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The Israeli Jukebox: Introduction

We live in a world in where locality is a dying breed. People eat Mc’donalds both in Harera and in Berlin. They adore Lady Gaga and dance with The Black Eyes Peas. and i encounter that often in Berlin, when I ask my foreigner friends for some tunes from their home country, they always pull their nose up, and claim that there ain’t any good music there. Not in their mother tongue at least. Rubbish. I don’t buy or believe that. In any country and language, no matter how small it is, there is always a descent interesting localized art. And in the this art must be hidden some local pearls, just waiting to be discovered by more people. It’s an axiom. You can call it Neiman’s Axiom if you like. I’m ok with it.

[Shablol's cover. An Israeli music milestone album by Arik Einstein and Shalom Hanoch]

That’s where ‘The Israeli Jukebox’ category walks in.  it’s a courageous attempt to introduce some local Israeli culture, mostly Hebrew speaking (but not only), to the blogging world. The selection would be of artists with some kind of localized success. Either mainstream (yes! I hold the rare opinion that mainstream can be good. sometimes) or in some alternative scene. I’ll attach usually a song or two as a sample, which should be seen, of course, is a mere motivation to get more in a legal way in case that you liked it.

That’s it. Enough words. Take us to the music sir! (the first one will be up in the next 1-2 days. And then we’ll see about the tempo).

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I found heaven for wireless seekers! a’right, I exaggerate a bit. The real heaven to wireless seekers is the indefatigable Sankt Oberholz in Rosenthaler Platz (especially if you own a mac). However, in Kreuzberg, Pfeiffers offers a very good option. Especially its back room: you got there lots of outlets, good music, quite environment of other people with laptop, and most importantly: you’re hidden from the staff suspicious eye. Let’s see them stop me occupy a sit for five hours with only one cup of (small) coffee! I dare them! :]

[This just might be the worst picture in the blog so far. The place is nicer than what this picture shows]

What is there else to say besides the wireless thing? No idea. I merely worked there. However, I still managed to scrap two comments: a. their cortado, espresso with sweet milk, is absolutely fantastic. I had two in a row and then suffered from two hours of caffeine buzz. And it was relatively cheap! Only 1.60 Euros. b. the music was on the line of contemporary updated indy sound. But beware: they play full cds from beginning to end. If you like the album it’s not a problem. But if the band is not to your taste? prepare for a long hour of headache and painful ears.

Business Card
Address: Oranienstraße 17 (U: Kottbusser Tor).
Opening Hours: 9-23 or, 10-23 on Sundays.
Remark: There’s some simple coffee place food. Muesli, cakes. sandwiches, soups etc.  The muesli was ok. Nothing much to say about it.


Café am Kamin

There are summer places, and there are winter places. And Café am Kamin is obviously a winter place. It’s the best Café with a fireplace (’kamin’ in German) in the neighborhood by deafult (it’s the only one), and a cute place by its own right. Interesting trivia fact about it: though it has an impeccable fireplace, it’s actually pretty cold there. Besides the two sits adjacent to the fire place that is. The wonders of physics, I tell you.

Luckily, winning a sit next to the fire place is not so hard; You simply need to arrive there before noon. And then you can keep your soul – and more importantly, feets – warm and happy while sipping one the excellent soaps of the place. Last winter they specialized in peanuts-soup that was my favorite. This year it was sadly replaced by a trendy hokaido (kind of Japanese sweet potato) soup. But its still all good, and very comforting in cold winter days.

It’s an excellent place for wireless seekers. They got a fast connection, more than enough power outlets, and they (usually) don’t care if you sit there for hours with your computer. The place is pretty empty before noon. Then it fills up for two hours with soup-sippers who come for a quick healthy lunch, and stay more or less half-full till its closing hours. But I’m there for early morning sessions. Then it might be the best coffee in the area to work uninterruptedly.

[Mmm... Brownies]

Business Card:
Café am Kamin
Address: falckenstein str. 18.
Opening Hours: 9:00-19:00. One of the neighborhood’s more early opened places.
Wireless: Yes(!!!). An excellent spot for that.
Buttom Line: The Brownies-line is very chocolaty. and tasty.

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O.B.E – Oberbaum-Eck

The OBE bar brought an interesting dilemma to my doorstep. On the one hand, it’s a bar; and I have strong evidence supporting the theory that if I won’t drink in each pub in Wrangle kiez, the world would come to an end. On the other hand, it’s a football (soccer) bar; which is one thing that I couldn’t care less about. Luckily, much like the octopus, there are third and forth hands to this argument. The third hand says: it’s not just a bar – but a rock-punk bar! I do like those. and the forth points out wisely that they offer six tapped beers. An enormous amount in Berlin.

[I don't take my camera along to pubs. It's a dangerous habit. So I'll just spread some random beer pics. This one is from here. CC]

One cloudy Tuesday night, just before Christmas, when the city was already emptied from most of its denizens, I entered OBE. There weren’t that many people there: one group of foreigners loudly discussed something in the back room. Another American couple on what looked like a traveling-date (like, when you, as a tourist, meet a fellow traveler of the opposite sex and asked him/her for a beer diluted with some very non innocent intentions). And last but not least there was also a another dude, with a book, who drunk one beer after the other. I would never understand how can someone have more than one beer and still be reading so calmly. Germans, ah?

On the football match days they hang in OBE two huge screens, around which gather the local fans. But on nights like this, when nobody plays, you can really absorb the punk-design of the place. Accompanied by great punk-rock music. They got there tons of memorabilia, which strongly imply that they somehow connect to the famous St. Pauli quarter in Hamburg (which is a Hamburg version for a mixture between Kreuzberg and Amsterdam), and a cozy design in general.

The beers are reasonably priced: from 2.5 for the boring Astra, till 3 for a bit more exotic things. And they serve it well, with the right amount of foam. But that’s almost a standard in Germany (which is why I like this country). Maybe it was the alcohol in blood, but after an hour of beer-sipping, I came to the conclusion that OBE is an excellent local bars – as long as they don’t screen games. It’s comfortable, got nice clients, good music if you’re into rock-punk, and cheap beer. What else would I demand from a place located 4 minutes from my house?

Business Card:
Address: Bevernstrasse 5 (U Schlesisches Tor).
Opening Hours: 15:00 – Last customer.
Buttom Line: If you’re into football, which makes you part of the majority of the world, then follow the game plan in their website.



There’s a town in Israel named Or Yehuda. But don’t remember the name; it’s not very important. And there’s a place in that town, that did a daring did. They took the baguette, loved by all, and filled it by abundance of Thai noddles, chicken and hummus. The result? phreaking tasty. But they didn’t advertise it properly. Instead of offering an exotic oriental fusion dish, they boringly describe it as ‘Thai noddles, chicken and hummus in Baguette’. Very accura-zzzzzzz. People desire strange food only if it’s being wrapped by an exotic package. I bet that I’ll be able to sell an A4 page frosted with chocolate if I’ll advertise it as a tradition Cambodian dish.

Back to our topic: Berlin is under attack! A month ago I never heard of Bánh mì, and now it seems to be everywhere! Like – in two places! at least! The first of them, Cô Cô at Rosenthelar Platz, I discovered in Berlin on Platter (probably my favourite new food blog about Berlin. Too bad that she doesn’t write more often. <hint hint>). The second was heavily promoted in every German food and culture platform that I read. I speak, of course, about Babanbè at Oranienplatz. And that’s what we’re gonna speak about in the next two paragraph.

Bánh mì is basically a French baguette filled with Vietnamese spicy food. Simple and yet intriguing. The food inside consists of pickled carrots and fresh vegetables together with some other kind of substance.  What substance? meatballs, roasted beef or pork, Portobello mushrooms for vegetarians, and Tuna fish for semi-vegetarians. Like an upgraded sandwich with a twist. With big expectations in mind we ordered one Bánh mì with meatballs, and one with Portobello mushrooms.

It was quite… average. Not spicy at all, which wasn’t too shocking, since we’re in Berlin after all, but disappointing, as it’s a spicy dish by definition. Somehow the main ingredient, in both sandwiches, were the meatballs and the mushrooms, rather than the Vietnamese savors that I expected to find reigning the dish. The Bánh mì costed around 5 Euros, and for 9-10 Euros you’ll get a lunch offer with a small soup or salad plus a beverage. It was a decent meal, but not a special one. I’m gonna give Bánh mì another chance in a place where it’s served with the original taste. Anyone knows about one?


Salon Schmück

I had a visitor last summer. He came to finish his thesis, and we spent days over days in Cafes. Studying in silence. Bothering one another with stupid meaningless questions (hey, I never said it was efficient studying!). We spent, what, like three or four mornings average a week in Salon Schmück (Schmück = jewelry in German. Salon kind of means the same). Which is *a lot* by any standard. Until one day “the event” ocured: I connected my laptop to the outlet. And when I came to pay, I was told to pay an extra Euro for that. This ended in a one-sided  silent ban from one side. Meaning, I had returned there for months. Until…

Well, until this week. For no apparent reason I found myself one charming morning sitting in Salon Schmück. And what did I find? that it stayed as cute as I remembered. Which wins it a post in the blog.

Salon Schmück is a cafe in Wrangel kiez, not far away from the corner of Wrangle and Skalitzer streets. It’s menu offers the same thing that most cafes in the street: a nice popular breakfast, daily lunch menu that varies between soups, pastas and other simple dishes – and lots and lots of coffees. It’s nice, but it’s nothing to write home about. The thing *to write* home about is that they got a second hand shop in the back! and there’s also a back-smoking room for people who hate breathing. The rumors also talk about some afternoon concert that goes there on Sunday at 18:00, but I never witnessed that. Maybe because I never was there on Sunday?

In the summer it’s one of the best place to sit outside – with small white tables, leaves that shed on your slowly from the trees, and a nice relaxed crowd. During winter time one has to turn to the inner room. Which is “ok”. Not as decorated at Hubertus Lounge, but also not too bad tasted. There’s a kind of light indy/britpop soundtrack going on, and in general you can spend there pleasurable hours without getting a head ache. And that’s one of the signs of a good neighborhood cafe.

Business Card:
Name: Salon Schmück.
Address: Skalitzer Strasse 80, 10997 Berlin.
Opening Hours: Daily, 9:00-2:00. Though it’s not a night-bird kind of place, so don’t show up at midnight and except exciting things to happen.
Buttom line: Beware of the one-euro electricity charging policy!


December 18th 2010: Electro Nite in Atelier Überall

The Halloween party in Atelier überall about a month and a half ago was totally awsome. There I studied that the place is full of ghosts, zombies, monsters and one girl who likes to saw things. And I’m totally not sure whether the last one was a custom or not; she seemed to be quite into that, and was a little too expert with cutting things into pieces.

Anyway, now it’s a time for another party in the place! No – it’s not a wacky custom party, but rather an electro evening, with 14 hours and 7 dj’s of electro music. Sounds too much to you? Yeah, I agree. But you can go home, take a nap in the middle, and then come back (or keep on sleeping. that’s also good). It sounds like a great pre-christmas event for the snow-ensnared people of Wrangel Kiez. Oh – and they got a facebook page.

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Cafe Kotti

I imagine that once upon a time all of Kreuzberg was like this place.

Direct above Kottbusser Tor, maybe the most central station in Kreuzberg, hides this gem. Yeah, you heard me. Above. Cafe Kotti is located above the ground, next to a weakly bridge that connects both sides of the street. It’s not a back yard or a basement; but it’s still hidden. Perhaps no one expects to find nice cafes between the  Turkish eateries of the block? Or maybe people just don’t look up anymore since they superman died? who knows?

In Cafe Kotti you’ll find intellectual Turkish people, along with politic-savvy German population (oh, wait. Those you can find anywhere). Not only that the population is mixed, but also the design: half Berlin-second-hand furnitures. Half Tourkish culture pictures and merchandise. I’ve visited the place twice. One time the waitress was Turkish, the other he was German. Do you see where I’m going with it? A perfect symbiosis.

I didn’t like most of the coffees in Kottbusser Tor till now. They were either too trashy or too popular. So Cafe Kotti fits my hand like a glove. Expect some serious updates since I’ll probably go there again. and over.

Business Card:
Name: Cafe Kotti.
Address: Adalbertstr. 96, 10999 Berlin.
Opening Hours: I’ve got no phreaking green idea. Morning till evening would be my guess?
Wireless: They claim that they have. I haven’t checked it yet.
Buttom Line: The prices there are rather cheap. We had black tea and hot chocolate for 2.60. Together! Read a few more reviews here.


Madame Claude

It seems almost redundant to write in English about Madame Claude. I mean, there are too many foreigners there as it is. There is no way – expect for the cheap prices – that can tell you that you’re in Berlin while you sit in this underground bar. And yet – it’s not a tourist trap, but a rather unique bar with (almost) daily gigs. Besides, their decoration is just awesome(!!!).

[Pic from here. CC]

Lets pretend to be all designers and begin with decoration. Three words: It’s upside down. That simple. Just take a look at the picture above: it was taken with the camera turned upside-down. And it’s not that visible, right? The owners were highly pedant about this: the menu and sales are written in the wrong direction, the clock was reversed – and even the coat hangers are built for a place with opposite gravity. It’s a simple but brilliant design concept.

The design is not the main reason to go to Madame Claude though. The main reason are the gigs. There are one or two almost every day – some of them are bizarre experimental music/noise gigs, while others hold indy concerts of soon-to-be-famous bands. On Wednesday there’s a music quiz that I always lose in, and on Sunday there’s a charming open-stage night.

The place is an underground pub, where the concert takes place in the basement of the underground venue. Honestly? it smells like a cave. Fusty and all, but some says that it’s part of the charm. There used to be a Karaoke place there before (now located in Warschau strasse), where you could have rented a room with your friends and scream your heart out. They took off the doors of the room, and the result is an open space with some open-alcoves in it.

My main problem, and it’s a severe problem, with Madame Claude is that the crowd is so… young. Like 18-20 years old I guess. Sure, there are older people there. Even older than me. But in general it makes me feel like the high school party that I never wanted to attend. However, in the middle of the week in winter time the situation is a bit better. And if there’s a good concert, then who cares?

Business Card:
Madame Claude (myspace).
Address: Lübbener Strasse 19, Berlin.
Opening Hours: No idea. but it’s opened already at 20:00, and they probably go on till really really late.
Remark: If the place is full, go and sit on the deserted couch next to the entrance to the concert hall. It looks sad, but don’t worry. Something interesting will happen eventually. Something interesting always does.


Magnet Bar Wandering Hummus

As the Israeli and Arab populations in Berlin enhances, it gets easier and easier – almost as easy as stealing a baby’s candy – to get good Hummus in Berlin. The latest addition is Ze’ev Avrahami’s home-made Hummus. Which he started to offer to the loud crowd of the sports bar Magent twice a week, approximately, with no regular hours whatsoever.  Kind of hard to find, isn’t it? He’s sure not making the Hummus hunters lives too easy.

Ze’ev, loaded with heavy Hummus and bread bags, sets up quickly the mobile stand in the back room. He offers about 200 grams of excellent, smooth, home-made Hummus, with delicate chickpeas, Tahini and olive oil spread on it. The dish comes with self-served bread – which is actually the weak point of the dish, and should be… improved. But besides that it was amazingly tasty. A piece of home for me.

Wanna get a taste of the real-thing before Ze’ev opens his own place? Drop a note to neiman.mail at gmail.com, and I’ll try to aid you finding the serving hours!