A Prussian in Hawaii: Heinrich Berger and the Royal Hawaiian Band

The story of Heinrich (later Henry or Henri) Berger has fascinated me ever since I first learned about the Prussian military musician. Berger traveled all the way from Berlin to Honolulu in 1872 – no simple journey in that day and age. Prussian Emperor (Kaiser) Wilhelm I had sent Berger to Hawaii at the request of King Kamehameha V on what was originally supposed to be a four-year assignment to lead and improve King Kamehameha’s Royal Hawaiian Band. Except for two visits to his homeland and several band tours on the mainland, Berger would remain in Hawaii until he died in 1929. He would head the king’s brass band from 1872 until 1915.

I first wrote about Berger here in our blog in 2010, following a visit to Honolulu that year. During a return trip in June 2012, I learned more about Berger and his band. He arrived in Honolulu Harbor on June 2, 1872, following an arduous journey involving ships and trains. And it is his journey – and his life – that I want to discuss here. Continue reading

Flying the German Way: Landing Applause

As I write this I’m on a cruise ship just off the Pacific coast of Mexico heading south from San Diego towards the port of Acapulco. That’s a bit ironic because (a) there are about a hundred German tourists on board our Mexico-bound vessel, and (b) I’m writing about flying and something I call “landing applause.”

San Diego

The scene as our cruise ship sailed out of San Diego. On the right: the Midway Museum aboard the famous WWII carrier. PHOTO: Hyde Flippo

Before we get to the flying part, a bit more about “die Deutschen” on board. Most of them hail from the Essen region of Germany, although at least one lady I spoke with yesterday is Austrian. One man from Essen or thereabouts surprised me by being much more chatty than your typical German, telling me (in German) all about his group’s Amerikareise. (Germans do tend to travel in groups, although there are exceptions.) He and his compatriots had flown from Germany to Atlanta, and then on to Los Angeles. They had seen a bit of the American West before boarding the Norwegian Sun in San Diego. As is often the case with Germans, this was not his first visit to the United States. We had our brief fellow-passengers conversation as our ship steamed (actually diesel-electricaled) out into the Pacific while most of us were standing on the upper deck watching the San Diego skyline and Coronado island recede into the hazy distance. San Diego lies close to the Mexican border, and soon we were in international waters within sight of northern Baja California’s mountains. Continue reading

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. Your cheap air ticket options are increasing, especially if you consider new airlines, departure cities and destinations. Flexibility in dates also can save you a lot of money, even with legacy airlines.


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

If you have never considered New Orleans, Pittsburgh, or Providence before, those US cities will offer non-stop flights to Frankfurt in 2017, at rates much lower than legacy airlines. If you add newer airlines such as Edelweiss, Norwegian, and WOW to your plans, you can fly internationally to or from many cities for less. Of course, there can be catches, so read more below.

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. Continue reading

Berlin still waiting for a new airport and its first Apple Store

When it comes to new airports or new Apple Stores, Berlin is what the Germans call a “Katastrophe”!

Visible construction work on a new Apple Store on Berlin’s elegant shopping boulevard, the Kurfürstendamm, began in January 2011. Even before work began, several Apple blogs, both German and American, breathlessly announced the news: Berlin, the German capital, was at last going to get an official Apple Store! But with January 2013 only a week away, Berlin is still waiting for its first Apple Store to open.

On January 14, 2011, ifoAppleStore.com posted an article entitled Century-Old Building To House Berlin Apple Store. Complete with photos of the building, the article stated: “Almost 100 years after it was constructed along tree-lined Kurfürstendamm avenue in Berlin (Germany), the historic UFA Film-Bühne Wien cinema will regain some of its original glory when Apple opens a retail store inside the building by year’s end. According to the Kurfuerstendamm.de Web site, Apple has leased the building at #26 and is awaiting permit approvals to begin construction. The store will finally bring Apple to the capitol [sic] city, four years after the first Germany store opened in Munich.” Continue reading

Tschüss, Jet Lag!

For many expats, long distance air travel is just a regular part of our lifestyle. Whether you travel “home” sporadically for visits, or if you essentially live between two or more places, overseas travel, and all that comes with it, is just another challenge that we expats must learn to manage. I spend about eight or nine months here in Europe, and three or four back in Canada. This is now my sixth year living this way and have subsequently  banked eleven overseas flights so far. If you are anything like me, such an endeavour can really take a toll on your body. That exhausted, jet laggy feeling can ruin the first few days at your destination and can lead to a state of dread regarding all future travel.

Jet lag has always been a problem for me. Whether I’m returning home and trying my best to stay up past 10 pm, or if I’m back in Europe staring at the clock at 4 am, I have always had an issue with time change. Just the process of flying for so long leaves me feeling ill, especially nauseated. Coupled with that “bubble” feeling of jet lag, I end up having what feels like a flu for at least the first three or four days. Long distance travel and jet lag also have a big impact on guests. While some of us may have the luxury of taking a few days to get used to the time difference, people coming in for a week or two to visit, do not want to waste such time. So, over my years of traveling and hosting, I have worked at developing a method for easing the woes of overseas travel, and this year I believe I have perfected it! I gloriously experienced zero symptoms of jet lag this time around,  and avoided getting any sort of ill. And so, of course, it is a must that I share this method with all of you.

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German efficiency and Berlin’s new airport

There is a German term for “German efficiency” – several in fact: deutsche Gründlichkeit, Effizienz, Fähigkeit, Leistungsfähigkeit, Tüchtigeit. German efficiency can be found gloriously in German doors and windows, in energy use (hall lights that only turn on if there’s motion; escalators that only start running when you step on them), in ecology (waterless urinals, low-flow toilets), in Bauhaus architecture (“less is more”), and in German manufacturing (think cars and giant turbines).

On the other hand, German efficiency can be very much overrated. The cliché can become mythical and frustratingly elusive. Germany’s often impenetrable bureaucracy is a case in point. Or Berlin’s new airport, where German efficiency has disappeared entirely and turned into raging incompetence. Continue reading

Moving with Max

Pets are becoming more and more a part of the family. They live in our homes, sleep in our beds, and the lucky ones even join us on vacations. So when considering relocation to another country many pet owners would never dream of leaving their furry family members behind. Thankfully for us pet-people, German-speaking countries welcome pets, especially dogs. While moving with your pet to Austria, Germany, or Switzerland may be far less complicated than say to the UK where quarantine rules apply, these countries do require three very important things: a valid rabies vaccination with proof, an identifying microchip, and some additional paperwork.

Switzerland, Austria and Germany currently require the standard EU veterinary certificate, formally called Form 988, which your North American vet will likely be familiar with and may have copies available in their office. There is a fee to have this form filled out. In the past this form has required an endorsement stamp from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency or The United States Drug Administration. Currently the form only asks for your vet’s stamp. Be sure to check each time you are to travel as I have found these requirements change time to time. Form 988 can be ordered online or downloaded through various websites, for example: Continue reading

Transatlantic with the Toddler

There are so many horror stories I could share involving transatlantic travel. I entertained my babysitter the other day by regaling my worst memories of flights between Europe and North America, some of which involve being sandwiched between an overweight, unhappy married couple, or missing my connection due to the deranged older woman who caused the plane to turn around mid-ocean. I was used to the long-haul flight, the hours of boredom and unrest, the painful itching in your legs to get up and move when there are still three hours to go, but that was all paradise compared to international travel with children.

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