Jan 26, 2014

Subculture Berlin Tour

Today I went to a Subculture Berlin free tour, organised by Alternative Berlin Tours. If you want to see the typical tourist attractions like TV tower at Alexanderplatz, then this tour is not exactlly the right choice for you. But if you want to experience the alternative side of Berlin, this 3 hours tour can give you a lot! As they say on their website - Taking you beyond the tourist destinations to the heart and soul of the city.

We met at the Alexanderplatz at 1 p.m. It was sunny day, but the fact that is -12 degrees outside made me expect that there will not be a lot of people. Well, I was wrong. At 1:05 there was around 30 people, so we had to split into two groups. Our group started the tour right there around the corner and later we went to Kreuzberg. I took a lot of pictures and I will give my best to describe everything I learned about this awesome places we saw today :)


If you turn right from the exit of S-bahn station at Alexanderplatz and walk at the Dirckenstrasse, you can see a lot of street art on the walls. Every painting has it´s own story and lot of them are from the same artists. Like Little Lucy, a charachter made by an artist named El Bocho. If you see a painting of a little girl killing her cat - that´s her. Or Tina Berlina from the same artist. Those paintings are adressed to tourists, usually funny, but not mean. He´s pretty famous thought, with his own website and all the exhibitions - I would like to see one of them one day!

Tina Berlina by El Bocho

There are a lot of bisare arts also. Like a tattooed baby with a gun or a boy with a suitcase with a bomb in his hand. A lot of this paintings are placed close to the ground on child´s eyesight level. Guess so the children would see it and ask parents about them. Most of them are politically centered. How would you describe such a painting to your child? :D

tattooed baby and a boy with a bomb suitcase

We didn´t have time to stop at every painting, but I would definitely like to do that once (when it gets warmer!)


Haus Schwarzenberg is a cultural center in Mitte placed in area know as Scheunenviertel. The Anne Frank Center is located there (we also went inside to saw the museum), but what is trully admiring is the outside of the place. There are a lot of wall arts also and the coolest thing is that the owner of the place doesn´t really mind about people painting on this walls. So basically the artists can come there and paint on the walls withouth getting in a trouble with the police :)
And there is also an interesting story about this place during the World War II. It was in this house that businessman Otto Weidt provided a safe house for persecuted Jews at the height of the Nazi deportations, in his workshop for the blind.


This story begins in Kreuzberg, when The Berlin Wall was constructed. The first plan of the wall line was chacged, so there was a peace of unused land left on the West side which should belong to the East side.
Osman Kalin, the Turkish man, decided to use it as a garden. In 1989 he started to bulid a little tree house, using bits of random unused materials. At one point the govermant even thought he was building a tunnel under the wall. But it was just a house. And it´s still there 25 years after the fall of the wall (later he cemented it on the ground). He went trough a lot after that, fighting to save his home where he raised his children, because the authorities wanted to build the road in this place. But the tree house is on the Church land and the German law says that building can not be demonlished without permision from the Church - the Church liked his way of life and they decided he should stay.
Today Mr. Kalin still lives there. And he likes to have all the attention. So if you pass by in the summer, you can see him outside of the house, waving, proud that his building became so famous :)

We also have visited Yaam (I wrote about Ernesto, the artist we met there few weeks ago!). But I think this one deserves a special post, so I will write about this next time. And about media spree, which is also connected to the Yaam´s story.

Althought we were freezing, it was really an intresting day. We saw the places and heard the stories that can´t be saw/heard on every typical tour.
This tour was for free (or pay what can you afford), but they also have some other tours and I should definitely go to one (or more) of them as well!

Jan 25, 2014

Berlin lifestyle stories

There is always something happening in Berlin. And there is always something happening in my life.
Between partying at weekends, exploring the city during the day, meeting new people and of course babysitting and going to German classes three times a week I can't find a time to sit down and write a blog. I promise I will whrite something about my classes in the next days (maybe tomorrow), but today I'm sharing with you some (funny) stories from my life here.

Homeless people in our building!

There is a door in my room that leads to the second hallway of our building. The apartment on our floor and the two above (on the attic) are empty.
The first day when I came here, my family told me, that I can use the stairs for smoking. It´s very practical - I don´t need to dress up so much, cus I´m not really going outside and I don´t need to walk trough the whole appartment to the balcony (that´s especially usefull at the night when the family already sleeps).
So I made myself a really comfortable corner there at the window, with a pillow and an ashtray.
But one day both of them were gone! I had now idea what happend, but I found out later that day, when my au pair dad told me the whole story.

So that´s what happend - here was a cleaning lady cleaning the staircase and she found my stuff. She talked with her husband and they come to a conclusion that there is some homelass guy who is trying to make himself a space for sleeping on the hallway - so to punish him, they throw away his stuff!!
And they came to my host family to discus about that dangerous person! We laughed about that later, but at first, my AP dad was pretty angry about their behavior - he told them: "If there were really a poor homeless guy trying to find some warm space to sleep, I would bring him a hot soup, not threw away his pillow (which was actually from my au pair mom)!!" - 1:0 for my AP dad!

Stealing the baby´s stroller!

As the apartment is in the fourth floor in the building without elevator, we leave the stroller downstairs, but we always lock it, just in case someone would try to steal it.
One day we were out - mom, baby and me. The baby was in a really bad mood and was screaming, so when we entered the building, I said to my AP mom to go upstairs with her and I will take care of the stroller and bring up all the other stuff.
I took all the baby´s stuff out of the stroller and while locking it, the old neighboor came out of her apartment. Of course she doesn´t speak any English. And I understand just a few German words (a bit more now, but that was in my first week there). So we weren´t able to understand each other. She was kind of yelling at me and I tried to explain her where I live with mentioning mom and dad´s names - I hoped she would understand that and leave me alone. Finally she left, but I still had a feeling that she´s thinking I´m some kind of thief who´s trying to steal the stroller.
Later that day my AP mom met her and I was right - she really thought I want to steal their stroller!! The mom explained her who I am and now she kindly says "Guten Tag!" to me when we meet on the hallway. :)

Getting food for FREE!

This happend to us twice!

The first time was at the Ostbanhof station. Aimée and me where on the way back home from the Yaam and it was around 2 a.m. We came to the station, both very hungry!
Me: "Where can I get something to eat here?" (turning around, looking if there is something opened)
Some guys from across the station: "Heeeey, do you want cheesburger?" Imagine our surprise when they just came to us, gave the cheesburger to Aimee and went away without saying anything else!

The second time was at Zoologischer Garten. Again on the way back home from the party, we stopped at McDonalds to get some food. We were eating our burgers, when the guy from the table next to ours pushed his tray full of fries on our table ("Want some fries?") and went away without even waiting for our response.

Oh, I love getting food for free! :D

And so much else .. like walking for few kilometers in the rain to get something to eat and recording ourselfs with my camera for almost 20 minutes .. or train changing direction one station from where we wanted to get down and no one has idea what's going on .. or going to the supermarket to buy just few ingredients to prepare the dinner and comming back an hour later, because i couldn't find the most important ingredient and I wasn't even sure if I know the right German word for it (and I tried to call my AP mom, but there was no signal inside the store!!) ..

Well, at least I will have a lot of stories to tell to my grandchildren (when they're gonna be old enough to hear them!!) :)

Aimée and me at Franken

P.S.: Just in case you were wondering - yeah, it´s cold here! Like -12 degrees at the moment (feels like -20 because of the wind). My fingers were so frozen last night when I came home that I wasn´t able to unlock the door! I was sitting on the stairs for 15 minutes, waiting for pain to go away! I need a warmer gloves I guess, maybe the ones for skiing :D

Walking home last night

PhotoBox: Tempelhofer Freihet

A former airport (Berlin Tempelhof), turned into a city´s largest public park, used for big events and everyday recreation.


Jan 11, 2014

Ernesto, the artist

It was friday night and we were hanging out at the Yaam, having fun, meeting new people.
At one point, I had to go to the toilet and at the door I stopped - there was a boy with paint and brushes, painting on pink walls of ladies bathroom. I was impresed - you don´t see something like that in Slovenia. I´m sure if someone would try to paint on the bathroom walls it would get arested :D
I asked him if I can take a picture and then went back to my friends.


Later, Aimee and I went there again and the picture was almost finished. He painted a really cool monkey (mustache was painted by Rachel, one crazy Australian girl, tho).
We stayed there for a pretty long time, just watching him finishing the paint with details and chatting about his work and his life.
Ernesto used to work in circus before and he showed us some cool juggling tricks with brushes.
How can you not be impresed by such a talent? :)

Aimee asked him if the monkey is his favorite animal and I really liked his answer - "Sometimes. At the time my favorite animal is octopus." I also like changing my mind about favorite things sometimes :D
Oh, and he was the first foreigner who pronounced my name like I do - with this hard R. I know that Martina is pretty international name, but in the ot of countries is pronounced a bit diffrent than in Slovenia.

Later he decided to add another painting attached to this one, but we didn´t stay long enough to see what it´s gonna be. But we´ll be back in Yaam soon, I´m sure. We can´t wait to see the finished paintings. And We hope to meet Ernesto again and have another interesting talk with him. He´s one of the most awesome people I met so far and I´m really glad I had that opportunity :)

Jan 4, 2014

Welcome to Berlin

Friday, December 27th, early morning. After few weeks of preparing, packing and excitement and after 17 hours on trains I was finally here. In Berlin. The city with a population of 3,5 million. That´s almost twice as many people as they live in Slovenia, my home country.

My host family collected me on a train station and while driving to their home I once again heard that sentence I heard many times in the past few weeks - "You must be very brave to come to foreign country without knowing the languege and without knowing any people here." But I think I´m just a bit crazy. And very curious :)

Berlin Hbf (central station)

This first week livig here passed by very quickly. Still, I already had time to see few cool places and meet some cool people. Since there are so many people, you never end up being alone. Even for New Year´s eve, which was just few days after my arriving, I had a company. I found a group of international people on MeetUp - this is a really great page for finding people with same interests and there is always something going on in some of those groups (I don´t think there´s any MeetUp groups in Slovenia, tho). I also had a chance to meet one of other Au Pairs here. And few days ago I went for a drink with some other english speaking people and I ended up partying till very late :) And it was during the week, but still lot of people everywhere, even at 2 a.m. That´s the charm of the big cities - always something happening, you can´t get bored so easily :)

Vogt´s BierExpress - one of cool places to hang out at the evenings

How do I explore Berlin? I don´t prefer tourists books/internet sites. I didn´t read any of them. Well, I´m lying actually - I did checked one of the books, but it´s not really a tourist guide. My host family bought me a welcome present, a book named 111 places in Berlin that you shouldn´t miss. There are some really intresting and not so well known places described in there and I definitely want to see some of them.
Well, I´ve been on the great wheel on Alexanderplatz - the famous attraction during the Christmas time. But that´s pretty much all of famous thing I saw so far.

Me infront of the wheel
View from the top of the wheel
But my way of exploring is to sit on the subway, take the random station and explore the surroundings.

Riding with subway (U-Bahn) here is pretty easy when you figure it out. Especially if you use this cool app called Berlin Subway, as I do :) Didn´t have any problems finding my way to where I was headed (or back home) so far.  

Deutsche Oper subway station
Oh, and one of the experiences I had in my first days here - going to the store. Suddenly buying a simple thing that you bought a lot of times back at home became an adventure. You know exactlly how where the thing is placed at the store you usually go to and how the packing looks like. And then you come to foreign store and you have no idea what are you looking for. It took me 10 minutes to find the right cooking creame :) But the most exciting thing is buying supplies that are not so easy (or not even possible) to buy at your home country - like Milka with Smarties ;) Or strange looking fruit with strange names :)

Some mutant fruit, I think :)
So, my first impression? I´m in love with this city :) I´m already affraid of the day when I will need to leave!


Few more pictures I took this first week here:

Random musician at Alexanderplatz
U-Bahn (subway/underground) entrance

 One of the things I love the most in Berlin are those huge graffiti. Doesn´t they look awesome?

Also fireworks for NY are pretty awesome :)

... ´till next time ;)