Urban Art in Berlin

Art is on the street – at least in Berlin. Nowadays, Berlin is one of the hotspots for Urban Art in Europe and is used by people from all over the world as a canvas.

The graffiti scene started in the underground of New York in the 70ties and came within a few months from America in the capitals of Europe. In West-Berlin, street art was mostly used by groups which were excluded from the society back then. But already at the end of the 70ties, the interest in urban art increased. Artists explored new techniques and styles. They used the street to leave their messages – very often political motivated – and took part in recreating their city. Especially the Berlin Wall was used as a screen. Urban art also established in East-Berlin however the artists were more limited here since their art had to conform with the Socialistic Realism of the GDR (German Democratic Republic).

Urban Art is the main term which combines street art, graffiti and general art in a public space.

Schöneberg

Urban Nation Museum

The Urban Nation Museum (Bülowstraße 7) for urban contemporary art was founded in September 2017 in Berlin-Schönefeld (free admission). Not only the exhibitions but also the housing facades are changing approximately once a year. The museum enables a deeper look into urban art, its history, artists, and techniques. The Urban Nation initiative supports the exchange with the neighbourhood of Berlin – not only in its own museum walls but also with the project One Wall. The idea is to bring five artists to Berlin every year to repaint old house walls and create a colourful Berlin – a lot of the following murals were also painted by this project.

Bülowstraße

No wonder that the Bülowstraße around the U-Bahn stations Nollendorfplatz and Bülowstraße is full of urban art because this is where the Urban Nation initiative has its offices. The building right on the opposite side of the museum (Bülowstraße 101, corner Bülowstraße/Zietenstraße) was designed by the Berlin-based Ecuadorian artist Roberto Rivadeneira in October 2020. As part of the One Wall Project, he created a metaphor for colliding time periods and named it Because the moment simply is. But also the buildings next to it are covered with street art in different sizes and forms (Bülowstraße 94-98).


Next to the museum, on the same street side (Bülowstraße 11, 12) the works of the two Spanish artists Deih XLF (first photo below, left) and David de la Mano (first photo below, right) decorate the houses. The latter was painted afresh over another work of David de la Mano which was damaged through work on the houses. The artist prefers to draw silhouettes, trees and other monochromatic symbolisms. This also confirms itself in the new artwork. It is named Gray Habit and shows a black and white silhouette of a woman.
Altogether eight murals are at the facades of the houses (Bülowstraße 32) next to the U-Bahn station Bülowstraße. The paintings are from different artists as D*Face, and Word to Mother from England, the US-American collective Cyrcle, as well as Shepard Fairey, and the group Berlin Kidz. The newest is an additional painting of a naked woman with a red glove and a paper bag over her head from 2019. Portraying persons with the just mentioned paper bags in a critical context is a trademark of the German artist Christian Böhmer. His mural Speak Up. Stand Up. draws attention to the violence against prostitutes on the street of Bülowstraße.

Mitte

Haus Schwarzenberg

Concealed in the backyard of the Haus Schwarzenberg (Rosenthaler Straße 39, next to the Hackesche Höfe) does a dream come true for urban art lovers. Here are all kind of colourful murals, paintings, graffiti, collages, and stickers. A closer look is recommended because there are so many messages, drawings and little details hidden. Some of the paintings are changing with time. Besides the art, there are a studio, a cinema, two bars, the museum of Otto Weidt’s Workshop for the Blind, and a permanent exhibition about Anne Frank.

U-Bahn station Heinrich-Heine-Straße

Next to the subway exit of Heinrich-Heine-Straße is the entrance to the rock club Sage. The door itself is hidden through paintings. Sage shares its rooms with the KitKatClub, Berlin’s most famous fetish club. Right on the opposite of the entrance of KitKatClub is the mural Unter der Hand (freely translated: secretly) by the German artist CASE.

Just around 700 m further in the direction of U-Bahn station Moritzplatz (Heinrich-Heine-Straße 36) is another mural called Face Time by the artists Various & Gould right in front of a parking slot. The painting is a combination of the techniques of serigraphy and collages.

U-Bahn station Birkenstraße

The boy with the injured elephant is from the German street art duo Herakut and the two Swiss artists Wes21 and Onur. The mural carries the message As long as you are standing, give a hand to those who have fallen – and was created through the first edition of the Berlin Mural Festival. It is located next to the subway station Birkenstraße (Stromstraße 36).

Friedrichshain

RAW-Friedrichshain and East Side Gallery

A must-see on every sightseeing tour through Berlin is the East Side Gallery (Mühlenstraße 3-100) between the S-Bahn station of Warschauer Straße and Ostbahnhof. The historical monument is the longest (well) preserved segment of the Berlin Wall. In spring 1990, after the fall of the wall, 118 artists from 21 countries painted and decorated the east side of the wall. Most pieces show the Political changes around 1989 and 1990.

The RAW-Friedrichshain – or RAW-Gelände (Revaler Straße 99, next to the S-Bahn station Warschauer Straße) – is one of the most popular places for night owls in Berlin. Besides plenty of smaller clubs and bars around the corner, it is also a perfect spot for street art lovers. The walls exhibit all kind of art pieces. The RAW-Friedrichshain are former rail train halls which are used for an alternative culture project nowadays. It is also the home of the Urban Spree, a small art gallery with changing exhibitions (free admission) but also a location for concerts and festivals.

Holzmarkt25

Holzmarkt25 (Holzmarktstraße 25, close to the S-Bahn station Ostbahnhof) creates its own village somewhere between the districts Mitte, Friedrichshain, and Kreuzberg. Besides a music school, a kindergarten, and different creative-working companies, it has its own bars, restaurants, and saloon for events. But more importantly, it offers nice spots to chill at the Spree, get a beer from the very own brewery – with the club Kater Blau next to it. The houses and walls of the alternative quarter are full of paintings and art.

Volkspark Friedrichshain (park)

Attack of the 50 Foot Socialite (Am Friedrichshain 33, diagonally across from the Fairy Tale Fountain of the park) is a mural by the US-artist Tristan Eaton. It is influenced by the iconic film poster of the US-movie of the same title from 1958. The painting was also part of the One Wall Project.

Kreuzberg

U-Bahn station Gleisdreieck

Aufstand der Farben (freely translated: Riot of the colours) was a project of Interbrigades e.V. in July 2009. The mural (Luckenwalder Straße 11) covers 600 square metres. It was created by the Latinamerican street artists Shamaniko, Hechiza, Somos and UKI as well as four Berlin artists. It took four months to finish the painting.

U-Bahn station Hallesches Tor and Tommy-Weisbecker-Haus

Next to the exit of the U-Bahn station Hallesches Tor (Mehringplatz 28/29) are the murals Make Art Not War by the US-American Shephard Fairey and Hoodie Birds by the Danish-artist Don John. Both paintings are part of the One Wall Project in 2014. Just a few steps further are two other murals (corner Franz-Kühls-Straße/Friedrichstraße) by Aryz (third photo) and the Spanish street art duo PichiAvo (second row, first photo) which were created during the Urban Art Week in 2019. A lot more paintings are hidden around the corner: There is a housing complex (Wilhelmstraße 2-6) covered in portraits of people with different ethnic backgrounds.

My favourite mural shows an elephant with a balloon in form of the earth by the Berliner artist Jadore Tong. It is on the backside of the Tommy-Weisbecker-Haus (Wilhelmstraße 7) in the background of a basketball court and right in front of the Theodor-Wolff-Park. The house is a self-governing residential collective named after the left-wing extremist Thomas Weisbecker. But also a view around the house is worthwhile since all four walls are covered with art.

U-Bahn station Kottbusser Tor

The Astronaut/Cosmonaut (Oranienstraße 195) is part of the project Backjumps – The Live Issue von 2007. The mural was created with help of stencils by the Portuguese artist Victor Ash. The motif was inspired by the Cold War when the USA and the Soviet Union not only started their arms race but also tried to outplay themselves on space technology. The divided city Berlin was part of this conflict between East and West. This is why Ash wanted to place his painting close to the former borderline. The lettering around is not part of the original but was added later by other influencers. The mural is close to the U-Bahn station Kottbusser Tor. On the way, you can also find the older lady with the pelican and coffee in her hand (Skalitzer Straße 134) – This mural is right next to a coffee shop.

Prenzlauer Berg

Schwedter Straße

The street Schwedter Straße in the district Prenzlauer Berg was repeatedly one of the locations for the One Wall Project. In 2017 the Spanish street artist Deih XLF started with his science-fiction mural (Schwedter Straße 34) where he reflects his introspective of emotions and draws his inner life. One year later the Berlin artist trio Innerfields created another house facade (Schwedter Straße 30) – a cynical observation on digitization and social development. The newest painting links the well-known cartoon character Snoopy with realistic optical illusions (Schwedter Straße 29). The English artist Fanakapan combines two- with three dimensions – a closer look reveals the artist with his smartphone taking a photo as a reflection in the 3D balloon. A little further is the international filling station FIT (Schwedter Straße 261). Not only the petrol station is sprayed but also its walls around. In the pretty side road with buntings is a book store with paintings of a child riding a giraffe and an elephant (Choriner Straße 49).

Other districts

Tegel

The street Neheimer Straße in Tegel is the home of four skyscrapers with eight murals on both sides of the houses. They were painted in different years during the One Wall Project. Some of them are already overpainted by new urban artists – these eight murals are the current ones.
The first one Summer of Peace (Bernauer Straße 133/Neheimer Straße 2) was created in 2015 by the Australian FINTAN MAGEE and is inspired by the children’s book A Child’s Garden by Michael Foreman. Around one month later the US-American twin brothers How and Nosm realised their painting On Tiptoes (Neheimer Straße 6) at the Artpark in Tegel.
One year after, in 2016 followed the mural The Starling (Neheimer Straße 6) by the Dutch duo Collin van der Sluijs and Super A. The paintings of the two artists seem often dreamy and surreal. Their chosen motif symbolizes the strength of a collective. Another mural created in 2016 is Lads are back (Neheimer Straße 8) by the English duo The London Police who use bold colours and simply iconic characters to create positive art. Playing Cards (Neheimer Straße 2) painted by the Italien Pixel Pancho followed a few months later. Typical for the artist is his work with earthy colours and robot-like figures.


In 2019 the female Swiss duo Queenkong worked in collaboration with the Polish artist Tankpetrol. Their mural 2268miles & Lunchadora Pachamama (Neheimer Straße 4) combines the work Pilot Girl (on the left side) by Tankpetrol with the naturalistic style of the Swiss duo. The latter points out the importance of the mindfulness for nature.
The newest two projects of the Open Wall at Artpark Tegel followed in 2020. The Berlin painter, illustrator, musician and concept artist Jim Avignon created his mural (Neheimer Straße 8) about an adventure in a balloon and the future between uncertainty and departure. The latest mural from BustArt plays with the style of graffiti-pop and comic. Departure (Neheimer Straße 4) is the name of his painting and is a reference to the former airport in Tegel.

Neukölln

This painting was more of a chance find: On the front side of a parking slot (Donaustraße 94-95) of a supermarket is a huge mural with the theme Brave New World.

Charlottenburg

Covered in paintings is the front side of a hostel (Stuttgarter Platz 17) in the district Charlottenburg. The house facade was created by the Irish artist Dom Browne.

One of the oldest murals is the one of the ship Phoenix (Wintersteinstraße 20) from 1989 by the Berliner artist Gert Neuhaus – it is in surprisingly good condition especially in the consideration of urban art as ephemeral one.

Why do volunteering

This article might be a bit different from my other ones – today I want to talk about voluntary work (ergo working without getting paid) and why it can be a great opportunity for you. (Just to clarify I’m more talking about clubs, associations and societies – not about an official gap year). In this blog post, I want to share my personal experiences with you. And I would like to introduce you to my student association AEGEE – at least this part is about travelling, I promise.

Discussion about cultural differences in Russia at my student summer exchange 2018 in Saint Petersburg.

First of all, volunteering can involve a lot of different fields and you can join it in all kind of life circumstances. The definition is more or less to work and give your time for free – like a community service. But to be honest, yes it is especially an interesting topic if you are younger and still in your status of education like school, university or in an apprenticeship (but latter makes it harder to find the time, I know, I have been there as well). But in general, there is no age limit – especially not in the terms of getting older.

A lot of people link voluntary work with social work and yes this can be involved, but there are also plenty of other ways to volunteer especially in sports, cultural or economical ways. It can be a schools club or an initiative of your neighbourhood – the only important point is that it supports your interests – after all, you invest your time for free. Some organisations also offer volunteer work in other countries – this way you are actually able to combine your interest in working for a project with travelling. Even though, the interest in supporting the chosen project should be the main impulse. It probably also depends on how strong voluntary work is supported in your country. Actually, I heard from friends that in the Netherlands joining a student club is obligatory.

Moderating the 5th anniversary show of my radio club couchFM (Berlin)

I grow up in Germany where I feel the whole system of voluntary work especially in school is not that strongly supported. In school, we only had a very little choice in different clubs, I was part of the art club, Computer club and later of the pupil’s magazine. But I think for me the really important voluntary work started when I began studying. Lucky me, we had some student associations which presented themselves on our welcome event of my major – theatre and media science. This is how I joined the radio club of my university in my first semester. A few years later, I also became a member of AEGEE when I started my master studies in Berlin.

The flag of my student association AEGEE-Berlin at a summer event

What is AEGEE?
I want to gain the chance to actually tell you something about my student association of AEGEE – because it could be interesting for you (in case you live in Europe) – especially since you seem to love travelling. AEGEE is a student’s forum and the shortcut of Association des Etats Généraux des Éstudiants de l’Europe – or easier we are one of the biggest interdisciplinary student organisations of Europe. We strive for a democratic, diverse and borderless Europe. This is also the reason why AEGEE has locals who are not part of the European Union. We are non-governmental, politically independent, and a non-profit organisation. Our network includes around 10,000 members from over 160 cities in around 40 countries – from the Canary Islands until Siberia. To me, AEGEE supports especially the political and cultural exchange between young people and empower them to take an active part in society.    
For more information visit aegee.org

Craziest experience with AEGEE  

Until today I travelled to ten different countries with AEGEE where I took part in different activities and sessions around topics like history and local culture, arts, political discussions, project and self-development. One of my favourite memories is first when I travelled as a delegate to the Agora – our member’s meeting where all the locals of AEGEE come together (which means approx. 700 people from different countries) – to discuss five days about the future of AEGEE and Europe. But also to spend some time with friends you found in the past years in AEGEE and explore the city together (the location of the Agora changes with every meeting). You can read about my time as a delegate in the article on the right side.


Second, another special experience with AEGEE was when I decided to become the main organiser of a two weeks exchange in Berlin with 35 people from all over Europe. The exchange was actually part of the Summer University (SU), one of the biggest and oldest projects of AEGEE, it started in 1988. The main idea of the SU and why it was founded is to promote European integration by doing cultural exchanges and to explore the multicultural dimensions of Europe. But also to find a place to discuss and meet new people from all over Europe. One main rule of AEGEE is to make all of our events affordable for all of our members which gave us a fixed financial frame. It is a really important rule but made it even harder for us to organise the summer exchange in the way we imagined it. Every participant pays only 14 EUR (~16.75 US$) a night, therefore we offer the accommodation, two meals a day, the whole programme, all sessions and the rides during the event (we went to a lake, on a day trip to Potsdam and for three days to Dresden). At some point, it was really challenging for us but in the end, we created the best exchange possible – and I think our participants really enjoyed their time in Germany. 

What can Voluntary work do for you?

I believe volunteering is more than just about to brighten up your CV (but this is actually a nice side effect). In the student associations I joined, I actually got a lot of responsibility and the opportunity to lead my own projects. It is always your own choice how much work and time you want and can bring in but I really enjoyed to use all the opportunities I got – and even to work in a leading position. It is a lot about reaching your own goals, being creative or more open-minded, working with a team, trying new things and ideas without being afraid to fail (and lose your job). There were so many different sections I was able to try out. Another good point is that I actually met a lot of great people – because all of us are care for the same or similar topics it is so much easier to find common interests.

Therefore, I hope I could convince you to give it a try – search for pupil’s clubs in your school, join student associations, take a look for regional projects around your home town or even international projects you can join.

Or maybe you are already volunteering or have other interesting thoughts on this topic? Feel free to leave a comment below.

Midsommar in Berlin

Thirty degrees, sunny weather, cold beer and girdles of flowers of the head. On the 24th of June Berlin celebrated his Midsommar Festival with a real pole.

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A Scandinavian tradition

Midsommar or in English “Midsummer” marked the summer solstice, it is the day when the sun reaches its highest position in the sky. Midsummer will especially celebrate by Northern Europe as Scandinavia and – very especially – Sweden. These countries have a short summertime. However, in the North in midsummer, it seemed as the sun doesn’t set. It is the lightest night of the year. In Scandinavia, people celebrate midsummer on a Friday between 19th and 25th June.

Flowers under the sleeping pillow

This special midsummer festival in Berlin started in 2012. Every year different bands and DJs play music and invite to dance. Furthermore, the organisers offer a flower wreath workshop,  a pole, traditional dances and games. At the beginning of the festival, the visitors can SDC11831create their own girdles of flowers (“midsommmarkrans”). I and a friend also tried our best. However, if you want to create a girdle of flowers, you should be on time. We came two hours after the beginning and had our problems to get flowers and wire. I am afraid, that was the reason why my flowers looked a little bit withered.

Actually, I read about a tradition. It says that you should pick up seven different flowers on your way home. If you put these flowers under your pillow, you will meet your future love in your dreams. Actually, I tried it, however, I can’t remember my dreams of that night. Damn. Perhaps I will give it a second chance next year.

Dance as a frog or play flute

Similar to the maypole the Scandinavians also have a traditional pole, the “midsommarstång”. The people dance around the pole. However, you can also dance without a tree. The midsummer guide of the festival said there are different styles of dances. One is the “Små grodorna”, translated it means something as “The small SDC11871frogs”. The guide says you should imitate frogs (and also pigs, elephants and so on). Another dance is “Vi äro musikanter” translated as “We are the musicians” and the dancing rules for this is imitating violinists, trumpeters and other musicians. Another tradition is some typical games as the egg-and-spoon-race, sack race or the nail driving. Furthermore, in the back of the garden were waiting for a small Finnish sauna (and a bathtub full of ice cubes).

The festival also offers a lot of food trucks and small food waggons. They offered traditional food as Köttbullar, however, also -not so typical for the midsummer – fries, waffles and Brazilian pancakes.

Tickets for free in Berlin

I can strongly recommend the event. I have to confess, I never visit a midsummer festival in Sweden (or anywhere else in Scandinavia), so I’m pretty sure I missed the best midsummer feasts. However, the festival was really nice, the weather was great, it was fun to create girdles of flowers and I and my friends liked the Scandinavian folk music. One little lead in the end: If you want to go to the midsommar festival of Berlin, you should register before because then you will get a ticket for free. If you buy a ticket at the box office, you have to pay ten euros.

Carnival of Cultures

Berlin is a really multicultural city. And this is exactly what the citizens celebrate at the “Karneval der Kulturen” (translated in English it would be “Carnival of Cultures”), every May in Kreuzberg. The highlight of the festival is the big parade on Sunday. 

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Karneval der Kulturen in Kreuzberg

“Karneval der Kulturen” (Carnival of Cultures) is a big urban festival with an open programme for free for four days in Berlin-Kreuzberg. At the festival are different stalls with all kinds of different food and drinks from all over the world and of course also clothes, toys, music instruments, jewellers and other beautiful treasures. The festival has also a green area and many stages, where several artists and musician present their art.

Empanada from a Uruguayan stall

I really liked the little stalls with different food. I was happy to find an Uruguayan stall with Empanadas and Alfajores. Unfortunately, all Alfajores were already sold out, but I was lucky and could catch an Empanada con Carne (with meat). I was in South America one year ago. That was when I first tried Empanadas (and Alfajores) and felt a little bit in love with this dish. Empanadas are baked or fried pastries. They are filled with different meat, vegetables, cheese or others.

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Empanada and Tartes

When I told the stallholders that I travelled to Uruguay on my own a half year ago, they looked really surprised or even a bit sceptical (perhaps because I’m small and blond). Even more, when I told them I took the bus from Colonia del Sacramento (it’s a small city in southwestern Uruguay, only one hour with the ferry from Buenos Aires when you cross the Río de la Plata) to Montevideo. The man looked at me and asked all the time “For sure?”
By the way, the Empanada from Karneval der Kulturen was tasty but not as good as in South America. 

Many guests visit the Carnival of Cultures
Key chains and dreamcatcher
Colourful pants, bags and scarves
Bohemian cakes
The end of the festival was at midnight

Different stalls

The stallholders at the Karneval der Kulturen sell much different DSCN7168stuff. They have pretty and exotic clothes but also accessories like necklaces and bracelets. There was also a tent with a fortune-teller. One man tried to sell me a flute, it was really pretty and handmade. But I’m afraid I’m not such a good musician. Once I wanted to learn guitar, so I bought the cheapest guitar on the internet I could find (If I remember right, I paid around 33 Dollars), but my passion went away so I never learned how to play. But I really liked his beautiful rattles.

 
 
 
 
 

Large parade in the streets of Berlin

One of the highlights is the big parade on Sunday. About 1,3 million people come together. Dance groups, musicians and other artists celebrate and dance through the streets of Kreuzberg (from Hermannplatz to Yorckstraße/Möckernstraße) and turn them into the biggest stage of Berlin. This year the parade started at 2.30pm and ends at circa 09.30pm and had over 70 groups. The audience can join the parade and celebrate with them. I did this with my friends. To be honest, it wasn’t my favourite music (a lot of Techno music, it’s really common in Germany to dance to electronic music and Techno), but the atmosphere was great and the people really happy and also kind of crazy (and perhaps some a little bit drunk). But the streets were full of dancing people, and this was a really cool feeling. All streets were closed for traffic. It felt like a huge party, and the whole city was part of it.  

Food Market in Berlin

I love to taste new dishes from foreign countries or eat some meals I already know from my last vacation (it remembers good times there). That’s why I was really happy when I hear about the food market at the “Görlitzer Bahnhof” in Berlin.

Arepas

From Switzerland to Peru …

In Berlin, you have the opportunity to choose between different food markets. I was with a friend at the “Markthalle Neun” (Eisenbahnstraße 42/43, Berlin-Kreuzberg) nearby the “Görtlitzer Bahnhof” (U1) and wanted to taste some foreign dishes. The market opens every Thursday between 17.00 – 22.00 o’clock (5pm-10pm). You can find all kinds of different food from all over the world. From Switzerland to Peru, from Vietnam to Italy, you can choose between different stalls with dishes from special countries. 

Summer rolls

Our first dish was summer rolls from Vietnam. It’s rice paper filled with tofu, pepper, cucumber, rice noodles, Chinese cabbage and fresh herbs with peanut-hoisin sauce. It was really tasty. My friend bought something like Samosa filled with meat from an African stall. 

The location of the food market: Markthalle Neun
"Summer Rolls"
Kimshi, a typical dish from Korea
Little delicious cakes
My desert: Mousse au Chocolat in a fluffy waffle

Naan bread + Sandwich = Naanwich

It was really hard to decide what to eat because there were so many creative dishes which looked so delicious. In the end, we decided to eat a “Naanwich”, the word combines Naan bread (typical Indian bread) and of course the word sandwich. So you will already guess that it’s Indian food. You could choose between meat (12 hours cooked pork) and tikka cheese (paneer) combined with salad, different vegetables, coriander and mint yoghurt sauce rolled in bread. Not easy to eat, but it was really good (actually, I really love Indian food).

Fluffy waffles filled with Mousse au Chocolat

My friend decided to taste some of the wines they offered. I wanted to save my money for a desert. I forgot the name of the dish, but it was kind of a special waffle (very fluffy) rolled until it looked like an ice-cream wafer and filled with Mousse au Chocolat. You could, of course, choose between different fillings like Baileys, strawberry, banana, Nutella or just very common with sugar and cinnamon. The evening was very nice, why we will come again and after the closing hours, we went into the next bar to drink a beer. 

Official page: Markthalle Neun

First time in a mosque

When a West European girl visits a mosque for the first time …

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Visit the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul

Most immigrants in my home country Germany are from Turkey. Nonetheless, I never knew much about Islam. A really good friend told me once something about the five pillars of religion. His mother is from Turkey, so he knows a lot more about Islam than I. Actually, I really had the wish to visit a mosque a long time ago. I got this chance when my university in Berlin had an exchange with Istanbul. This should be the first time I would see a mosque from inside. It was really exciting for me.

Actually, my first “connection” with the mosque was already three days before the beginning of the exchange. When we went to the city a Muezzin started to call and pray from the minaret. For me, it felt really strange at first. We started to scream a little bit against the calls from the Muezzin to continue our small talk. But maybe you can compare it with the bells from Christian churches, they also “call” the believers into the church.

Washing rules and blue scarves

DSCN6727I really like the architecture of the big mosques in Istanbul. We visited the Hagia Sophia. First of all, you have to wash before you are allowed to enter the mosque. There are different water taps outside, one side for men, the other for women. They have kind of a fixed process of how to wash and when. One of the five pillars is praying, so Muslims should pray five times a day. But the most important prayer is Fridays.

After washing face, head, and feet (actually, most of our group just watched like the others did), we enter a line of people. In front of the mosque, they distribute blue scarves for women. Because when a woman wants to enter the mosque she has to cover her legs, arms, and hair. So we all tried to hide our hair with the blue scarves and wear long blue skirts (actually, I don’t know why we had to wear these skirts because all of us had long pants, but the men at the entry said to us our legs are too skinny). The last stop before entering the mosque is a floor where you have to take off your shoes. Everyone gets a plastic bag for his shoes. 

With selfie sticks in the mosque

Finally, we were allowed to went into the mosque. The Hagia Sophia is really big, beautiful and has – I believe as every mosque- many domes. The whole mosque has carpet. One of our German exchange students meant walking without shoes on this carpet feels a little bit more home. We should perhaps do the same in our churches. 

The mosque seemed very bright and colourful with its beautiful windows, painted domes and pillars. The lamps hung really deep, this was special for me. In the Hagiga Sophia are many tourists. It looks a little bit strange, the women with their scarves on their heads, posing for a photo with their selfie sticks. 

It was really interesting to be in a mosque for the first time and hear something about the second biggest religion in the world. 

Good to know about Germany

You plan to visit Germany? Then you opened the right blog post. Here you find some “Insider” news, tips, help and other good-to-know-stuff about my home country. 

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Brandenburger Tor

Germany has a size of over 350,000 square kilometres and more than 80 million inhabitants. Our capital is Berlin, and of course, we speak German and pay with the Euro. Our head of government is a woman. Our country has a big historical background (and not everything was good), especially the Second World War is still an important subject in Germany and we were divided into two countries (with a wall between which even divided Berlin into two parts). The German reunification was on the 3rd of October 1990, it is our national holiday. We are less than half per cent of the world…

Shops are closed on Sundays: It’s cheaper to buy food in the supermarket and cook an own meal than go out to a restaurant. However, if you go to restaurants or clubs it is important to give the waiter tip (around 10%, in bars most time we just round the sum up) for his good service. But when the waiter was impolite or the service bad you do not need to give tip. If you want to buy food in the supermarket you should know that all shops and supermarkets are usually closed on Sundays. There are some exceptions on special days or special little shops. But the stuff will be more expensive there. If you need it anyway, you could be lucky at a petrol station or at shops in the train stations. Some bigger cities also have some markets, which are open on Sundays. One special attention for tourists in Bavaria (Munich, Nuremberg, castle Neuschwanstein) and Saarland: Supermarkets close here a little bit earlier, at the latest 8pm.

Extra money for plastic and beer bottles: In Germany, we have a deposit for most bottles. You recognise it through a little sign on the bottle, which shows a can and a bottle with a returning arrow. Most plastic bottles, but also cans and beer bottles have deposit. Most big glass bottles with alcohol (wine or spirits) are non-returnable bottles. Plastic bottles and cans have a 0.25 Euro deposit, beer bottles (glass) only 0.08 Euro. After you emptied the bottle you can bring it back to the supermarket and get your money back. This deposit system is part of the environmental protection of Germany and should help the recycling system. Furthermore, many homeless people in Germany collect bottles with a deposit from public parks.

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Bundestag

Public transport: Compared to many other countries, Germany has expensive public transport. Especially the local transport could be very expensive (price reduction for single tickets only for kids under 14 years). When you want to travel across the country you can use planes, trains (for long-distance travels, it’s cheaper to buy the tickets at least three days before – Deutsche Bahn or sometimes cheaper here), busses (f.e. FlixbusPostbus or Eurolines) or also take a ride with the car (f.e. Blablacar). The last one is a good decision when you want to travel spontaneously. There are different portals you can use and ask foreigners to take them for less money with you.

No speed limit: One cliche about Germans is, that German men love their cars more than their wives. I think this could be discussed. But true is we love to drive really fast. That’s why Germany doesn’t have a speed limit on highways.

Clean tap water: Our tap water in Germany is very clean. So you don’t have to buy water in the supermarket and can just use the tap to refill your bottle. Many people buy their water anyway in the supermarket. One reason will be that sparkling water is really in common here (but you can also buy water without carbonic acid).

Age Limits: Germany produces a lot of wine and beer. The age limit to taste this alcohol is 16 years. For any other alcohol or driving cars, you have to be 18 years old. With 18 you’re at your full age in Germany. But for some clubs and every casino you have to be 21 years old anyway.

Japanese Christmas Market in Berlin

In Japan live about 2 per cent Christians. So for sure, it would not be the first country you would associate with Christmas. But this fact doesn’t keep Berlin from organising a Japanese Christmas market. What you can find there? Please scroll down …

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At the weekend of the second advent I had visited the Japanese Christmas market together with my flatmates (Sometimes we’re kind of Asia nerds). The market was in a big hall in Alt-Treptow in Berlin. The first look wasn’t really Christmassy (neither the second). There were a lot of different booths with typical Japanese stuff like soft toys, pictures, little action figures and accessories. You found hand-made kimonos and self-made art. The vendors were different people from Germany or Japan, who came to the market to present and sell special things.

Beautiful kimonos
Japanese art
Try sumo wrestling
Thuna-Don and Zenzai
Korokke (related to croquette)
Yakitori (chicken)
Gyoza
And of course, there were many different booths with Japanese food. In Germany is a big trend to eat vegan, so there were also a lot of possibilities to have dishes without animal products. Of course, they had a lot of meals with rice like Japanese Curry or Thuna Don. The last one is a rice bowl with marinated tuna Sashimi. Other little things were Yakitori (chicken) or different crepes with Salmond-Teriyaki, Kimchi-Cheese or Matcha-Atzuki. They also sell kind of Hot Dogs with specific food like Kimchi, Wasabi and Teriyaki. Okonomiyaki reminded me of a big pancake, I think you could compare it with each other. Of course, you could eat typical food like Sushi and Japanese soap. They also sell Zenzai. It’s a sweet red bean soup. 

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My Gyoza

It was really hard to choose only one dish from the big offer. I decided to try Gyoza. It’s thinly rolled pieces of pastry filled with meat (pork) or vegetables (vegetarian). If you know the German “Maulentaschen” you will know, what I mean. You eat it with soya sauce. It was really delicious, but I waited for one hour to get them because the food needs a lot of time and many people wanted to eat them. But I was lucky because the seller gave me one Gyoza more. Thanks to the hospitable Japanese.

Click here to find more blog post about different Christmas markets in Berlin

Christmas Markets at Alexanderplatz

Two other famous Christmas markets are the one at Alexanderplatz and just a few metres from there at Rotes Rathaus. I will tell you where you find a rink for ice skating, real snow, which doesn’t depend on the weather and meet Santa Clause.

What is a Christmas Market? Christmas markets are street markets during the weeks of Advent. These kind of markets are really typical for Germany, but also Austria, South Tyrol (Northern Italy) and some eastern regions in France. The history goes back to the Late Middle Ages of German-Speaking parts in Europe. Christmas markets have a lot of different stalls which sell all kinds of things, also typical Christmas dishes as German gingerbread (“Lebkuchen”), candied almonds, a variety of sausages (“Bratwurst”) and hot mulled wine (“Glühwein”).
 
Alexanderplatz is the most famous square in Berlin with its TV tower and named after the Russian Tsar Alexander I. No wonder that it also hosts three different Christmas markets around the area. The one directly on the actual square is full of different booths (more than 100) – and our favourite food (which you can find on basically every Christmas market) are German sausages, French crêpes and sugared almonds.
 
 
Right next to the World Time Clock is a Christmas pyramid designed with over 5,000 lights. Not only is it Europe’s biggest one but actually is also accessible to enjoy your hot mulled wine (“Glühwein”) inside. But also the small fireplaces around the pyramid offer a bit of warmth in Germany’s cold winters.  But the highlight is the snow which falls down from the pyramid every full hour. And this snow will fall no matter if it’s cold enough or not (the snow is foam).
 
Besides the pyramid is traditionally a big children’s carousel located. In the stalls around are even more Christmas themed articles – a lot of them handcrafted. 
 
The "World Time Clock" in front of the Christmas Pyramid at the Alexanderplatz
Snow and the Television Tower in the background
Snow at the Christmas pyramid
Alexanderplatz
 
If you follow the square in the direction of the TV tower (Western part of the Alexanderplatz) you will reach the next Christmas market at the Rotes Rathaus (Red City Hall). The famous red building is the town hall of Berlin, the home of the mayor and partial even open to the public. 
 
This Christmas market offers a 50m high Ferris wheel (it is actually the same you can find at the Octoberfest in Munich) and a skating rink around the fountain (Neptunbrunnen) for ice skating. Three times a day Santa Clause is flying over this fountain in his slide and of course with his reindeers. Furthermore, here you can taste a special menu of Berlin – warm green cabbage (usually served with sausages). Another particular dish they sell is Lángos from Hungary, as well as roasted apples, homemade baked bread from the medieval bakery and hot mead (honey wine). 
 
Different decorations and lights
A big wheel at the Christmas market of Rothes Rathaus
... fried apples
 

The third Christmas market is more like an amusement park right behind the shopping mall Alexa. 

 

 

City-Christmas Market at Gedächntniskirche

The next Christmas market I visited was the one around the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church at the Breitscheidplatz in Charlottenburg. The Christmas market is right next to the famous shopping street of Kurfürstendamm. You can reach it by subway getting out at “Zoologischer Garten” or “Kurfürstendamm”.

What is a Christmas Market? Christmas markets are street markets during the weeks of Advent. These kind of markets are really typical for Germany, but also Austria, South Tyrol (Northern Italy) and some eastern regions in France. The history goes back to the Late Middle Ages of German-Speaking parts in Europe. Christmas markets have a lot of different stalls which sell all kinds of things, also typical Christmas dishes as German gingerbread (“Lebkuchen”), candied almonds, a variety of sausages (“Bratwurst”) and hot mulled wine (“Glühwein”).

One of the most famous churches in Berlin is the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche at the Kurfürstendamm in Charlottenburg. The original church was built in 1890 but was damaged in a bombing raid during the Second World War. Nowadays the church is an important landmark of (former) West-Berlin.

I really enjoyed the mood of the Christmas market there, because of the thousand beautiful lights in the trees and on the stalls as well as a carpet of lights above the heads of the visitors. A popular photo setting is also the huge Christmas baubles decorated with even more lights. Really typical for the markets in Berlin are the big Christmas pyramids with candles and figures from the nativity scene.

The Christmas market is way bigger then it seems at first glance because the stalls are spread all over the square and some even continue along die Kurfürstendamm. Usually, it even has a pop-up-restaurant with traditional German cuisine.

The entry of the "City Weihnachtsmarkt"
"Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche" (Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church) is in the thick of the market
The Christmas Pyramid
 
A big Christmas ball ornament

Click here to find more blog post about different Christmas markets in Berlin