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Welcome to FU-BEST’s Berlin

Welcome to our official FU-BEST blog! Here we share everything exciting in and around Berlin with our current FU-BESTers. Of course, everyone else, who is interested to get a glimpse into the perks of being a student in Berlin, is cordially invited along the ride. You’ll find tips for interesting lectures on and off campus, free time activities, event information, our favorite eating spots and many other things that make Berlin unique.

Berlin TV Series & Movies

You made it – the semester is over. But that shouldn’t mean that your connection to Berlin has ended. And so that you don’t lose touch to Berlin and the German language of course, we gathered all our favourite German movies and TV series with all of them (with one tiny exception) either set in or about Berlin.

TV SERIES

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4 Blocks

4 Blocks is the German answer to every American gangster movie and series. The drama series delves into the dark world of organized crime, family feuds and gang violence inBerlin-Neukölln. It’s like the Narcos of Berlin – very intense, very loud, and most of all very Berlin in a way. It stars all different well-known German actors. Watching this TV-Show is a good way to polish up your gangster German. Be aware, 4 Blocks has a high potential for addiction!

Where you can watch it: Amazon prime or paid TV channels, such as SKY

Seasons: Three seasons

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Babylon Berlin

Babylon Berlin is the most exciting and expensive German TV production to date. The popular show continues to make headlines across the globe, with its almost €40 million budget, stunning costume design, and renowned directors Tykwer, Achim von Borries, and Henk Handloegten. The first two seasons are based on the crime novel The Wet Fish by Volker Kutscher, which follows the lives of the main characters, played by Volker Bruch and Liv Lisa Fries, through Berlin in the late-1920s. After the show’s huge success, Tykwer confirmed that two more seasons are planned.

Where you can watch it: Free online stream from Das Erste here

Seasons: Three seasons and with a fourth season in the making.

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Dark

Dark– Netflix’s first German series has been a huge success, with the second season already being in the works. Without giving too much away, it begins with the disappearance of a child, leading four families to start a desperate search for answers and the solution to a mystery that impacts three generations. A mix between mystery, science-fiction, thriller, and drama, some people have called Dark the German Stranger Things. Besides just being German, the oftentimes colloquial language is a perfect way to improve your language skills while simply lying in bed or on the couch!

Where you can watch it: Netflix

Seasons: Two seasons and with a third season in the making.

MOVIES

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Victoria (2015)

Not quite light fare, but equally good, is Victoriaa film that was shot in one single continuous take. Two hours and eighteen minutes – shot from about 4:30 AM to 7:00 AM on 27 April 2014 in the Kreuzberg and Mitte neighborhoods. No cuts. The script consisted of twelve pages, with most of the dialogue being improvised. It draws you in with the typical boy meets girl storyline, until everything gets out of control. Very capturing from the first minute.

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B Movie: Lust & Sound in West Berlin (1979-1989)  (2015)

A compilation of mostly unreleased film and television footage, B-Movie documents the West Berlin sub and pop cultures that emerged in the decade before the fall of the Wall. The film is narrated by Mark Reeder, a Mancunian musician and producer, who shares his experience of Berlin when he began living there in 1978, and it tells a tale of an illusive and mysterious city that, in reality, no longer exists. Featuring notorious figures of the time like Blixa Bargeld and Nick Cave, B-Movie harnesses a strange nostalgia for a city that could only exist then; the creation, the art and the attitudes that emerged from the pain of a divided city.

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Oh Boy – US title A coffee in Berlin (2012)

Oh Boy (a black and white tragic comedy) tells the story of Niko, a Berliner in his late twenties, who dropped out of university and since then has been drifting through his days, wondering about the people around him. The film has won several German and European Film Awards.

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The Lives of Others (2006)

Set in 1983 in East Berlin, The Lives of Others tells the story of a playwright, Georg Dreyman, living in the occupied and monitored city. Capturing the isolation and fear that George feels, it is tale told with inescapable resonance, showing the extremity of the spying and interference within a state under watch. The people who are spying on him become intertwined in his life, and this extraordinary film offers a poignant and paranoid picture of life in East Berlin. Acclaimed for its factual and aesthetic accuracy, the film won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language film.

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Goodbye Lenin (2003)

A film about Alex, a young man from East Berlin, whose mother is put into a coma during the lead to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and then wakes up in a reunified Germany. However, doctors tell Alex that the potential shock of such a revelation could give her a heart attack, so she must not be told of what has happened. As a result, Alex and his friends have to recreate the illusion of the GDR in his mother’s apartment for her, while outside, the two former countries are unifying.

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Run Lola Run (1998)

This iconic film depicts three alternative realities as the title character, Lola, runs to try and obtain 100,000 Deutsche Mark in 20 minutes to save her boyfriend, Manni, from being killed for failing to make good on a deal. The film does not feature many famous landmarks of Berlin, but shows an intersection of every day 90s Berlin, though Berlin’s best-looking bridge – Oberbaumbrücke. Winner of several German and International Film Awards.

Happy watching!

9 Tips for Studying from Home

A lot of things have come to a hold, not so much finals though. So with all of us stuck at home and finals around the corner, our student assistants have accumulated the best study tips for you on how to study for finals during quarantine.

1. Set up a base camp” in a quiet space

Finding and designating a space in your home is vital to working or studying remotely. This means not working on your bed, or on that couch in your living room if possible. Also, try to find a quiet place. Every distraction will make it even harder to get focused again. That also means putting your phone out of reach for a while, maybe even in a different room. 

2. Create your personal study environment

What do you like to listen to when you study? Listening to music can ease the tension of studying and help you concentrate. Whether it’s a calming playlist or your favorite lyrical jams, find what works for you. We recommend BrainWaves: Solfeggio Frequencies” on Spotify.

3. Write down a checklist of everything that needs to be studied

If you write down a checklist, you don’t only have an overview of everything you need to study for each exam but can also check off everything you’ve already finished. This way every checkmark will feel like a small success.

4. Maximize your time by scheduling out your week

Time seems to be the only thing we have an overload of these days, and planned wisely, it could be used to your advantage. When it comes to studying, being strategic about how you spend your time can make all the difference. So find the time when you know you are most productive and make that your dedicated study time. 

5. Find a way to stick to your schedule 

One way to do so could be by setting alarms. Setting an alarm for the time that you’ve designated to get up and study can help you to stay on top of your schedule. It’s also nice to do this if you tend to get carried away with what you’re doing at the moment… 

6. Get in the right headspace

Before you get to work, take a moment for yourself. Close your eyes, take a deep breath in, and a deep breath out. Calm yourself and let all tension flow away. Repeat that until you feel calm and relaxed. With all thoughts bundled up in our head, it will be difficult to put your focus where you need it. If you have never practiced mindfulness, there are many apps that help guiding you. We recommend the app Stop, Breathe & Think.

7. Empower yourself

It is all doable and you have the power to do it. Keep reminding yourself that you will get these tasks finished. Of course there are things that are out of your control, but you have the control over what you choose to do with your energy, time, and thoughts.

8. Create a good sleeping routine

A good nights rest is essential for being focused. Especially with all those time differences between you and your professors, make sure to not cut on the sleep. 

9. Be proud of yourself! 

Last but not least, be proud of yourself. Those are such weird times that we live in and I am sure you have all pictured the end of your study abroad semester very differently. But you are still here, still part of FU-BEST, still finishing this semester regardless of where you are now. And that is awesome!  

 

How to stay connected to Berlin

Let’s not lie, this is probably not how any of us imagined the semester at FU-BEST to go. Fortunately, we live in the age of the internet and we have collected some great (and mostly free!) ideas to help you stay connected to Berlin – whether you are already back in the US or on lockdown in the Student Hotel.

Classical Music: Berliner Philharmonie 

While the Philharmonie Berlin is closed, the orchestra will continue to play for you in the Digital Concert Hall – free of charge if you sign up with the code BERLINPHIL. You can listen to more than 600 orchestral concerts from the last ten years, and in addition, there are lots of bonus videos, such as documentaries on the history of the orchestra, or portraits of orchestra members and conductors.

Club Music: United We Stream

Missing Berlin’s club scene? Berlin’s clubs have organized a livestream every day at 7 pm (Berlin time) from the empty clubs directly to the comfort of your couch. For the authentic experience, we recommend you dress in all black and sip on a Club Mate.

Theater: Berlin Schaubühne

The Schaubühne are streaming a different show each night from their program – starting at 6:30 pm German time and running until midnight. Most modern productions come in English as well, or can be watched with English subtitles. This week’s plays include „An Enemy of the People,“ „Orlando,“ and „Lenin.“

Virtual Museum Tours: Pergamon Museum

Visiting a museum in Berlin without having to stand in line? Perfect! Many of Berlin’s museum are currently offering virtual tours via the Google Arts &  Culture App (for Android and iOS). Other museums in Berlin offer digital exhibitions as well: The Natural History Museum for example hosts weekly „Planetary Health Talks,“ discussing current issues relating to the coronavirus and animal-to-human transmissions together with scientists.

Home Workouts: FU Hochschulsport

There are, of course, lots of exercise apps out there, but for the authentic Freie Universität experience (and if you miss the Lankwitz Kraftklub), we recommend you check out the FU Hochschulsport website. They offer a number of different workouts, ranging from yoga and pilates to kickboxing and zumba.

The Cake Guide to Germany

Bienenstich

This cake translates to “bee-sting” and ironically does not contain any honey. Classic yeast dough with a lot of vanilla cream and a caramelized almond flake crust on top.

Käsekuchen

Made with the German dairy product “quark,” German cheesecake is significantly less sweet than its American counterpart. Please don’t leave Germany without trying it at least once.

Frankfurter Kranz

To commemorate the city of Frankfurt am Main as the coronation site of the German Kaiser, this “Frankfurt Wreath” is supposed to depict a crown. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s favorite cake from his hometown is basically all buttercream and almond brittle.

Donauwelle

The “Danube wave” gets its name from the wavy layer of vanilla and chocolate cake. Topped with buttercream and a chocolate glaze.

Berliner

The rest of Germany calls them “Berliner” and Berliners call them “Pfannkuchen”. Made from yeast dough and in its most classic form filled with red fruit marmalade. Traditionally eaten on NYE  or during the carnival season (though not in Berlin!).

Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte

The “Black Forest Cherry” Cake is probably Germany’s most famous cake. Made with “cherry water” (very much not water, actually high percentage alcohol) and – you guessed it – a lot of buttercream.

 

 

Visit a Collegium Musicum Concert

Klassische Musik, Orchester, Chor

 

The Collegium Musicum is a joint venture of Freie Universität and Technische Universität Berlin. Its ensemble consist of 450 students, professors, and and other university staff from different departments, who meet up regurlarly to make music together. Traditionally, they give a number of concerts towards the end of the German semester in February.

 

Chamber Choir Concert

The 35 members of the chamber choir perform a unique selection of a capella music – ranging from classics to works by Jaakko Mänyjärvi and Francis Poulenc.

When? February 7, 2020, 7 p.m.
Where? St.-Jacobi-Kirche Kreuzberg, Oranienstraße 132 (U8 Moritzplatz)
Admission: 5€

Philharmonic Orchestra

If you are a fan of classical music, this might be the perfect concert for you. The symphony orchestra and the Great Choir perform a number of classical pieces by Anton Bruckner, Felix Mendellsohn Bartholdy, and Francis Poulenc.

When? February 9, 2020, 8 p.m.
Where? Philharmonie Berlin, Herbert-von-Karajan-Str. 1 (S and U Potsdamer Platz)
Admission: 10€

Bigband Winterconcert

Don’t have plans for Valentine’s Day yet? How about an evening with the UniBigband Berlin, where you might just discover your love for jazz?

When? February 14 and 15, 2020, 8 p.m.
Where? Kunstfabrik Schlot, Invalidenstraße. 117 (U6 Naturkundemuseum)
Admission: 5€

You can find more information on their website: www.collegium-musicum-berlin.de

Tips on how you make the most of your study abroad Berlin experience

  • Put in real effort to learn German

With our intensive language classes you will naturally make quick progress, but don’t miss to put in some extra work outside the classroom. Force yourself to speak German when you are out and about in a restaurant, at the cash desk of a grocery store or at your favorite coffee shop. Obviously, this will not work right away, but you don’t have to form complete sentences right away, you can also just throw in some individual German words that you’ve learnt. Trying to communicate in German in the „real“ world will make you comfortable with the language vernacular and intricacies. Unfortunately, Berlin will make this extra difficult for you. Being an international hub, you’ll find people fluent in English on every corner of the city. Still, don’t give up. Learning a language always takes time and your efforts will be appreciated by the people you are talking to.

  • Stay on top of your course work

Do not forget that your classes are an important part of your studying abroad experience. There is obviously value in the act of living abroad by itself, but in the best case your classes allow you to grow in your believes, opinions and knowledge. Studying abroad can put a whole new perspective on familiar issues. Some tips on how to stay motivated for your course work can be found on our blog here. 

  • Don’t travel too much

Especially if you have never been to Europe before, it might be tempting to spend every weekend in a different city. Understandably, you want to make the most of your four months in Europe (so little time), but don’t let this take over your Berlin/Germany experience. You made Germany your home base, so go out and explore the country that you are calling your home for the next foreseeable time.

This issue is exactly what one of our former FU-BESTers experienced and here is what she had to say about it:

I wish that I had explored Germany more! I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to spend most weekends in Berlin. To truly live abroad for a semester, you need to learn your city and discover what it is like to be a true Berliner! I do feel like I spent a good deal of time in Berlin, but not enough throughout the rest of Germany. While I traveled to places like Paris and Rome, I missed Schloss Neuschwanstein and Hamburg. There are so many wonders located right in Germany a mere train ride away, and I wish I had been able to see them all during my time in Berlin; however, I have decided that I simply must go back and see everything that I missed.

  • Travel enough

Having said this, Berlin’s central location makes it perfect for a quick getaway to France, Italy or Spain and you should definitely take advantage of this. Just pick the destinations you are most desperate to see. This way you can still spend quality time in Berlin and will also keep your budget in check.

  • Go grocery shopping and buy what you usually would not buy at home

Maybe you are the adventurous shopper when it comes to food anyway, but if not, try to get out of your comfort zone. Can you spot food that you usually never buy at home? Now is the time to try stuff. Look for new German inspired recipes that are worth trying. Pinning down a traditional German food is hard, but we would confirm that Germans do like their potatoes. So we suggest trying this recipe.

  • Go cold turkey on Starbucks & Co

This goes along with our previous point about trying new things. You get accustomed best if you shop and eat locally. And although you will definitely find a Starbucks or McDonald’s easily, it is so much more fun to test local coffee shops (for example Five Elephant in Kreuzberg, which is also famous for the best cheese cake in town!) and local burger joints (for instance Kreuzburger in Kreuzberg and other locations).

  • Do not get sucked into the international bubble

This is an easy trap to fall in to. Since you are being surrounded by international fellow students all the time, you can easily get lost in your international bubble that might prevent you from having a true living abroad experience. You can find our attempt to give you a little ‚how to‘ (get out of the international bubble) on our blog here.

  • Get to know the Berlin way of life

Or better: get to know and be open to a new way of life that you will be living abroad that sometimes might be less comfortable than what you are used to. This sounds like an obvious given, but some students are still surprised by how much they need to adjust to their new environment.  For instance, a common complaint is the „commute issue“: most students in Berlin have a pretty long commute. One hour from door to door is nothing out of the ordinary. It is not ideal, but accepted by everyone. Living close to campus is not the reality for most students, since the vast majority prefers to live at more central districts. In Germany, and Berlin specifically, life does not happen on campus, but in the city itself. This might be different from how things are going at home, but don’t stress about your daily commute. Take it as an opportunity to ease in to and out of your day, read, listen to podcasts, observe Berliners, … .

  • Don’t stress yourself and have fun

We think it is a good idea to be aware of all of these points and also maybe implement one thing or the other in your daily life in Berlin. This being said, stressing about any of these issues would have quite the opposite effect. You have decided to study abroad, because you want to have an experience. This experience will most likely consist of both ups and downs, which is part of studying abroad. This lets us believe that the best tip of all is not to stress yourself out too much and go with the flow of living abroad.

Tipping etiquette in Germany

A rumor persits under FU-BEST students that we usually don’t tip in Germany. Where this is coming from we don’t know. This being said, surprisingly, if you google ‚tipping etiquette in Germany‘ one of the first things you find is that the tip is included in the bill and that it will be enough to simply round up. This, however, is not the case! Tips are not included in your bill and you should definitely tip at least 10%. This is true for restaurants, cafés and bars alike.

FU-BEST organizes a weekly Stammtisch (regulars table) in different bars all over Berlin. This means there will be lots of opportunities for you to perfect your tipping game. The usual way to tip in Germany is to ask for the bill, check the amount you owe and then work out in your head what you’re going to tip. When you are ready to pay, tell the waiter/waitress out loud the amount in total, including the tip.

Your Berlin Thanksgiving Guide

Where to celebrate Thanksgiving in Berlin

Plant Based

Plant based and raw vegan colourful gourmet Thanksgiving dinner from Beba Baxter at 7pm on November 16 for 49 € per person. Pre-ticket sale necessary.

Additional info here. 

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 Wartenberger Hof – DAS CLUBHAUS

Thanksgiving turkey buffet and musical entertainment at 6.30pm on November 28. 25€ per person. Pre-ticket sale necessary.

Additional info here. 

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Hard-Rock-Cafe

Three course Thanksgiving menu including corn chowder soup, turkey, and pumpkin pie offered all day on November 28.

Additional info here.

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Harnack-Haus

Thanksgiving dinner at the German American Attorney Association at 7pm on November 27. 25€ per person (student price). Pre-ticket sale possible.

Additional info here.

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 Kochwerk Berlin

Thanksgiving cooking class at 6pm on November 28. Be aware the class is held in German. 89€ per person.

Additional info here. 

For all who prefer to cook themselves

The Turkey

Germans eat turkey for Christmas, if at all, so it’s good to organize your bird in advance. Most Fleischereien will be able to sort a bird out if you give them a week’s notice. Plan on 500 grams per person when ordering, more if you’re fond of leftovers.

Charlottenburg

Rogacki, Wilmersdorfer Str.145/46, Berlin-Charlottenburg (map)
Fresh turkeys available for ~9 €/kg. Giblets are included for no additional charge. Some have said Rogacki can be relied on to have turkey in stock, but the saleswoman recommended placing an order.                                                                                             

Kaufhauf des Westens (KaDeWe), Tauentzienstraße 21, Berlin-Schöneberg (map)
Battery turkeys are ~7 €/kg, organic ones are ~13 €/kg, giblets for ~6 €/kg.

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Friedrichshain

Fleischerei Domke, Warschauer Str. 64, Berlin-Friedrichshain (map)
Frozen turkeys are ~10 €/kg, while fresh are ~12 €/kg (without giblets). They say it’s best to come by in person to place an order, but Domke always has a few turkeys (presumably frozen) on hand.

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Prenzlauer Berg

Fleischerei Gottschlich, Prenzlauer Allee 219, Berlin-Prenzlauer Berg (map)
Fresh turkey for ~11 €/kg; giblets etc. need to be ordered separately.

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Schöneberg
Albrecht: Wild & Geflügel seit 1927, Akazienstraße 4, Berlin-Schöneberg (map)
Conventional turkey is available for ~9 €/kg.

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Wedding
Fleischerei Uwe Bünger, Müllerstr. 156, Berlin-Wedding (map)
This bustling local butcher sells free-range Neuland turkeys whose living conditions are carefully monitored. ~15 €/kg, giblets (heart, liver, neck) are included for free.

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The stuffing/dressing

Since you can’t turn to, admittedly, terrifying bags of stuffing mix, you’ll want a sturdy white bread that won’t fall to bits nor stay too stodgy. We suggest cubing Soluna’s La Boule or else what’s called französisches Landbrot, which is sold at many of the organic bakeries. Vacuum-packed chestnuts are easy to find in Berlin grocery stores and often more affordable than in the States, so they’re suited well as an addition to your stuffing.

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The mashed potatoes

Look out for potatoes described as mehlig or mehligkochend (i.e. floury potatoes): they’re the best substitute for russets.

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The pumpkin pie

You can find canned pumpkin at KaDeWe and Broken English. As a cheaper alternative, fresh pumpkins are available at most general supermarkets at this time of the year.

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The sweet potatoes

If you want to make a sweet potato casserole, Süßkartoffel and marshmallows are sold in most grocery stores in the city.

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The cranberry sauce

Cranberries can be found at most large grocery stores like Edeka and Kaufland, as well as most organic shops.

Watching short films at Interfilm

The short film festival Interfilm is Berlin’s third oldest international film festival. If you are into film this is highly recommended. Out of 7000 movie entries, the festival shows about 500 films from different countries, categories and styles.

If you have time for only one event, I recommend Eject – The Night of Weird Shorts on Friday, November 8. Should you have sensetive ears, it might not be your night. Everyone else: be ready to rattle and clap. Entering the theater, you will be given hand tools to determine which of the shown short films is gonna take home the prize for best film of the night.

When? November 5, 2019 – November 10, 2019

Where? Different movie theaters all over Berlin

Programm Hours: Find the program here

Admission: Festival pass and single tickets available

Days of Jewish Culture

Each year the Jewish cultural festival presents a diverse potpourri of theatrical performances, readings, discussions, exhibitions, church services, and concerts featuring outstanding performers from around the world. This year’s theme is „Shalom Berlin“. Please find the program here.

When? November 7 - November 17, 2019
Where? Synagoge Rykestraße, Renaussance Theater, Jüdisches Gemeindehaus Fasanenstraße and more
Admission: depends on the venue