An Englishman abroad
One short trip to Berlin and one giant leap towards our plans for 2011.
We have chosen an apartment in Berlin!
Nearly two weeks ago, we boarded an EasyJet flight to Berlin and kept our fingers crossed that our tight schedule of apartment viewings and appointments would run smoothly. They did – like clockwork, actually. We also got a few extra viewings thrown in, some chilly weather and torrential November rain – my Berlin coat has already proved its worth.
I wrote a short while ago about my attempts to book accommodation for the visit. Well, all that research was for nothing because my apartment booking in Friedrichshain fell through. For several days before our outward flight, I contacted the owner to confirm the booking. No answer. So I emailed again. And called and emailed and called. Just a few hours before our flight we decided to cut our losses and book somewhere else. Ten minutes before take off, I checked my emails and there it was – the original booking was cancelled. What an idiot and so much for Airbnb.com. And what a good job we covered ourselves.
Luckily, we found very reasonable, comfortable and pleasant accommodation at the Pension Arche in Charlottenburg…with breakfast…literally round the corner from our first apartment viewing. Perfect!
Anyway, to give an idea of our itinerary, here’s a screen grab of the journeys we completed:
And here’s a list:
- Schönefeld to Charlottenburg
- Charllottenburg to Neukolln
- Neokolln to Kreuzberg
- Kreuzberg to Friedrichshain
- Friedrichshain to Schöneberg
- Schöneberg to Tegel
- Tegel to Prenzlaur Berg
- Prenzlaur Berg to Charlottenburg
- Charlottenburg to Mitte
- Mitte to Tegel
- Tegel to Friedrichshain
- Friedrichshain to Mitte
- Mitte to Prenzlaur Berg
- Prenzlaur Berg to Schönefeld
It looks a little like we’ve taken a blue crayon and scribbled all over Berlin. But the map doesn’t include the kilometres of wandering on foot. We had a lot of information to gather in very limited time. We did lots of walking – assessing distances to the nearest U Bahn, the nearest bar, the nearest supermarket, the nearest park.
I feel a little cautious about giving too many details of where we’ll be living. I don’t expect anyone to actually read this blog but you never know and…well, you never know.
Suffice to say that we have an apartment and a spacious one at that. It’s not the coolest district so our neighbours are unlikely to be writers, artists and filmmakers – but that’s part of the appeal. We’re not in the centre but we’re just a 15 minute U-Bahn ride to Friedrichstrasse.
As I’ve mentioned before, renting in a foreign country is fraught with difficulty. Language is obviously a massive potential obstacle. We half wondered whether we’d find somewhere owned by a Russian property mogul. There was also the prospect of ‘Schufa’ checks (rental history check). We have no rental arrears in the UK but no record of this in Germany. We may also have needed to show proof of income/salary – again, tricky as we intent to do freelance work. All these potential problems have been side-stepped with the apartment we have chosen and we feel pretty lucky to have found it. Thankfully, but also typically for Berliners, our landlord speaks excellent English. He’s a normal bloke who’s looking for nice tenants. He’s even translated the rental agreement into English for us. It’s all been surprisingly simple.
Perhaps the most important detail? We move in early February.
At this stage, it’s worth noting how much of an enabler the Internet is. Okay, it’s almost crass to say it. We all know the Internet is useful but just bear with me…
Not so long ago, how could I have co-ordinated an apartment-hunting visit in a foreign country? How could I have dealt directly with landlords and seen so many places without expensive help? How could I have checked all those photographs? How else could I discuss rents? How else could I check addresses and look at photographs of locations? How could I research German health insurance, German residency certificates and some of the pitfalls ahead of us? How could I have researched Berlin’s public transport network? How else could I send and receive messages/emails throughout the visit?
As fast as the Internet might be in future, as archaic as our desktops, laptops and smartphones may seem in ten year’s time, the Internet is a portal to the rest of the world. It’s a wonderful thing to have these facilities at my finger tips.
Everyone should have an international Internet project on go. It’s cool.
Anyway, here are a few camera phone pictures from the trip: