June update: Apartments, learning German, and more

We are about two and a half months into our Berlin adventure, so I thought an update is in order.

Landing an apartment and settling in

In my last report, we were still in corporate housing, namely a hotel in a Berlin suburb. After a pretty brief search, we landed on an apartment at the Northern edge of the Prenzlauer Berg neighborhood.

Our new neighborhood is dominated by blocks of 5-story apartment buildings, most constructed in the early 1900s. Originally built for factory workers, these blocks were dark, crowded, and cheap. This area was largely spared allied bombing during the war, making it one of the few neighborhoods where you can get a sense of pre-war Berlin. After the war, this was East Berlin, and largely neglected by the GDR authorities and their grand plans to reshape the city. With the fall of the Berlin wall, Prenzlauer Berg became known for its counter-culture movement, and many of the buildings were home to artists and squatters. Now, with rapid gentrification, high rents have pushed out most artists (and, sadly, many native Berliners), while chic restaurants, bustling cafes, and trendy boutiques have moved in.

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Making the Move: Logistics and learnings

I’ve moved about a dozen times in my life. Most of those moves were from one apartment to another in the same city, a few were across cities, and one was across the United States. I figured I had the moving thing down reasonably well.

Then we started on our move to Germany, and I learned what a real move is like, which I’m sharing here. This won’t be a comprehensive guide (there are plenty of those), but rather a few of our specific experiences and learnings from the start of our trek across the world.

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Making the move: Selling (almost) everything

While we probably could have brought the entire contents of our Seattle apartment, we expected our Berlin apartment would be smaller and rather lacking in closet space (we were right), so a great house-cleaning was in order. Over the course of hectic two months, we gave away or sold about half of our possessions, most of our furniture, and our much-loved Mazda 3.

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First impressions of Berlin

We just hit week three into our Berlin adventure, so I thought I’d share some first impressions. This is a fairly random assortment of thoughts, sightings, and impressions of life in Germany’s capital city. Over the next couple months, I’ll share more in-depth posts about the logistics of moving overseas and setting up in a new country.

Until then, here’s a few things that shaped our initial impressions of Berlin.

The Food

If you like good food, you’re going to like Berlin. And if you prefer your food cheap and diverse, then you’ll love Berlin. From our corner bakery (where they’ve been churning out fresh bread for more than 100 years), to newly launched Thai-German-French-etc. fusion restaurants, to the ubiquitous doner kebab, there’s easily something for everyone. And, I’d wager, the food is cheaper than any major city in Europe, and definitely cheaper than Seattle. Almost everything here costs less and tastes better, whether it is a delectable €5 bottle of Italian wine, a heavenly €2.5 glass of German beer, or a €2 block of French cheese that would easily set you back $15 at Whole Foods.

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