This episode of Parts Unknown, showcasing the creative wonderland of Berlin, Germany, is the first to air since host Anthony Bourdain’s tragic death on Friday. Prior to the episode, CNN’s Anderson Cooper spoke on Bourdain’s remarkable television career, calling the man a “true original.” Cooper recounted his colleague’s travels and unique ability to tell the story. He described Bourdain as one of the network’s best correspondents.
“As a writer, he was a natural,” Cooper said. “As a personality, he was both cool and yet vulnerable: a tattooed cowboy badass on the surface, with the soul of a poet. And on the issues of addiction and, most recently, sexual harassment, Anthony spoke with the passion of an activist.”
Closing his eulogy, Cooper explained CNN’s reasoning to air this episode as scheduled: “If Tony could hear this, he’d probably be embarrassed by the praise. He was always his own toughest critic. He also preferred to let his work speak for itself, which is why, in the midst of our heartache and sadness, we decided to air his latest episode of Parts Unknown.”
During his trip to Berlin, Bourdain spoke with Anton Newcombe, frontman for the rock band Brian Jonestown Massacre, DJ Ellen Allien, and several artists and photographers. The resulting 43 minutes showcase a city that has been ravaged by the worst in people, but that now has a vibrant arts scene showcasing the best in people.
Bourdain’s beloved television work lives on. Here, now, are the best moments from Parts Unknown: Berlin.
The most outrageous meal: In a dark movie theater, Bourdain joins Berlin chef Billy Wagner for a screening of Metropolis, the silent-era masterpiece from director Fritz Lang that was a precursor to science fiction movies and held sociopolitical overtones still relevant today. The two dig into a couple of German street-food staples: currywurst, sausage topped with ketchup and curry powder, and donner kebab, a cousin of thy gyro. Wagner, being a high-end chef and all, pairs the meal with some fancy wines.
The best-looking meal: Bourdain and Allien dine at Michelberger, where the musician explains how Berlin is unlike any other European capital: It is still a city where artists and other creative types can afford to live and work. Allien has sausage made of chicken, pigs feet, and sage with smoked mashed potatoes and apple. Bourdain enjoys braised beef shoulder with root vegetables, potatoes, horseradish, and “god help me,” kale.
The best analysis of the Berlin Wall: “The wall: an absurd, tragic, almost metaphoric, but all-too-real expression of humanity’s failure and depravity. A 96-mile stretch of concrete and razor wire cut Berlin into an island of capitalistic West and gray, soul-crushing, repressive, communist East. They keep a few chunks of it around: a reminder of terror, of triumph, or simply to take selfies in front of. Everyday, fewer and fewer remember that the world almost ended right here.”
The best quote about Berlin’s status as a modern creative haven: From Allien: “I think after the second war, everything was burned here. There was nothing. … Everything was gone, all the history. So, people start building up the new Berlin or whatever, and we are still in that process. And when you come here, you have the feeling that you have to help build something here. I am a part of it. If I got to Paris, I’m not thinking I’m a part of Paris because there is so much history … but here, you have the feeling that you’re building something. I think that’s why so many people come here now.”
The best moment: Bourdain visits Newcombe’s home for dinner, and the evening is every bit the whirlwind one would expect at the house of a punk rocker, writer, and cook. Newcomb spends hours in the kitchen, and he writes and records a couple of songs along the way. His dinner guests feast on a traditional german meal of roasted meats, vegetables, and potatoes, and there’s a toast with homemade schnapps.
A final thought on Berlin: Bourdain closes the episode with a reflection on Berlin’s history of highs and lows, how the city has always rebounded from its darkest moments. Now, his comments are gut-wrenching. “Few other cities have been shaped by individual imaginations, either brilliantly creative or unspeakably evil. Start again, start again. Look back at the past; never forget it. Like an Irish playwright said, ‘You must go on, I can’t go on, I’ll go on.’”