March 20, 2017

Struth! The wurst of Berlin street food


David Ellis

BERLIN street food-vendor Herta Heuwer would never have thought back in 1949 that a snack she ran up after swapping some hard-to-get booze (for which she had remarkably fortuitous access,) for equally hard-to-get tomato sauce and curry powder that grog-thirsty British troops still stationed in the city after the war had plenty of supplies of, would one day become a virtual German national dish.

For Herta went home and beat-together the sauce and curry powder, and a few other spices she had as well, and several days later began offering her concoction slathered over grilled pork sausages she sold to construction worker customers re-building the war-ravaged city. She dubbed her dish currywurst (wurst being the German word for a sausage,) and by the end of that week the cheap, filling and tasty snack had patrons lining the pavement at every meal break.

Other street vendors quickly mimicked Herta's recipe, so that within a couple of years currywurst was not only the Number One street snack in Berlin, but in several other German cities as well – Herta herself selling a mind-blowing 10,000 every week. Today currywurst is so popular across Germany with locals and foreign visitors alike, that some 800 million are downed annually, 70 million of them just in Berlin…and these days usually accompanied by French fries.

And a museum that opened in Berlin in 2009 dedicated somewhat bizarrely to the snack, the Deutsches Currywurst Museum, today gets 350,000 visitors a year… who each receives a hot currywurst as a Thank You for visiting.

[] A PICTORIAL dedication in Berlin's Deutsches Currywurst Museum to Herta Heuwer who created the currywurst snack for her Berlin street food-stall in 1949; today 800,000,000 currywursts are sold in Germany annually. (Deutsches Currywurst Museum)

March 08, 2017

Faded elegance of Montevideo

If you asked me yesterday what I knew about Uruguay and its capital, Montevideo, I would have little to tell you, so my maiden visit to this elegant South American city was sure to be an eye-opener.

With extensive beachside boulevards and fading 19th and 20th century European architecture, it is a picturesque city with lots of parks and city squares following locations like Buenos Aires (just across the River Plate) and Santiago. The whole country supports a population of a little more than 3 million people, half of whom reside in this bustling, compact metropolis.

With just 48 hours to explore, there is scant time to immerse yourself in the rich surroundings, but some things certainly caught my eye on my four-hour coach tour around the beaches and boulevards in glorious autumn sunshine.

Hotel Sofitel Montevideo Casino Carrasco and Spa
The first building that caught my attention was the imposing Hotel Sofitel Montevideo Casino Carrasco and Spa, a grand French-styled palais with a perfect waterfront position. Opened in 1921, it slowly fell into disrepair and closed for a time in 1990s before reopening in 2013 in its current guise. Regrettably, I didn't have time to explore it.

The other building no one can fail to miss is the massive Salvo Palace right in the middle of the city on Independence Square. When completed in 1928, it stood at 100m and was once the largest and tallest building in South America. Designed by the architect Mario Palanti, an Italian immigrant living in Buenos Aires, it is based on a similar design for his Palacio Barolo in Buenos Aires. Planned as a hotel that never eventuated, it is now a mix of residential and commercial and is still largely unrestored, at least externally.

Palacio Salvo

Anyone who knows me will know the temptation to have a look inside was too much, so I crept in to inspect what I could. I was able to take the lift to the 10th floor and climb the stairs to the top floor, level 22. All exits were, unfortunately (and wisely) locked and outward windows boarded up, but much of the old interior remains. I passed an elderly gent in a wheelchair who had been walking his dog and could see inside the windows of the tiny apartments as residents took their dinner. The original elevator cages remain, but new lifts have been installed.

You can even book one of these as a 'vacation rental'

Perhaps I should go back tomorrow and take one of the guided tours?

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