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The currywurst

March 11, 2011

It's definitely not a sausage. It's a phenomenon. Otherwise Berliners wouldn't have been crazy enough to dedicate an entire museum to the legendary currywurst.

Scene in Berlin
Image: DW

You don't have to be in the neighborhood to go to Curry 195 on Berlin's trendy Ku'damm boulevard. Many people drive here from the other end of the city, even at 3 or 4 am to satisfy their urge for the best currywurst in town.

For Berliners, currywurst is a very serious matter. It has been part of the city's spirit (and olfactory perception) for decades. Precisely, since 1949, when Herta Heuwer invented the recipe of fried sausages, made of pork and beef, served with ketchup and spiced with curry powder.

Nothing is too sexy for Berlin

Where else on earth would you find a museum dedicated to a sausage? Of course, Berlin likes to be unusual (something it manages to be most of the time), so it opened a currywurst museum in August 2009. And there is hardly any tourist who would visit the capital without heading there. Of course, a "currywurst in a cup" is included in the entry ticket.

It that hasn't satiated the longing, it's also possible to book a currywurst tour of the city. Ok, normally tourists would look for a wine-tasting tour of their favorite city, or a museum tour - but, how many currywursts can you eat in a day? After all, there are some 2,000 currywurst stands in Berlin. Forget about Reichstag, Brandenburg Gate and other attractions. Follow your gut feeling and find the best sausage! (At this point, I would like to apologize to all fellow Berliners for unintentionally downgrading their local culinary star, by occasionally referring to it as "sausage").

When a friend from Cologne paid me a visit, we opted out of the tour, but did head to Curry 195 for a more reasonable portion of the good stuff - arguably one of the coolest spots in Berlin.

The idea seemed quite boring to him at first, but the moment I ordered champagne along with the spicy wurst and some French fries, the whole thing took on a new perspective. "What!? Sausages with champagne?" he asked. No, no, not sausages - currywurst! Pairing it with champagne is the latest buzz in the capital, the city for which nothing is ever too sexy.

A currywurst must be eaten out of a paper tray (or, of course, with champagne)Image: picture alliance / ZB

Follow your nose

Still, in times of globalization the Berlin currywurst has to keep up with tough competition from the Döner and Kebab. But some of the best-known locations like Curry 36 in Kreuzberg, or the centrally located "Biers im S-Bahnhof" are still included in the city's list of top "Imbissbuden," or snack joints.

One way the currywurst is tackling the competition: Internet sales. It has never crossed my mind to order currywurst online, but since I discovered home delivery in Berlin, I might as well consider it for my next party. And speaking of business models, the other day another friend told me that she was contemplating organizing an event in the Currywurst Museum. They also rent out the place as an event location. Fancy idea.

You can never pay enough tribute to the king of Berlin dishes. Former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder publically declared himself a fan of the currywurst. At Herbert Grönemeyer's concerts, the audience still sings along to the tune of - take a guess - "Currywurst," a song he composed back in 1982. (Click on the link below to listen to it.)

Grillwalker in Berlin
Ladies and gentlemen, the Grillwalker!Image: Gerhard Schneibel

Should you come to Berlin in the summer, I guarantee that you will see something fascinating on the streets: the currywurst-man, as my father calls him. Officially known as the "Grillwalker," he is a mobile vendor equipped with everything needed to fry and sell the Berlin specialty: a portable freezer container, plenty of raw sausages, a grill, gas tank, cutlery, condiments, spices, and for rainy days (or shameless birds) an umbrella.

Imagine, all of these items are literally attached to his body - just don't think too hard about the hazard of walking about all day with a gas grill strapped to your chest.

But now you can certainly understand why someone came up with the idea of a Berlin currywurst tour. It's practically easier to find than the Reichstag. You don't even have to follow the flag. Only your nose.

Author: Lavinia Pitu

Editor: Kate Bowen