Wednesday, July 27, 2011

East Germany Museum & A Stroll

Living in Berlin, Lisa and I thought we'd be crazy not to view the historical and cultural sights of the city. Since a lot of our home improvement projects are finished, last Saturday Lisa and I explored the DDR museum in Mitte, Berlin. The DDR museum is devoted to East Germany history from 1949 till its reunification with West Germany in 1990.

The DDR museum reports that it is careful not to glamorize the communist past of the DDR. There were exhibits that demonstrated East Germany's deplorable environmental record, Stasi interrogations, and grocery stores being constantly without important food staples. However, there were also a lot of exhibits showing fair wages for workers, inexpensive housing, and universal education.

This shows what a typical East German apartment might look like (from the DDR museum website):

After our time at the DDR museum, we also walked along museum island (I think it's called, because it is between two tributaries). We purchased two museum passes that enable us to get into 8-10 museums in Berlin.

Pictures taken along our walk:

Neues Museum

Statues of Marx & Engels

Photos Of Labor/Labor Unrest Next To Marx/Engels Statues

Thursday, July 21, 2011


Lisa and I arrived in Berlin on June 13th after a wonderful honeymoon in Copenhagen, Denmark.

We quickly found a great balance: setting up the apartment, visiting friends (several of whom traveled from The Netherlands), setting appointments with various government offices for my assimilation into Germany, and relaxing together.

Over the next few weeks and months I plan to document my transition to Berlin, and to include the following topics:

1) German Bureaucracy

The stereotype about Germans being organized and punctual has been true in our experience....which has been wonderful. We have already completed the three steps necessary for my residency/work visa, and my passport was stamped this week with a 3-year work authorization.

2) Learning German

I finished Rosetta Stone disk 1, but am finding real-world spoken German and conversation to be more difficult. I will enroll in late August in a discounted German language and Germany integration course at a local college.

3) Apartment set-up

We have traveled to IKEA probably 4 times since I arrived in Germany. We have spent several Saturdays putting together furniture together (desks, chairs, bookshelf, wardrobe, etc.). We have found that we are a really great team when assembling furniture.

4) Church/community participation

We have attended 2 churches and were unenthusiastic. Germany, like other European states, provides money directly to a (Lutheran) church denomination. If a German taxpayer includes a Protestant denomination in their tax status, church taxes are taken out to support the Lutheran church. People can attend a state-supported church or choose another Protestant church (usually labeled generically as evangelical). The German people take seriously their summer breaks so the next 3 weeks churches near us don't even meet.

5) Mass Transit

What a delight to be able to travel via bus, tram, subway and regional train throughout the city. (East Berlin has trams available, West Berlin does not). I have met Lisa in various parts of Berlin for shopping, meeting friends, and dinner. A standard 2-hour fare throughout most of the city costs 2 Euros 30 cents, however, I can ride for free on weekends with Lisa.

This image file of Berlin transit can be enlarged, I believe. We live close to the Schönhauser Alle station.

6) Applying for a Job
When looking for positions while in the USA, companies usually asked whether or not I already had my work visa. This was a question to filter applicants. Now that I have my residency and work visa, I applied for 3 jobs Thursday. English is only required.

7) German Food
What bad can be said about schnitzel and sausage? More to come...

8) Cultural attractions
Lisa and I had visited several cultural attractions and museums already in Berlin- from Checkpoint Charlie, the Berlin Wall, the Reichstag, etc. We hope in the next week or so to purchase a 1-year museum pass that will provide admission to most museums in Berlin.

Here is a photo of an art installation from repositioned sections of the old Berlin wall:

One of many stunning views in Berlin with historic architecture, a river running through the city, and sunsets.

Until receiving the work visa, I have stayed home and worked there. I have been responsible for groceries, cleaning, laundry, etc. I have been happy to undertake these tasks and Lisa jokingly says she'd like me to stay at home and not work because life is so much easier now. I am proudly, for now, a househusband, helping things to run smoothly and glad that Lisa is so talented at work and receives a good paycheck.