Category Archives: Berlin

My favourite city

The legendary Tempelhof Airport

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Photos from a guided tour of what Norman Forster called “the mother of all modern airports”.

Support group for new Berliners with refugee background

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I am starting to host regular meetings for women with refugee background for exchange of experience and advice, for stress counselling, for networking and empowering, for getting together and organising mutual help and support, understanding letters from authorities, accompaniment to medical appointments, going for walks, visiting exhibitions – the wishes and needs of the members of the group will set the agenda. I will provide the space and the coffee, and sometimes a cake or lunch, for the meetings which will take place in my home in Kreuzberg/Mitte (within walking distance from Spittelmarkt and Kochstraße U-Bahn stations as well as bus M29 and 248 (the latter stops almost at the door), and for a large part be conducted in English. Spoken English is therefore a big advantage but not an absolute requirement.

If you are interested in joining, then please join this Facebook group:

At the moment, there are more non-refugee members in the group (for want of a better term I currently call them resource persons) ready to help if and when needed, than there are women with refugee background. This could mean that the interest is not there, but from what I hear, this is hard to believe. Therefore, if you do not want to register in the facebook group, please e-mail me a line or two about yourself and I will include you in a separate e-mail or whatsapp mailing list.


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I first met Sulaiman in February 2016 when my new flat in Berlin was being renovated and he was one of the workmen. I learnt that he had fled from Syria in July 2015 and was curious to know more, also about his current situation, in case there was something I could do to help. Back then, between his almost-non-existent, and my rusty, German, communication was difficult but the other workmen helped, and I also got help from another Syrian who already had job, accommodation, and good German.

Sulaiman was desperately looking for somewhere to stay other than in a camp where life can be extremely difficult. His wife and daughters were in a camp in Lebanon, waiting for a visa to join him in Berlin.

It made a big impression on me that he was able to turn up every day with a smile on his face, and it was a pleasure to listen to the quiet Arabic-German language exchange whenever they were working in my flat.

Since then, I have heard more about his flight from Damaskus, where he had his life, and where he lost everything (except his wife and daughters of whom he is clearly very proud), and at one of my house-warming parties he told some of us about his gruelling journey – on foot, then like sardines in a tin in a truck for four days, then likewise on a boat until they were picked up by a container-carrier, then by train from Italy to Berlin, then “living” outside LAGESO (the German authority for refugees) for many days to have his case processed. In other words, a “classic” story which we all hear about all the time, directly and in the media.

His initial accommodation was in one small room which he shared with five other male refugees of different nationalities and without going into detail, tensions arose on a daily basis. The situation was becoming untenable and through his employer, he found a room which he was able to use all by himself, very small (from what I have heard, tiny does not cover it) but at least he could be private and get a full night’s sleep every night and thus be able to hold on to his job.

Sulaiman went to German class every day, but said that the teacher was not very good (there is a severe shortage of trained German teachers here) and he felt he learnt a lot more during the workday. Any which way, communication has become a lot easier.

Needless to say, he was sorely missing his family – wife and two daughters aged six and seven. Earlier this week, he sent me a text message to tell me that a couple of weeks ago, they were FINALLY reunited in Berlin. In terms of collecting heart-warming moments in my life, that one certainly comes close to the top of my list.

Today they are coming to lunch! I am so looking forward to meeting them. I also have not seen Sulaiman for a while since there is not much more work to be done in may flat, and the most recent house-warming party is already a couple of months away.

How do you pick up where you left off after 18 months, especially considering what they have been through in the meantime? How do you heal, individually and as a family, while at the same time tackling the emotional, practical and financial challenges ahead? How are the girls coping? How about accommodation? I am hoping to learn a lot more about that in the future while finding out how I can help. But first: lunch.

By the way, if you are in Berlin and looking for halal meat, Istanbul Supermarket, Kottbusser Tor, is good. There is also a butcher round the corner in Kottbusser Straße. (I am not sure I approve of the method, but until I know how strict – or not – my guests are, I am willing to use halal-butchered meat).

This is some of what we are having:



Ten chicken pieces (I am using thighs and drumsticks)
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground Ceylon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
Olive oil
2 brown onions, sliced
100 grams ginger, cut into matchsticks
5 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2 small red chillies, or to taste
2 tomatoes, coarsely chopped
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
5 sprigs thyme, leaves only
1 lemon, juiced and zested
2 tablespoons honey
300 ml chicken or vegetable stock
½ bunch coriander, leaves only

Coat the chicken pieces in the mixture of salt, cumin, cinnamon, pepper and turmeric.

Brown the chicken pieces on all sides in the olive oil. Remove chicken and add onion, ginger, garlic and chili and cook for a couple of minutes. Add tomatoes, cumin seeds and thyme and cook for another couple of minutes.

Return chicken and add the lemon juice and zest, honey, stock powder and enough water to just cover the chicken.

Cover and simmer over medium heat for 15 minutes. Uncover and simmer for another ten to 15 minutes or until the chicken is tender and cooked through, and the sauce is slightly reduced.

Stir in the coriander and serve with couscous or rice.




100 g onion, chopped

At least one clove garlic, chopped

1 chili, chopped

1 lemon

400 g aubergine, cut in 2 cm dice

50 g dates, quartered

50 g hazelnuts, coarsely chopped and dry-roasted

1 tsp cumin seeds, roasted and ground

1 tsp sumak

1/2 tsp cardamom seeds, roasted and ground

1 tsp coriander seeds, roasted and ground

Olive oil

1 tblsp tomato paste

300 ml chicken or vegetable stock

Heat the oil and lightly fry cumin, sumak, cardamom and coriander. Add onion and garlic and simmer for a couple of minutes. Add aubergine and chili for another couple of minutes. Add stock and tomato paste, stir, cover and simmer for about ten minutes.

Add nuts and dates, stir well, turn off heat and let sit for ten minutes.

Serve with rice or couscous and yoghurt mixed with herbs (f.ex. mint).


Germany still coming to terms with the past

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In the GDR times, the Berlin cemetery in Baumschulenweg, and the
crematorium in Kiefholzstrasse – built in 1913, demolished in 1995, was abused – was used for illegal cremations under the auspices of the Ministry of State Security. Now, a plaque will commemorate the victims.

According to Stasi documents, especially Wall victims from both east and west were “disposed of” in this way, and their deaths covered up, in order to prevent the GDR to fall into further disrepute. In many cases, it was not till the 1990s that relatives learnt of the fate of the victims, and the whereabouts of their remains (usually their ashes were scattered there) has only come to light in recent months.

The commemorative plaque will be inaugurated on 12 August 14.00 hrs in Baumschulenweg cemetary, Kiefholzstrasse 222-236. Among the speakers will be Roland Jahn, Former East German civil rights activist and current head of the Stasi Documentation Authority.




Impressions from daytrip to Leipzig 16 January 2016

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Visit to the galleries in Spinnerei Leipzig and to Galerie für Zeitgenössische Kunst.

Refugee support in Berlin – how to get involved – links

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HIER Netzwerke…/…/other-la……/عن-هذا-…/…

HIER Notfallnummern…/sammlun…/

HIER Spendenkoodinierung

HIER Mitfahrzentrae für Spenden (leider bisher nur HH bekannt)

HIER die Links zu den einzelnen Standorten BERLIN:…/notunte…/

HIER alle Bedarfslisten BERLIN im Überblick

HIER Akutbedarfslisten als Hilfestellung für Helfer/Betreiber von NUKs…/pre…/2015/pressemitteilung.402163.php…/0B-u7NGbww7F1WmlfaGVuMkRXL…/view…

HIER für Hilfe, stunden -oder tageweise:…/2394-fahrgemeinschaften-fluechtlingshil…

HIER temporäre Unterkünfte/Zimmer/Hostels…/migra…/fluechtlingsberatung-berlin.html…/…/wohnungsberatung-gestartet/

HIER private Unterbringungen/Wohnungen (noch unter Vorbehalt mit den NUKS zu klären)

HIER Möbel spenden

HIER Patenschaften/Vormundschaften:

HIER Angehörigensuche…/migration-und-suchdienst/suchdienst.html

HIER Jobs/Arbeitsvermittlung/Integrationsprogramme…/Unternehmer_fuer_Fluec…/2739256……/rechtliche-voraussetzungen-bei-der-be……/arrivo_berlin_uebungswerkstae……/flüchtlingsprojekte-deutschland…/20……/20……/20…

HIER Ausbildungsmöglichkeiten…/fluechtlingen-den-zugang-zum-studium-……/…/welco…/angebote-welcome/index.html……/jack-bi…/…/Aner…/anerkennung-berufsabschluss.html

HIER Service/Beratung/Angebote für Flüchtlinge :…/arbeitshilfen/adrfl………/mentorinnen-und-mentoren-fuer-hom…/……/Beitraege…/AM2011-9-279-Winzenried.pdf

HIER Psychologische Beratung für Refugees…/p…/zfm-infoflyer_2015.pdf…/arabischsprachige_speziala…/…/

HIER medizinische Versorgung/Ratgeber…/00121a_Arzt…/index.shtml…/1H2b1vFHTM5PDXu7bAVJqw9…/htmlview……/gesundh…/…/Beitraege…/AM2011-9-279-Winzenried.pdf

HIER Ämterhilfe……/in……/arbeitshilfen/adrfl…

HIER Asylverfahren erklärt deutsch & arabisch…/flyer-erstorientierung-asylsuchende_ar……/g…/Guide_for_refugees/2214428/index.html…/Integratio…/integrationskurse-node.html

HIER BVG Flyer engl.&arabisch

HIER Deutschland für Anfänger…/willkommen-in-deutschland_ar.pdf;jsess……/Integratio…/integrationskurse-node.html…/Man-muss-die-Menschen-direkt-anspreche……/t…/erste-schritte-in-deutschland/s-32443…/g…/Guide_for_refugees/2214428/index.html…/

HIER Sprachhilfe!complete-german/c1m0e…/refugees-welcome/c-1220…/reise-know-how-verlag-hilft……/1IpkETNzRzletRpLEeLUKAldB2j…/edit…

HIER Sprachhilfe für Kinder…/fi……/fi……/freier-download-von-lingufant-…/…/download/download/…/OM_32694_15/…/…/Deutsch.html

HIER Deutsch lernen & lehren…/…/Deutsch.html……/sprachkurs-deutsch-fuer-anfaenger-in-b…/…/jack-bi…/

HIER praktische Apps…/refugermany-useful…/id1045437199……

HIER Freizeit…/freizei…/

HIER Dolmetscher Berlin

HIER Map for Refugees…/arriving-in-berlin-a-map-mad…

HIER Handytarife…/…

HIER Infos für Ehrenamt und Helfer, ausführliche Linksammlung!

HIER hilfreiches für Dialog mit Kitas/Grundschulen/Nachbarschaft…/sendun…/zuflucht-gesucht.html

HIER Freiwilligendienste im Ausland/Initiativen Balkan/Greece…

HIER Seenotrettung

HIER Auswahl an mit Spenden zu unterstützender Projekte:…/23-pro-asyl-unterstuetzung-fu……/35309-fluchtlingskinder-auf-d……/bildungspakete-fuer-fluechtlingskind…/…/33992-fluchtlinge-in-deutschl…

Christmas markets in Berlin

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Find a good overview of Christmas markets in Berlin here.

Wine bars in Berlin

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Work in progress

“Twisper Magazine” (on-line) lists these bars as the top five wine bars in Berlin:

Cordobar, Mitte

Vin Aqua Vin, Neukölln

Not only Riesling, Kreuzberg

Weinplatz, Mitte

Cantine Sant’ Ambroeus,

Der Feinschmecker, Manager Magazine (on-line) lists the 40 best wine bars in Germany. In Berlin these are:

Cordobar, Grosse Hamburger Strasse 32, Mitte

Maxim – Bar à Vins, Gormannstr. 25, Mitte

Ottorink, Dresdener Str. 124, Kreuzberg

Rutz Weinbar, Chausseestr 8, Mitte


Coffee bars in Berlin

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Bonanza Coffee Heroes, Oderberger Strasse 35

The Barn, Auguststrasse 58 and Schönhauser Allee 8

No Fire No Glory, Rykestrasse 45

Five Elephant (!Philadelphia-style cheesecake!), Reichenberger Strasse 101

Chapter One, Mittenwalder Strasse 30

Companion Coffee, Oranienstrase 24

Café CX, Marienburger Strasse 49


Links to options for support to refugees in Berlin

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