Category Archives: Travel with Kids

Two Weeks of German-American Efficiency

As of today, we’ve been on the ground in Berlin for exactly 2 weeks.  It can only be described as a non-stop whirlwind of activity and getting things done with our four girls in tow: some important milestones we’ve reached:

  • We are officially registered as residents of Berlin!
  • We decided on a great school for Josephine and Emilia, and they are enrolled for next year, school ID’s and all.
  • We signed a lease for an apartment in the popular neighborhood of Wilmersdorf after several tours of different places and making application in an extremely competitive rental market.
  • Lillian and Audrey have applied to an international school, but we’re still awaiting the official word on their admission.
  • We’ve obtained yearly passes for the BVG (public transportation, which I have to mention is easily the most comprehensive and efficient system I’ve ever experienced in a city this size)
  • We have mobile phone service and new phone numbers for the 3 phones we brought with us.  Unlocking US iPhones ourselves actually did work!
  • We’ve ordered cable and internet for the new home
  • We bought a bike for Lillian from an eBay classified ad
  • And yesterday we secured library cards for everyone at a library that is practically next door to our new home: a huge bonus for the girls whom my wife often refers to as Leseratten (reading rats).

All this and and we’ve managed to explore a good chunk of Berlin by foot, by boat, U-Bahn, bus, and tram.  In fact we haven’t covered an inch by taxi or rental car, which we’ll hardly need in this city.  Once our container arrives with our bikes we’ll be able to expand our urban conquests even further.  Here’s a photo of what we’ve covered so far, all on foot.

Our first two weeks on foot (yellow highlights)

Our first two weeks on foot (yellow highlights)

It has been a surprisingly efficient experience because bureaucracy is ofter the first thought that comes to mind when people think about what it might take to set up a new life in Germany.  Having read many expat blogs before setting off, I was expecting much more resistance and an unsettling need for proper stamps, seals, notarized documentation and endless appointments to be able to get things done.

Of course I have the advantage of my wife who is both charming and fluent in German (not to mention a real do-er when it comes to exploring a city and getting us oriented as Berliners).  But even Vivian has been surprised by how straightforward the process has been.

As we begin week 3 of our move to Berlin, I feel like we’ve seen almost as much of the Berlin as we could have if we had come solely as tourists.  And at this rate, we might know Berlin better than many locals within the year.

Today President Obama is visiting Germany and will give a speech at the Brandenburg Gate.  I’d like to be able to say that we are among the 4,000 invited guests who will be able to see him speak (especially since we’ve just come from Chicago), but that’s OK…we’ve got a lot of other things to do and people to see in our new city.

Highlights from our first 2 weeks…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It’s a Dog’s Life in Berlin

Ich liebe Deutschland

Ich liebe Deutschland

If I had to be reincarnated as a dog, Germany has got to be the place to live.  It’s not so much a question of where we’ve been able to go with our little Phalene, Duke,  but where we have not been able to take him along.  In the past 10 days since arrival, there are really only two times that we have not taken him along.  Both times were the swimming pools, where understandably, dogs are not allowed.

No worries at Sanssouci

No worries at Schloss Sanssouci

Other than that, Berlin has been worry-free when it comes to man’s best friend.  Sure, there are stores that don’t allow dogs and usually have a little sticker indicating that like smoking, drinking, and bikes, patrons should leave them outside, but for the most part one can assume that dogs are allowed practically everywhere.

Just waiting on a train

Just waiting on a train

Duke rides the U-Bahn, comes to the local markets, strolls the Ku’damm (Berlin’s equivalent of the Mag Mile) and eats at restaurants with us.  He came on our 4-hour boat tour of Berlin, accompanied us on numerous school visits, and has gone house hunting with us.  Dogs are truly welcome in Berlin and treated like another member of the family.  Many stores and restaurants set out a bowl of water for dogs, and on the boat tour Duke was offered treats along with his water.  At first I was fairly apprehensive about whether or not we should take him to all the places we’ve gone, but now it’s just like bringing along another kid – you wouldn’t leave your 3-year old at home alone would you?

Audrey and Duke strutting their stuff at the markets

Audrey and Duke strutting their stuff at the markets

And it’s been great for Duke as he’s learned to be a bit more social and friendly among so many other dogs.  He still gets a little protective when he meets other dogs, especially large ones (it’s his Napoleon complex), but he’s gotten good enough that he walks the city without a leash most of the time (which unlike in many American cities, is  how most dogs are walked in Berlin).

So along with the satisfaction that our move to Berlin is going well for Vivian and myself and our four children, I’m really pleased that Duke will get to live in a city that welcomes four-legged citizens as well….which reminds me that we need to register him as an official resident too after we’ve moved into our apartment.

German family out for a stroll

German family out for a stroll

Ich bin ein Berliner

Ich bin ein Berliner

Navigating the U-Bahn

Navigating the U-Bahn

Getting a little help from a friend

Getting a little help from a friend