Archive for the 'QualityofLife' Category

3 years later…

Three years have gone by since we bought our flat in Berlin (the first one).

What happened in the meantime?

On a parallel street a new building in neo-bauhaus style has just been built. Prices for these new properties vary from 3,500 to 5,000 Eur per square meter. Well, there is so much real estate worth renewing in Berlin that new buildings could be avoided, right…still the prices tells something about the direction the market has taken in Berlin during the crisis.

The construction company who carryed over the refurbishing of our flat is always as busy. Business did not slow down for them, they are excellent craftsmen after all. Refurbishing of existing buildings in the Kiez carries on, both on Wilmersdorf’s side and on Kreuzberg’s side.

The Kiez has not over-gentrified in the meantime, and that is good. Across the townhall I’ve spotted a new patisserie and the smith has gone. But maybe he was not a good smith after all…his store was always closed, the service was a bit patchy.

The Kiez did not become fashionable, there are no fancy boutiques and we still have all our bakeries, delightful independent bookstores and stationery shops.


And now, what’s up?

baedecker vide pochesOne year ago I kick-started the refurbishing process at our 1920s flat in Schöneberg. In the early spring, while the finishing touches were being added…ooops! we decided to double-up and buy another flat, the Little Cub, a small but cuddly 1960s apartment.

Over the Summer I furnished also the second flat and we spent our holidays in both of them. Ab und zu, we would move from one flat to the other, in order to check our ergonomics intuitions, see if something was missing and make room for friends and family who joined us in beautiful Schöneberg.

We collected lots of enthusiastic feedback.

On our 1920s beauty the most frequent comments were: “Look at this magnificent window!” (you see it now as the Header of this blog). “I loove the touch and feel of the old parquet!”. But also the modern evolution of the flat got the thumbs up, especially the bathroom in gray hues and the surprise mezzanine.

The 1960s Cub flat seduces for its balcony view on to the park and the flood of light, making those 30 square meters airy and open. Its German retro 60s design was enhanced by selecting carefully the furniture. A few pieces, not to crowd the space, but the right ones.

In the meantime, the crisis unfolded. One year ago everybody was scared of banking with a Bad Bank. Markets crashed and the like. There were times we asked ourselves if we had done the right move.

With insight, we realized we bought at the bottom of the market (hopefully!) and our monitoring of Schöneberg real estate prices confirmed a thing or two.

First, good locations and nice properties disappeared from the radar, were scarce on the market and retained their value. Second, more mass-market and common properties were abundant and at cheaper prices. But we didn’t want a property without caractère in the first place, so no regrets. Third, it’s more difficult to get mortgages today.

And now, what’s up?

Berlin, the anxious punk…

Now that’s what I call a well-documented analysis. The Irish Times reports on Berlin, the fractured metropolis. The anxious punk?

Graveyard of ambitions?

A collection of individuals pursuing their interesting paths outside national ghettos?

A local management culture difficult to grasp?

A city attracting people who don’t know what to do next?

Or a place where – if you know what you want and fight for it in an equally disciplined way as you would do in Paris or London – you can find an unparalleled quality of living (after gray-sky vaccination)?

Find out…

The fractured metropolis?


Is Berlin a capital of creativity, as the hype would have you believe, or rather a slacker’s paradise, where every day is a Saturday? DEREK SCALLY talks to some Irish immigrants who have managed to forge careers there.

JOHN LENNON ONCE remarked that life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans. For many Irish, the German capital is a place they never intended to make their home but, to stretch Lennon’s logic, they have found Berlin to be a fine spot to live while making other arrangements.

Continue reading ‘Berlin, the anxious punk…’

Boring, tedious, envious or just plain lazy?

“Gentrification has hit Prenzlauer Berg at a speed unmatched even by the most tarted-up quarters of other European capitals. Ninety per cent of the district’s apartments have been vacated by their original East German inhabitants since the Wall’s fall. They have been replaced by a generation of young Germans who have arrived as rich invaders from the West. The standing joke in Prenzlauer Berg is that the borough is populated exclusively by Swabians from wealthy south-western Germany. Like most jokes, it contains an element of truth”.

This morning I found this article on my virtual shore, the Google tide brought it from The Independent.

A flavor on the pros and cons of gentrified Prenzl’berg. A panoramique on the former-DDR Länder demographic, economic and neo-nazi problems. All in all not so original. Frankly, I expected something better from the Independent. This piece feels stale, like a “Panorama” article, full of clichés and made of rechauffé themes.

Or is it just envious? To me, the british society doesn’t seem so “full or harmony” or heavenly homogeneous in terms of economic and social opportunities. Heathrow airport or some stops of the Tube don’t even evoke “poor but sexy” thoughts like some rusty rail platforms in OstBerlin. And there was never an iron curtain in between Putney and Islington.

If you want to read articles criticizing Germany, read the German press…it’s more interesting. Be it on the debate on prams in Prenzl’berg. Or the unemployment rate in Mecklemburg. Or Rostock gangs. Or the Swabian invasion.

Continue reading ‘Boring, tedious, envious or just plain lazy?’

And the best city to live in is…

Vienna. Recently a survey by the consultancy firm Mercer declared Vienna the best city to live in. Thirteen of the top 20 cities in which to live and work are in Europe, including Munich, Vienna, Brussels, Frankfurt, Bern, Copenhagen and…Berlin! Not surprisingly Australia, New Zealand and Canada score high.

The bear town keeps her 16th position, ahead of Melbourne, Paris, London, Madrid, Barcelona, but also Hamburg and Stockholm.

Weighted by the cost of living and the vibrancy of cultural life, for us Berlin remains number one, when it comes to quality of life.

Herebelow a FT article gives you an idea of real estate prices in prinzessin Vienna. Continue reading ‘And the best city to live in is…’

Dynamo Design


Argh! I will be in Berlin until June 2nd! This means I will miss this fantastic event: the DMY International Design Festival Berlin 2009.

I would love to see inspiring products such as Karin Johansson’s Dynamic lamp, wireless and ecologic, which I found on the interesting DesignSpotter website. It reminds you while using it, that you are saving our planet. I like also Johansson’s presentation of the product, herebelow. I strongly believe in metissage, and the metissage of light, globe and bike is incredibly effective and inspiring.

»Design has become the most powerful tool with which man shapes his tools and environment (and, by extension, society and himself).«

This was written by designer and educator Victor Papanek (1927–1999). He became a strong advocate of the socially and ecologically responsible design of products, tools and community infrastructures. He disapproved of manufactured products that were unsafe, showy, maladapted or essentially useless.

Karin Johansson’s lamp would have been appreciated by Papanek. It transforms kinetic energy to light, through a dynamo placed inside the globe. As you spin it, it glows. Johansson explains:

“The dynamo has fascinated me since before I knew what it was. I fell asleep to the sound of it when I was two years old sitting on the back of my mother’s bike.

My ›Dynamic Lamp‹ is a part of the wireless society. It doesn’t need any power supply or batteries, it just works with your own energy. It is based on the idea of producing your energy where you are, instead of transporting it in all directions across the earth. The sole by-product is exercise”.

The 7th edition of DMY International Design Festival “Same same, but different” will kick off in June. Showcasing works by internationally acclaimed designers as well as reveilling prototypes by the young talent the festival this year especially focuses on design that makes a difference. Presenting three huge main exhibition zones next to a varied program of lectures, panel talks, performances and parties the festival itself tries to change the city at least for five days.

the haberdashery factor


“The ideal neighborhood” is the most visited page of this blog, since ever. I guess this has to do with the fact that we all long for finding some sort of village-like harmony (but not flatness). Among the points of the ideal place there is the sense of community, call it “no big retail chains around” or “feeling safe in your whereabouts”.


I quite liked Mr Brule’ s article comparing Lisbon, with its ancient haberdashery and grocery-style beauty stores, with Notting Hill no man’s land in the making. Continue reading ‘the haberdashery factor’

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