I did something illegal in Berlin. I want to an illegal market in a park. In my defense, I did not know about it till after the fact so there. It was so popular and well attended, I was surprised at the boldness of the vendors after finding out about it.
The park was fascinating because it was called the Thaipark, not the result of some diplomatic activity between Thailand and Germany but one that grew up organically It is full of people every Saturday and Sunday and comes with the vibe of an authentic Thai street market with the aroma of food waffling up from all over.
The food that they cook is supposed to be mostly of northern Thai style – Isan style.
Walking into the park felt surreal, it was almost like going back to Asia even though the the flight from Stockholm is merely over an hour, it seemed as if I had flown halfway across the world to Thailand.
But how did Thai people end up in Germany in such numbers to form a thriving community?
Many Thai women arrived in Germany through marriage agencies in the 1970s and 80s and these agencies found brides from the north of Thailand. Others (including men) arrived after the unification of Germany when there was a need for labour as the collectively German economy roared back to life. Around the 1990s, as these women started to be established in their communities and got to know each other and a few decided to meet up in this park every weekend to cook for each other and establish a community. The meetings got popular and soon the a whole food market evolved with Germans coming to visit. While illegal, and attempts have been made to shut down the park for hygiene reasons, the park has grown popular with locals looking for an authentic and affordable taste of Thailand in their backyard. The fact that the park is located in a sleepy part of Berlin, away from the excitement of Mitte is certainly part of the draw.
Well known individuals of mixed Thai German heritgae include models Kimberly Ann Voltemas, Vanessa Herrmann, Jannine Weigel and Jessica Amornkuldilok, Thai national vollyball player Karina Krause and the composer of the Thai national anthem Phra Chenduriyang.
The park has since evolved from a Thai park to also encompass food from other parts of Asia. It was not just Thai people who set up shop there, there were also people selling food from Cambodia and Korea, on top of that was a pair of enterprising Germans, with a love for all things Thai with a little stall selling chilled Thai beers as well as a Chinese women from central China selling Chinese dim sums.
There was a lot of deep fried food, which is understandable but the more popular stalls were those selling dishes prepared freshly on the spot – like stir fried pad thai kuey teow (flat rice noodles), curry meats with vermicelli and meatball kuey teow soup.
I got myself a delicious, and homecooked, pad thai.
For an hour in Berlin, it almost felt like I was back in Asia with the authenticity of food on offer. Make the detour when you are in Berlin, considering the axe on the chopping block with closure, who knows for how long this place will remain open for?
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