saturday night, the smoked fish at the deli and the blood sausage Bop cooked. For a city full of immigrants and hipsters that’s a pretty lackluster list from a week of eating. It’s not like we were picking places at random either. Everywhere we ate was someone’s recommendation, from a blog post or something off a food guide. I know a week isn’t long enough to get a fair impression but I’ve spent a lot less time in cities and eaten far better.

I was expecting a lot from you Berlin. You’ve let me down.

This picture was taken on Sunday morning after our clubbing night in Berlin. He is offering me wine.

This picture was taken on Sunday morning after our clubbing night in Berlin. He is offering me wine.

It was sad saying goodbye to Bop. We’ve had such a strange and exciting trip together and I think we’ve both learnt a lot from each other. I’ll miss Bop. I’ll miss his wave addiction, I’ll miss his translucent animal print underwear, I’ll miss his thoughts and I’ll miss that dance he does when something good happens.

Here’s to you Bop. Thanks for everything.

I wish I’d made a list of all the free things I’ve been given and all the stupid things I’ve done to save money. I would like to put them next to each other and see which one is longer.

After Berlin I needed to go to Bologna to meet Honey Vader. I checked the flights and there was one to Bologna at a good rice but one to Milan for €40 less so I got that one. Such a stupid idea. My flight arrived in Milan at 8:00pm. I got a bus into the centre for €5 and arrived an hour later. The next train to Bologna was in fifteen minutes but that was €10 more than the one in an hour so I waited for that. I got into Bologna at 00:30am – 30minutes into my birthday. I had missed the last bus to my hostel – it was 6km outside of central Bologna but I had booked it because it was €5 cheaper. I had to beg the friend of this guy I met on the train to drive me there. He was hesitant but agreed to drop me half way. So at 1:30am I arrived hungry and tired in the middle of fucking nowhere with no idea where to go. It was dark, I had no map and my phone was low on battery. Why didn’t I just get the flight to Bologna?

What I did on my birthday:

1. I ate a horrifically sugary hostel breakfast. Syrupy cordial, diabetic jams and things covered in stuff which looks like chocolate but is actually just sugar. Probably the only time I haven’t over eaten at a buffet.

2. I drank a coffee with my friend Ervis. I got a shakerato because it’s the fanciest looking coffee and it’s nice to feel fancy on your birthday. I told the barista I was turning 26 and he scrunched up his face, slapped my shoulder and poured us all a shot of vodka. 3 hours in and I’d downed three coffees and a shot of hard liqueur.

3. I met Honey Vader at Bolonga airport. She had flown from France to Italy just to see me. I’m looking forward to doing something similarly chivalrous for her one day. The first thing I said to her (post smiley, huggy period of euphoria) was ‘let’s get ice cream’ but like sensible people we got lunch first.

4. I ate a Greek salad with steamed octopus and a piadina* with tomato, mozzarella, rocket and prosciutto.

5. I had one of the best ice creams of my life.

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You know those experiences which are so sublime, surprising and life changing you can’t keep it to yourself? Like seeing Loch Ness, sexy-kissing Barack Obama or throwing a scrunched paper bag in the bin.

“Hey, everyone I fucking know fucking ever! Did you see that?!”

“I just kissed Barack fucking Obama!!”

You’re probably yelling into a megaphone off balcony. Pretty much no one believes you. Only a few of your friends and your mum believes you because they know what your real conviction looks like. Everyone else thinks you’re crazy. Eventually you shut up about it because your reputation as a sane person is at stake.

That’s how this gelato made me feel.

6. Honey Vader and I went to Nonantola. It’s a small town close to Modena, where we needed to go for a booking at the third best restaurant in the world. It feels weird just casually slotting that in. You can’t scream off a balcony before you kiss the president can you?

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That’s where we stayed. It felt like the opposite of Berlin – or maybe Singapore is the opposite of Berlin? – whatever, we were really fucking relaxed.

Our host was Enrico, a man with a kind of Gandalf like hold over things. ‘Don’t worry Hobbits I know the world and I’ve got everything under control’. He hardly ever does any magic but everyone feels so chilled around him cause they know he can. Enrico runs a b’n’b but let’s couchsurfers stay for free because, well, he’s a hospitality wizard. He loves there with his son Paulo, his friend Flavio and a hilariously mottled and dysfunctional family of cats and dogs. We spent most of the evening chatting and playing with Paolo, and eating things that grew on nearby trees. Paolo is the most chilled child I’ve ever met and the apples were sour and tart – just how I like them. A little piece of paradise. Happy birthday to me.

Onwards to eating. One of the best restaurants in the world awaits.

*piadinas are Italian grilled wraps. The dough is like a naan but thinner and more solid in the centre. They’re usually filled with the same things you’d find in an Italian panini.

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