Montag, 28. Februar 2011

What I like and don't like about Berlin

The top five complains and happiness brought to me by the city of Berlin

Don't like

1. People drinking in the public transportation
2. The lady with the pitbull travelling to Willmersdorferstrasse
3. The loudy and strident teenagers
4. The weather, of course
5. The job-market

What convinced me to stay here

1. My colourful expat community
2. The fact that if I am travelling at least 5 stations I can improve at least 3 foreign languages
3. The permanently changing face of the city
4. The existence of the Western side of the city
5. Ku'damm
Enhanced by Zemanta

Freitag, 25. Februar 2011

What tourists love?

Coat of arms of Berlin.Image via Wikipedia//Coat of Arms of Berlin

Only one answer: Berlin, according to an evaluation of the number of tourists visiting the German town between 2009 and 2010. The capital city of Germany was the destination of 8,4 Million persons in 2010, an increase comparatively with the 7,6 Million in 2009. We must mention that in 2010, Ruhr area was considered the heart of Cultural Europe.  
Enhanced by Zemanta

Polish morgen at Cafe MetroPolen

I stumbled upon this quiet and good looking Cafe completely accidentally this week. I was looking for a quiet place to spend one hour, not necessarily a classical bakery, but not a restaurant or a fast-food or anything doing with food, either. I didn't realized from the very beginning what's the main language of this place, but while waiting for my good looking - and good tasting too - cookie, I saw a couple of Polish magazines, among the Spiegel and other local daily newspapers. The lady who served me was speaking Polish (with his colleague, it's how I found out), the sugar was Polish and there were some announcements in Polish. Most probably it is a market for this group, as in the this part, at the border between Charlottenburg and Hallensee I hear often the Polish language and right around the corner it is a German-Polish school

At this time of the day - between 11.30 and 12.00, if I remember exactly - the place was almost empty, with an overwhelming majority of lady-clients (me included), some of them looking like very familiar to the place, talking with the Polish lady about Berlinale or the latest evolutions in the 'zu Guttenberg' case.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Donnerstag, 24. Februar 2011

Berlinale, the love after

Berlinale is over, obviously. In my case, given some family and professional reasons, I ended up exactly one week ago, but I have only now some more time to filter my - not too many memories and very personal impressions.

As I previously wrote, for me it was the first time since I live here when I attended an extended program at the best European film festival. Last year doesn't count, as I attended only one evening, at Arsenal, of short movies. Not to many things, really.

This year, I was more than ready and even convinced some of my hectic friends to join me for some screenings and was extremely happy to meet international people visiting the Berlinale. Good memories and discussions and, from this point of view, Berlinale was an excellent social opportunity.

For finishing short with the negative part: What I didn't like AT ALL - the mess with getting the tickets, reserving the tickets, waiting in line, missing good opportunities because of the creepy website, the unfriendly presentation of the movies - both in print or online.

What I enjoyed: the mass of people moving around Potsdamerplatz looking for movies, talking about movies, the usual Babel I was hearing for every screening, the nice, cosy and intellectual discussions after and before the screenings, the good German translations of the movies - even not always necessarily, but I am get used now with this obsession of translating almost every single movie - the smart film directors and actors presents for various events, the shuttle bus connecting various places, the chance to live in Berlin.

Nice memories already.
Enhanced by Zemanta

With enthusiasm, about the expat life

This is an article I wrote for, but I think it is very useful for my readers as well.

Our globalized world and the chances of the free travel are offering us several opportunities to relocate for work, fun, family, study. In this way, we have the opportunity to discover new cultures, to learn new languages and to get in contact with interesting people. 
As an expat, you have the chance not only to interact with the local people - which might be one of the aims of changing your familiar environment for getting immersed into a new world - but also to know other people, from all over the world, from continents and countries not always affordable to visit. For me, this represented an amazing occasion to improve my knowledge about places and cultures, to find new authors, to learn about new languages - including the various versions of English - new recipes...Overall, to familiarize with different cultural codes. 
But what do you need to find those happy expat people, unless you are not lucky enough to work and live in a multicultural and international environment?
Foremost, try to have a look if in your area you can find a Meetup group. This is a worldwide network, very efficiently used in America, with subsidiaries all over the world. You can find there very hobby oriented groups - as for tango dancers, yoga lovers or runners - but also general "International" gatherings reuniting people all over the world in quest for a company for spending the week-end or eating together. And, if nothing good around, be able to spend some money and make your own group and advertise it via the usual expat networks and websites dedicated to people like you. This is another tip to take into consideration when relocating: find - and Internet is working on your side - the English-speaking networks, blogs, online publications. Very easy task, you just need to type "foreigners in..." or "expats in..." or "English-speaking groups in..."(and fill with the place you are living). 

Another valuable tool is represented by the InterNations network. Excepting that getting there you need to be invited, you can have, at least once the month, part of a hectic gathering of foreigners living in the same town with you. In addition, you have various discussion boards allowing you to find other groups and people looking for getting together, including looking for new jobs.

For professionally oriented people, the professionally networks, as LinkedIn or Xing are hosting various groups of expats keen to share their experience, knowledge and, more important, events. It is free of charge and could help you in getting in touch with people talking the same language with you.

If you miss your mother tongue and local culture, your local embassies, consular offices or the specific national group might help you to have a smooth transition to the new world. 

What about starting a language class? For sure, you'll find several people like you, fighting with the new words and vocabulary cards. Some of them will be happy to join other people in a similar situation. 

If you have kids and they are enrolled to English-speaking schools or kindergarten, you are lucky as you can not only find friends and nice acquaintances, but your children too will have somebody to play while you share your expat experiences with the other expats. 
Do you love to read? Well, in this case, in many big cities, there are English bookstores and, often, those places can host various gatherings of English-speaking people, including book swaps and discussion clubs. 

For going out, find mainly the usual international places, where the high chances of meeting other "foreigners" like you. And, stay tuned to check on the Internet where the big Halloween party or Thanksgiving gatherings will be hosted. Maybe some pleasant surprises are waiting for you.

And, after a couple of months of intensive searching, you will love to be an expat, wherever you are! Or you'll start, as I do, giving advices to other people about how to orient into the jungle of multiculturalism.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Mittwoch, 23. Februar 2011

Veloshow in Berlin - Fahrradshau 5-6 March

Easy deals for Berlin

This is the CoupoBox, the Berlin version, with various deals for restaurants, hotels, spa and shopping. I will be very curious how the business is working here, as I am very familiar with the high popularity of this system in the United States.
Any feedback, my readers?

Dienstag, 22. Februar 2011

Iranian protests at Berlinale

Last Thursday, 17 January, on the occasion of the discussion about Censored Cinema, attended by many members of the Iranians in Germany and Berlin, many of them young, creative, educated and having enough of the strange autocratic regime in Tehran. For sure, they deserve a better and normal life without being forced to exile.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Recent history of Berlin: Stalinallee

Play with me @Computerspielemuseum

I visited Computerspielemuseum shortly after the opening, at the beginning of this year. I am not a regular user of this kind of games and not exactly a high-tech person (for example, it took me a - long - while to find in my smartphone the notes I've made during the visit), only curious to see the place and the idea(s) behind. My obsessive observation about Germany and 2.0 is that, in fact, people are extremely good at the theoretical level but on the ground, the practice is extremely limited. For me, this is still a mystery I am trying to explore.

But, back to the museum. It was a(nother) rainy cold Sunday and I needed a lot of perseverance to go out of my Western home direction Karl-Marx-Allee. Which is not exactly the kind of ambiance I like to hang out - day or night, summer or winter. I was a bit annoyed by the thought that I will need to waste my time around, but the friendly signs at the U-Bahn helped me to reach my destination in less than 7 minutes.

The museum is located in a white-grey building from the above-named Allee, with a very similar design to the buildings you'll find in the former Soviet East and Russia. It looks like an old shop with nothing to find, or like the headquarters of an old unnamed institutions, where if you will take the risk of knocking you might be "welcomed" by a kalashnikov guy. Anyway, maybe my imagination is going too too far. As you can see from the picture, the place dedicated to the exhibition is only at one level - even I wished I to be surprise by an idea of creative design. Nothing by far: a very usual setting of objects, a chronological history of computer games - from the dungeons and dragons to various chess games or games created during the Cold War - not all of them available for playing. The limited space was used for rising various boxes and walls, organizing the space vertically. Still, it was quite annoying to move from a place to another and the kids were impatiently waiting in line to play their games. In many respects, I had the impression of being very back in the time of my childhood and youth: old computers, with the old sound of second generation games (the old versions of Tetris or Super Mario), joysticks and lots of black on the screens. Very few super 3D heroes and virtual entertainment. It was like trying to rediscover old habits and reflexes we forgot about because we upgraded our level. It is one of the reasons of a possible disappointment after visiting this place: we are used to be highly mobile and active, with multi-tasking attention skills. And this might be the advantage or the disadvantage of this museum. Anyway, I deeply hope that little by little there will be some changes...

Here are a couple of pictures from the exhibition:

I loved the nice colours and the graffiti-like wall decorations, very often more interesting than the content.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Montag, 21. Februar 2011

Movie review: No place to go

Still from the category "movies", an older one, I watched at the end of the last year: "No place to go" or, in the German version: Die Unberührbare (used for the Indian cast of the Untouchables).
Hannah Flanders, once a glamorous author and left-journalist, living in Munchen, is keen to move to Berlin, after the news of the fall of the Wall. Here, he is facing not only sentimental deceptions but also realize that the communist ideas she supported from her Western fancy appartment while financially supported by her bourgeois parents, weren't shared by the East Berliners. The reality of the deteriorated appartments from the East, in the middle of no man's lands separating an area from another, in contrast with the familiarity of the hotels from the West is obvious. Her life-long ideals are falling in the same time with the bricks of the wall.
The movie is sharing a bit of the traditional conflict between North and South, Berlin and Munich and the eternal denial of the Western Germany left. 
Enhanced by Zemanta

Movie Review: Berlin Calling - The German Trainspotting

Still under the influence of the Berlinale film festival (about which I will share my final conclusions in a later post), I intensively continued to watch some movies, among which the very popular Berlin Calling. As directly related to the culture of my host city, I was more interested to grasp some more information and inspiration about the recent and very recent history. With a normal taste of jealousy, because sharing episodes I haven't been part of. 

Paul Kalkbrenner aka DJ Ickarus is not a Berliner by birth, being born in Dresden, but the big reunited city is his main playground, be it for ad-hoc concerts in small barracks or for the rehab in a Moabit clinic. The rhythm of the city - sometimes depressing - is coinciding in many sequences with the pace of the city itself: going through a new facelift, imposing a new change of perspective and attitude. Ickarus' music is introducing in his songs the sounds of the new city - including variations of the obsessive signal of closing the doors from the S-Bahn. The big pressure of change is pushing some people apart, ignoring others, pushing some at the brinks of depression or nothingness. It is why the electronic music here is very original, without too many Indian/Oriental influences. You are what do you hear. The German Trainspotting is playing its own music, with its kids of the Berlin Wall and its stoned stars going by S-Bahn. The glimpse of the popular glamour.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Mittwoch, 9. Februar 2011

Berlinale - hunting for tickets

I waited for Berlinale 12 months. I made a careful list of several movies I would like to see - about 10.
Because I love making plans and accomplishing it. doesn't work this time.
First: I wanted to go to buy the whole bunch of tickets the last week. No chance, all the counters were closed. 
I repeated the experience today - after unsuccessfully trying to make a reservation via the Internet and the website got blocked several times (why should I pay additional costs for the online ticketing?): went again to Arkaden "mall" (forget the usual North American - or even Asian - representation of this word) and waited in line for 50 minutes. But, after almost one hour of waiting, in a very multicultural company (and this was the nice part of killing the time there), I was repeated politely that I can make reservations only 3 days in advance. In other words, I was able to buy only 1 (one) ticket. And I will have to repeat this experience tomorrow and the day after tomorrow. Funny? I don't know. At least, I had the occasion to share my nervosity to the quiet girls from the counters - about the website, the unfairness of this 3-day in advance treatment...The sweet answer is that they know those problems already and they do their best to solve all the issues in due time. Nice!
To be continued...
Enhanced by Zemanta

Sonntag, 6. Februar 2011

Sorgenfrei in Berlin

A couple of days ago, in a very quiet afternoon, I had a big cup of coffee and a tasty piece of cake in the quiet Worriesfree/the brute translation of Sorgenfrei/ in Schoeneberg. The recommendation you usually read about the place is the 50s-60s "charm". Indeed, the place is furbished with disparate - from the social and aesthetical point of view - pieces, most part of them available for sale. What I saw this week were not the must-have examples of creative design of the pre-hippy era. The counter looks like it was then - West or East Germany, the brown and grey nuances were common - the other products on sale: toys, books, pieces of porcelain, chairs etc.. I was fascinated by some big metal boxes for coffee, not on sale. I saw in other parts of Berlin shops or coffee houses furnished in the style of the time and it is not for me very clear what is the psychoanalitical root of this "love" for a period only two decades away of the WWII. If you ask me, I don't like this style at all and every time I am in such places I feel like being in a kitsch tomb.
However, I ignored this inconvenience while tasting the delicious cake - very fresh - and the coffee. All of them at extremely convenient prices. And a very careful service. For a long time, until it was time to close the kindergarten around, it was very quiet. Shortly after 17.00, mother with kids entered the place and infused a bit of life to the dead and stinky furniture.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Freitag, 4. Februar 2011

Berlinale, here I am

I waited for one year for this event. Mostly in the last three days I checked unpatiently the website twice the day. The tickets were not on sale yesterday, but I am ready to make the reservation for at least 10 movies and one shot of shorts. And hope to recover the failure of the last year, when I thought so much - in a procrastinated mood - about Berlinale that only two days before the closing I moved my thoughts from the quiet home...For almost nothing, in fact, but spying in the house of movies. 
Action, please!
Enhanced by Zemanta

Another brick in the Wall

Concert in process

This Tuesday, at Philharmoniker Berlin...