Taking your baby to the beach with the Germans

Photo: Erin Porter

Practicing for our island vacation in Berlin. Photo: Erin Porter

We just got back from a week of vacation in Corfu, Greece and I can barely get over it. Plebs like us! Vacationing! For a WEEK! In Greece!

Being in Europe allows you to make affordable vacation choices to unbelievable destinations. And it was unbelievable. The island vacation of my dreams with perfectly clear waters, boat tours, fine sands, mouth-watering Greek food – all finished off with a shot of Ouzo. Heaven.

Despite our excitement, there were some reservations. Were we crazy for taking a 9-month old on a beach holiday? It seems to go against what some Germans feel is necessary when raising a child. Because – oh yes! – there are rules. Unwritten. And this expat has a knack for running into every one of them Read more »

How to Find Cheap Transatlantic Flights

Bargain Flights Between North America and Europe

Whether you’re an expat in Germany looking for a bargain flight for a visit to North America, or a tourist looking for a good deal on a flight to Europe, there are tricks and tactics you need to know in order to save money and have a good trip.

Condor

The German airline Condor offers low-cost flights to Germany from US and Canadian airports you may not have have even considered. PHOTO: Jürgen Lehle, Wikimedia Commons

Flying across the Atlantic has never been particularly cheap, but the cost of a round-trip air ticket between North America and Europe now has risen to new heights. In high season, in the summer months, the economy-class fare from the US east coast to Frankfurt (FRA) can set travelers back from $1500 to $2000, and even more for flights from west coast airports. That’s why many travelers are learning to consider an alternative to the usual major carriers: discount international airlines.

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A new crop of budget intercontinental airlines has applied the Southwest Airlines model for money-saving domestic flights to international air travel. They attract travelers with bargain fares that are usually below those of major carriers, and in some cases as much as $1000 cheaper per round-trip ticket. These budget carriers (Billigflieger in German) use a variety of tactics that allow them to still make a profit while saving their passengers money. Read more »

In Case of an Emergency

Accidents happen. Unfortunately one happened to a child of mine under the watch of an au pair whose redeeming characteristics became harder and harder to appreciate as the weeks of her time with us went by. Rima from Kyrgyzstan whose name still makes us all shudder, was a combination of a lot of negative attributes. She was difficult to communicate with and it wasn’t just because of her low level German or English language skills. After a conversation with her, we never knew if she didn’t understand, if she was offended, if she OK and in agreement, or what she was going to do. She had a general inability to follow simple direction which resulted in irregular punctuality, disregard for dietary restrictions and preferences, and carelessness and clumsiness (she dinged and scratched our brand new, fancy refrigerator not once but twice), and she had an inability to manage her money (having showed up from Bishkek with too little money, she asked for advances nearly every month. She needed to book her travel tickets to see Rome or Paris so in her words, it was important enough to justify asking for an advance.).

In case of an emergency, call 112 in Germany and throughout the European Union. PHOTO: Marco Fieber, Wikimedia Commons

In case of an emergency, call 112 in Germany and throughout the European Union. PHOTO: Marco Fieber, Wikimedia Commons

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How much does it cost to study in Germany, really?

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Source: Wikimedia Commons

When I speak to students and parents about the prospect of completing a degree in Germany, the question that invariably comes up is,”Ok, there’s no tuition, but how much does it really cost?” The answer is a bit complicated, but it largely depends on where you study and what type of lifestyle you want.

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Summer night at the Freiluftkino (open-air cinema)

IMG_4642A couple of weeks ago we had night without children (they were having a sleepover in the KiTa – worthy of another blog post). But what a rarity! Seeing a film was the obvious choice – prior to parenthood we went to the movies all the time. But it had been a beautiful summer’s day and the thought of spending the long light evening in a dark cinema didn’t seem to fit. The answer? Freiluftkino (open-air cinema).

Freiluftkinos barely exist in the UK, I suppose because the weather is too consistently inclement. I do know of one: the central courtyard of Somerset House in the middle of London screens movies for a few weeks in the summer – but that’s just a big screen and lots of people sitting on hard concrete using plastic bags as make-shift groundsheets and tucking into packets of crisps. It simply pales in comparison to the properly established infrastructure of the Freiluftkinos here.  Read more »

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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