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Getting a Cheapo-friendly fix of Berlin in Washington, DC

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The Brickskeller in Washington, DC
At the Brickskeller. Photo by cizauskas

By Susan Buzzelli—

Returning to Washington, DC after three years in Berlin wasn’t the easiest move to make. Though both cities are national capitals fueled by politics and filled with students, it is difficult to find similarities between the cities on the Spree and the Potomac.

One is an enclave of art, fashion and design. The other is famous for earlier nights and a few fashion faux pas. One is stocked with cheap eats and avant garde entertainment. The other is known for expense account meals and your more traditional Shakespearean plays.

But the best part about Washington, DC – for me -are its places where I can alleviate my homesickness for Berlin (and Germany in general). And despite DC’s reputation for being pricey, many of these Germanic locations in my new home-away-from-Berlin are Cheapo-friendly.

Beer and Wurst on Capitol Hill

When I’m craving German beer, I head to the well-stocked and dingy Brickskeller in Dupont Circle. The massive beer list includes dozens upon dozens of German beer, including Augustinerbrau.

If I’m in the mood for hipper, more Berlin-like trappings, I check out Church Key, another beer-focused bar. Its well-edited beer list includes Koelsh, Hefeweizen and the hard-to-find Rauchbier (smoke-flavored beer).

Unfortunately, Capitol Hill’s brand-new beer garden doesn’t deserve a visit, but Columbia Height’s funky Wonderland Ballroom would be at home in Friedrichshain, Berlin’s punky eastern district. It even has a few beer garden benches out back. The daily happy hour (5 to 8 pm) offers Berlin-like prices.

When I’m craving German food, I reserve a table at the homey Café Berlin in Capitol Hill. Around for years, this no-nonsense place serves great Wurst and delicious beer. This is the place to come in May, when they serve Spaergelzeit (Asparagus season) dishes. Right now, to honor Munich’s Oktoberfest, they’re serving a special menu of Bavarian specialties.

Finding German culture in a different capital

When I’m missing Berlin’s art museums, I head over to the National Gallery of Art, which stocks a small but solid collection of German art from the 1400s and 1500s as well as the modern period.

The Hirschhorn Museum in Washington, DC

The Hirschhorn Museum. Photo by trepelu.

For a fix of the contemporary, I walk across the National Mall to peruse the Hirschhorn Museum’s collection. German artists Wolfgang Laib, Gerhard Richter, and Joseph Bueys, among others, are represented. Since they’re part of the Smithsonian, both museums are free!

When I miss the sound of German, I find out what’s happening at the Goethe Institut in Chinatown, which regularly hosts German-language film series about every aspect of German culture imaginable. Tickets are $7 ($4 for students), making them cheaper than the multiplex down the street.

Unfortunately, returning to Washington means that I have to hand over my Berlin blogging duties to someone based in Berlin. At least,  dear Cheapos, I can cling to the memories of my favorite city at these fun and inexpensive spots in DC.

About the author

Susan Buzzelli

About the author: A Pittsburgh native, Susan Buzzelli has been a sworn Germanophile since she spent a high school summer as an exchange student in Buxtehude. After stints in Dresden, Munich, and Hamburg she settled (possibly for good) in Europe’s most dynamic city: Berlin. When she isn't exploring Berlin, she's traveling throughout Germany (with an occasional hop over the border). Her comprehensive guidebook to Germany, Zeitguide Germany, will be published soon. Look for updates on her website, www.susanbuzzelli.com.

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