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?

Berliner Bureaucracy

Oh the joys of bureaucracy. It’s been a difficult week. We are currently in the process of trying to work out and lodge visas. It is not something they make straightforward or give you much information on.
I’m currently sitting in a waiting room filled with crazed people desperate to just be given a waiting number. Daniel’s currently standing in a queue if you can call it that. It’s a semi organised formation of people all trying to elbow each other out. There’s a lot of suspicious eye movement, making sure no one pushes in front of them. The tension is palpable to say the least.

Daniel Berlin Immigration line*

The scene right now

There are conversations about visas that have already expired but they can’t get an appointment to see anyone, others who have come here at 5:30am 3 days in a row, people who waited 6hours the day before only to be handed an appointment for 6 weeks time.

But that’s just this morning, this is not our first German bureaucratic experience. Last week Daniel’s boss sent us to the wrong building. We waited half an hour in line before being told “nein”, handed a piece of paper with a bunch of versions of “please come back with papers written in German and a translator” then promptly made to leave the counter. We decided to try our luck on a another floor just incase we went to the wrong desk and fortunately found a kind woman who spoke a little English who was then the one that informed us we were at the wrong entire place.
So Tuesday we tried again, at the correct place this time, Auslaenderbehoerde, aka the Alien’s Office. Because thats what we are. Aliens. And they don’t let you forget it!

Nein baby meme

We got there just after it opened at 7am, there were people going every which way. We had no idea where to go but I knew we needed to work it out fast because I had read the allotted ‘no appointment’ numbers for the day run out fast. There are a few signs around, but of course all in German. We asked a sort of pseudo info/security desk and managed to get the gist of where to go. When we got to the right spot it became even harder. There is no one to ask, there are a couple signs in German and there are people filling the waiting room and lining up down the hall. Its a nightmare. Luckily a few friendly other Americans (can always count on friendly Americans) told us what to do… Wait in line until someone leaves the room behind that door and then go in to beg get a number. After waiting about 45min in line Daniel finally just went in, luckily because no one was in there. He was kicked out in a matter of seconds and told to come back with a translator, again! We were at the Alien’s office for gods sake!! Homeless people on the street rant to us in English as if the people working in the Alien’s office can’t speak English?!! I mean what are the other poor people in the same waiting room from Sudan and South America supposed to do, they can barely even speak English let alone German!!

Thankfully this nice couple, American wife, German husband, took pity on us and he went in with Daniel to translate. Such a kind man he not only translated he went out of his way to defend Daniel’s case! He told us the lady had wanted to kick Daniel out straight away and he argued with her that it was not right and that Daniel was bringing “prosperous work to the German economy unlike the rest of the ‘so-called’ refugees she was letting just file in and destroy our economy”. He went on that Daniel was educated, skilled and already employed and that she should, well pretty much that she should pull the pole out of her ass. This guy really restored our faith in the people of Germany, he went out of his way to help us and he didn’t even know us AND had his wife and not quite 4 week old baby waiting.

While this was all going on I was chatting with her and the other people in the waiting room, turns out this ridiculousness isn’t unique to us (kind of a relief to know were not just stupid). They told us you need to get to the office at like 5:30am and that they’ve done it in the middle of winter before. This was the third day in a row one a few of them had come, one guy had even had an appointment! They said even for Germans the bureaucracy is a nightmare. So after a bit of solidarity bonding hearing other people’s stories we felt no less frustrated but a little less disheartened to know that this is just what has to be done and that every expat working here has already been through this shit. If it was easy, everyone would do it.

So here are again, third times a charm right?? Right?? I’m waiting in the US waiting room again because the Australian room is already filled up (lucky me the other nations in my section are Iran, Iraq, Afganistan, Jordan, Yemen etc so you can imagine its pretty busy). Daniel went in slightly more prepared this time with pretty much the only German phrase I know ‘Konnte ich bitte eine wartnummern ham’ (I’ve probably totally butchered this)- ‘Can I please have a waiting number?’ At least I hope thats right. Hopefully they’ll see it as a sign of good faith.

Oh wait, he’s back! And what do you know… we have to come back 7am Monday. Let the good times roll.

Anyone have any tips on the visa process in Germany??

An Afternoon Apple Picking Adventure

A couple weekends ago we decided we needed to get out of the city and explore some of the German countryside. I’d been seeing all sorts of fall activities trending all over social media that just aren’t a thing in Sydney and got inspired to go apple picking. The ultimate fall activity (right behind pumpkin picking).

After researching various options and finding one where you can actually pick the apples off the tree as opposed to some which were just like farmers markets (check closely!) we decided to go to Neumann’s Erntegarten just outside Potsdam. We woke up to a beautiful bluebird sunny day. I constantly feel like we have the best luck. Our apartment has a bike we have access to so we took it on the train with us to Potsdam which is only about a 30-40min ride away on the S7 train. Everybody clearly had the same idea because the train was packed out with bikes, we were glad we only had one we had to manoeuvre. When we got to Potsdam there was a bike rental place (Rent-a-bike) just 5min walk from the station. It was only 10 Euros to rent a bike for the day (until 7pm) and the guy was super nice and inflated the tyres on our other bike and gave us a map of a tour of Potsdam that he detailed to me. We didn’t have time to do the tour but definitely want to return and check out the castles of Potsdam before winter sets in.

Potsdam, BerlinCafes

Riding through Potsdam was such a breeze. They have proper bike lanes with their own set of traffic lights unlike the ones in Sydney where they just paint a line on an existing narrow road and call it ‘safe’. The hardest part was getting Daniel to pay attention to where he was going and stick on the bike lane because he’d get too distracted by all of the grand buildings! Once we left Potsdam the ride through the countryside was such a needed escape. Just riding in the sun alongside green fields and large trees lining the road swaying in the breeze.

Riding through Potsdam Berlin

That face. I die.

Fields of Potsdam Berlin

We arrived at the orchard almost too soon we were enjoying the ride so much. However Neumann’s did not disappoint, with a classic wooden beamed brick building that smelled like my families lake cabin in Minnesota it was surrounded by crates of apples you could choose and a whole stand of pumpkins. A Fall masterpiece. Inside they sold all sorts of various fresh and cured meats, homemade apple juice, wine, cheese, gherkins and more. After checking out all the yummies we grabbed our wooden bucket and headed out to the orchard.

apple picking at Neumanns Erntegarten Potsdam Berlin German orchard apple picking Apfelsaft Potsdam Berlin Pumpkins

We spent the afternoon getting lost in the rows of apple trees and trying all the different types. I’m pretty sure daniel ate more apples than we picked. Nothing quite compares to a fresh apple you just handpicked from the tree. I nearly lost it when I saw the ladder, it just doesn’t get more cliched picturesque than that and the view across the tops of the trees was more than worth climbing the rickety ladder.picking the highest apples Potsdam Berlin Looking over tops of Apples trees Potsdam Berlin

the face of a rotten apple

the face of a rotten apple

Potsdam Apple Orchard Daniel Jumping picking apples Potsdam Berlin Rotten Plum with Beetle Potsdam Berlin Apple Orchardperfect apples Potsdam Berlin

After apples we stumbled across rows and rows of ripe juicy raspberries. As we were stuffing our faces bag, this cute little old bee keeper approached, beckoning me to follow him. So Naturally I did, when a traditional German beekeeper invites you to follow you don’t question it (though I know Daniel certainly was). He then gave us those big beekeeper hats and proceeded to open the bee-box hive thing. I was madly trying to roll my sleeves and pants down and he’s waving his hand at me like its fine and saying “mein leibe” (my love) while stroking a bee on his hand. Yeh it was a little weird, but hey the man has passion. Then he led us into this little hut where he showed us how he scrapes the honeycomb and then spins it in this hand worked machine before giving us a test of the most legit honey I’ve ever had. Did I mention all of his descriptions were 100% in German? Yeh we had no idea what he was saying. Of course this was right before he handed us a jar and wanted 5 Euros, we got that part loud and clear. Yep, we got hussled by a honeyman who didn’t even speak English. Best salesman ever. But hey we ended up with amazing honey. We then went back to raspberry picking and watched him hussle some other unsuspecting people into his bee lair.

Honig Man

Honig Man

potsdam berlin bees and honeycomb Bee hat

After picking some of the most amazing strawberries I’ve ever tasted we left. We had about a dozen apples, a bag of raspberries and a bag of strawberries all for 3.20 Euros. Amazing.

Fresh picked Strawberries

It was one of my favourite German days so far and the crepes Daniel made us with the fresh berries the next day were legendary (he’s a keeper)

 

Homemade Crepes with fresh berries

Daniel’s Amazing Homemade chocolate filled Crepes

I can’t wait for another visit to Potsdam

 

2 Months in Europe… and that’s just the beginning

 

Croatia, Greek Islands, Montenegro, Berlin

Yesterday marked officially 2 months since my arrival Europe and what a whirlwind couple of months it has been! From a month of traveling Croatia, and Greek Islands (plus a little bit of Montenegro thrown in for good measure) with a bunch of girlfriends not to mention time spent with wonderful friends in Switzerland my first month in Europe did not disappoint. There was the crazy antics of Yacht Week, riding scooters around the Island of Vis, walking the wall of Old Town Dubrovnik (aka King’s Landing), 2 days white water rafting the Tara River Canyon Montenegro, partying until dawn in Ios, exploring Santorini by quadbikes. Thats just the tip of the iceberg. But the best part was getting to spend it with great friends, the perfect start to the next European chapter of my life, but some of the hardest goodbyes.

One of the happiest hellos though on the trip was finally being reunited with Daniel who I hadn’t seen since New Zealand. Seeing his beaming face walk through the arrivals door was so exciting. 4+ months of long distance was not fun but we made it. Now here we are almost a month into our time in Berlin and things are already falling into place! Daniel has been offered a job! We can’t believe our luck. This means we can now say we are officially staying in Berlin. I am in the middle of interviewing for a position and have another interview for a different position lined up but regardless of whether or not I get them we can stay because I can always get a working holiday visa (whereas he couldn’t).

We are so excited to call this city home and have already fallen in love with its beauty and atmosphere, not to mention vibrant culture. We are constantly exploring somewhere new or going to a different museum or learning more about its history. Beyond the World War history we are all so familiar with, you forget how old this city is and that it had a rich history spanning long before that.

Beginning our time here in Fall has been such a treat. Watching the leaves change to amber from our 4th story apartment windows has been so special and unique compared to the Fall I’m used to in Sydney. We have embraced the season and all its cliches it has to offer like riding bikes through Potsdam, going apple picking at an orchard and drinking beer while eating currywurst at Berlin’s own Oktoberfest. I’ve also jumped on the Northern Hemisphere fall bandwagon and grabbed a Pumpkin Spice Latte the other day. I get it now. It was like a party in my mouth (#PSLlyf yo).

We have started to meet a few people. One guy who moved here a year ago got so excited when he found out we had moved here and weren’t just visiting, with a bunch of flying hand gestures he told me how its the greatest city and a year on he’s still discovering new things. He said the novelty just doesn’t wear off. Right now, I think he might be right.

I have lots of updates and pictures from my month of travels and our time in Berlin to come!

reunited Zurich

Finally reunited in Zurich

There is No Manual on Becoming an Expat

Preparing to pack up your life and move overseas is hard. There is so much stuff you don’t readily think of that you need to do, from dentist appointments to cancelling gym memberships to working out what to do with my car and packing up my room. It is hectic! Don’t get me wrong I didn’t think it would be easy or anything but I am constantly thinking of new stuff I have to do that you completely forget about because you just take it for granted that its just a part of life, you forget how complex your life really is.

Then we had a slight curve-ball thrown at us the other week when we found out American citizens can’t get Working Holiday Visas… aka I can (being Australian) but Daniel can’t. Thank god the lovely Alex from Speaking Denglish pointed this out when she so kindly answered my long questions on Germany and visas, I honestly don’t know how we missed it when looking into it all but thankfully we had enough time to work out what to do. The plan is still pretty much the same except we’ll now have to get real jobs so we can get working visas, sad face! Downside less flexibility for travel, upside more money for travel! That and I think it makes our families feel a little better that we will hopefully be somewhat stable and not just live like Peter Pan forever. And well if we don’t find jobs we now have plan b… and plan c. Don’t judge me. There is no manual on becoming an expat! I’ve finally resorted to writing a scarily long running to do list and printing out a blank calendar of now until I leave and scheduling everything in. Let me tell you… it’s full. Its pretty damn full.

Then again I guess half the fun is the challenge, knowing that you are making this happen. That you really are ‘taking the road less traveled’.

One of the best but also strangest and saddest parts is trying to see everyone before you. I say best because I have had a great time the past couple of weeks, never saying no to anything because who knows when I’ll do it again or see them again as well as spending some really valuable time with my family who I will miss the most. Its been strange though seeing friends who I don’t catch up with on a regular basis and then having to randomly drop into conversation the fact that I’m moving overseas in oh you know 3 weeks! I do quite enjoy the reactions I get though haha! Here is a bit of a photo recap of from the last 2 weeks of all of the great quality family and friends time I’ve had trying to get a good dose of all things Sydney (and other parts of Australia) to last me until I’m back, who knows when that will be! Hannah-Perisher-Ski-Selfie

 Thats right we have skiing in Australia! Ski-whiteout-perisher Perisher-family-ski-lift-selfieGirls-high-tea-cruise copy High tea Cruise on Sydney Harbour with my girls
Girls-selfie-sydney-harbour-bridgemy-girlsUnleash girls with a view and a GoPro and let the group selfies run wild
Southhead-old-gun-stationA wonderful day with my family at South Head, Sydney HarbourSydney-harbour-rock-edgeElliot-Hannah-SouthheadGoing to miss my bro
Leaping-dolphinHannah-Alice-Anabelle-Southhead
Hornby-lightthe-gap copyBad-selfies Siblings fun, We’re so good at taking group shots.
bronte-beach-pool-large-swellwhitewash-tamarama-beachlarge-swell-bronte-beachCrazy swells at Bondi Beach

Saying goodbye is going to be the hardest part.

And so it begins…

I want to travel the world My blog! Ok and the next step in my life (which really gave birth to this blog). I recently decided to quit my job, sell my baby (aka my new red convertible, every girl needs one at some point in their life right?), and leave my cushy life living with my family, close to all of my friends to move to pretty much as far away as you can get… Berlin, Germany!

I started working full-time my final semester of university and soon realised I was so not ready to be an official member of the workforce for the rest of my life. That’s when I met my boyfriend Daniel who had been on the same path headed for full-time work when he decided he wanted to spend his life traveling and pursuing his other dreams, number one being professional water polo. I met Daniel while he was playing water polo overseas in Sydney (he’s from California). It didn’t take long for us to discover how similar our dreams were (no not water polo, I’ve tried it, pretty much drowned) but traveling, living all over the world and just making the most out of life as we possibly can. We want to be those annoying old people who are constantly saying “that reminds me of when I was living in [insert obscure country] and I [insert even more obscure event]“. So when Daniel said he was moving Berlin to continue water polo the decision for me was difficult, scary, huge easy.

So here we are about to start the next stage. I just told my family and friends the news last week that I’m headed out in August, which also meant I gave notice at my job (oh yeah I work for my parents, talk about making the decision to leave doubly hard on them and me!). Bring on Berlin!