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Living in Berlin

Berlin is not huge.  It's smaller in population than Sydney.  But then that always depends on where you draw the boundary.  Berlin has large stretches of green space and achieves its urban density through a predominance of multistorey apartment living.  As a result the urban population density of Berlin is over ten times greater than Sydney (Sydney: 372 persons per square kilometre; Berlin: 3,944).  But this is not particularly dense.  Paris, that is officially half the size of Berlin or Sydney is over five times denser than Berlin. 

Thus Berlin is somewhere in the middle contributed to by Germany having one of the largest dwelling areas per person in Europe (reference).  For example the average Berlin apartment is substantially more commodious than an average London home.  Nevertheless, this density is sufficiently high to support excellent and inexpensive urban transport so that in general people prefer it or cycling to driving and leave their cars at home.  So road traffic flows relatively well compared to many cities. Bikes are popular because Berlin is quite flat.  There are extensive bike lanes often sharing the pavements with pedestrians. This can be a walking hazard but as almost everyone has a bike it's a communally accepted risk.  Helmets are not de jure and are seldom worn by adults, solving the Australian problem of what to do with them when you leave your bike and don't want the inconvenience of carrying a bike helmet (or want to appear to be a bike-nerd / health-freak) and  'Cycling Lycra' is certainly not the de jour clothing choice of the average Berlin cyclist.

A great deal of older Berlin housing consists of five storey apartment blocks, sometimes with an attic level above. These are built up to a rectangular street alignment leaving a large rectangular green space inside the square at the rear.  At intervals there are carriage entrances to this rear area which presumably once provided stabling for horses and carriages.   Sometimes cars or bike sheds have made their way into this common space but mostly it is green and in some places playgrounds or café facilities use it, as in the block across from where Emily lives.

 

Berlin apartments:  Street side; rear window; Google Earth view of city blocks;
Restaurant in adjacent block - once DDR communal dining room - meals 5 euro (main plus drink)

 

These older blocks were largely in working class areas but are undergoing a process of gentrification.  The apartments are solidly built typically with at least two large rooms and a kitchen/scullery that has usually been converted to include a bathroom. Upgrading usually involves modernising the kitchen and bathroom and perhaps, as in Emily and Guido's case, combining two smaller apartments into one.  As far as I can see all Berlin apartments are centrally heated and have modern double glazing.  Emily tells me that the law compels landlords to renovate and put in double glazing and heating, as this saves energy and reduces air pollution. Apparently before the old coal ovens were taken out Berlin had a very 'mysterious' atmosphere, clouded in haze during winter.

But there are no lifts and they have very high ceilings that make walking up several stories with groceries or carrying a child or luggage better than a trip to a gym.

 


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Travel

Southern England

 

 

 

In mid July 2016 Wendy and I took flight again to Europe.  Those who follow these travel diaries will note that part of out trip last year was cut when Wendy's mum took ill.  In particular we missed out on a planned trip to Romania and eastern Germany.  This time our British sojourn would be interrupted for a few days by a side-trip to Copenhagen and Roskilde in Denmark.

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Fiction, Recollections & News

Merry Christmas

 

 

 

2020 is a year we are unlikely to soon forget.  No travel after a very fortuitous cruise to PNG in February and March that we just got in before COVID-19 hit. Last year my German grandchildren were able to visit Australia with Emily their mother. Leander got to improve his English, and he and Tilda, now 3, got to enjoy an Australian beach. Thanks to WhatsApp we can still get together face-to-face and I can report that Tilda also understands English, in addition to her native German. Yet it's not quite like us being there or them being here.

As Tim Minchin sings in White Wine in the Sun [turn on your sound...] Christmas is a time for family.  So the lyrics:

 

And if my baby girl
When you're twenty-one or thirty-one
And Christmas comes around
And you find yourself nine thousand miles from home
You'll know what ever comes
Your brothers and sisters and me and your mum
Will be waiting for you in the sun
When Christmas comes
Your brothers and sisters, your aunts and your uncles
Your grandparents, cousins and me and your mum
We'll be waiting for you in the sun
Drinking white wine in the sun Darling, whenever you come
We'll be waiting for you in the sun
Drinking white wine in the sun
Waiting for you in the sun Darling, when Christmas comes
We'll be waiting for you in the sun
Waiting
  

have a special meaning:  I really like Christmas - It's sentimental, I know.

 

Those of you who read last year's message will find what follows familiar. Apart from acknowledging grandchildren: Billy and Vivienne for assistance in assembling (usefully) and now becoming the sole Christmas Tree decorators I haven't changed a word.

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Opinions and Philosophy

The Carbon Tax

  2 July 2012

 

 

I’ve been following the debate on the Carbon Tax on this site since it began (try putting 'carbon' into the search box).

Now the tax is in place and soon its impact on our economy will become apparent.

There are two technical aims:

    1. to reduce the energy intensiveness of Australian businesses and households;
    2. to encourage the introduction of technology that is less carbon intensive.
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