Berlin notes

by on June 10, 2010 at 12:54 am in Travels | Permalink

Living here feels natural.  I am happy but oddly unfascinated.  Most of all, I notice the changed routines of my life.  Every day I take mass transit and have cheese for breakfast, rather than the car and cereal.  I am more likely to take in information by walking around different parts of town than by reading.  I have only five CDs, a Kindle, and a few paperbacks, including the new (and good) David Mitchell novel.

The Berlin newspapers seem uninterested in the collapse of Greece and the future of the Eurozone; that probably reflects the preferences of their readership.

They have a whole shop, on my street, for books about the German train system; there is another shop just for books about miniature model boats.

There are many more photocopy shops here than I had expected; I wish I could short the sector.  The Berlin Zoo has a "gay night."

There is a not-very-bohemian part of town, a somewhat bohemian part of town, and a "supposedly to be really bohemian but actually still quite German" part of town.  A funny kind of pointless Tiebout competition reigns.

Berlin is a big playground with relatively little busines life or production, lots of space, and amazingly low rents.  You can buy a good gelato for less than a Euro.

The vegetables are superb.

Sometimes you can't tell which national cuisine the Asian restaurants are serving and I don't mean that as a compliment.  Sri Lankan food is one of the best respites from the oppression of food preparation in Deutschland.

If there is one overriding principle of German food, it is to avoid anything in a sauce.

The Turkish integration into Germany and German life is a major postwar success story, yet it is not much reported on.

The musical life and museums are first-rate, yet the real sight here is simply Germany itself.

1 Doug June 10, 2010 at 1:09 am

My grandma used to make Rouladen, which comes in a very tasty sauce, and is one of the few German foods I liked.

2 Jorge June 10, 2010 at 2:12 am

I follow your blog since some time ago and was surprised today to read you live in Berlin !! Me too. !!
You know… It is said that “either you love Berlin or you hate it”. Many other cities claim the same…
But I think Berlin is trully a “polarized filter”. I do not know another example with such a history and development.
I am spanish, living in Kreuzberg since about one year, and I am still puzzle with the city.
Up to now I tend to love it, but some times you need to be very generous…

3 Alex R. June 10, 2010 at 2:26 am

Well, I am not sure about the “success” of the Turkish integration into german culture. In fact, the topic make it to the news quite often because they don’t integrate quite enough. Anyway, if you have time you are invited to Dresden, I can make you the tour trough this wonderful baroque city.

4 skeptic June 10, 2010 at 2:55 am

Sentences like ” I am happy but oddly unfascinated.” remind me of postmodernist writing minus jargon – cryptic, seemingly profound, but wtf does it mean? Do they intend to convey anything other than that Tyler is very smart?

5 Chiara Brown June 10, 2010 at 3:29 am

I like this — thank you for posting it.

6 Chiara Brown June 10, 2010 at 3:37 am

“I am happy but oddly unfascinated” is related to “Living here feels natural.” Things feel normal and unsurprising to him. But this is strange because he is in a foreign country — things SHOULD feel surprising and not normal. It is a creatively worded sentence, but the meaning seems clear to me. Maybe I’m just smarter than you 😉

7 Matt12 June 10, 2010 at 3:51 am

If you haven’t seen it, you should check out the Soviet War Memorial in Treptower Park. It is breath-taking, eerie, and moving. Plus a giant sword smashing a swastika!

8 Hubert June 10, 2010 at 5:25 am

I was also surprised to learn you live in Berlin.
I love this city, was living there for 4 year.
In which disctrict do you live?

9 not_scottbot June 10, 2010 at 6:19 am

Completely concur about Asian restaurants being reduced to a German Einheitsbrei, though it is possible to find Asian restaurants run by Asians that are not interested in a German clientele – mainly, in the part of Germany I live, run by Thais with minimal interest in not spicing their food properly – though admittedly, they serve a sort of ‘international’ Thai, as only the Thai seem to be able to enjoy their normal standards of spicing (though they will serve it). I have had a Vietnamese shop owner warn me, both of us speaking German, about some soup I was buying, saying that it was Thai and far too spicy for her. And even mild Vietnamese cooking tends to be lost in the German market style of food preparation.

However, as noted above, the point about sauces isn’t really correct – and yes, I live in Baden. Along with the Rouladen, I would recommend Sauerbraten – Rotkraut (with fresh chestnuts is a nice combination) and Knödel (take your pick) barely nudging out SpĂ€tzle or various egg noodles. And of course, Spargel (yes, I live close to Bruchsal) is never served ‘dry’ unless it is eaten with ham, as the diner gets to choose whether to put on a mustard, vinegar, or other variation of dressing.

10 not_scottbot June 10, 2010 at 7:54 am

‘”Well, I am not sure about the “success” of the Turkish integration into german culture. ”

I’m not either.’

Compared to how Turkish integration is presented in the English language media, Tyler is right on the money. Speaking as American living in Germany for about 2 decades, that is.

This is not to deny various problems and hurdles from both the German and the Turkish side of the debate, which are obvious to anyone living here. An awareness which is part of how such things are dealt with, I might add.

11 Alex June 10, 2010 at 8:15 am

I also question the success of Turkish integration. If you are interested go check out the Turkish brandenberg-berlin union

I met with them a few years ago when I was doing research on labor migration and they were very helpful.

12 Ted Craig June 10, 2010 at 8:43 am

But is there a Bohemian part of the city?

13 NC June 10, 2010 at 9:37 am

“The Berlin newspapers seem uninterested in the collapse of Greece and the future of the Eurozone; that probably reflects the preferences of their readership.”

Haha, or probably it’s actually a non-story and the FT and the Economist reflect the preferences (should say wishful thinking, actually) of American and English readership.

14 Anderson June 10, 2010 at 10:26 am

TC should look up Jessa Crispin of the Bookslut website while he’s in Berlin.

15 James June 10, 2010 at 11:39 am

Having done a considerable amount of work in continental Europe, I can tell you the one thing it lacks from cities like New York or Washington DC is a really good 24-hour photocopier that can handle large jobs as efficiently and timely as here in the United States. I wouldn’t short the sector so much as attempt to consolidate it. The amount we spend on photocopying is staggering. It’s a very profitable business.

16 Philo June 10, 2010 at 12:30 pm

“A funny kind of pointless Tiebout competition reigns.” What’s funny about it, and why is it pointless? (A puzzling remark.)

17 hibikir June 10, 2010 at 12:56 pm

Of course you can get in a state of flow in a metro. It just happens that you are not used to it, so you consider it soul sucking. For me, it’s a lot easier there than on my now rather American highway commute, surrounded by bad drivers and low speed limits.

18 not_scottbot June 10, 2010 at 1:14 pm

I live near Lahr, which has a very large number of the last batch of Aussiedler – and I hear a lot more spoken Russian than I have ever heard Turkish, including in various Turkish supermarkets.

The point about the Turkish government meddling is dead on – and one of the issues that need to be dealt with.

I live in West Germany, and though my sister in law is East German, as are a couple of co-workers (another co-worker is a Soviet Aussiedler, along with former colleagues who were Aussiedler from Romania and Czechoslovakia), I won’t claim any deep insight into East Germany, except to note that East Germany hasn’t done very well integrating West Germans. In part, because the West Germans did a very poor job in trying to integrate the former DDR. And I won’t claim any great insight into the Turkish experience in Germany either, as the Turkish woman who recently spent 3 months in southern Germany at our company now works in the Hamburg branch.

And of course, the fact that Mannheim is were my wife comes from is likely to not mean much – except that Mannheim’s non-German population is 20%, and Turks represent a third of that. Or that when we were in Spain last summer, eating in a Granada Dönerimbiss, the owner was happy to speak German with us, especially as Mannheim tends to be a center of Turkish life, at least in this part of Germany – that’s right, a Spanish based German/Turkish restaurant owner speaking German. Just an anecdote, of course.

What is happening, and this is not only true of the Turks, is clear divisions are appearing between the winners and the losers in German society – a number of Turks are quite successful as small businessman, for example, and they are as disturbed at what is going on with the poorly educated and unassimilated Turks as a typical German. I can also say the same for the original Aussiedler and how they view the SpĂ€taussiedler.

Or for that matter, how older Germans view the younger generation, who they consider spoiled and lazy.

The problems of integration are real, but much of the American reporting I have read over several decades has little to do with life in this part of Germany, which is quite conservative, if not Bavarian batshit crazy.

19 jk June 10, 2010 at 2:05 pm

BTW, regarding integration, you will always be an auslander if you are not the typical “teutonic looking type.” Especially if you are Eastern European.

20 Peter Schaeffer June 10, 2010 at 3:16 pm

The U.S. media almost never comments on Turkish integration in Germany (see the important exception below). However, the German media does…

See “The Whore Lived Like a German” (,1518,344374,00.html). This article was sent to me as spam many years ago. It was perhaps the only piece of political spam I have ever received. At the time the press called it “racist”. Read it and decide.

The NYT wrote one decent article on the subject. See “Where Every Generation Is First-Generation” ( Note that the author wrote “Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam, and the West”.

21 Jen June 10, 2010 at 4:23 pm

I really enjoyed the food at Monsieur Vuong’s when I was in Berlin last fall. It’s a trendy pho and cocktails place with good pho.

# Alte Schönhauser Str. 46, 10119 Berlin
# Phone: +49 30 30872643
# Website:

22 not_scottbot June 11, 2010 at 12:20 am

‘BTW, regarding integration, you will always be an auslander if you are not the typical “teutonic looking type.” Especially if you are Eastern European.’

I’ll will have to ask the Russian from Leningrad I work with, who gave up his Russian citizenship for German citizenship, about this. Of course, the number of people from the Ruhr region with ‘-ski’ and such like name endings who are still treated like AuslĂ€nder after a century or more is probably something on the order of zero. But then, maybe they are no longer ‘Slavic’ enough?

Germans themselves often have a very simplistic view of just how complex the past of ‘Völkerwanderung’ is in this part of Europe, especially in regards to industrialization and the importation of labor.

It is worth adding, Germany is not the U.S., does not follow American precepts in terms of immigration, and is deeply influenced by its recent past – which is why German authorities tend to handle many problems in a way which attempts to avoid any resonance with the past – or worse, which makes the resonance with the past all to clear. Such as the ‘Kopftuchverbot’ in this Bundesland, which was clearly exposed as being as anti-Islam (which in theory is against the guarantee of religious freedom in the German Grundgesetz) when it had to be modified to allow nuns to retain their own ‘Kopftuch.’

23 thehova June 11, 2010 at 3:54 am

That’s interesting tylerh. So Berlin has, for quite a while, been a showcase city.

But despite that, perhaps Berlin doesn’t have a similar economic and cultural pull on the rest of Germany like Madrid, London, and Rome have on their countries.

24 micro sd card June 11, 2010 at 9:13 am

A love triangle. Samurai. Crazy-baby murderers. Imperialism. A monkey beating a human name. class division. Discrimination. The synopsis on the back of thousands of autumn Jacob zoet novel do not really do justice.

25 jk June 11, 2010 at 1:31 pm

Regarding secrecy (and keeping the peace) in government matters and banking in Germany and Europe:

Europe’s antipathy to stress tests

German High Court Refuses Issue Injunction on Euro Bailout due to political concerns (not legal ones)

26 Tomhs June 12, 2010 at 5:41 am

There seem to be two players of Turkish descent in the German soccer squad at the world cup. 2/23 is way lower than the representation of Turkish people in the German population (25%), but overall the German squad seems more ethnically diverse than I expected.

27 Capital Gold Group August 19, 2010 at 8:31 am

It must be hard to read all those books since electricity is so expensive because of the government mandating Germans work in factories building solar panels and pay for electricity from them so no one can afford to turn on lights.

28 Fairmont Bathroom August 30, 2010 at 11:53 pm

Germany’s future contribution in the land sector† in Cambodia would address relevant human rights issues that include “supporting indigenous communities in securing their land rights† and supporting the government “in progressively solving urban informal settlement issues in accordance with Cambodian law†. this is very right move and it will lead to equality in society also

29 Capital Gold Group September 27, 2010 at 3:08 am

It is a creatively worded sentence, but the meaning seems clear to me. Maybe I’m just smarter than you 😉

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