Sunday, 25 October 2015

Rush Hour in Berlin

Due to a mixture of geographic and lifestyle factors, Berlin doesn't have much of a 'rush hour' to speak of.

I have a genuine question for Berliners - is there anything resembling a rush hour in this city? Perhaps it's the area in which I reside or the nature of my work, but after four months of living here I have yet to see any difference in traffic patterns or public transport ridership during the traditional commuting times of the day.

Maybe it just seems comparatively inactive because I'm coming from Brussels, which sees bumper-to-bumper gridlock throughout the city from 7h to 10h and 16h to 19h. I've noticed that it's only gotten worse since they closed Boulevard Anspach, the main thoroughfare in central Brussels, to pedestrianise it. During my Brussels weeks these past months I've seen traffic at an absolute standstill. I'm heading to Belgium tomorrow for another Brussels week, and I expect to spend much of the week sitting in traffic.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Coming home to the Brussels village

My 'Brussels weeks' feel a bit like coming back to my home village.

I’m on the train back to Berlin after a week in Brussels. Given that I’m now four months in with this dual-city life, I was naturally getting a lot of questions during this ‘Brussels week’ about how it’s going. 

So far so good, has been my response. The two cities are so remarkably different so it’s nice to shake things up every two weeks. The train has served me well as a sort of ‘mobile office’, and so far it hasn't felt too disruptive.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

In Berlin, it's better to have a Belgian bank account than a German one

While banks in Germany rake in ATM fees from customers of other German banks, EU law forbids them from charging citizens of other EU countries.

It's a 'Brussels week' for me this week, I'm in town to shoot a few videos and moderate some conferences. As the Autumn draws on, I'm finding myself here more often than I'm in Berlin. But this is fine, since I have apartments in both cities. 

Strictly speaking, when I'm in Brussels I am "home". This is still my primary address - my Belgian phone is still my primary number, and I still use a Belgian bank account for all transactions. And actually, this last fact has made my life in Berlin easier.

Friday, 2 October 2015

German unity, but not reunification

Tomorrow is the 'Day of German Unity', marking 25 years since East and West Germany were merged. But don't call it 'reunification day'.

The area around Brandenburg Gate, once home to the 'no mans land' between the two layers of the Berlin Wall, is tonight being decked out for a massive celebration. Tomorrow, 3 October, is the annual celebration of 'German Unity Day'. This year's holiday is no ordinary one. It is marking 25 years since German reunification.

But don't make the mistake of calling it 'Reunification Day'. I called it by this name with a German friend today. I was swiftly deutsched, and told that despite the fact that it is held on the anniversary of the day the East German government was merged into the West, the proper name is 'unity day'.

I was only repeating the term I have read in English-speaking media, as there have been several reports this week about the 25th anniversary. But there are two important reasons why this is not called Reunification Day: it corresponds to an older holiday name, and because pre-war Germany has not been entirely reunited.