Monday, 15 October 2012

Settling Into Berlin

Our flat in Berlin is almost everything we could want for two months (I still lament not having a washing machine or an in-house wireless connection but such is life). It is only three rooms—a living/bedroom, a kitchen/dining room, and a bathroom, but the rooms are large and the ceilings are very high so it feels quite spacious. It is simply furnished but the furniture is, mostly, much more comfortable than what we had in Cambridge. It is so, so nice to have a bed that doesn’t gouge you with springs or dip in the middle. It is so, so nice to finally have a couch again. We still haven’t finished unpacking (life with a baby makes things take longer) so these are the pictures that we got before we moved in:

The living-room half of our big room (furniture is a bit different now)

The sleeping half...although the headboard has disappeared -- I think our landlord has had trouble with previous tenants using the flat as a party-base and causing lots of damage

A tiny but efficient bathroom

the kitchen/dining room -- but the dining area is now functioning as David's office :)
We live in one of the poorer neighbourhoods (hence why we could afford a two-month sublet!) but it’s in central Berlin and thus relatively safe, or so the internet assured us before we signed our contract. I’m pleased with it thus far—our flat is in a building that has had many others spring up around it, so we are sheltered from the noise of the street (the downside is we have no real view as we are sandwiched by apartments) and safe from intruders by the two strong doors that close our building off from the street entrance. The street itself is quite busy, full of shops, grocery stores, and kebab kiosks. At one end there is a large shopping center. Coming from Cambridge, where it would take me at least 15 minutes to get to a place where I could go shopping, it’s a treat to have everything I need within 10 minutes or less.

Because we live in a poor area the prices are lower and there are a lot of discount stores around. Since we’re on a tight budget this really helps! On our first night in Berlin we went to a kebab place to grab dinner and were pleased to discover that we could get massive kebabs for only €2.80 each. We’ve since found even cheaper ones just across the street, with a small size that is practically a meal in a wrap! There are all sorts of dollar stores around, which is great for picking up a few household things, and then there are some nice shops in the shopping center where we can buy things that need to last (like a lamp for David’s desk).

There are two grocery stores almost directly across from our building. To try and save money, and because we don’t have a freezer, we go shopping every few days to try and eke out what we already have in the fridge. So I do a combination of buying things that are on sale and creating meals from what’s on hand, not following a particular recipe, and planning one or two recipes in advance based on stuff I have in the house. The language barrier makes grocery shopping quite an adventure and somewhat maddening at times! For example, the grocer had some pork loin roasts on sale so I bought one, and then decided that the cheapest way of seasoning it would be to use my mum’s mustard, garlic, and pepper technique. I then spent a good ten minutes searching for mustard. Why? Because the store didn’t have a huge selection, it wasn’t in any sort of container that I normally identify as holding mustard (ie the french’s bottle or the rounded glass jars), and in German it is called senf. I hate when I forget my dictionary at home because it is such a pain to try and guess what I’m buying.

The food in Germany is fantastic. For breakfast most mornings we have sour German bread (we’ve been trying different varieties at the grocery store, including yogurt, sesame, potato, and seed) with cheese. The cheese here is so good and ridiculously cheap—Gouda from Holland, Camembert from France, and all for under €2 for an amount that lasts a few days. We’ve also being making good headway through our grocer’s beer selection—at about €0.75 for half a litre of good beer it’s hard to resist! Our biggest expense is fruit & veg, along with all the mundane stuff one needs to get (shampoo etc).

Figuring out baby things has been interesting. Fortunately the brand of formula that Walter drinks is made by a German company, so he actually has more options for it in Germany than he did in England. This is somewhat confusing for me, because I can easily get lost in a sea of baby formula options and then start fretting over giving him the wrong thing. I accidentally moved him onto the “from birth” formula level for hungrier babies, because it was the same number (1) as the formula he was taking in England (in the UK the hungry-baby one is ‘2’). This seems to be for the best tho, as we now have a lot less fussing between feeds. I was worried it might slow down his nutritional eating but that certainly hasn’t been the case. Today he polished off 4 6oz bottles between 8am-4pm. 

A growing Walter -- arms and toes are close to busting out of his onesies!
Diapers were fairly easy to figure out, because some brands are universal which allows me to figure out the product name and then find the cheaper, no-name brand. Clothing is a little trickier to figure out, because the Germans size their baby clothing by centimeter and not all of the products have a guide as to which month it would fit. I haven’t had to buy any clothing yet for Walter, but it doesn’t look like he has much toe-room left in his 0-3 month onesies and he’s almost outgrown his swaddle-me’s for night sleeping. He’s also going to need a winter coat sooner or later. I keep feeling like a neglectful parent when I take him outside and see that all the other babies in the neighbourhood are already bundled into puffy, ,sleeping-bag-like pram suits and wearing toques. The daily highs are between 12-14 celsius and it’s only now with the chill autumn mornings that I’m pulling out his sweaters. A hot Walter is an angry Walter, and he is certain to let all and sundry know if he is feeling a bit warm.


  1. It sounds like such a great adventure! And Walter is looking so Wiebe like - I mean looking like you and John as babies. Love it!

  2. I know! It's so weird looking at him and seeing myself, if you know what I mean. But he's got a fair bit of David in him as well.