Berlin Day Trips

This summer’s disappointing weather has vacillated between pouring rain and all-consuming heat that leaves you dripping with sweat. Both ways, you end up wet. And not entirely happy.

Perhaps that is why I am casting my eyes outside of Berlin for some summer fun. Sometimes you’ve just got to get out of the city and into the Berlin countryside (or a little further afield). Here are several Berlin day trips with something for every breed of expat or traveler.

 Peacock Island (Pfaueninsel)

Pfaueninsel

For the Nature Lover

Pfaueninsel – “Peacock Island” is a walkable island on a nature reserve in the River Havel. It couldn’t get more peaceful…except for the occasional shriek of a peacock. Yes – real peacocks live on the island!  Once the summer escape for Frederick William II (and a haven for his mistress), this island had all the reminders of long-ago decadence. This UNESCO World Heritage Site has a shuttered castle, exotic birds and an air of elegance, all easily reachable by public transport and a very short ferry ride from Berlin.

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Cell Phone Tips for International Travelers and Road Warriors: Dual SIMs, Unlocked Phones, and Free Roaming

Samsung Duos

The Samsung Galaxy S Duos GT-S7562 GSM mobile phone lets you use two SIM cards in one device. PHOTO: Samsung

The German Way already offers informational pages on what expats should know about using an iPhone or other mobile phones in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Europe in general. But in this blog post I want to explore another aspect of “Handys” (the German word for cellular phone): staying connected while traveling the globe – without breaking the bank.

Today all the main North American carriers – AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, and Verizon in the United States, plus Bell and Rogers in Canada – offer multiband mobile phones that will work in Europe and most other locations around the globe. But if you simply fly off to Europe with your North American smartphone in hand, you could soon face an unpleasant surprise in the form of an outrageous cell-phone bill. Data use can be a real killer! A little advance planning can help you avoid that problem and a few others.

Like many expats and ex-expats, I travel often to Europe and other destinations. When I travel in the US or abroad I like to stay in touch – via my mobile phone and/or my laptop. During my last trip to Guatemala, I had some problems using my iPhone, but that was only because I failed to do what I always do before I head off to Europe: plan ahead! Read more »

Swimming in Germany

It’s summer time and those of us in Germany have just emerged from an intense week of record breaking heat (40 degrees C/104.5 degrees F). What to do in this heat in an air condition-less country? Hit the water.

While dipping your feet into that water might be all you need, you might want to go all the way. If you’re wondering how water safe you or your child is, fear not, there is a swimming testing process here in Germany that tells you exactly what your level is.

The early swim badges. PHOTO: Jane Park

The early swim badges. PHOTO: Jane Park

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US Women Destroy Germany’s World Cup Dreams

The USWNT Made Good Last Night

The USWNT Made Good Last Night

The headline in today’s Bild online says it all: US-Girls zerstören unseren WM-Traum. In a contest between the top two teams in the world last night, the United States came out on top 2-0 in a surprisingly dominant performance, outlasting a loaded German side in the most anticipated match of the tournament. Germany was heavily favored going into the game, despite a nailbiter against France last weekend. But the USWNT made good on the promise they brought into the tournament to peak at the right time and pulled off the win in front of the rabidly pro-USA crowd in Montreal.

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Mahlzeit!

MahlzeitFor the first time since we moved to Berlin over five years ago, I am required to go (most days, at least) to an office with lots of German people. Up until a few months ago, I’d either worked from home or from a small co-working space. But now, from behind computer screens and over the kettle in the shared kitchen, I see Germans at work – a novel and culturally enlightening experience for many reasons, not least because of “Mahlzeit!”

Have you ever heard a German say “Mahlzeit” and wondered what it meant – sitting down to a meal perhaps or some time around the middle of the day? Why should they be reminding me it’s a mealtime, you might have thought, if you’d understood the word but not really grasped what they were getting at. Read more »

Long-Distance Grandparenting

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Soaking up the rare in-person grandparenting

We knew one of the hardest parts of having a baby abroad was going to be the distance from our respective hometowns. While we call Berlin home, we have no idea what being a kid in a big city is like, what challenges our little Berliner will face.

I grew up in a small town in Washington State once known for its farming. My life was all horse riding and soccer (not Fußball). The “big city” of Seattle was about an hour away, but I only got there on special occasion.

Then we uprooted our life to move to the German capital. Though Berlin has an unusually relaxed atmosphere for a major metropolis, it is still city living. What is it like to have a bilingual child in a language I am still too shaky in? Is she going to confidently travel the city by herself like those roving gangs of 10-year-olds I see? What do I do when my 15-year-old orders herself a beer?

Even more than these (possibly petty) worries, we wonder about the effects of raising her away from her grandparents. All of them are still based in the States. Though we took parental leave for almost 2 months over Christmas and spent everyday getting showered in new grandparent love – this is a far-cry from being based in the same city, or even the same state, the same continent. Through no-fault of their own, our parents are trying to make Long-Distance Grandparenting work.

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