Intellectual Berlin – The Staatsbibliothek!

I finally got tired of trying to work in Cafes in Berlin.  I think people that actually think they get work done in Cafes are kidding themselves.  There are way too many distractions to get any real work done – or you might be productive but probably only at 50% of what your potential is.  Anyway, I digress.  I decided to check out the Staatsbibliothek in Berlin – the only library I’ve ever been to that requires a paid membership and has security guards checking your library card before you can enter!

**Just a note that this is the newer Staatsbibliothek on Potsdamer Strasse – not the one on Unten den Linden.

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Who said Berlin wasn’t Green??

I come from Canada, and to be specific, Vancouver.  The reason I mention this is that, in Vancouver (British Columbia), we are used to some spectacular natural beauty: the mountains, lakes, hiking trails, beaches, etc.  It takes quite a bit to impress me in terms of natural beauty, particularly in a city.  Today, Berlin impressed me.

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Now I know the lake doesn’t look too impressive but its location makes it amazing…

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Beach, Baltic Sea and Nazi Buildings

We were looking for a quick and easy beach getaway in Germany – super last minute.  Yup, you read right – I said “in Germany“!  Not many people associate beautiful, white sand beaches and tranquil ocean waters with Germany.. but just a hop, skip and a jump away from Berlin, we found our little paradise (and a bit of history – we got to see an eerie, crumbling Third Reich tourist resort)- all on the island of Rugen on the Baltic Sea (or “Ostsee”) in Northern Germany.

Beautiful Beach of Sellin on Rugen Island

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Cool Things to See in Berlin – STASI Museum

Who would have known that a lazy Saturday morning bike tour in the former east side of Berlin would lead us to the heart of all evils in the former DDR (former East Germany)?  The head of the former Ministry for State Security (MfS)— or Stasi, as it was more commonly known as, is located at Haus 22  Ruschestraße 103 in Friedrichsein.  Now the old building has been turned into a museum showcasing the techniques this former secret service agency used to keep a close eye on DDR citizens. Some think that the Stasi was even worse than the Gestapo in terms of oppression of its own people.

A typical office during Stasi time – preserved pretty much exactly in the same condition as it was used in.

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How to Learn a New Language – FAST!

The thing I hate the most is being in a new country and not being able to speak the language.  It’s been two months since I arrived in Berlin.  You may think, “Well, you are in Berlin – you can totally get by in English.  You don’t even need German.”  Although that might be true for people passing through the city (and even then, I think “Travel Etiquette” requires that you should always try to speak the language of the country you are visiting in), I’m not here on vacation.  If you want to actually find a job or work in Berlin in something that you are interested in, it’s pretty imperative that you learn German…and learn it fast! So how the heck do you do that? One trick is to find a TANDEM partner in Berlin!

Okay not my tandem partner – but my friend Lisa visiting from Vancouver – on my new street: Odeberger Strasse!

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No Animal Products for me…but Nope, I’m not Vegan

“Ohhhhh, no meat? No dairy? Well, great – another Vegan”, you say – with that little glint in your eye that says “Ugh, another animal rights activist.  I’m going to eat a big, fat steak in front of her to show her that I LIKE eating meat and that I don’t have a problem eating animals. Yum.”

Since June 7th, I’ve been trying a little “diet experiment” => no meat, no cheese, no eggs, no milk, no refined sugars, no corn syrup or fructose glucose crap, no other weird chemicals or processed foods – only plant-based foods. But I don’t like to be called a Vegan.

I tend to associate Vegans (whether correct or not) with animal rights and/or some sort of political agenda.   The Vegan Society seems to agree with me – their definition of a Vegan is “…someone who tries to live without exploiting animals, for the benefit of animals, people and the planet.”  I’m not doing this diet for the sake of animals – I’m doing it for myself.

Plus, according to PETA, Hubba Bubba Bubblegum and Jollyranchers are vegan.  WTF? So you stop eating animal products but instead ingest a bunch of chemical crap?  That doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

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Empty Barge = Swimming Pool? HUH?

In a city like Berlin, where you aren’t trapped by millions of rules and laws dictating what you can and can’t do, people tend to get creative.

Is that a barge floating in the river?  Yes, yes it is!  Continue reading

Thrill of the Game

The excitement of game day is already in the air in Berlin.   Germany is so close.  They have a big hurdle to get through tomorrow, beating Italy, to make it to the finals, but many Germans believe that this is their best year – this is the best chance Germany has to win a European Championship title. I wouldn’t say I take the game too seriously…but there are definitely things I enjoy.

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Need an Apartment in Berlin? GOOD LUCK.

What We Heard:

We heard mixed things about finding an apartment in Berlin.  Some insisted that Berlin rents were dirt cheap – that you could find huge lofts for a fraction of the price that it would cost you in any other German city.  Some cautioned about super high commissions charged by the real estate agents – costing as high as two or three months rent.  Some warned us that finding an apartment in Berlin wasn’t easy – nice apartments were difficult to come by.   Even when you found something decent, it usually wasn’t in the right neighbourhood.  And finding the right neighbourhood is key in Berlin – it is such a big city that typically residents stick to their area when going out – venturing to the other side of the city for dinner just doesn’t happen as often as it should.  Some warned us about living in Prenzlauer Berg, where the yuppy mommies hang out with their baby bjorns and their strollers.  Some encouraged us to find a place in Kreutzberg – the coolest area in town where the clubs and after-hours clubs kept you partying from Friday night to Sunday morning.  Some mentioned that Neukoln was the next hot spot and to get a leg up on it by finding an apartment there now, even though the area is still a bit dodgy.

Bars/restaurants along the Paul-Lincke Ufer canal in Kreutzberg

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BERLIN – Step 1: Finding an Apartment

We arrived in Berlin on May 21st with a mission: we were going to find an apartment in 11 days.  No matter how hard people said it was going to be, we were going to do it. 

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