Latest stories

Moving to Germany? Bring medicine

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I’ll never forget the first time I got sick in Germany. In Canada, the common cold is a trivial annoyance. Simply trudge to the nearest Shopper’s Drug Mart and buy a bottle of Tylenol Cold, perhaps with a Robitussin chaser for the cough. Put the kettle on that night, sip a mug of NeoCitran with a dash of gin, and achieve a fantastic, un-nose-blocked sleep. You’ll wake the next morning feeling...

The NSA listening post on Devil’s Mountain

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Teufelsberg — ‘Devil’s Mountain’ — is a man made hill that rises 120m above sea level and provides a 360 degree view of flat Berlin and the surrounding Grunewald. The hill was built from an estimated 12 million cubic metres of war rubble, the remains of all those shattered buildings that were left of the city after WWII bombing. They dumped the broken brick and stone over an unfinished Nazi...

Palace walk with lockdown blues

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I took a long walk through the neighbourhood again, partly out of a desire for new sights in a year of lockdown drudgery, and partly as an antidote to irritability caused by too little sleep and too much noise. The long curving low rises of my neighbourhood gave way to a small collection of German and Croatian restaurants, a few pharmacies, an optometrist, and small shops, and then the brick...

The end of hobo chic

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The barber shops reopened in Berlin this week. I’d booked an appointment as soon as I saw it coming, to beat the mad rush of involuntary hippies. And so I set out this morning to put an end to my out-of-control hobo chic. For the wielders of the clipper and comb, it must be a lot like shearing sheep. At a time like this, I’m thankful to have a Welsh barber. Although the guy who mans the front...

An afternoon with Dicke Marie

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It’s beginning to feel like someone broke the weather. We had snow here two weeks ago — the most snow I’ve seen in four years in Berlin. It didn’t snow at all last year. Before that, a few centimetres once or twice which melted within a day. This year we had 10cm to 15cm. While such an amount would hardly be noticed in Canada, it caused a surprising amount of chaos here, with cancelled trains and...

German pillows are a crime against sleep

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How big is your head? I’m not suggesting you know its exact circumference in centimetres, but you do have an idea of how much space it takes up, right? I don’t think this is the case for German people. How else would you explain their pillows? The sleep-deprived foreigner has two choice of pillow here in Germany, and each is terrible in its own way. The most common type is the pointlessly huge...

The Best Books I Read in 2020

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Do you have a book addiction? Well I’m here to make it worse. I love a good reading list like a hobo loves Aqua Velva. As the year comes to a close, and as dark Berlin huddles beneath a pandemic sky, I’d like to take a moment to share my top reads from the past twelve months. Each book made my list because it was memorable, important, or just thoroughly enjoyable. And each is worth your time. I...

Staying sane in an info-flooded world

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Why is it so difficult to stay informed? To sift the essential from the vast cacophony of background noise? To consume just enough without smartphones and 24-hour news cycles taking over your life? In part, the devices that improve — and often plague — our lives are deliberately designed to be addictive. We’re hooked on that constant ‘refresh’ hit: another follower, new likes, some new non...

Scolded by Germans

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One of my old friends is going native. I went to the beach with her and her sister long before kindergarten was on the horizon, and we attended the same high school in our tiny hometown. You can imagine my dismay when I sent my fellow Deutschland expat an article I’d seen, called How to Avoid Getting Scolded by a German. Her response? “I’ve been scolded many times, but even worse — I’m...

The misery of apartment hunting in Berlin

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It’s easier to get into North Korea than it is to rent a flat in Berlin. I can say that with great confidence, having done both. In Canada, renting a flat was simply a matter of replying to a few ads, viewing a few places, and filing out an application. The landlord might ask your permission to do a credit check — at their expense — but that was it. It doesn’t work that way in Berlin. When it...

Ryan Murdock

Author of Vagabond Dreams: Road Wisdom from Central America. Host of Personal Landscapes podcast. Editor-at-Large (Europe) for Canada's Outpost magazine. Columnist at The Shift. Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.

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