Berlin Field Notes

This may eventually move to a Page or some other more long-lived category (by tag or geography), but for now I’ll be using a regular post to keep some running notes:

General

  • People are very friendly and open and most speak/understand English well
  • Days during summer are awesome. Sunset between 9-10PM
  • Packages are delivered often-times to a store/restaurant nearby which you then go to pick up your stuff at. It’s sort of weird.

Housing

  • Rent is reasonable, although has been increasingly dramatically the past few years. It seems to be about €500-700/mo for a 1BR atm. Sq footage is generous (as are high ceilings) although AC/central heating seems to be rare.
  • There are over 1000 AirBnB listings for $35/less. 3-star hotel rooms are available for about $80/night and up.
  • Sublets are plentiful. The places I were looking at were between €700-900/mo

Dining

  • Dining is plentiful and opens relatively late (restaurants tend to close around midnight w/ last orders around 11PM). Prices comparable to the US. Meals tend to run €10-20.
  • There are pretty few late night options, predominantly Turkish Doner joints – these are among your cheapest (€2-3) and fastest options. Getting food in general after midnight is a pretty miserable affair compared to Tokyo, Taipei, etc. You probably won’t be able to walk to anywhere near.

Groceries

  • Berlin has supermarkets that are similar to American supermarkets (slightly smaller in size/SKUs). Prices for common items appear to in some cases be cheaper than in the US but otherwise pretty comparable.
  • There is apparently one 24-hour supermarket, and in fact, the number of supermarkets open on Sunday can be counted on your fingers.
  • There are a few convenience stores that dot the city that are open late/all-night (also Petrol stations are apparently an option). Cost for water/soda etc are about double or more the price at a supermarket.

Mobile

  • SIM cards are not available at the Airport.
  • Cell shops are everywhere and it’s most convenient to stop by a shop as they will deal w/ activating the SIM for you. Otherwise if you buy a starter-pack you’ll typically have to get online to register it (in German). Expect to spend about €15-20 for 1-3GB of high speed data.
  • Prepaid SIMs are super common (just about every store seems to have their own white-labeled MVNO). blau (e-plus/BASE network) seem to be the best for speed/cost for mobile data. Data is fast, well priced, and also has LTE support. I also tried Lebara (Deutsche Telekom) and Rossmann (Vodafone).

Airports

  • TXL
    • The primary International Airport
  • Schönefeld (SXF)
    • A relatively small airport in SE Berlin, all terminals are closely walkable (compare to: Burbank BUR)
    • No free wifi
    • Nowhere to buy a SIM card
    • Bus available to the closest U-Bahn station. May be quicker to walk to the nearby S-Bahn station to get into town
SXF

Gear List

On my previous trip I put most of my stuff into a ridiculously large (10’x20′) storage unit. My intention for this trip was to try to get rid of everything. While I fell short, I did reduce down to a 7’x10′ unit.

For traveling, I’ve switched from a large (60L) backpacker pack to a small backpack (currently a T-Level Challenger 32L) and a Zuca Pro travel carry-on.

I put together a spreadsheet at the beginning of the year and in a fit of why the hell not, weighed everything on the office small scale when I was back in town during the summer. My plan, which I’ve done a fair job sticking to, is to refine what I’m carrying with a 1-in-1-out policy. By the end of the year I’ll finally getting around to filling out my setup.

The Gear list is in the main sheet, but there are some additional sheets that may be of interest:

Carryon Gear<img title="Backpack Gear" src="http://farm4.staticflickr click this site.com/3925/14672240038_62d9d30382_b.jpg” alt=”Backpack Gear” width=”1024″ height=”680″>

  • I’ll probably end up doing some write-ups of some of this stuff, especially where existing guides/writeups have been inadequate (spare batteries, international power adapters, the T-Level bag, etc)
  • While it’s a relatively compact setup, it’s heavier than I’d like, mostly due to the amount of gadgets. Once nice thing about weighing everything is you can really have a metric to literally weigh against.
  • There are still a bunch of questionable items/cables that I’ll probably end up getting rid of for my next hop.
  • Some of these items are mentioned in my Wirecutter is always wrong rant.

Yak Shaving

In the spirit of having spent way more time than I really should have futzing on the design and setup of this travel blog (you know, instead of writing about traveling), here’s a list of pointless colophon:

  • The site is open source and pretty much all the code is on Github. I also have a list of todos there.
  • The plan was always to have something map-centric natural slimming pills. The final design is very close to my original splash pages from the beginning of the year.  It took so long to put this site up that my original map-tile provider, Cloudmade, basically shut down. I’ve switched to Mapbox, which is great so far.
  • Speaking of procrastination, I spent hours working on an attempt to implement dynamic background blurring but ended up abandoning the effort – it was way too hacky/fiddly.  You can check out the jsfiddle if you just want to see the effect.
  • I am dynamically generating my header from my last 4SQ checkin.
  • It’s been a while since I’ve done much FE work. This theme is based on Bones and should be pretty responsive. It’s also my first time using Sass (I’d previously used Less, so not a big leap). I was also ready to try Underscore,but Bones worked fine as skeleton – most of the work was trimming stuff off I didn’t need
  • I’m also using wp-geo for post-level geotagging, but not super happy with it, looking for something else that might do a better job of attaching GeoNames, WOEIDs, 4SQ locations, etc. (full plugin list)
  • WP-CLI is awesome and drastically simplifies upgrades, plugin installs, and other WordPress related BS
  • I will be porting and backdating some posts from my travel earlier this year as well as some pics.

OK, I think that’s enough yak shaving for a while. I’ll try keeping this stuff to a minimum, but futzing with the site/features is part of the fun, I suppose.

Completely unrelated, here’s a pic I took in Bali earlier this spring:

Monkey Model

First Post

Near the beginning of this year, I started traveling again. It’s taken a while (and 2 continents) for me to get this travel blog up and running, but hopefully now that I’ve nailed down a good-enough design and it’s up and running, I’ll do a better job back-filling content in.

A few years ago I spent about a year and a half semi-nomadic. Last year I started planning to do it again, although with a focus on spending a couple months in the places I’d visited that I’d liked the most rather than just a few weeks in places.

I started out my travels in February visiting Asia: a couple weeks in Taipei, then a week in Singapore and Bali, then two months in Tokyo, another stop in Taipei, a week in HK/SZ, a 3 week gastronomic tour of China, and then another week or so in Taipei slimming products.

I spent a couple weeks catching up after this first leg of traveling back in Los Angeles, and then headed out to Berlin in the beginning of July. I’m typing this from a sublet in Mitte, where I’ll be until September (I may visit some European cities while I’m here) before heading to Portland for a bit.

Well, that’s a start at least. My plan for this blog is to keep some notes of my travels and discoveries, and maybe talk about the why and the how (there will be gear reviews). But more on that later…

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