“Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.” — Oscar Wilde

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Berlin Apartment Situation – Update

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We won out on this transaction.

While we were disappointed to have to leave the apartment that we’d locked in over a month ago, we are in fact extremely fortunate that Nora, our landlord, has such good friends.

We, in essence, we’ve been given an upgrade. We’re now in a much larger apartment – it’s essentially two rooms larger – with a massive chaise lounge, two spaces for writing. In true Berlin style, this place is also above a bar. But it has much better sound-proofing.

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Beautiful Berlin – The Saga Continues!

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So we have finally rid ourselves of the veritable rat den that was our longer-term sublease here in Berlin. It was a thrill the day we managed to move out of there, busing ten minutes across our part of town to our new apartment.

Everything about this place is better, from the floor to the view to the cleanliness of – well, everything. There’s no dust, no grime, it’s just nice.

So you can imagine our disappointment to have received a call from our landlord today, asking (pleading?) us whether we’d be happy to switch apartments to one owned by her friend in the next suburb over.

Now, it’s entirely possible that this other apartment exists and if it does, it’s entirely possible that it isn’t some kind of meth den. But why, I ask, is the onus on us? Legally, of course, it isn’t – other than the fact that we’re in a gray legal area with this sublease (though that’s her problem, of course – not ours).

But in dealing with people what’s legal is not always the be all and end all. Yes, we’ve prepaid the month’s rent and are therefore entitled to stay, but we’re in this weird situation where our landlord has effectively rendered herself homeless by having us stay in her apartment. It reminds me of the time we were staying in Bruges and our very drunk, very loud, AirBnB host asked if she could stay in the apartment with us, despite the fact that it was never on the cards after we paid a hefty price for the whole place.

But anyway, back we go to Berlin. How is it that our landlord is staying with friends while we’re in her apartment? That’s a good question. I’m not clear on the answer. What I do know is that when we were first put in touch with her (by a mutual friend) she was in Iceland giving a tour, so we didn’t meet her until we were just about to move in. She seemed neurotic, but nothing we aren’t accustomed to and confident we can handle.

So what we do know is that, in the interim period between when we first met her at the apartment and finalized details and the day we moved in, her plans changed – she was no longer moving to Sicily for a month, but staying in Berlin. We only found this out when we were already moving our things in, which was more than a little awkward – but what can you do? She assured us that she had places to stay and we assumed she needed the money.

Plus, we had no fall back plan, so had she reneged ont he deal at that point we would have been left out on the cold, in every which way.

I’m currently on the lounge and tomorrow we’re supposed to be chatting with Nora, our sublessor, about ‘options’ – she apparently has possession of this second apartment and we’re ‘welcome’ to stay, except for the part where it feels like we’d be most unwelcome. She is clearly the kind of person who needs order in her life, which I can understand, albeit to a degree that I cannot.

I think we’re in for an awkward discussion tomorrow. She claims this other apartment is really nice, bigger than hers (we don’t need the space) and in a better location (we like this location).

I told her we’d be able to talk about it, but that naturally we are surprised by the development.

So just when we thought we were finally in the clear, perhaps we are not. But we certainly aren’t just going to roll over and take it.

On the one hand, I understand that she’s got herself into a bit of a messy situation with the apartments. On the other hand, one of us is going to be inconvenienced. Even if the other place is nicer, we will have to move – again – just after we settled in. That’s a pain, when we’re really just trying to be productive.

On the other hand, all her things are here and it’s entirely feasible that she was just honoring our agreement because she felt guilty about leaving us in the lurch. I’m not sure, but I can’t rule out the possibility.

So perhaps in a couple of days I’ll be writing from Kreugberg, rather than Neukolln. It’s possible. I don’t know, I guess even though we’ve settled and everything my natural inclination would be to be understanding and go along with it – provided it’s as nice. But maybe that’s just me being soft. It probably is.

What I do know is it’s awkward to stay in any place where you aren’t wanted.

Onto other updates and learnings from Berlin in the sequel to this post, to be published very soon.

We spent Friday, Mel’s birthday, out and about – and had a rollicking good time. In the morning, we had breakfast at the top of the Fernsehturm (TV Tower), which brought to five our tally of revolving restaurants (alongside Sydney, Canberra, Bangkok and Pyongyang).

Other than the hilarious (and ever so German) requirement that you either cloak your jacket, or wear it at all times – “it is not allowed to place your jacket on your seat back” – and the fact that we encountered the first foggy morning in three months in Berlin, we had a great time. They even served Gluten Free bread, which, while bearing no obvious resemblance to bread in form, appearance, taste or texture, did a commendable job of maintaining a reliable barrier between my fingers and the butter.

We didn’t get a great view, but the fog gave us a lot of laughs so in a way, I guess that was even better(?) I’ll just leave that as an open question.

We then headed north, further into old ‘east’ Berlin, where we tried a new coffee place named ‘Oslo’. Of course, it was staffed by an Australian (assisted by a very whiny German) and managed by an American.

The coffee was ok, but not great, by third-wave Berlin standards (although I think if the Australian girl had made them we’d have been much better of). But all this paled into insignificance in comparison to the amount of sheer entertainment value we got from the antics of the German staff member. Like every good German language text book I had in school, I’m going use cultural stereotypes and call him Hans.

Poor Hans had a very fragile sense of pride and was very easily hurt. This did not, for him at least, play very well alongside the extremely dry, sarcastic – perhaps in Australia you’d say ‘no bullshit’ – personality of Kylie (perhaps her real name, probably not, but I play my stereotypes fairly).

So while relegated to drinking flavourless coffee, we were treated to the delicious spectacle of Kylie taking Hans to task a number of times for his failures as an employee, as well as Hans essentially begging for attention in a sickening display of neediness and emotional inadequacy.

Mel particularly enjoyed it when Kylie made a very Australian sarcastic comment, to which Hans paused for a few second and eventually replied, in an extremely humorless voice “your sarcasm is mistimed”. I think there is an outside chance it was an attempt at wit, but probably not. Poor Hans, he really didn’t get it.

The highlight for me was when Hans tried to corner Kylie and take her to task for not laughing sufficiently at his jokes. Come on, Hans; how old are you?

At this point, I suggested to Mel I’d like to help her out and say something to him along the lines of “you sound like an idiot”, but Mel reassured me that Kylie could take care of herself. Of that I have absolutely no doubt.

I’d say that Hans is a man that needs to try harder, but it’s not the trying that’s his problem, really – it was just a depressingly bad display of execution. The sense of relief in the place, not just from Kylie, but the other patrons listening into his petty moans and complaints, was palpable when Mr American guy entered the cafe and got to work.

So off we trotted to our next destination, the Berlin zoo! I haven’t been to a zoo in a very long time; Mel and I took my brother Jayden to our local zoo when he was about 3 feet shorter than he currently is. That was the last time. I’ve been to lost of aquariums, or rather, the same aquarium lots of times, since Mel developed her penguin addiction, but I’d forgotten how cool zoos are.

Obviously there are a lot of legitimate arguments about the treatment of animals in captivity, so I’ll just acknowledge that and move on for present purposes. Perhaps it’s something we can look into on the Fair Marketeers blog. Instead, I’m just going to talk about the highlights – and funnies – from our day out.

Firstly, they had a Polar Bear – or as the Germans prefer to call them (it’s obvious why, it’s a much cooler name), an Eis Bear.

I think it could have done with a friend. But in any case, it’s the first Polar Bear I’ve ever seen and seemed healthy, if not excited by life.

There were some amazing Rhinos, some very active Hippos (another first for me) and a fantastic sea lion show, complete with the cliched – though I’d never before realized possible – trick of balancing a ball on the nose. Those guys were cool.

The penguins – they have three species; two inside in the cold and one outside. Mel hadn’t seen two of the three prior, so was able to tick two off her bucket list, which was pretty cool. I was a bit disappointed for her that we didn’t get to see the Rockhopper Penguins actually jump on anything – they were really chubby, in truth – but they were there at least.

The African penguins outside were the most exciting – and they were pretty cute so kind of made up for the apathy of their disinterested brothers and sisters indoors.

Other highlights? Oh, the Senegal Bush Babies – I have never seen anything like these! Really they have to be seen to be believed. About 10cm high, but they could leap up to – and hold onto – the ceiling of the room in a single jump. And then jump straight back to the spot they’d left, seemingly without exerting any effort at all.

Incredible!

But the image that will be forever and indelibly etched in our minds is of an activity of a much more primal nature. That is, our up-close and just at the right angle view of the majestic, yet gruesome; powerful, yet guttural three second lovemaking session between the resident lion and lioness.

Shocking as it was brief, the gathered spectators (including a number of parents who’d brought children along) were left stunned – but endlessly entertained – by their time witnessing the most energetic phase of the ‘circle of life’.

And when she – and then he – fell to the ground in an almost comically overacted display of exhaustion, the assembled crowd couldn’t help itself but to catch a fit of the giggles.

Fun times at the zoo, indeed.

Would I recommend the Berlin Zoo? I would give it an eight out of ten for the variety, and a five for family friendliness.

To round out the day, we caught the U-Bahn a hefty fifteen stops to Mitte, in the old British quarter, in pursuit of a gluten free pizza. Yes, these are the lengths we go to for the simplest pleasures in life.

The place was great, and they even served us a Tiramisu, which was delightful. The house-made pizza base was, well, house made. But I give them points for trying. Is it telling that still, the best gluten free pizza bases we’ve ever been served came from Costco?

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Million Word Challenge – Day Thirty-Five

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And what a day thirty-five!!

Mel and I were a bit distracted today, as the Liberal party room put a petty tyrant out to pasture and ABC Australia kindly lifted its geo-block so we could share in the joy alongside out bleary-eyed friends and compatriots at home.

The one big disappointment for me was that, literally last night, I’d made final edits on a long article I was planning on submitting for publication to the Huffington Post in Australia – but which, in an instant was rendered redundant.

If you’re interested, here is the article. It’s called: “What is wrong with my country?

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What is Wrong with My Country?

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*UPDATE: Between last night and this morning here in Berlin, a lot has happened here – Malcolm Turnbull has finally announced a challenge to Tony Abbott’s leadership. As the one person in the present cabinet that I trust to have at least some principle, I’m extremely hopeful he can start fixing some of the damage.*

I, like millions of children of the eighties, grew up believing that my country stood for something. Quite apart from the autocratic regimes of the world, away from those who would try to exert their influence over the less powerful, we occupied our little corner of the world, raising out heads occasionally to help out when our friends needed a hand.

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Beautiful Berlin – Update Post

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So we have finally rid ourselves of the veritable rat den that was our longer-term sublease here in Berlin. It was a thrill the day we managed to move out of there, busing ten minutes across our part of town to our new apartment.

Everything about this place is better, from the floor to the view to the cleanliness of – well, everything. There’s no dust, no grime, it’s just nice.

So you can imagine our disappointment to have received a call from our landlord today, asking (pleading?) us whether we’d be happy to switch apartments to one owned by her friend in the next suburb over.

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A Little Berlin Update (and Where to Next?)

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I feel a bit obligated to write this post, since my last Berlin posts centred more around our struggles finding accommodation and the adventure of discovering good coffee, which were the matters that we cared most about early on, as well as the nature of German bureaucracy (that is, overbearing and inefficient in the extreme).

So in this post, I’ll talk more about German bureaucracy, but gone private.

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Million Word Challenge: Day Fourteen

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Hi all – today marks the 14th day of the challenge, which means I’ve made it successfully through two difficult weeks towards my ultimate goal of a million words.

They say a habit takes three weeks to form, so I’m hoping I’ll make it one more.

At this point, I’m thinking of mixing up my habits a bit; starting off in the morning with writing at least 1000-1500 words will make the rest of the day much easier.

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Welcome to Berlin – Our Pitfalls for You to Avoid (Part Deux) (Zwei?)

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Guten Tag.

In my last article I wrote about Berlin neighborhoods and housing. I don’t think there was a great deal of importance that I didn’t cover, so I’ll move onto some other topics in this post.

Food:

Eating out is an interesting experience here. If you want something German, you can get a Currywurst or a pretzel – actually anything bread-based at all – pretty much anywhere.

Like much of Europe, there is also the omnipotent presence of these dodgy hole-in-the-wall style fried everything restaurants with the board out the front, each proudly displaying in 1990s-style clipart the delectable, dot-matrixed, cholesterol-laden Deutsch (style) delicacies within.

I’m sure they’re delicious, you just may not get out alive. To me, these places fit within the category of a high risk of respect loss. Relevantly, if Mel saw me eating that food in a place like that, I would offer even money that I’d irrevocably lose some respect in her eyes. It would be roughly equivalent to, say, punching a homeless person, waxing my own chest or passing out in a pool of someone else’s vomit.

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Million Word Challenge – Day Six

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Today’s update is a short one, because I basically poured my effort into continuing my opus from yesterday; the ‘Welcome to Berlin‘ post. Characteristically, 5000 words in it is still far from finished. So I’ve called it ‘Part One’.

Words written today on that post: 2781 words.

This post: 59 words.

Total: 2840 words.

Too easy – and still on track. Catch you tomorrow!

 

 

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The importance of maintaining habits (even if it’s cold and dark outside and you really don’t want to)

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Look at that Tortured Face!

I am not an expert in this area at all, but am compelled to talk from my personal experience of the last few weeks.  I’ve been striving to bring more structure into my work days beginning with early-morning blogging for around half an hour (500 words) every day except Wednesday (which is when I learn to code).

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