I have succumbed to the need for gluten-free once more. The apple strudel and the bread rolls and the pizza and pasta have been wonderful, but they just don’t get on inside my stomach. On first search I have found a paleorestaurant, Sauvage, just 20 minutes from my hostel.
I am deciding between roasted quail and steak. And I know what dessert will be – a sugarless sticky toffee pudding (though it won’t be as good as Mum’s – nothing ever is). I am sitting outside, but inside is the kind of place where everyone looks mysterious and beautiful, lit mostly by candles with rusty knick knacks and flowers everywhere. Even the bathroom is beautiful – full of candles. I find bathrooms are often quite a good measure of a place…
On my trot here I was to cross a little river called the Neuköllner Schiffahrtskanal. Contrary to what it’s name might imply, it is a rather small, softly flowing wee thing and I notice, before crossing, a dusty gravel path running down beside it. Between the path and the road are great old trees, fresh with leaves and on the other side of the path is a slight slope down to a stone wall bordering the water. Foot-made paths have been created at various points to walk from the path to the wall and sit next to the water. The temptation is absolute.
I find a little dip in the wall and one, two, three steps down. I sit on the top step and see a little white-tiled cat stuck to the wall inside the stairwell.
The breeze is moving the very top layer of the river faster than the rest and just below the surface I can see a school of tiny, almost translucent fish swimming together.
A white swan is drifting up the river, languid, when I sit down. It is quickly out of sight. Ducks follow, first five shiny-headed males, then five little ducklings, almost feathered, there mother trailing just behind cooing quietly. Finally two more swans float lazily past, their big feet pushing sharp and slow under the water, eating industriously and with a watery clatter at the moss growing on the stone wall down at the water’s edge. They remind me of snuffling piggies eating fast and noisy.
Though I can hear the cars, I cannot see them through the trees, apart from when they cross the bridge further down; I feel pleasantly isolated. A blue-haired girl wearing leather on a bicycle rides past on the gravel with a husky running, tongue out, next to her. The girl seems serious.
I wish I had picked up a cider on my way here. I can’t get used to this drinking in the streets thing, this casual swigging everywhere in Berlin. I want to join in, but I feel like someone will catch me out, point when I take my first sip and call out, “Not you!”
A man swooshes past in an old fashioned wooden canoe, two long paddles out either side. He looks young, but his beard is thick and grey. He is wearing a beanie and an old red t-shirt and his boat is dark blue. A square patched up houseboat passes too, the motor labouring out the back and three greasily clad thirty-something’s drinking out front. They have bikes on the roof. They seem knowing somehow. I want them to stop and ask me on board and the man stares for a moment, then passes a lighter back to one of the girls and then they are gone.
I decided on the quail at Sauvage after all that. It was a perfect little meal, beautiful and tasty and fresh. And a wee lavender, aniseed and citrus schnapps on the side.
It is the most I have spent on food since I arrived in Berlin a week ago. There is a thick, chocolatey-looking coffee waiting for me now and that sticky toffee is on its way. No risk of going hungry here. They have brought me a little spoon for dessert and this reminds me of my brother, David. He advised me, when we were children, to eat ice cream with a teaspoon because then it lasts longer.
When I crossed the road on my way back I found Lupus. I have to have a drink. Vodka, strawberry and blood orange made by the beautiful olive skinned man at the bar who has thick dark hair past his shoulder blades. It’s a good drink and it’s been a pretty good evening.