Oktoberfest Pilgrimage

Hello anyone still out there. Its been a while, but I am alive and well (and still living in Berlin, it’s been over a year now!). I’m not going to  bother making excuses. What can I say life got in the way. But it turns out I miss this here blog so I decided to give it another crack!

So much has happened over the last 6 months I’m not even going to try to break it down. Many more travels from a small Island on the Baltic, to California, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Munich, Prague! Wow writing it down I makes me realise how much we did!

I don’t even know where to start so lets start with Oktoberfest just because it was pretty much the most awesome weekend ever.

oktoberfest traditional clothing couple

I swear half the fun was the outfits. We splurged and bought traditional ones, best souvenir we’ll ever buy.

We decided last minute we just had to make Oktoberfest happen so booked a rare decently priced hotel hotel and car and made the 6hr drive Friday night after work. We could not have lived in Germany for over a year and not made it to Oktoberfest. Australian’s and American’s plan their Europe trips to include Oktoberfest. Nobody would ever let us live it down.

Oktoberfest is exactly like you imagine, except bigger. We got there at 9am and managed to not only make it in one of the main tents, the Hacker-Feltzet Tent, but also squeeze on a groups table! They had been there since 7:30am so we felt pretty fortunate to get a spot.

Oktoberfest Hacker- Festzelt munich

How magical is it?! Like all of your Oktoberfest dreams come true

giant pretzel oktoberfest

Giant pretzels for breakfast on the way in. Big mistake, always eat a proper breakfast before a day of heavy drinking.

Oktoberfest outside dirndl

Oktoberfest leiderhosen traditional

Isn’t he handsome?? You could say he felt pretty awesome in his leather leiderhosen

From there the day went in typical Oktoberfest form. Start drinking at 9am, drinking games, more pretzels. Every so often someone would stand up on the table and down a beer while the entire crowd cheered them on (or booed if they failed).

beer couple Oktoberfest leiderhosen Oktoberfest food inside tent

When the band started playing at midday thats when the festivities really took off! Everybody stood up on their benches and started singing and dancing. We barely sat down again for the rest of the afternoon. As people became looser so did the once exclusive tables, suddenly everyone is friends wrapping their arms around each other singing ‘Ein Prosit’.

Oktoberfest friends fun beer oktoberfest fun beer girl munich oktoberfest beer tent munichlowenbrau oktoberfest munich

It is truly the biggest high to be a part of the festivities. You look around and everyone is smiling and cheering. Of course a lot of beer consumption helps to. And boy are they strong.

3 very large beers later and we were done. We took ourselves home around 5pm and crashed for a couple hours before rounding off the night with some all curing schnitzel.Oktoberfest crowds leiderhosen dirndl

giant schnitzel munich leiderhosen

Giant schnitzel truly is the way to a man’s heart

Sunday we had a more low key day and enjoyed exploring the festival grounds. It was less crowded so we managed to get into almost every tent to check out different atmospheres and decor. By the end of the day the grounds were filling up with Germans dressed in the fanciest, traditional outfits ready for the final night.

Oktoberfest gril dirndloktoberfest aerial rideaerial view above Oktoberfestleiderhosen oktoberfest beer cart inside hofbrau tent oktoberfest Oktoberfest munich

It was one of the best weekends, even if we did get a speeding ticket on the autobahn. Who knew that was even possible?!

Spring is (Almost) Here

drive now car convertible berlin berlin-sun-grunewald berlin-grunewald-paulander-beer-picnic berlin-grunewald-picnic

Spring is finally here near. We are starting to have some nicer weather in Berlin. Today is a cold rainy day, but the last few weeks have had majority sunny days and sometime even slightly warmer temperatures! It’s enough to make you think wow, this winter may actually end one day. Ok, ok, maybe a little dramatic, but as we arrived in Berlin mid-September, we’ve pretty much only seen Berlin in the winter. September is technically not winter (not even close) but since their fall weather here is like Sydney’s coldest winter to me it feels like one endless winter, that just got increasingly worse.

I absolutely cannot wait for summer! I have only heard amazing things about Berlin in the summer-time. Apparently people go a bit wild and it’s just like one, big, 3 month long festival filled with outdoor concerts, barbecues and street parties. Bring it on because I’ve had just about enough gloomy grey winter as I can handle. That is why last weekend, when it was finally going to be a beautiful sunny Sunday, we decided to get out of the city for a bit and take a day trip to Grunewald forest on the outskirts of Berlin.

I think the best part of the whole day was the 20min drive there. We signed up for drive-now, a car-sharing service, when we moved and had some minutes we needed to use up, so grabbed a mini convertible and had a joy-ride through the streets of Berlin. Unfortunately we got a little too excited about the sun and forgot that it can still be cold. We spent pretty much the whole day freezing. Oops. But the forest was certainly much prettier with sunshine and it was nice to soak up a little vitamin D, even if it didn’t last long.

When we got home I jumped straight in a hot shower and then curled up under the quilt the rest of the afternoon, trying to warm up. I can’t wait until spring is actually here, but for now I’m just loving the days we get sunshine!

Are We Out of The Woods Yet?

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything, to anyone still out there reading hello! I’m sorry it’s just been crickets around here. Life just got too hard and too busy for the last 6 weeks to find time for sleeping and breathing, let alone blogging. It’s been probably the most trying and tumultuous few weeks of my life but having come out on the other side, it was 100% worth it. You might have a vague idea of what’s been going on if you follow me on instagram but basically it’s been an emotional roller coaster ride of apartments, jobs and visa dramas. It all started getting crazy when we ended up apartment-less but I mean really the craziness started when I began working 12 hour days. So much big news I don’t even know where to begin so I guess I’ll just flash back to the end of January when things started to take a turn for us. As you might know, Daniel had landed a job back at the end of October but hadn’t worked a day yet as he had been waiting 3 months for his work visa to be processed. Good old German efficiency. Well, it turns out his visa had been ready since Mid November, the Alien’s office just lost it. The plus side to the whole situation was that it gave him plenty of time to apply for other jobs (he really didn’t want the other one but had no choice since he needed a visa). Well mid- January a miracle happened and he landed an amazing 1 year contract with an online marketing company. This was right before we needed to find a new apartment since our temporary accommodation was about end. We really wanted to find a long term place so we didn’t have to move a third time in 4 months, however it turns out we way underestimated how hard it is to find an apartment in Berlin. Three days before we had to be out of our apartment we really started to panic.

apartment search desperate berlin

I knew we’d hit rock bottom whenI had to post this in every single Berlin apartment search facebook group, but it worked!

We’d left it too late to even find another AirBnB. By Thursday night (we had to be out Saturday) we booked an emergency hotel a few blocks from our apartment. During this same time, other big things were happening. When Daniel had gone in to his new work to sign his new contract they told him that even though he was one of 5 who had been selected out of 350 applicants they still wanted 5 more people. This is when Daniel learned that they were doing a second round of interviews. So, he told them about me. Long story short, the Friday before we had to be out of our apartment (11am Saturday) I was in a 6 hour intensive interview and testing day at Daniel’s company applying for the same position. We got really lucky and, that afternoon, someone who had seen my desperate facebook ad contacted us. She told us she was going overseas for a month on Saturday so we could rent her place while she was gone. After the long interview day I met Daniel and went straight to her place to secure the apartment. Unfortunately, we couldn’t move in until late Saturday and we had to be out of our apartment early Saturday. So later that night we moved into the hotel… in the snow.

His face pretty much sums it up. I wish I could say that was all our stuff, but no this was one of 3 trips. The best was when we had a clothes drying rack perched on a suitcase with a dish drying rack attached. A very classy moment. I"m pretty sure everyone thought we were homeless. I guess we were at that point.

His face pretty much sums it up. I wish I could say that was all our stuff, but no this was one of 3 trips. The best was when we had a clothes drying rack perched on a suitcase with a dish drying rack attached. A very classy moment. I”m pretty sure everyone thought we were homeless. I guess we were at that point.

That weekend we moved twice. First to the hotel Friday night/Saturday morning then to the temporary place Saturday evening/Sunday morning. We had accumulated quite a lot of stuff by this point as the apartment didn’t have everything, so it took us 3 trips back and forth to move all of our stuff in suitcases and plastic bags on the public transport system. I think it’s safe to say it was one of the worst weekends of my life.

The next few weeks were just one giant sleep deprived blur. Daniel was super lucky and his new company helped him resubmit his visa with an agency so it all went through in a couple weeks, with only the slight hiccup of him almost getting deported when his extension visa ran out before his work visa had come through. My lunch times were spent either going to different governmental offices to get all the necessary paperwork to apply to apartments or continuing to interview at Daniel’s company. One of the biggest decisions but also the most exciting I had to make was when I got offered a permanent position to stay on with my company and become a manager or to take the new position at Daniel’s company I managed to secure! After a lot of consideration and back and forth I took the new job! I am now working at the same amazing online marketing company as Daniel in the Social Media Marketing team and having now been there a week and a half it was definitely one of the best decisions I’ve ever made! It was a gamble because I was already well established at my old company and I was on a fast-track management path but in the long run I will be much better off with my new company. Not to mention I no longer work 12 hour days! The environment at the new place is just so perfect, it is so much more than we knew when we took the jobs and we are so excited to be there.

We also got really lucky and after viewing and applying to so many different apartments and getting nothing (not even a response) we managed to land an apartment a thousand times better than I ever thought we’d end up with. We are in the exact area we wanted, one of the nicest in Berlin, surrounded by cafes and bars, 5 min walk to a shopping centre, main train station and 15min tram ride to work. But the best part is that we are on the top floor! We get a lot of sunlight (which is rare in Berlin) and we have an amazing view from our balcony. It was a struggle to get a place but we couldn’t be more happy with where we ended up.

We are obsessed with the view from our balcony, can"t believe how lucky we got.

We are obsessed with the view from our balcony, can”t believe how lucky we got.

Apartment-view-berlin

Best part is we get sunshine, a rarity here in Berlin.

Best part is we get sunshine, a rarity here in Berlin.

All in all it’s been a complete emotional roller coaster and a real struggle. Yes we got lucky, but in the end we worked really really hard for this and I feel like we are finally truly settled and set-up for an amazing life in Berlin for however long we decide. Next step, it’s time to travel Europe on the weekends.

And if you made it to the end of this crazy long story, thanks for following along. Everyone’s support has meant so much to us (and I swear next time won’t be a crazy long monologue!). Here’s to finally being stable in Berlin.

German Efficiency- Fact or Fiction?

We all know the stereotype that Germans are known for their efficiency…. well guess what, its a big fat lie. Germany has to be the most inefficient country I have ever been to, or at least any of the governmental systems. It’s like it’s some great big sham that’s really quite impressive how far it’s gone, I mean the whole world knows about German efficiency. They had some good marketers I’ll tell you that!

I have had numerous Germans comment “that’s German efficiency for you” and roll their eyes! It’s a complete and total farce and they are all well aware of it.

Everything you do goes through multiple people/departments, is full of paper work and will take weeks months.

The Germans looove their paper work and they love their lines. Everything you do involves getting there early, to get in the line then waiting at least an hour before it opens then probably another half hour to get a waiting number to then wait at least another hour to be seen.

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Now you might be thinking ‘come on Hannah you’ve only lived there 4 months’ how can you possibly know about German efficiency. Well if you really want to see how a country functions become an expat and move there. I have never had to jump through so many bureaucratic hoops or deal with so many different facets of governmental institutions. I mean, obviously I wouldn’t need to in Australia being a citizen and all but I seriously doubt it involves as much as Germany. I mean when Daniel moved to Sydney he got a one year working holiday visa…before he went… Online.

Not in Germany!! Nothing happens online, it all involves face to face with lots of waiting in lines and lots of paper work (and usually people who don’t speak English, even though literally everyone else including homeless beggars can).

Fortunately I recently discovered the best way to get what you need when they don’t speak english and refuse to help… keep looking confused and asking the same question over and over again… oh and look like you might cry at any second.

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You want a tax ID required for work? You’re going to have to wait in line for that.  You want to register your address? You’re going to have to wait in line for that.You want to apply for a visa? You’re going to have to wait in line for that. 7 times if you’re us, a record so far, we’re yet to meet anyone who took over 3 visits to lodge their visa application. I tell you by the 7th time of waking up at 4am to wait 4 hours all bets are off and social decency/being lady-like goes out the window. When the doors opened I ran up the stairs elbowing people out of the way… I’d do it again not my best moment.

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Oh yeh, did I forget to mention you have to register your address every time you move? Yeh every time. Even if you’re living in a hotel, because anything else you want to do requires that precious piece of paper.

The magic rule for calculating how long anything will take, times it by three.

They say the line will take an hour? It will take 3.
You order something to be mailed to you they estimate to take a week? It will take 3.
You apply for your visa and they estimate the processing time to be a month? It will take 3.

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The only area they are efficient is in the supermarket checkout. You feel like you’re on a game show where the slowest bagging shopper gets eliminated. The cashier will have swiped your stuff, taken your money and started swiping the next customers things into your pile before you’ve even managed to open the bag.

how  its feels bagging your own groceries

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One things for sure, after tackling all of these obstacles you feel pretty darn good about yourself.

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Disclaimer: This may all be because we live in Berlin, aka East Germany. I have been told the West is nothing like this, but these opinions are purely based on my personal experiences.

A Week of Expat Milestones

The first week of 2015 was a big one for us. It was probably our busiest and most exhausting week since we arrived in Berlin. But some big expat milestones were crossed last week!

I got a German Bank account

Finally after living here almost 4 months I have a German bank account! I finally had to get it asap on Friday so work could pay me this week, talk about incentive. I cannot wait for my EC debit card since almost no shop (including grocery stores) will accept my visa or mastercards.

I got a German tax file number

Also needed to get paid but I’m an official worker in Germany now! It was another fun experience with German bureaucracy. The first lady said she couldn’t help so I took another number and tried the next person. She didn’t want to help me either but I have recently discovered if I just keep begging and looking confused and like I might cry they end up deciding it will just be easier for them to do it for me to get rid of me. The key to German bureaucracy!

Berlin Snow expat excited

Daniel got an amazing job offer

So Daniel got a job a while back but hasn’t been able to work a day there yet because we are STILL waiting for his visa to come through. But in the meantime he has been applying to other jobs that are more what he’s looking for and he managed to score an amazing traineeship with a really impressive company. They had the most intense interview process ever narrowing the applicants from 350 to 35 before inviting the remaining to come to an all day interview and testing day, we’re talking 12 on 1 interviews! But he made it through and couldn’t be happier. We’re just praying his visa doesn’t mess it up for him.

Daniel made it on a water polo team

This is probably the biggest news. In case you’re a new reader, one of the main reasons we came to Berlin was so Daniel could pursue professional water polo. It’s a hard sport to get into as you really need to know someone as it’s very hard to find information. By some miracle a few weeks ago our lovely friend invited us for dinner with her flat mates and would you believe it they have a friend who plays on the team. What are the odds?! So they put Daniel in touch with him last Monday and by Tuesday he was already training 4 days a week with them. It’s been a very trying week for him as he’s been out of the pool so now he’s not in top form but he’s giving it his absolute all to get back into it

waterpolo strike UNC

This is from his old team but I can’t wait to see him do this again. Can you believe I’ve never actually seen him play?!

Daniel played in his first professional water polo tournament!

That’s right after less than 4 days on the team Daniel played his first ever pro water polo tournament! Poor guy had to play 5 games over this weekend which is pretty rough when he hasn’t played in months. But I think to be able to say he had a pro game versing prague on the weekend makes up for it.

It’s been a long road but it’s exciting seeing things coming together more and more. It’s nice not to be stuck in limbo between being tourists and belonging. I feel like we can officially say we live here. It’s a pretty nice feeling.

potsdam berlin germany selfie expat

Other expats what were your significant milestones?

5 Cozy Cafes to Hideout Berlin’s Winter

Happy Friday everyone! We have an exciting weekend ahead of us with numerous overseas visitors. Daniel’s Dad arrived today after surprising us with this news only a week ago. It’s especially exciting to have him here as tonight I finally got to meet him in person (as opposed to skype)! Also arrived today are a couple of my friends from home so I can’t wait to catch up with them. It’s so exciting to be able to say we have overseas visitors, perks of being an expat!

We have a number of things planned with Daniel’s Dad but since its freezing outside (check out my instagram for my complaining if you don’t believe me) most of them centre around food. And by food I mean coffee and cake, obviously.

So if you are in Berlin and find yourself freezing and needing to head inside (which trust me you will), here are 5 cozy cafes around the city where you can grab a steamy latte macchiato, cake and warm your frost-bitten fingers.

1. Shakespeare and Sons (Prenzlauer Berg)

This one we just discovered the other day only a few blocks from our apartment and it is for sure our new fave. As an english bookstore cross cafe you can sip a delicious (and well priced) cappuccino, sitting in a plush armchair while being surrounded with walls of books. Need I say more? Well yes I do because they also serve bagels with house special cream cheeses (get the fig and avocado!). And if there is one thing I love almost as much as cake, its bagels.

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2. Martins Place (Kreuzberg)

You might have caught my rave about this already but really this place deserves more than one mention. With three quarters of the space dedicated to a kitchen that has walls lined more cake pans than I’ve ever seen you know you’ve stepped into this cake enthusiasts dream. Look no further than the display of amazing cake creations. I say creations because these are no ordinary cakes, these are gourmet cake extravaganzas. Good luck choosing. Keep an eye out for Martin who sometimes pops out of the kitchen with a new cake for the display. Tip: go on a week day if possible as there is not much seating and you will find a long line out the door on weekends.

Photo does not do the cakes justice, but look at all the cake tins hanging in the kitchen!!

Photo does not do the cakes justice, but look at all the cake tins hanging in the kitchen!!

Martins-place-line

The line out the door!

Can you tell how happy I am/ just itching to dig into that cake?

3. Leuchtstoff Kaffeebar (Neukölln)

A hipsters delight, this place draws a young coffee drinking crowd with its wonderful cappacinos and home made decor. With mostly bare wood, stripped walls and hanging lightbulbs its rustic interior makes use of its smaller space with couches on stilts of varying levels up the walls. I’m still unsure as to how people manage to get into these couches but don’t worry there are plenty of floor couches for those of us less cool. Their fresh daily, crispy outside, soft, flakey inside croissants are the best.

Leuchtstoff

Apparently they do good brunch, yet to try it here but I don’t doubt it as Sunday brunch is an institution in Berlin.

4. Cafe Moma (Prenzlauer Berg)

What looks like a small place opens out in the back to have a variety of armchairs and lounges. Amazing Latte Macchiatos, carrot cake and fresh made to order toasted baguettes piled with layers of prosciutto and cheese, its a perfect rainy saturday hangout. A super sweet husband and wife duo, she doesn’t speak English but sure makes wonderful sandwiches and a welcoming smile.

Cafe-moma-read

5. Frollein Langner (Neukölln)

A wonderful cafe/bar to spend an afternoon playing one of their many boards games or an evening enjoying the acoustic sounds of an amazing performance by some talented local performers. Numerous rooms to choose from all with a cozy atmosphere and variety of mix and match couches and arm chairs, coffee tables and even a piano and fussball table its like hanging out in an antique store.

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Frollein-langer-berlin

Acoustic night or serious chess game, you choose

What do you think makes the perfect cozy cafe hangout? Any other Berlin cafes we need to try?

 

 

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A Week in Pictures

berlin-sunset-picnic

We had a really lovely (and sometimes a little hectic) week this last week. It was a welcome change to be busy (and not because of the Ausländerbehörde). I wrote about how life was good and things were really starting to come together the other week and its true. Each week we seem to become a little more stable, a little more established into life in Berlin. A little more like we truly live here. Its a relieving feeling. Packing up your life and moving across the world without jobs or visas is a daunting thing and sometimes I forget what a big deal it is (not to mention being my first time moving out of home!). As an expat in a new city trying to make a new life sometimes you find yourself with this sort of tightness in your chest. I feel like my heart is racing a million miles an hour as I try to ‘do everything’ and ‘sort everything’. Fear of failure is strong when you take such a big leap.

Not having any income yet is hard but we are lucky Berlin is such an affordable city and there are so many things to do that cost little to no money. I had a catering waitress gig the other night which was chaotic and also quite hilarious. Trying to give me instructions was fun since I don’t speak German and they only spoke fragments of English. I was told my job would to “fly”. Yes, fly. I was like “ok yep shall do, wait what?!” Turns out fly meant take plates of food around haha. Daniel’s job starts in 2 weeks which will help a lot. I will miss all of the quality time we have been able to spend together though (24/7 and he still isn’t sick of me). We’re looking forward to not having quite as strict a budget and being able to do some travel.

We moved into our new apartment last weekend and couldn’t be happier. We looked hilarious transporting our things on the train, suitcases, clothes drying rack, plants and all. Even though this place is smaller and not as nice and decorated as the other one we like it much more. We’ve been able to add our own touches and things. It actually feels like our home and not somebody elses. Its amazing what a difference it makes. Not to mention we absolutely LOVE our new area. Its beautiful and so clasically European feeling.

But besides the stress we really do love it here and things keep getting better and more established (thus less stressful) each week. Not to mention freezing!! Holy crap the temperature plumetted this week, I had to go straight out and buy a proper jacket and thank god I did because everyone was out doing the same. When I was buying my jacket I wanted to make sure it would be enough to keep me warm when its apparently going to get down to -15!! So I asked a couple people, it went something like this “hi do you speak English? Ok so umm I’m from Australia and we don’t really have winter so i was wondering… will this keep me warm enough here??” I think they enjoyed it.

Sometimes you just have to sit back and look at the amazing life you are living (in Berlin!) and remember how good you have it, stress and all.

The last week in photos
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The view from our new apartment

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Winter comforts. Cinnamon rolls and hot chocolate.

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Thanksgiving for two!

Thanksgiving for two!

Love my new coat, heres to a warm but no visibility winter!

Love my new coat, heres to a warm but no visibility winter!

Can you tell how happy I am/ just itching to dig into that cake?

Can you tell how happy I am/ just itching to dig into that cake?

5-layer-cake-martis-place-berlin

Martin’s Place in Kreuzberg makes hands-down the greatest cakes. This is my fave cake so far with its creamy, buttery icing and candied orange peel. Ah-mazing.

Photo does not do the cakes justice, but look at all the cake tins hanging in the kitchen!!

Photo does not do the cakes justice, but look at all the cake tins hanging in the kitchen!!

mexican-food-berlin

Our fave Mexican place, Santa Maria. The most LEGIT Mexican and in Berlin, who would have thought??

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No better place to spend a cold Saturday. Coffee, tea and reading books.

No better place to spend a cold Saturday. Coffee, tea and reading books.

Picnic on a hill overlooking the city. When the sun is out you have to make the most of it.

Picnic on a hill overlooking the city. When the sun is out you have to make the most of it.

Can you tell I love food? And cake (because it is its own category).

What’s your go to winter activity when its freezing outside? Anyone know of some other great cafes/ brunch spots we need to try in Berlin?

Life Is Good

Life-Is-Good

Today marks 2 months since we moved to Berlin, and you now what I realised today? Life is good! A lot has happened in the last 2 months. There have been ups like being here for reunification day and the fall of the wall anniversary. There have aslo been downs, mostly associated with the Auslanderbehorde aka aliens office. But now it finally feels like everything is falling into place.

When we first arrived in Berlin everything was new and exciting, currywurst? Yes please! A giant pretzel? why not! Beer in the middle of the day at a festival? Hell Yeh! After a few weeks though the novelty wore off slightly and we found ourselves at a bit of a loss. Without jobs we had endless free time, which sounds good in theory (I would have killed for that a few months ago) but when everyday is the weekend nothing feels special. It’s easy to fall into a rut when you don’t know anyone, don’t speak the language and have no sort of regular routine. We weren’t home, but we weren’t traveling, it’s a very strange feeling. Couple that with the painstaking job searching and visa process it can be quite tough. After having to go to the Alien’s office a total of 7 times!! Each time getting up at 4am and waiting in line for hours with a bunch of wannabe Germans who keep trying to cut the line (seriously I nearly lost it the 7th time, there was some serious elbowing happening I’ll tell you!) all because the front desk lady took an instant disliking to us because we couldn’t speak German. It can be pretty disheartening. I was about ready to pack it in.

But we didn’t. Things started to pick up. And you know what the great thing about Berlin is? There is always stuff happening. Berlin really is an amazing city, there have been so many events happening during this short time we have lived here from Oktoberfest to reunification day to the Fall of the wall anniversary. Let me tell you they know how to throw a party! I can’t wait for the Christmas Markets, bring on a month of Gluhwien!! This is not to mention all the amazing markets around the city, the acoustic nights at bars that feel like home, the comedy nights at cozy cafes and so much more. We’ve been so lucky to have already had numerous visitors and more to come!

We are in a really great place now. Daniel starts work soon and we both have some great looking potential job prospects. We have met a few great people. We’ve got our favourite restaurants and cafes as well as lists of weekly events we hit up or plan to check out. Even this blog is starting to take off. Friday we are moving to a new apartment in our favourite area on the other side of the city and we couldn’t be more excited. I’ll miss our first apartment, its so nice and we were spoiled for space, and I love our little park and the hipster cafe with the sofas on stilts. But I can’t say I’ll miss almost getting peed on by a homeless woman, faeces of an unknown species (aka we’re never sure if its dog or human) or getting woken to the sounds of screams that sounds like the Turkish mafia. Neukolln, it’s been real. I’ll try to visit occasionally (maybe).

We still have a little way to go before we are truly settled here, but it’s almost starting to feel just a little bit like home. I cannot wait for the first snow! And Christmas Markets! And Gluhwien! I’m dreaming of a white Christmas.

Tonight we went ice skating 2 blocks from our house, at an uncrowded outdoor rink as the slightest hint of snow swirled in the sky. So yeh, life is pretty damn good.

Here’s a snapshot of our first 2 months in Berlin

Sightseeing-Berlin

Being Tourists

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Atop the Victory Column

Potsdam-Palace-Fountain

Oktoberfest-Berlin

Berlin’s Oktoberfest

Berlin-Wall

The Wall

Bear-Pit-Berlin

Sunday Funday at Bear Pit karaoke

Berlin-Reunification-Day

Berlin Reunification Day

Beer-for-reunification

Celebrating Reunification Day like Berliners

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Fall Leaf Love

Korner-Park-Neukolln-Berlin

Our favourite park around the corner

Love-in-Berlin

Grunewald-exploring

Exploring Grunewald Forest

Parks-of-berlin

Parks around Berlin- Potsdam & Grunewald Forest

Swing-Dance-Berlin

Templhof-Airport-Park-Berlin

Templehof Airport turned park

Templehof-Runway

Going to miss being a block away from Templehof Airport Park (good thing it will be freezing!)

H&D-park Brandenburger-Tor Berlin-Train-Sunset

 

The Fall of the Wall | 25th Anniversary

Fall of Berlin Wall 25th Anniversary

Yesterday was the 25th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin. I was really glad we got to be here to celebrate such a historic event. Also as we have quickly discovered the city of Berlin knows how to throw a party. To commemorate this occasion a 15km line of illuminated of balloons on poles was erected through the city to symbolise the wall. Then at a special celebration last night they were all released into the night sky.

The balloons were set up all weekend so Berliners could have the chance to walk the ‘wall’. We went and checked it out Friday with friend (thats right we have a friend now…one friend…between two because we’re cool like that). It was a really great way of displaying the wall because it made it so much easier to envision the, almost random at times, separation of the city. There was information along the way with excerpts about certain sections of the wall from bold escapes to tragic deaths to the mass exit of people into West Berlin on Nov 9th. Its hard to truly imagine what it must have been like, the joy and relief they must have felt when it was torn down 25 years ago. The balloons had a fitting eery beauty to them.

wall of balloons 25 year celebration berlin

balloons through berlin 25 year anniversary

ghost figure art berlin wall

We got so caught up in conversation and seeing the balloons we ended up walking about half of the route over 3 hours! As much as I enjoyed it that was more than enough. However it was great to really feel like a part of this city as we not only got to explore more of the city but were constantly surrounded by other Berliners following the line of their history.

The real celebration happened last night with the release of the balloons. It seemed like the entire population of Berlin (and probably more) came out to see it. The trains and stations were so crowded the ones near the main area were closed! We didn’t even realise we weren’t at the right station at first as we just got funnelled out with the masses of people. We managed to make our way to Potsdamer Platz and along the line of balloons until we were within sight of the Brandenburger Tor (the main event). It was a great spot to watch as we could see the line of balloons for blocks and were only a couple meters away from them. The atmosphere was joyous as everybody waited for the moment. Unfortunately we weren’t right at the Brandenburger Tor so couldn’t hear the symphony playing Beethoven’s 9th as the first of the Balloons were released but the cheer of the crowds as they floated into the cloudy night sky well made up for it. They didn’t set them all off at once but in a one-after-another wave formation. This made for some fun moments when a few balloons every so often wouldn’t release and the crowds went wild cheering them on as their releasers battled the balloons.

celebration 25 years fall of berlin wall

fall of berlin wall 25 year celebration

25 years Berlin Wall balloon release

After the release the crowds starting moving forward to now head to the Brandenburg Gate. With the release of the first wall we thought it was done. But we were deceived. There was in fact a second wall, less sturdy then its predecessor but separating people none the less. There was a sudden breach of the wall, we made a dash for freedom! I ducked under the fence made it through. Daniel unfortunately, did not. And thats how we got separated by a wall in Berlin… ok not that dramatic but we certainly enjoyed the irony of the situation.

separated new berlin wall

He looks impressed doesn’t he

We eventually decided to cut our losses and get out of there before the crowd got any rowdier (it was getting a little worrying especially as we were right in trampling territory if a break was to suddenly occur). We ended the night with celebratory quark balls, also known as fried dough balls rolled in sugar and possibly my favourite thing about Berlin, so I’d say a successful evening all round.

I feel really lucky to have been able to be in Berlin a be a part of such historic event. Sometimes what you give up to be an expat can be overwhelming, but moments like these remind you why you’re doing it and make it all worth it in the end.

5 things that I’ve found surprising in Berlin

Brandenburger Tor German Unity Day festivities
Sometimes I forget that I’m living in a completely foreign city with a different language and culture. Thats the problem with living in cities, they tend to all be very similar. But then you will see things or experience differences that snap you back to the reality that you are living almost exactly on the other side of the world. One of Daniel’s friends explained to us recently he calls these ‘Map Moments’. Moments that make you stop and realise that you are in a place you had only previously looked at on a map and dreamed. With international travel being so easy, you just hop on a plane and within a matter of hours (ok so try 30 from Australia) you can be in a completely different part of the world. Its so simple you sometimes forget just how far away you are. I think if we still had to travel months by ship we’d have a greater appreciation.
So here are 5 things I’ve found surprising in Berlin

1. They still fix and replace cobble stones.

It just looks like so much effort it amazes me they still maintain this tradition and don’t just concrete or asphalt instead. Don’t et me wrong though I’m so glad they do because they are so cute and classic European but I watched them dig them all up to the replace the pipes outside our apartment and then have to replace them all and I swear it took forever and looked so tedious.
Cobble Stone Repairs

This has been the state of our street the entire time we’ve been here

2. Everybody speaks English.

From young to old, business men to the crazed homeless dude who wanted to recite us poetry and switched to perfect English when he realized we didn’t speaks german (lucky us). That is everyone except the employees at the Alien’s office, because that wouldn’t make any sense would it.

3. History is everywhere they just seem to accept it and get on with it.

There is a carpark built on the site where Hitler’s bunker was and then surrounded by apartments that look onto it. The holocaust memorial has people sitting on it and playing around it (though they may be tourists). The picture at the top was taken at the big city festival for German Unity Day. I just found it fascinating the contrast of people on a ride right next to one of Berlin’s most iconic symbols of the Cold War, the Brandenburger Tor (though it is now the symbol of a reunified Berlin).

4. The weather is completely bipolar.

One minute it’s sunny with blue skies, you go into a store come out and it will be pouring with rain. We learnt very fast to always bring a jacket (I swear the Germans just pull one out of no where when the weather changes)

5. Sushi is everywhere but is so expensive.

We’re talking €6 euros for 4 bite size pieces. That’s like $9 when you convert it too! I just can’t bring myself to get it even though I miss it so much, I’m sure I’ll cave one day. On the topic of surprising food we found an amazing authentic mexican restaurant Daniel loves called Santa Maria. This is big coming from him because he is the biggest mexican food snob out and had previously refused to eat Mexican in Berlin as how could it possibly be any good being so far away from California Mexico. Of course it was pretty much full of other Americans, but their burritos are delish, not to mention the 4 Euro happy hour hibiscus margaritas. Ah-mazing.

Anyone know any scrumptious, well priced sushi joints in Berlin?