Saturday, December 4, 2010

Not Ready For Prime Time

The beauty of a blog is that nobody edits the damn thing but my damn self.  Whatever sticks in my craw—be it donut, schnitzel or sauer krauts—gets processed through my donut-and-beer-addled brain and onto my blog so that all 12 of you can enjoy it.

Enter:  editor.  Recently an editor of an expat website solicited me (for free) to write a story about getting around in Berlin.  She said she had read my blog and thought I could contribute a few words (for free) to her expat website, because after all, being an expat in Berlin, we are all whores of the most humanitarian kind:  the kind who work for free.

Below is the rejected article.  “Why was it rejected, db?” you ask?  I don’t know, you tell me.  In the commissioned (for free) piece, I took out all the usual F bombs, donut references and deutschbag rants which would normally appear in any Dunkin’ Berliner blog post.  I put in some actual info that can be of actual use.  The next time I get contacted by a publication to write for free, I’m going to INSIST that they read my ENTIRE blog, not just the Cliff Notes, and cite at least 3 references to donuts, deutschbags and defecation.  Read the fucking ingredients, editors.  It’s JFKFC for The Masses, containing 25% comedic rant, 25% parody/satire, 50% bullshit, 0% faggy poetry.

It does exactly what it says on the tin.  Word.
Getting Around in Berlin
 By Craig Robinson
You’ve just moved to Berlin. Nothing is happening where you have just moved.  You need to cross town to get to The Cool Kiez (neighborhood).  Do not panic:  this is normal.  Go to the BVG website and plug in your destination.  Don’t worry if you don’t know the address.  BVG is your Personal Hey Zeus! in the Land of Pagan Hedonism known as Berlin.  You can type in a station stop, an address or even the name of a landmark—Beevee got yer back.  In nanoseconds you will have your course in front of you and you can Kiez hop all night long.

Sometimes it even works out just the way you saw it on the interwebs.  But this is Berlin, the city that never sleeps, never stops reconstructing itself, and never, EVER tells you when your ordinarily-ueber-efficient transportation experience will suddenly come off the rails like that proverbial crazy train:  constant station reconstruction, detours, random service interruptions and poorly-marked station signs are your new friends.  Learn them.  Know them.  Love them.  In the two years I’ve lived in Berlin, I have never used the same route in my neighborhood for more than a few weeks.

It’s a wonder that anyone can get to work.  But since Berlin is probably the unemployment Capital of Europe, who needs to?  Most Berliners only use public transport to get to parties.  That’s why it is open all night long.  They’ve even got a monthly ticket called ‘Wide Awake in Berlin” for those who only use public transport from 10am until 3am.  You even get a discount.  I am not making this up.

Things you will NOT see much of on Berlin’s public transport:

1)      Suits
2)      Cops
3)      Sobriety

Things you will see in ABUNDANCE on Berlin’s public transport:

1)      Punk rockers
2)      Drunks
3)      Students with beer and wine bottles
4)      Touts, beggars and buskers
5)      Tourists just trying to have fun

In my first week in Berlin I must have been lost at least a dozen times in the maze of U-bahn, S-bahn, M trams and M buses.  I finally got the urge to accost a couple of beer-swilling Berliner youth at a Friedrichshain tram stop:  “Hey, guys, I was wondering about the rules for alcohol on public transport—I mean, this is Europe, everyone walks down the street swinging a bottle (Praise Zeus), but is it legal to drink on the tram in Berlin?”

Drinking Jugend #1:  “Technically it is illegal to drink on the trams in Berlin.  But nobody will stop you if you do.”

Drinking Jugend #2:  “NO!!! He is WRONG!!!  If you are in Berlin, you MUST DRINK ON THE TRAM!!!”

Perhaps the locals know something I do not.  I cannot count the times I have been lost on public transport in Berlin.  I still get lost regularly, usually when I hastily jump onto a train whose number I didn’t see as it pulled in (they’ll have 5 or 6 trains in a row going to OPPOSITE parts of the city).  Eventually I just started carrying a bottle of beer with me at all times and BAM! the magic connections began:  the brain train’s synapses fired, failed to fire, stuttered and started, lurched and finally took me away.  Not really.  Some of this is satire.  It HAS TO BE.  This is Berlin.


BVG website:


Buy your tickets from U-bahn or S-bahn station machines or certain news agents and validate the ticket with the punch-stamp machines located almost everywhere but where you will actually be able to see them.

Plain-clothes ticket inspectors (who really wanted to be STASI or KGB agents under communism but couldn’t quite cut the mustard) will occasionally and suddenly flash a ridiculous Cracker Jack box toy badge I.D. at you and ask for your ticket.  At this point it is a good idea to have a valid ticket.  Or a Mohawk.


Day ticket (Berlin A/B central zones):  6.10 EUR
Single ride (up to 2 hours in one slightly-weaving direction):  2.10 EUR
Short trip ticket (up to 3 U-bahn or S-bahn stations or 5 bus/tram stops):  1.30 EUR
Fine if you get caught with none of the above:  40 EUR

Major train service interruptions due to reconstruction (subject to change upon a BVG whim):

-         U2 line from Senefelderplatz to Pankow:  indefinite.  Hell, they’ve been working on that thing since the very DAY I moved to Prenzlauer Berg Over a year ago.  It’s a conspiracy.  Use the ersatzverkehr (replacement bus service) instead.

-         Ostbahnhof S-Bahn station:  constant construction that makes you walk down many, MANY muddy, fenced in construction tunnels like a rat in a labyrinth.


  1. I just looked at the expat website you mentioned ... seriously, what did she expect? Your form of snark, even toned down, would have stood out like a donut-jam covered thumb :-)
    The piece above is downright "nice", but still waaaayyyy too edgy for that place. I mean, they have a section called "Healthcare in Berlin" -- Really?

  2. I think the editor was worried that once she neutered my piece of any and all traces of cajones, it would simply read as a dry, boring, 5-sentence bit that she could have written herself. ;)

    They must be desperate for content if they contact every beer-swilling, donut-munching blogger in Berlin, eh?


  3. Your article hits the nail on the mustard. You could not describe public transport in Berlin any better unless you brought the readers of this alleged website on the gaddamn M10 tram. Unbelievable that your wan asked you to write something for free and then didn't use it. Who the F-bomb does she F-bombing think she is? You should send her an invoice for what you agreed in the first place. She won't be askin' people to write for nuthin' no more after that.
    Seriously though, this is typical Berlin - loads of work no one wants to pay you for. You should F-bomb her back to F-bombing reality.

  4. Never, ever write for free, unless you want to be like the rest of us writers who plug away and then save the documents for some rainy day when someone might want to buy them!

    The other alternative is blogging!

    Now isn't that the greatest way to express your thoughts creatively, without anyone editing or criticizing? Unless you count the spammers that show up and make crass comments, just for the hell of it. But when we have comment moderation, we can just delete them!

    Loved the article, BTW. Creative, funny, (even toned down), and taught me to avoid Berlin...LOL.

  5. Yes, never write for free--even if you live in Berlin and work has no value here (except construction; a BOOMING industry).

    And if you are an editor: never, EVER, try to solicit unpaid articles from a man who consumes ungodly portions of donuts and beer.


  6. Hello, I want to tell you I really enjoy your blogs. I will soone be moving to Germany (23rd) to join my wife and children who have been over since April. She is a German citizen who I have been married to for almost 11 years. She is living in a small village of Beesdau about 40 minutes outside of Berlin, along with my son 7 and daughter 14. She cam over before me to see if she would be able to find work (she is a dental hygentist) and to see if the chidren could adapt to the culture. She found work right away and the kids love it there. So now it is my turn to make the journey. I have vacationed in Germany several times with her and have always loved the beauty, and laid back lifestyle. Living there is another thing. Blogs like yours and a few others I have followed have really helped to prepare me and let me know what to expect once I am there. My two biggest fears is language barriers and finding work. I have two degress a bussiness management, and e-commerence degree, but do not know how much this will help in finding a job when I cannont speak German, any ideas? I would also love to find any expat groups in my area or in Berlin to socialize with would love to know if you have any ideas on locating them. It is refreshing to know there are many others like yourself that have come over in simular situations as mine and have not only made it but love living here. I know that no matter where you live there are going to be pros and cons and that alot of happiness is, what you make of your situation. Anyways thanks again for having a great blog, never stop writing.

  7. Thanks for the comment and the kind words. I appreciate it when someone gives me praise for writing. I wouldn't mind writing for money, but in lieu of cash, I'll blog for donuts, if anyone wants to hit the 'donate donut' button. Hint hint. :D

  8. Hey, Craig, just "donated" to your coffee and donut fund! Merry Christmas!

  9. Woo-HOOOOOO!!!! Donuts o' plenty!!!
    Thank you and happy holidays! As soon as my favorite bakery opens again I'm gonna buy a DOZEN donuts!!!


  10. Ah, it does my heart good to hear the joy! LOL

  11. Hilarious... and very true! I just moved here a week ago, already have the wide-awake ticket (yea...) and have taken the U-Bahn in the wrong direction twice.

    Also, in the 24 years of my life on this planet I never had the urge to drink beer. In fact, I just tasted it twice and hated it this stinking urine... A week in Berlin and I'm drinking beer like I need it for breathing - and it all started when I showed up to a party with a bottle of wine and the host didn't even possess of a corkscrew. Also, that very same night I was introduced to a) drinking out in the open on the street and b) drinking on the tram.

    Yay Berlin!!

  12. Beer: you are helpless against its mighty power. Berlin: arrive, receive your issued Sternburg and bottle opener upon arrival, live, love, learn.

    Glad you liked my story, and.....PROST!


  13. In the immortal words of private Elvis Presley stationed outside of Munich:

    "Danke. Dankeverymuch."