Berlin Tip: Grand Opening of the Pfefferberg Theater Berlin

Aufbruch 2When I first came to Berlin in 2002, Pfefferberg was just about the coolest place I’d ever been to. Sitting out under the stars in the Berlin summer, drinking a good German beer, and listening to live music was for me the absolute height of sophistication. On the way up the hill along Schönhauser Allee going towards Mauerpark and what was then the pretty scruffy, vibrant east of Berlin (now much more touristy and rather gentrified), Pfefferberg was (and still is) a bar, club, restaurant, and cultural complex occupying the half-derelict site of an old brewery and beer garden, whose presence could be dated back to the mid-nineteenth century. In the in-between time, the site was used for other industry (pre-WWII ) and as a printers and publishers (GDR). But the beer garden was in active use throughout. Post-reunification the site stayed in public hands. Local groups got organized to make the area into a communal area for culture. Renovation started in 2000, a gallery opened in 2001, the beer garden was still there, and the rest has built up gradually, with the latest addition being the Pfefferberg Theater Berlin – celebrating its opening on 13 – 15th November. And that’s what I want to talk about here.  Read more »

Preparing your Child for Preschool in Germany

Ready to play

Ready to play for a living.

Do Germans have a saying for “When it rains, it pours”? After months (and months) of house hunting we finally got a place, only to be offered another Wohnung right after that. Now we just need to find a Nachmieter (a renter to take over our current lease), move, clean and settle into the new place…all while our baby is starting Krippe (baby daycare). Easy, right?

Her first day of school is October 1st and I am almost thankful for the housing chaos.  With all this madness I don’t have too much time to think about my baby leaving me.

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Alexander von Humboldt: Why Do We Find His Name All Around the Globe and Even on the Moon?

The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World by Andrea Wulf

Let’s start at the beginning. There are several special reasons I wanted to read this new Humboldt biography.

Humboldt in South Amaerica

A portrait of Alexander von Humboldt in South America (detail, 1806) painted by Friedrich Georg Weitsch (1758–1828). The original is displayed at the Alte Nationalgalerie in Berlin. PHOTO: Wikimedia Commons

When I was still teaching German, my high school in Reno, Nevada participated in a student exchange with a school in Berlin-Köpenick. The Berlin school’s name was Alexander-von-Humboldt-Oberschule. (Now it’s the Alexander-von-Humboldt-Gymnasium.) Our Reno-Berlin GAAP exchange took place in 1995/1996. (I also conducted earlier GAAP school exchanges in Freiburg.) I’m pleased to say that AvH still has an ongoing GAAP exchange with a high school in Texas. There are also secondary schools bearing the name Alexander-von-Humboldt-Gymnasium in Bremen, Hamburg, Schweinfurt, Neuss, and other German towns and cities.

Humboldt’s name is also found on many schools at all levels all across Germany and in many other parts of the world. I even have a rather tenuous tie to the Colegio Humboldt, a Germany-sponsored K-12 private school in Puebla, Mexico. I once visited the school and knew a teacher there. The Humboldt school in Puebla – with classes in German and Spanish – was founded in 1911.

I live in Nevada, a state that also features the name Humboldt on a river, a county, and a ghost town. Humboldt was also one of the names considered for the state when the Territory of Nevada was seeking statehood in the 1860s, a fact mentioned in Andrea Wulf’s The Invention of Nature.

Today Alexander von Humboldt’s name designates towns, parks, counties, mountains, rivers, an ocean current, capes, bays, a glacier, a geyser, and even landmarks on the moon. Who was this guy? Why did Andrea Wulf write a new biography about him? Read more »

Englischunterricht: English Class in German Schools

Your child is a native English speaker in the German school system. So now what?

Many of us expats are raising our kids multilingually. In many of these cases, our children are native English speakers. We’ve been told that this is a great thing to do, and I for one have been feeling good about our commitment to the one parent, one language method working out. My kids are indeed bilingual.

Haus house Maus mouse. The road to biliteracy might not be as expected. PHOTO: Bundesarchiv, Wikimedia Commons

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Airbnb in Germany: The Debate Continues

Souce: Ansgar Koreng CC

Berlin Wedding Source: Ansgar Koreng

Every year, millions of tourists flock to Germany, a number that has been increasing year over year for over a decade. Most choose to stay in traditional forms of accommodation, but an increasing number are renting rooms directly from locals through websites like Airbnb. This has caused to a backlash against the site in many cities with limited housing, such as Berlin, Hamburg and Frankfurt, and led to a regulatory pushback that has seen the outlawing of unregistered vacation homes and the creation of compliance forces authorized to enter suspected illegal housing without a warrant. But despite this, Airbnb continues to grow in popularity, gaining new listing every day. So, you’ve got an apartment with an extra room, or you’re out of town regularly on business. Should you list your apartment on Airbnb, and what do you need to consider before doing so?

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Making a small contribution – refugees in Berlin

One of the biggest grass-roots organizations set up to help refugees in Germany

One of the biggest grass-roots organizations set up to help refugees in Germany

The situation is all over the news, it’s what people are earnestly discussing over dinner, it has moved the country on a national scale – I’m talking about Europe’s migrant crisis and the role Germany is playing.

This is not the time nor place to be political. All I’ll aim to do here is offer a few fleeting observations as an expat in the Hauptstadt (capital) and give a few tips on what you can do to help if you’re so inclined.  Read more »