Posted on Nov 15, 2012 in Berlin | 0 comments

This is the bachelor apartment where I will spend the next three months. I am all settled in.

Travel day

I had a great flight from Vancouver – Frankfurt where I chatted for almost the first 5 hours with a delightful older woman who sat next to me. She was my mother’s age and equally feisty and energetic. Her husband died quite a long time ago, but at 82, she is travelling as much as she can. She was flying on to Istanbul to go on a 21-day cruise to Israel, Egypt and Oman. We had a great time, and the flight attendants kept plying us with drinks. We were so animated that we kept hitting the attendant call buttons at both our seats. The flight attendants kept visiting us to find out what we wanted and got a little grumpy about the false alarms. For years I had always wondered who those annoying people are who keep buzzing the flight attendants. Apparently that is me. After the Lufthansa welcome cocktail, two glasses of wine with dinner, and then a cognac, we started to fade a bit. And this was just economy. I can’t even imagine how wasted spoiled the people in business class were.

We arrived in Frankfurt a bit late, but I managed to get on my tight connection to Berlin. I was crammed in between two business men. When we landed in Berlin, I really wanted to let out a “whooo-hooo!”, but I didn’t want to startle them, nor have to explain my excitement. But I should have — there are so few occasions in life to whoot.

Grand Berlin

It took me a while, but I had no trouble finding my way to the apartment on the bus and metro. I had a good look at the city from the bus and got an impression of grandeur. I picked up the keys at a neighbour’s home, huffed and puffed my 50-lb suitcase up the three flights of stairs, and excitedly put the key in the lock. For about five minutes, I struggled to open the door and started getting a bit worried. I finally got it open, and it turned out there was a doormat stuck tightly under the door on the inside. Phew.

The apartment is perfect for all my needs. It comes with high ceilings, a balcony, a full kitchen, bathroom, and a large sleeping/eating/living area with a sofabed. I was exhausted but determined to stay up until 7 or 8 pm, so I unpacked everything, got my laptop set up and internet working on all my devices, and caught Jeff on Skype for a quick hello around 4 pm as he was getting up to go to work at 7 am in Vancouver.

Suddenly it was 5 pm and the jetlag was hitting me so hard that I was tempted to just crash into bed, but I dragged myself out to go get some groceries and pick up a Sim Card for my iPhone at a Lidl store. I had done some research from Vancouver on where to get the best deal and options for my mobile phone.

Walking around my neighbourhood of Berlin, I noticed many such store fronts that were being used as studios, with people working on art, bikes, motorcycles, sewing, spinning, pottery, architecture, and design — or a combination of several of these.

The walk in chilly -1˚C weather woke me up a bit. It was dark, clammy and foggy as I started my errand, but I felt great. There were parents walking their kids around for the German equivalent of “trick or treat”, except you carry pretty lanterns instead of wearing ghoulish costumes, and you sing songs door-to-door in order to receive treats, instead of threatening evil deeds. This is St. Martin’s Day.

I also saw many people on bikes, quite a number of them had trailers or other contraptions attached for transporting goods or children. The neighbourhood has a funky, friendly, artsy feel. I saw many interesting shops, cafes and restaurants. I also felt quite safe. The only time I got a bit tense was when I walked through the middle of a small park; it was already dark and a group of down-and-out-looking men were standing around, drinking and talking loudly. On my way back, they were still there, so I walked around the park.

It’s not German bread unless it’s so solid that you can kill somebody by hitting them over the head with it, and then eat the evidence. Note: I also stocked up on Nutella.

Is Germany really that cheap, or is Canada just incredibly expensive?

It is always a thrill for me to buy groceries in another country. I love checking out the shelves and picking out something to eat. And from what I could tell, here in Germany the groceries are about 1/3 to 1/2 the price of what we pay in Canada. I bought this loaf of bread for €1.49. Here are some other prices, with our Canadian pricing in brackets:

  • 1 L milk: €0.54 ($1 or more in Canada)
  • 1/2 lb butter: €0.95 ($2 and up)
  • 800 g jar of Nutella: €3.59 (about $8)
  • 1 lb Italian Spaghetti: €0.49 (about $2)
  • 1 bottle of red wine, Beaujolais Villages: €3.59 ($19 at the BC Liquor Board)

Deals from a German grocery store flyer.

And best of all, my mobile Sim Card was €4.95 and enables me to use my iPhone in Germany. The card gives me a German phone number and with that, prepaid calling costs only 9 cents a minute. I also signed up for a €6.95/month unlimited data plan. OK, so after 500 MB they throttle you severely, but I never use anywhere near that much anyway. So I may get away with spending a total of €25 on my cell phone during my full three months here! I am liking this start, I need to stay on a budget while I’m here. I am not here to eat at the best places and buy the coolest clothes, I want to spend my time and energy on seeing the art and culture.

Another great thing: there is no TV in the apartment. That means less distractions and more time to work on art projects.

It is 9:30 am in Berlin, and I have been up since 2 am, thanks to jetlag. I am going to start exploring the city today, especially with the limited daylight hours in the winter and work on some client projects this evening.

Until next time!