I recently wrote a Berlin guide for Design Sponge, but for some reason I forgot to include one of Berlin's greatest gems: The BiOriental Turkish market on Maybachufer in Neukölln (Tuesdays and Fridays from 11 to 6/U-8 Schönleinstrasse)
In the 50s and 60s there was a worker shortage in West Germany, so the government invited the so-called Gastarbeiter (guest worker) from countries in Southern Europe, mainly Turks and Italians. The idea was the workers would come for a couple of years, make good money to send back home and then eventually return to their families. Of course, it didn't always end up working out this way. A lot of the workers stayed, bringing not only their immediate family over, but also sometimes their uncles, brothers and second cousins. The Turkish population in Germany grew and grew.
Although there are Turkish neighborhoods in many German cities, the Berlin neighborhoods of Kreuzberg and Neukölln (both of which I've lived in) have the largest populations; I've even heard rumored that Kreuzberg is the biggest Turkish "city" after Ankara and Istanbul. Most of the Turks come from little villages near the Iraqi border. Often they still carry the village with them: Many Turks who have grown up in Germany marry a "local" girl from their native village, bringing her to Germany where she raises the children in their language and customs because she knows no other. Forced marriages of teenager girls to a cousin from the homeland are also not unheard of. To me, sometimes it seems like Germans and Turks are living side by side, completely immersed in their own culture, with neither quite knowing what to make of the other.
Social history aside, the market is a truly amazing experience. You can get great produce, cheese and olives, but it does not have the relaxed, somewhat yuppie feeling of a West Coast farmer's market. The place is bursting with energy, with the market criers calling out their specials in both German and Turkish. I went there today and loved the vibe. My favorite line was from a seller selling watermelons who cried out "Sweet, sweet, sweet, my watermelons. Sweet like me. Sweet, sweet." Besides food, you can also buy cheap textiles, clothing and sewing supplies.
Although the market is nearly all Turkish, there are a few other cultures represented. I bought a great "Mutter Teller" (mother plate) from an African stand complete with fried bananas, black eyed peas, spicy rice and chicken wings for less than 5 bucks. Yum, and quite the bargain. Also fun to sit and eat it by the canal while a bossa nova band played for the hipsters that had congregated.
There was also a quark stand, quark being this strange German dairy product with a science-fiction like name that is like a mix between yogurt and sour cream. I've grown to like its savory version, with bread and fresh herbs or on potatos, but can't really handle it as a dessert like they had on offer.
If you want to stick with Turkish (or even if you don't), then you absolutely have to try a Gözleme. Gözleme are a specialty from Anatolia, a sort of pancake stuffed with either potatoes, ground beef or spinach and feta. When fresh, they are truly to die for.
Either way, when you go, you are sure to have one fine day at the market.