Tuesday, 21 June 2016


The Germans have a word for it.

Yes, there is a word for “end of work”. An actual word devoted specifically to the moment of finishing work for the evening, the weekend or a holiday.

Feierabend is the happy moment of popping your beer open with a lighter, leaving the office, and cycling off into the evening.

It’s the moment when you can forget work and get on with life.

It’s the light at the end of the tunnel.

Feierabend is the thing every employee looks forward to with anticipation and joy – yet the term doesn’t exist in English. How is that possible?

“Schönen Feierabend” is probably the most used term by German colleagues, and, it doesn’t matter if it’s evening or not.

It’s something I miss at the end of the day.

What a brilliant word!

Wednesday, 15 June 2016


Music has been at the heart of Berlin since forever.

You only have to think back to Bowie playing in West Berlin in ’87 with hundreds of East Berliners listening from the other side of the wall, to realise just how much music means to Berliners.

Music is everywhere in the city. From bands playing randomly in the park to three day techno parties to an afternoon serenade under your window on a Sunday.

It’s something I really miss. There was always some friend’s gig or a music event to go to, or often you’re just simply cycling along and stumble upon something cool.

Not to mention the organised music events like Fête de la Musique in the summer where literally every corner of the city becomes a stage. Or the Sunday Kareoke in Mauer Park, which is great fun whether you want to embarrass yourself singing, or just watch.

Everyone seems to be a musician of sorts in Berlin: a singer; a drummer; someone making electronic music. We’ve all met them, always DJing, jamming or writing lyrics.

In my first apartment a pianist lived in the apartment above, which meant free concerts through the ceiling.

Music is a form of freedom of expression and is often a vehicle used by people with something to fight for, which probably goes some way towards explaining why Berlin lives and breathes music.

With clubs that have become international household names, it’s easy to see why hundreds of thousands of people flock to Berlin at the weekend for its music scene.

But, you don’t have to be into techno to find something you love music wise in Berlin. That said, it does help!

Monday, 6 June 2016


One of the first things I noticed when I arrived in Berlin was that the beer is cheaper than water!

Yes, in a Spätkauf (off licence) you can get a bottle of beer for just 1.20€, whereas a bottle of water will cost you 1.50€.

And if that is not reason enough to miss Berlin, I don’t know what is.

Even a beer in a bar will only set you back around 3€ compared to an average price of £5 in London. If you’re lucky.

It’s not just the price that I miss. German beers are great. Particularly those from Bavaria. (Sorry Berlin, but this is one area where your Southern neighbours beat you hands down).

I’d have to say Augustiner is my favourite, both the Helles and the Weissbier. But Paulaner comes a close second. A testament to Augustiner’s brilliance is that is does no advertising. It doesn’t need to.

There’s also a local brew in Kreuzberg that’s also very tasty, and cheap.

However, I haven’t really struggled in London when it comes to beer, particularly living down the road from Clapton Craft.

There are now lots of microbreweries surfacing in Berlin also, which is lucky, as I’ve developed quite a taste.

They’re not as cheap as the regular beers, but it’s worth it once in a while. Hopfenreich on Wrangelstrasse is definitely worth a try.

In a country that invented Oktoberfest, with two weeks dedicated to beer drinking, and where it’s customary to drink a Weissbier for breakfast (in Munich), beer is ingrained into the way of life.

The “wegbier” is a customary accessory for any discerning Berliner.

A beer after work is the only proper way to start the evening.

And there is unlikely to ever be a social situation that doesn’t involve beer. (Or is that just me?)

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Street Art

Although this piece of street art by Blu, “Businessman in watch chains”, has since been removed by the artist himself, in protest of gentrification, it is still one of my favourites in Berlin. And I’m sure I’m not the only one to miss it.

I recently got a phone cover with it on as a memory – although I’m sure this is one of the poor representations that annoyed Blu – using his street art as marketing for the city.

Politics aside, street art is one of the most vibrant and unique aspects of the city. Breaking up the urban landscape with colour and creativity.

It is not merely graffiti. It is art. And some truly brilliant pieces populate the city.

It was one of the first things that I noticed and which attracted me to Berlin.

A city that used to be divided by a wall, shows its heart and soul on the walls, making them as much of a creative part of the city, as the people themselves.

When I walk through Kreuzberg now, black spaces lie instead of what was once an integral part of Kreuzberg.

It’s sad, but it represents the change in the city that has never stood still.

It’s difficult really to put politics aside when talking of the street art in Berlin. You only have to walk beside the East Side Gallery, by the river, to see how the two are inextricably linked.

From the famous “Bruderkuss” kissing politicians, to the colourful swirly faces looking at you, to the flood of people breaking through a gap in the wall – they are all powerful pieces of art.

And they all leave an equally powerful political message written at the heart of the city.

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Bikes Rule

“Ring, ring” goes the bell on a Berlin bike.

Time to move out of the way. Quickly. What are you? An imbecile, a tourist, drunk?

Number one rule in Berlin - Don’t get in the way of a Berliner on a bike. Don’t you know that bikes rule the roost in Berlin?

Ah… I miss cycling around without a care in the world.

After taking to the roads in London, I quickly realised just how good you have it in Berlin.

The morning commute is incomparable.

In Berlin there are wide bike lanes, sometimes the width of a narrow London street; Nobody wears a helmet, not because they are not safety conscious, but because safety is already built in to the infrastructure (though this would freak out many of my London friends). There are separate traffic lights for bikes so you go first. Bliss.

Having a bike in Berlin is almost compulsory. A bit like in East London.

Riding around Berlin is one of the biggest pleasures of the city, and something I miss a lot.

Credit where credit’s due, my cycle ride to work in London has improved by over 100% over the last couple of years, since I moved back. However, this only brings them close to the standard in Berlin.

It’s so easy to cycle around Berlin – and although I was knocked off my bike there once – it is one of the safest cities I have cycled in.

Wide avenues and separate bike lanes make cycling easy, spacious, safe and pleasurable.

But one of the main reasons that cycling in Berlin is safer and fun, is that the cyclists rule.

Yes, that’s right – you’ll know this if anyone has ever rung their bell at you when you’re accidently walking in the bike lane.

Bikes generally have the right of way. They have the respect of both pedestrians and cars. Something where Londoners desperately need to catch up.

Bikes aren’t an annoyance or in the way. They are the way. They way of Berlin life.