The Dummkopf’s Guide to Subletting

by James Glazebrook

When you arrive in Berlin, chances are you’ll end up in a flatshare or a sublet. While we’ve no experience of the former, having too many things (and cats) to squeeze into a single room, we can impart some wisdom about the latter. On paper subletting is straightforward – you pays your money (bills included) and move into an apartment which is set up with everything you’ll need for your first few months in Berlin. In reality, it’s anything but simple.

Here are some tips to help you circumnavigate the surprisingly tricksy waters of subletting:




Berliners may be liberal compared to other Germans, but the fact that you are looking after their home means they expect you to take extra-special care of it. They might act all cool and “whatever” and “mi casa su casa” but they expect to find it exactly how they left it (if not cleaner). When the tenants of our first sublet returned, they grilled us on the whereabouts of a mouldy old bathmat, a bowl made out of banana skins (something I think we would remember seeing) and some missing coathangers. Because, in their minds, we moved in, used their stuff and put it back in all the wrong places. Cheeky, huh?


It’s not enough that Berlin is one of the greenest cities in Europe (with 2,500 public green spaces!); its residents are all about bringing the outside indoors. They all have plants, and they love those plants – even more than we love our cats, which is worrying. So when we asked one tenant what we could do with plants that may have been poisonous to our kitties, we should have known that the response “I don’t care” meant something like “leave them with my neighbours” not, say,”just throw them in the trash”. Oopsie!




So we’re probably sounding like nightmare guests right about now. This one’s my bad. Within our first month, I’d managed to drop a set of keys down those grates that are conveniently located in front of every door in Berlin. The set with the keys to the post box attached – so we had to replace that as well as trying to replace the keys. You should know: the chunky keys to the front door of your building, with the ID number on, are basically impossible to replace (I think the tenant has to submit an application to the building manager). So, as we were helpfully told at the latest handover, “if you’re going to lose a key, don’t lose this one” – as he handed it to us, attached to the rest of our single set of keys.


All Berliners are, to some degree, hippies. That’s why they live here and not, say, downtown Manhattan. That’s why they all have plants, and that’s why they need very little else. Pretty early on, we faced up to the fact that a dishwasher is a luxury, but here are just a few of the things we were amazed that people could live without: a kettle; a toaster; a can opener and, more importantly, a bottle opener; curtains; warm showers. We did, however, find plenty of dirty socks and underwear, and healthy chunks of hair clogging up the drain of that freezing cold shower. Nice.


The actual tenants of your sublet are going to be back before you know it. Even if it’s not plain sailing, chances are you’ll fall in love with your nice big (compared to London or New York) apartment, and your new life in it. Just bear in mind, you’ll probably burn through another four of these before you finally settle down, so don’t get attached!

PS for major LOLS from the tenant’s point of view, check out this great blog on Vice from someone whose neighbour sublet his Berlin apartment while he was away.

Making Friends at Mauerpark

by Zoë Noble

Last weekend I met the wonderful Gabby from Gypsy*Diaries for a fun day of street style papping at Mauerpark. With our mutual love of photography, fashion and Berlin (of course!), we had way too much in common to leave our friendship just in the bloggersphere, and so took the plunge to meet up in person (a scary notion for us web folk!). After meeting and chatting for hours about everything from camera lenses to jewellery designers (we’re a weird breed I admit it), we made the most of the glorious spring sunshine and went off to snap some beautiful Berliners. Thankfully, unlike most blind dates, the day was a resounding success and we’ve vowed to make it a regular occurrence which I’m really excited about so watch this space!



Photos by Gabby at Gypsy*Diaries


The lovely Gabby herself!

Altes Museum

by James Glazebrook

Our new favourite blog is A Year in Museums, which aims to visit the 200-odd museums in London in 12 months. The only thing stopping me from stealing the idea and using it here in Berlin is not a strong sense of ethics, but a lack of organisation.

However, we do have a kind of informal challenge, in the shape of Jahreskarten which allow us free entry to all of Berlin’s 23 (if I counted right) State Museums, for a year. We’ve been to five, if we cheat and count previous trips to Berlin: the Kupferstichkabinett (prints and drawings), the Pergamonmuseum (twice, including this visit), Hamburger Bahnhof (also twice!), the Neue Nationalgalerie (bunch of Dix!) and now the Altes Museum.

The “Old Museum” lives up to its name, a collection of classical monuments housed in a building that references the Roman Pantheon. While the Etruscans and Romans are well represented, it’s the Ancient Greeks that steal the show, with impressive statues of their gods and demigods, the best of which stand under the museum’s central rotunda.

Here are our impressions of the Altes Museum. Below them, we’ve included a great video of the island on which it sits along with the other State Museum biggies, Museumsinsel, from our expat blog buddies Good Hard Working People.


Treptower Park

by Zoë Noble


Inside Berghain

by James Glazebrook

We’re such teases. If you came here expecting a glimpse inside Berlin’s supergay superclub, forget it – pretty much the only rule the place has is “NO PHOTOS!” If you want more details about what Berghain actually looks like inside (and where exactly to get your freak on), let us suggest these epic articles on Slow Travel Berlin, BANGBANGBERLIN and Resident Advisor.

Instead, we’re listing our favourite attempts to describe the iconic club, in ascending order of awesomeness:

5) “The Best Club in the World” – every dance music publication, every other year

Most recently, Resident Advisor in 2008 and DJ Mag in 2009.

4) “You know that episode of The Simpsons, when Homer takes Bart to a steel mill that turns into a gay club? That.” – @johnontheweb

(Apologies for the shit video quality, but it’s impossible to get decent Simpsons clips online. You get the idea.)

3) “The techno Crystal Maze” – our mate Dan

Orbital at Berghain last weekend:

Orbital play Berghain

2)”The vampire club from Blade” – fellow expat Berliner Heather

In terms of the club’s energy and aesthetic, this is spot on. Also, Berghain is full of sucking and spraying fluids, but of an altogether different kind.

(Sorry, that’s truly disgusting.)

1) “…”

Of course, none of the above descriptions do the place justice. I was in Berghain last Saturday and couldn’t muster the words to describe it (and not for the reasons you might think – I was stone-cold sober). You’ll just have to find out for yourself what make the club so special – if you can make it past the notoriously selective door staff. Good luck!

Überstyle: Danziger Strasse

by Zoë Noble

streetstyle 1

Uberlin, R.E.M. and Us

by James Glazebrook

Oh hai, R.E.M. fan. You’ve just Googled “Uberlin” in the hopes of finding out what the alt. rock superstars’ new song is all about. Well sorry, but you’ve happened upon a blog about a couple of English ex-pats trying to make a life for themselves in Berlin. But — before you bounce back to the search results — we might be able to shed some light on the city that Michael Stipe is so enamoured with.

As both R.E.M. and ourselves have learned, Berlin is an easy city to fall in love with. When the band announced that they would record their 15th album in the legendary Hansa Studios (the birthplace of David Bowie’s Berlin Trilogy), they explained that

Berlin is a pulsing, exciting city with so many varied and distinctive neighborhoods, iconic history all around, great food at all levels and from every corner of the world… an excellent place to set up camp and make a great record.

Swap out “record” for “life”, and this echoes our feelings exactly. On one level, the name Überlin simply means “about Berlin” (über + Berlin). But, as “über” can also stand for “over”, “above” and “beyond”, this blog is about more than Berlin – and Berlin is more than just a city to us.

The song “Uberlin” capture the potential beauty of everyday life in a way that few lyricists other than Stipe can. He begins with the routine preparations for an ordinary day (“Hey now, take your pills… make your breakfast… comb your hair and off to work”) and ends up somewhere literally out of this world: “I am flying on a star into a meteor tonight.”

For us, the turning point comes in the second verse: “take the U-Bahn [underground/subway train] / Five stops, change the station… don’t forget, the change will save you.” Looking back, our move out here four months ago – which seemed so overwhelming at the time – was as simple as changing tracks, switching direction. But it may have saved us.

The original official video for the song told this wondrous, enigmatic tale by tracking something as mundane as the U-Bahn map itself, or at least a pretty close approximation of it:

The new (also official) video, directed by English artist Sam Taylor-Wood doesn’t move us quite so much – not least because it was filmed in the part of East London we just moved away from!

Either Wood didn’t fancy the flight out here, or she’s making a point – transcendent moments like the ones the song describes can take place anywhere, to anyone. While we’d have to agree, it’s here that we have finally found a rewarding life, one full of potential. It’s here that we “walk the streets to feel the ground”. If you want to know what’s so amazing about Berlin, feel free to explore our blog – it’s all we ever talk about! And this might be a good place to start…

PS – Thanks to Good Hard Working People for bringing the new video to our attention and making us realise that we had to blog about it!

Edit: the geniuses behind Normal in Shoreditch have uploaded a spoof version of the Taylor-Wood video that’s even more gloriously everyday. Now this makes us homesick: