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Dinner in White. Flashmob. Berlin, Gendarmenmarkt

Dinner in White. Flashmob. Berlin, Gendarmenmarkt

Berlin was my home for 3,3 years. I came there July 2011 after graduation in England and was ready to start a new period of my life. I knew nothing or very little about Germany and Berlin in general, but I was tired of the UK and naively believed this was my chance to start a career.

A year before I moved to Berlin I visited a friend in Berlin. She lived on a vital full of bars, cafes and restaurants Falckensteinstr. and I fell in love with the city immediately. It felt both familiar and new at the same time. It felt like this is the city that never sleeps and this is what I need because I don’t wanna sleep.. I wanted to work hard 5 days a week in a media company and do my own video projects in the spare time. And so I started a German course on my 3rd year of studies, and a year later moved to the German capital with 50kg in my hands, paying a €300 big fine for the overweight in Luton Airport. Honestly, I did not know back then Berlin is such a popular city and that 95% of planes that land here bring whether expats full of hopes or party tourists who won’t even see Brandenburger Gate.

Kreuzberg remained my neighbourhood from the very first to the very last day, even though I moved several times like a proper Berliner, because if you haven’t changed at least three flats within the first half a year, then you are not in Berlin. A typical Berlin flat is located in an old building with wooden floors and a high ceiling, some of them still have coal heating and a stove that takes the 3rd of your 12 square meter room that costs you now €300. When I moved to Berlin, the Neukoelln boom has only started. While some only spoke about it, many others already were moving there, paying €200 for a 25 square meter room.

The first three things you have to get used to are: that Berlin drinkssmokes and parties a lot and everywhere; that friends you had yesterday, might be gone today because it’s a transit city and last, but not least that there is no work. Sitting in a park with a 0,70 cent bottle and a €2,90 kebab is comfortable and cheerful, smoking a joint is legal and relaxing. When there is a party – you don’t have to rush there, because: 1. everything in Berlin starts late 2. if you don’t go there, there are another 105 variants today and tomorrow and the day after tomorrow. With the friends situation I never figured out what to do – whether not to get attached to anyone and be just “whatever” or simply hope that I leave faster than my new friends.. Anyway, the reason why all the friends/expats/people are leaving is exactly work.

I did a 100 different jobs in Berlin. I worked for a paleo restaurant, film festivals, Berlin Fashion Week, creative agencies, model agencies, tourism agencies, startups, art and film projects, production companies, Rocket Internet + I did various freelance jobs and ran workshops on the internship economy. After a month I moved to Berlin I already had my collages presented at the public exhibition. Seems like a lot going on, but all that does not make you financially stable. There is no minimum wage in Germany (even though this shall change soon) and many places offer you black work, which means that no one pays the taxes, and you end up without a pension scheme and most importantly without a health insurance. Having no health insurance in Germany is a tragedy. Yes, you can come with an EU or whatever insurance from your home country, but it still will cost you money OR will cover only emergency. All in all you gotta love German bureaucracy in order to survive.

Berlin is definitely one of a kind. It’s a city of freedom. You can do here whatever you want. Participate in any kind of activities, climbing walls to check abandoned spaces, going to wild, experimental parties or riots, attending tantric or DMT gatherings, having a dinner with your own table on the underground station, traveling naked etc etc etc. See my The Very Berlin Moments blog post.  Whatever you want to try in your life, you can do it in Berlin and no one ever will ask you anything or give you a judgemental look, because here everything is normal or abnormal, but still acceptable. Berlin is a vegetarian city that stinks of urine, beer and weed. Berlin’s true face is “I work at the party”. Because most of the people work in the bars, cafes, galleries, tattoo salons, festivals, shared spaces etc. Startups work hard, but Friday afternoon you already see boxes of beers in the office. Fashion shops in the city centre open at 11am. And even big international companies will end up sniffing coke, because they are young, because the young rule the city. It’s like a big community and in the end of the day it’s just a big party where everybody knows each other. Not that it does not happen in London or other capitals, but here it’s more public and sexual. It’s more dirty by all the means, like New York in the 80s. Creativity for the creativity’s sake, not for the money. I am a freelancer, I pay my rent, but I can’t pay for anything else.

All rights reserved by Katja Avant-Hard

All rights reserved by Katja Avant-Hard

Berlin is beautiful in it’s own ugly way. It’s grey on the outside, but it’s the most saturated on the inside. Walking the right streets and entering the right doors open up a completely different view on the city. Berlin is absolutely anti-romantic, rough, but very cosmopolitan. Berlin is the city where you can discover something new every day, I’ve gone to random stations and came across with mind-blowing things. Berlin is a cheap prostitute without a health insurance. And yet it is full of talented and amazing people, important and special places. Berlin is the city to love and hate. With all these wonderful opportunities, there is no industry here and respectively no money. Poor artists’ myth has died with the previous century. An artist is also a job not a style of living. 

Bossa Fakata in Berlin.

Bossa Fataka in Berlin.

There are now mainly three work options in Berlin:

  1. You run your own business, and you earn enough to live in prosperity.
  2. You are a freelancer, who is lucky to have clients who pay enough to live in prosperity.
  3. You do a simple job (example: bartender, sale’s person, call centre) and you are happy with €700 – €1000 a month, because you do not care about the career

All these options are a headache, because there is no money in the city and you are in a constant run for the client who pays. Berlin is NOT the city for those who want to build a career. To register a new company you need €1, to make sure your business gives an income, it has to be international. Same goes for the freelancing – locals won’t pay much for your most wonderful design; often they won’t pay at all. It’s a normal practice – work for nothing. Herz lV is not an option. Living on benefits is not an option, because to move out from this city was the option for me. Because working for free was not something I came for. The experience I gained in Berlin is unbelievable. Nowhere else in the world I would have had a chance to do what I did in Berlin. But you get tired from working for free, because working for free is volunteering.

It’s important to understand that there are job offers in Berlin, but mostly internships, badly paid or unpaid. I’ve gone to interviews to find out they have no money to pay. My friends had high positions, but their payment was delayed. I was also told stories when applying for a cafe job a boss would ask:”Do you want to get paid?” It is also important to understand that there is a high competition absolutely everywhere, especially because us Latvians, Polish, Romanians, Bulgarians etc. don’t want to stay in the home country. We increase the amount of applicants for a good position up to 300 and up. But if other cities have well paid options, Berlin mostly does not.. Even IT specialists are paid much less in Berlin than the rest of Germany.

Berlin is a city of change, Berlin won’t be poor forever. The business centres are being built, the clubs and graffiti being removed, even the Wall leftovers.. More than half of my friends have left Berlin, and a few are planning to move out soon. This blog post is also written for those who plan to move here. My advice is – know exactly what you want from the city. If it is just a year for the experience sake – it is a great place, if you think “career” and “family” – this is a sad place. Not being able to pay for the dentist is sad, not being able to fly for a holiday is sad. Berlin is sad during the day and fun during the night.

A few days before leaving for good I’ve filmed the places I have been cycling through on a regular basis. This is Berlin I will remember.

Goodbye to Berlin from Katja Avant-Hard on Vimeo.

Clarchens Ball House Berlin. All rights reserved by Katja Avant-Hard

Clarchens Ball House Berlin. All rights reserved by Katja Avant-Hard

Exploring Berlin has been truly exciting for all three years. Secret venues, old theatres at midnight, weird parks, abandoned spy stations, life under the ground, inspiring personalities were found and met within this time, but only three summers later I’ve visited Clärchens Ballhaus. Built in 1895, the once-grand building has been through a lot. On September 13th 1913 Fritz Bühler opened the dance hall „Bühlers Ballhaus“
(Bühler’s Ballroom) in the back of Auguststrasse 24/25, which now ended up in the touristic center full of stylish onlookers and happy locals. It became known as Clärchens Ballhaus after Bühler was killed in WWI and his widow, Clara, took over the business.

During the peak, there were some 900 dancing establishments inBerlin, then already known for its nightlife, though just a few have survived. With such fierce competition, Clärchen’s dance hall on Auguststrasse in the city center had to find creative ways to attract customers. After the war ended in 1918, “Aunt Clärchen”, as many called her, held events for widows, who danced with each other because men were scarce. Meanwhile, the opulent upstairs ballroom was rented out for outlawed sword fights that often left the floor covered in blood.

Now the place is still holding the old dancing like: swing, cha-cha-cha, tango etc. And if you’ve never done it before, they will teach you. Ground floor has a bar and a kitchen, the lush gardens are buzzing with people sitting among various bushes and grape trees. Regular concerts and dancing make it the Ball House for what it stands. The famous Mirror Room can be rented for private events, and it’s probably the most impressive open space in the entire building. Quentin Tarantino used Clärchens as a location for his film Inglorious Bastards.

Lona Jakob is the oldest Ball House visitor, informed Spiegel in 2013. At a spry 91 years old, she is the oldest regular guest at Clärchens Ballhaus. It’s where the former ballerina met her late husband in the 1940s, and where she returned late in life after his death to rediscover her love of dancing. Now, she dresses up in sequins and heels (despite breaking her leg not long ago) to come dancing here with friends and her daughter every Sunday. And now, as then, she always waits to be asked to dance.

There are tons of stories in the walls of these building, most of them we will never know, but we can feel the spirit and enjoy it until it lasts. Breath it in.

If you want to have a coffee with me there, feel free to drop a line.

The Mirror Room. Image taken from: http://peutereycitymag.peuterey.com/

Image taken from: girlitude.peugeot.it

Clarchens Ball House

Clarchens Ball House. All rights Reserved by Katja Avant-Hard

Clarchens Ball House. All rights Reserved by Katja Avant-Hard

Clarchens Ball House. All rights Reserved by Katja Avant-Hard

Clarchens Ball House. All rights Reserved by Katja Avant-Hard

Clarchens Ball House. All rights Reserved by Katja Avant-Hard

Clarchens Ball House. All rights Reserved by Katja Avant-Hard

Clarchens Ball House. All rights Reserved by Katja Avant-Hard

Clarchens Ball House. All rights Reserved by Katja Avant-Hard

Clarchens Ball House. All rights Reserved by Katja Avant-Hard

Clarchens Ball House. All rights Reserved by Katja Avant-Hard

Clarchens Ball House. All rights Reserved by Katja Avant-Hard

 

Clarchens Ballhaus in 1920s.

Berlin is changing, this change is unstoppable. The breathtaking Wilde Renate’s Labyrinth aka Peristal Singum will close forever on the 29th of March 2014. The homepage says: 

We welcome you to

collaborate! participate!

& transform!

Which means the guys are going to demolish it all and re-build it elsewhere and you can get involved.

About Peristal Singum

Within a 9 month period of continuous work, a small group of creative enthusiasts built  surrealistic and at the same time accessible installation spreading  on two floors.  This spontaneous creation was built from scrap metal, used timber piling, glass bottles, one car and different sorts of civilization waste.

Peristal Singum is a combination of Alice in Wonderland, a playground for grownups and a creepy cabinet with amusement factor.

By virtue of particular arts and materials, free organic interior design and extraordinary setting, people intuitively sharpen their senses and intensely  perceive entities around them, as well as the ones that reside inside of them.  The journey through this genuinely strange construction unveils secrets to ones who are willing to hark, question and take on challenges.  As a result, each person passes through one truthful, remarkable and authentic experience (http://karmanoia.org/peristal).

“It’s not for the faint of heart and it’s really hard to describe without giv­ing it away to some extent, but really, I urge you: go and check out what Peri­stal Singum is.

You will not regret it and you will never find some­thing like this again, ever, any­where, in and out­side of Ber­lin.”

http://www.findingberlin.com/peristal-singum/

This might be your last chance @ Wilde Ren­ate Salon, ALT-STRALAU 70 10245 Berlin

Wilde Renate Peristal Singum. Image taken from: http://samyroad.com/

Bio Kiwi. Bio Label in Germany. Image taken from: http://www.southafrica.diplo.de

My Latvian friends are very sceptical about my bio/ecological gifts from Germany, saying that I should  not pay more for what is no different from other products. So, it’s very hard to buy us, the ex-soviet countries, with the “Bio” sticker. However on the first month of my move to Berlin I was told that Germans are very strict with what they call organic, therefore it’s time to find out the real answer.

History

The agriculture has become more mechanical after The World War II. Chemical adherence and intensive farming techniques have caused food safety and environment problems. As a result, countries started looking for new methods, and organic farming became more and more popular. (Rehber and Turhan, 2002) Germany was participating in biological farming quiet actively from the beginning of the 20th Century. It became especially stimulating in the 60s and 70s.

The Federation for Organic Farming was established in 1988. Standards and policies for the organic food in Germany were setup in the 90s when bio agriculture started to develop rapidly.

What’s bio/organic, ecological, natural, green or eco-friendly?

A 100% natural product is made of natural ingredients like pure fruit, water, and sugar in the case of a juice. But when a product claims to be organic or bio it also means that its ingredients were produced without any synthetic inputs and do not have any chemical additives. (study-in.de)

➔The bio/organic-products do not contain toxic substances: parabens (butylparaben, ethylparaben, methylparaben, propylparaben) who only act as curing agent; phthalates (dibutylphthalate, diethylphthalate) who preserve the pleasant flavour, the colour and texture of the product; sodium lauryl sulfate and other substances only produce foam; imidazolidinyl urea and diazolidin urea are used as curing agents; oil by-products (mineral oil, paraffin), lanolin.

Image taken from static.ddmcdn.com

➔A product called “Ecological” is a product developed in accordance with criteria for the formulation and packaging in order to have less impact on the environment. This does not mean that the product is respectful of the person and the environment throughout its life cycle. In the absence of a recognized label, the consumer has no way to know if these arguments are satisfactory if there are no specific and complete criteria to respect, or official organism to confirm the veracity of the responses to criteria.

➔A product called “natural” is a product extracted from nature. The word “natural” is more or less defined by legal instruments. On the other hand the term “natural” does not always guarantee a satisfactory respect of the person and the environment. Many natural substances are classified as “toxic” to the person and / or to the environment or are classified as allergens.

➔A product called “green” is a product that organic compounds are mainly of plant origin.

➔A product called “environmentally friendly” should have a very good biodegradability and low ecotoxicity and respect the person, because humans are part of the environment.

The European Ecolabel guarantees the consumer that the product which has obtained ECOLABEL “the European eco-label” has satisfactory environmental qualities.  (http://www.arbrevert.eu/)

Bio Labels & Standards

EU Organic Logo

Germany is the biggest organic importer in Europe, with almost 40% of the total market. In 2011 Germany was by far the most important organic market in Europe with a turnover of €6.59 billion. France took the second place with €3.76 billion, and the UK €1,88 billion. 6,2% of agricultural land in total is being used for organic farming, that is 1034355 hectares. With Berlin being the least active, and Bavaria the most productive. More recent data, in German, can be found: HERE

There are several organic associations in Germany: Demeter, Bioland, Biokreis, Naturland, Biopark, Ecoland, Ecovin and Gaä that have contracted farmers all over Germany (press on the name to read more). Some of them operate worldwide and follow much stricter rules than EU ones. Demeter for example, which is bio-dynamic, rather than basic organic and uses holistic approach*. But all of the above mentioned ones meet very high standards and are advisable for use.

*Holistic agriculture has an aspect important for the environment: fertile soil can sequester carbon. That our soils are no longer alive is a major cause of global warming!
In Egypt the SEKEM initiative for example has been working for 35 years according to the principles of holistic agriculture. To date, nearly 700 acres of desert has been made fertile by SEKEM alone.

Other bio names

Cheaper bio named products (without any labels) from EDEKA, NETTO and LIDL meet only basic organic regulations and are not so advisable (read EU rules: here).  First let’s clarify that the simply claim “100% natural” or “without preservatives” written on the packaging doesn’t make it a bio-product.

The rules also vary from region to region. But regular checkouts are carried out through the country in order to control the liability. (auf Deutsch: hier ) Currently, 4,269 companies use the organic seal on 66,941 products. The mimimim organic level in germany is 95%.

Since September 2001, all agricultural products and foodstuffs from organic farming may be labelled with the national Bio-Siegel (eco label) of Germany. The small hexagonal logo with the inscription <- “Bio” brings about clarity, uniformity and orientation for organic or eco products respectively. Consumers can rely on it: “If it says ‘Bio’ on the outside it contains organic products.” For only producers and manufacturers who comply with the provisions of the EU Organic Farming Regulation and subject themselves to the mandatory inspections may sell their products as organic or eco goods and label them accordingly with the Bio-Siegel.

The Eco-Labelling Act contains criminal and administrative fines for misuse of the organic label. (list of regulations auf Deutsch: hier )

The guidelines of the German organic farming associations are stricter than the EU legislation on organic farming in some points (says http://www.bmelv.de/). Most of the market chains have their own bio label, this one on the left is from ALDI ( I did not know it was bio).

“I know a girl in Hessen who worked for a company that packs exclusively for Aldi and Lidl. The testing is fucking rigorous and the quality is heavily controlled.” (Bad Doggie from ToyTownGermany)

McDonald’s Beef in Germany is organic

Someone in France on the Fool’s Day made a joke about McDonalds going organic, while Germans are pretty serious about it.

In the presence of minister Renate Künast, McDonald’s has signed an agreement with organic farmers(2001). Now the “Qualitätsfleischerzeugergemeinschaft Weidehof” in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern
belongs to the list of official suppliers to the well- known fast food restaurant chain. Full article in German can be read HERE 

Testing

I found two type of tests (for food and everything else): Warentest and  ÖKO-TEST

Warentest was established in 1964 after the decision of the German Bundestag to offer consumers comparative testing of products and services through an independent and objective support.

  • We buy – anonymously
  • We test – using scientific methods in independent institutes according to our specifications.
  • We rate – from “very good” to “poor”, exclusively on the basis of examination results objectified.
  • We publish – free display test in our magazines and financial test and online at http://www.test.de.

Recently for the misusage of the Warentest label on the mattresses, LIDL had to pay €25,000. 

You have seen their label in Rossmann and Kaiser’s. It’s just a quality test, when the EOKO-TEST is the ecological test, which existed now for over 25 years. OEKO-TEST works only with specialized laboratories, which have proven their qualifications for the testing through the appropriate approval (accreditation).

EOKO-TEST also publishes their results and especially the violations. See the full list of label violations HERE. In case of breaking the law it asks companies to donate between a few hundreds and a few thousands to the Green associations in Germany. Both testing companies put a date of the label issue, and it is valid until the product is changed.

BIO labels in cosmetics

With cosmetics being bio/organic, they have different from food labels. Most common ones I found are:

Bio Cosmetics' labels

Bio Cosmetics’ labels

I started using only organic cosmetics after I read an article a year ago, which counted the terrifying amount of chemicals a woman puts on herself every day. Even though it is very hard to prove what exactly causes cancer and allergies I decided to switch in order to stress my body less.

I use mostly cheapest companies like: Alverde, BIO Belle and Sante. Now the last thing for my birthday will be the bio parfume, which also lasts up to 6h and costs no less and no more than the regular parfumes from famous companies.

Even my toothpaste after 27 years is bio and without fluoride.

Like so many everyday substances that have been found to be toxic, fluoride has its roots in World War II research into weapons of mass destruction. Massive quantities of fluoride were essential for the manufacture of bomb-grade uranium and plutonium for nuclear weapons throughout the Cold War.

Post-WWII, fluoride was a popular form of rat poison. However, as fluoride production began to greatly outstrip its use as a rodenticide, scientists were spurred on by industry and the government to find other uses for it.

Today, fluoride is routinely added to the water supply of around 10% of the UK population (though this figure is set to rise) and more than 60% of the US population. These figures are in stark contrast to the 98% of Western Europe that has rejected fluoridation on the grounds that it does not work and that it is morally reprehensible to forcibly medicate whole populations of people.

There are significant differences between naturally occurring calcium fluoride and what is essentially industrial waste – namely, hydrofluorosilicic acid, a byproduct of the phosphate-fertiliser industry – added to our water, and known to contain human carcinogens in a toxic mix of arsenic, beryllium, lead, cadmium, mercury, silicon and other major contaminants, including radioactive polonium.

While most of us have been taught that fluoride protects teeth, research does not bear this out. Most studies into the benefits of fluoride are based on calcium fluoride rather than the more toxic form that is added to our water supply. (http://www.nyrnaturalnews.com/article/qa-whats-so-bad-about-fluoride/)

In addition, several review papers have attested to the fact that dental decay does not increase when communities stop fluoridation.

“Generally, in Germany fluoridation of drinking water is forbidden. The relevant German
law allows exceptions to the fluoridation ban on application. The argumentation of the
Federal Ministry of Health against a general permission of fluoridation of drinking water
is the problematic nature of compuls[ory] medication.” (Gerda Hankel-Khan, Embassy of
Federal Republic of Germany, September 16, 1999).

Eco cleaning

The bigger the company the more likely it will cheat. There are several cleaning supplies’ companies available in Germany, one of them is pretty famous also outside the country – Ecover. It is interesting, but Ecover WC cleaning I have at home now does not have the eco label, it only has the label saying “The green bottle”, which means good for recycling, but about what’s in the bottle?

According to businessgreen.com, Ecover commissioned an independent investigation into 15 washing products that currently carry the label. 13 did not meet the European Commission’s criteria. (read full article HERE

From my personal experience the best on the market seems to be Sodasan, it smells extremely well and carries all the eco labels. It is also significantly more expensive than Ecover.

Bio box

Image taken from schmaelzle.com

There are several farmers’ associations, which offer fresh bio boxes of fruits and vegetables just picked from the fields. They will usually offer you the best quality (because they have to follow extremely strict guidelines), for a reasonable price between 14 and 30 euros. They deliver everywhere in Germany. There are 46 Bio Box companies, but only ten received 5 start rating.

TOP TEN:

Dirks Bio-Kiste
Dirk Agena, 69256 Mauer

Guidohof
Armin und Silke Lucht, 09212 Limbach Oberfrohna OT Uhlsdorf

Die rollende Gemüsekiste
Herrmann Haas-Hübsch, 86444 Gebenhofen

Hof Engelhardt Ökokiste
Hartmut Engelhardt, 74547 Untermünkheim

Bioland Gemüsehof Hörz
Die Grüne Kiste, 70794 Filderstadt

Bioland Gärtnerei Hüsgen
Rita und Till Hüsgen, 53773 Hennef-Süchterscheid

Hofgut Letten Vertriebs GmbH
Beate Mayer, 83670 Bad Heilbrunn

Martinshof Biobus GmbH
Gerhard Kempf, 66606 St. Wendel-Osterbrücken

Rengoldshauser Hof GmbH
Geert Neyrinck, 88662 Überlingen

Naturgarten Schönegge
Erhard und Horst Schönegge, 85405 Nandlstadt

To find a bio box in your region use this website: oekokiste.de

Lines and numbers on the products

In school a chemistry teacher told us that the lines on the toothpaste indicate the quality: black being the worst and red – being the best. No surprise, I thought, I never saw the red line in Latvia, thinking we get only law quality toothpastes. But today I found out that it is actually not true. In reality, these are merely marks used in the printing process. They are referred to as “eye marks” and read by a sensor in the manufacturing process in order to detect and align squeeze tubes.Typically, the color of the square is also a color of something else being printed on that side of the tube.

However, there are numbers on eggs, which indicate the quality. If the long code begins with 0 – it is fully organic, when 1- free range, 2 – don’t buy. And guess what, I have the twos…

Egg number decoding system

Organic studies

However there is no study which would show that people who eat organic are more healthier and those who don’t – experience health problems. Wiki actually says there is no difference for the organism, as the study could not prove that there is. Some people buy organic tomatos just because they taste better in comparison to cheap hybrids.

Although it has not been scientifically proved yet that these products are healthier than the ones produced with normal techniques, it is believed that the more natural a product is grown and the fewer chemicals it was exposed to, the better it is for our health. (study-in.de)

http://www.test.de/unternehmen/ueberuns/

All in all it’s a debatable question how much better our lives are with organic products, however putting chemicals down my body I do not feel indifferent, and when the cost between a bio a non-bio product is not that high, my choice will be organic. Plus, a bio apple will always taste better.

illustration Darkam

illustration Darkam

Übergang is a cultural and literary magazine in English and German, published twice a year. The publication offers literature with illustrations that reaches out to a liberal audience with features often touching sexual topics through poetry, commentary, interviews and fiction. In Berlin spirit it uses culture to open up minds and promulgate new ways of living.

Launched in September, Übergang comes in convenient pocket size (A5) and has 80 pages in the form of a booklet.

The title is the german word for ‘transition’ as this publication is devoted to documenting the contemporary flux through facts and fiction. The theme of the first issue is the Kottbusser Tor area of Berlin, which is in constant flux and is the target of financial and political speculation. Simultaneously being a sexual and cultural melting pot.

The cover of the magazine

The cover of the magazine

This magazine is relevant today because it strives to create more acceptance with its non­sensationalist approach to sexual texts, in a modern world where intolerance and negativity towards difference persists. And it is unique in being the only bilingual polysexual literary journal of Berlin.

There is social and political critique (e.g. about Wowereit) in the form of poetry and an article on polyamory, and we introduce the Handjerks with his lo­fi tropical song dedicated to wehappytrans.com. Our short stories touch the topics of race and history, art and sex clubs, and doomed romance.

We invited authors and artists whose we admire to work with us, some of them from New York, some of them part of the Poetry Slam scene in Berlin.

From Ubergang "Kottbusser Tor" issue.

From Ubergang “Kottbusser Tor” issue.

Übergang’s manifest:

We live in times of unforeseeable shifts in power. Standards, identities, ideas: they’re all challenged by tediousness, economics and politics.

We want to leave the bourgeois idyll and the stance of irony behind to make way for an optimistic and constructive future. Sex, love, culture, liberation: we go in search of the personalities and phenomena that dare to define the new undercurrent and open up the dialogue.

Stimulus instead of escapism Utopia instead of nostalgia Confrontation and honesty Multiculturalism and polysexuality

Copies are available in Bookshops across Berlin, London, Brussels and Amsterdam. Retail €7.50

http://www.uebergang­mag.de

https://www.facebook.com/UebergangMagazine

uebergangmag@gmail.com

All rights reserved by Elena Anna Rieser

All rights reserved by Elena Anna Rieser

Image found on Wiki Commons

Image found on Wiki Commons

Living in Berlin you often ask yourself – where to go and what to see? It’s a huge city with a breathtaking history, old impressive buildings, world wide famous graffiti, modern hotels and restaurants, great markets and designer shops. Every district has it’s own story, way of living and an atmosphere. I love discovering Berlin step by step, opening new places and facts each month. It is not enough just to know the district you’re living in. I want to live the city.

Apart from the famous Spreepark and Teufelsberg there are many other places worth your time. For example an old Olympic Stadion, The Ball House in Grünau, even the Victory Column, which offers a 3-euro trip upstairs and the dark tunnels with screens that react on your body movement with many small light spots. Some metro stations have amazing stories behind them and are pretty atmospheric for photographs.

Recently I found a great source of information, which will be useful to both: visitors and locals. It offers a wide range of places for all kind of purposes: exhibitions, clubs, abandoned and historical buildings, cafes, restaurants, designer shops, hotels and so on. The page is in German and is called  Geheimtipp Berlin.  The Facebook page was started only in August 2013, and already has 21 thousand followers, which is a good indicator for quality.

For example, thanks to this page I read about a very interesting hotel: Arte Luise Kunsthotel. Each room is a like a piece of art (see here). My favorite one is the 20s cabaret room. The website allows 360 degrees view which is a great way to study all the details.

I suggest you follow the page to discover new places whether you visit or live in Berlin. Another page I find very informative – is Slow Travel Berlin. They offer big serious write-ups on various topics, often bent to the past. They also have a What’s ON section for each week; if you have an event you want to share, Slow Travel Berlin will be happy to hear from you.

All rights reserved by Jürgen Bürgin.

All rights reserved by Katja Avant-Hard

All rights reserved by Katja Avant-Hard

The history of Teufelsberg goes back to 28 November 1937, when Hitler laid the first stone for the Wehrtechnische Fakultät – a military school. Except for a contribution to Nazi Germany’s military force, the Wehrtechnische Fakultät was a part of the project to develop the Ost-West Achse – a planned axis from the city centre East (Alexanderplatz) – passing the Siegessäule which was relocated from the Königplatz (now: Platz der Republik) to its current destination (the Großer Stern) in 1938, the Technische Hochschule (now: Technische Universität), the Adolf Hitler-Platz (nowadays: Theodor-Heuss-Platz) till the city’s West, where the Olympic Stadium on the northside and the Hochschulstadt – the covering term for the militair complex where the Wehrtechnische Fakultät was part of – should came on the southside.

The construction of the Wehrtechnische Fakultät was put on a hold because Karl Becker – the leader of the building development – committed suicide in April 1940.

Within 1952 and 1972, 26 million cubic meter of devestated buildings were heaped there – which is about a third of Berlin’s bombed buildings after the war.

All rights reserved by Katja Avant-Hard

All rights reserved by Katja Avant-Hard

The nearby Teufelssee gave the name to the mountain, now called the Teufelsberg.

When the Wall was build in 1961, the American NSA (National Security Agency) reacted with the construction out of a 27 meter high search tower on the Teufelsberg. And created a department of Signal Intelligence.

During the heats and the colds in the Cold War, the spy station at the Teufelsberg expanded further. The most visible are the sites three white domes, which are build between 1969 and 1972.  The highest dome is 69 meter. As spectacular as the view over the city, are the amplified echoes when you are standing in the middle of the dome.

All rights reserved by Katja Avant-Hard

“Ball” radomes. The main tower and the Arctic tower (the one more visible in the picture) had small radomes on the top, which were removed when NASA left. All rights reserved by Katja Avant-Hard

Many of the Teufelsberg 1500 employees fulfilled their military service, and braught by a buss to the gate. Although the secret service spies worked in nine hour shifts and without long breaks, they also enjoyed comfortable working conditions – especially after an expansion in 1984. From then on, the canteen was accompanied by a casino, a fitnesstudio and even a Biergarten.

The NSA left the Teufelsberg in August 1992 and the site became property of the Wilmersdorf city council – which sold it in 1996 to the investor Gruhl & Partner for 5 million Deutsche Mark. Two years later, Gruhl & Partner started to construct villa’s on the Teufelsberg. Apartments up to 5 million DM were sold and the constructions started. When the Wilmersdorf council changed from CDU to SPD in 2001, the plans for the developing of villa’s were frozen in 2002.

I did not intend to rewrite the history.The text was written by http://joepwritesthehistoryofberlin.wordpress.com/ and http://dasalte.ccc.de/

For future visitors

There is a fence and security. No one is welcomed there, unless you take guided tours or hire the place for shooting. I got there during the Heritage Days, and we did not have to pay for the tour. But there are lucky riskers 🙂 Good Luck!

All rights reserved by Katja Avant-Hard

All rights reserved by Katja Avant-Hard

All rights reserved by Katja Avant-Hard

All rights reserved by Katja Avant-Hard

All rights reserved by Katja Avant-Hard

All rights reserved by Katja Avant-Hard

All rights reserved by Katja Avant-Hard

All rights reserved by Katja Avant-Hard

3 teufelsberg

All rights reserved by Katja Avant-Hard

teufelsberg door

All rights reserved by Katja Avant-Hard

teufelsberg echo

In the highest radome. Amazing echo! All rights reserved by Katja Avant-Hard

teufelsberg light

All rights reserved by Katja Avant-Hard

teufelsberg love

All rights reserved by Katja Avant-Hard

teufelsberg shit

Art performance dring Heretage Days. All rights reserved by Katja Avant-Hard

teufelsberg tear apart

All rights reserved by Katja Avant-Hard

teufelsberg top

All rights reserved by Katja Avant-Hard

teufelsberg

All rights reserved by Katja Avant-Hard

This installation was called JAMBALAYA and was apparently used for special research projects. All rights reserved by Katja Avant-Hard

This installation was called JAMBALAYA and was apparently used for special research projects. All rights reserved by Katja Avant-Hard

Rochus Misch. Image taken from: http://img.thesun.co.uk/

Rochus Misch, was the former courier, bodyguard and telephone operator for German leader Adolf Hitler from 1940 to 1945. He died literally two days ago, on the 5th of September 2013. His last days Misch spent in South Berlin in the district of Rudow.

He was 96. Misch was the last survivor from Hitler‘s bunker in Berlin, and was actively interviewed for the last years. One of such documentaries I watched just couple of months ago. What was especially interesting to me, that during the Bunker times there was no single word about concentration camps and Jews. They did not know anything, and he only learned about the killed numbers many many years after and was still reading the facts in the books until recently.” We simply could not imagine him as a murderer of Jews, he was so friendly and nice to us”. And even 60 years after the Hitler’s death, he called him “boss”.

Nazi Past

In 1937, Misch joined the SS-Verfügungstruppe (SS-VT), the predecessor to the Waffen-SS. The SS-VT trained alongside Hitler’s personal bodyguard unit, the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler (LSSAH). Misch was badly wounded while negotiating the surrender of Polish troops during the Battle of Modlin. For this act he was awarded the Iron Cross, Second Class.

On January 16, 1945, following the Wehrmacht’s defeat in the Battle of the Bulge, Misch and the rest of Hitler’s personal staff moved into the Führerbunker in Berlin.

Hitler committed suicide on 30 April. Misch witnessed the discovery of the bodies of Hitler and Eva Braun, and was present (in the bunker complex) during the time when Joseph Goebbels and his wife Magda poisoned their six young children and committed suicide on 1 May 1945.

”Hitler was sitting at the table, slumped forward, and Eva Braun was lying next to him. I saw that with my own eyes,” Misch said. ( smh.com.au/)

After Soviets released him, for many years he did not know what to do with himself. But later he ran a painting shop in Berlin (weld.de).

He wrote his memoirs in German, Der letzte Zeuge (The Last Witness) which was published in 2008.

Misch took many photographs of Hitler and Eva, many of them can be found online or seen in the documentary “The Last Witness”. Misch remained proud to the end about his years with Hitler.

Young Rochus Misch. Image taken from: http://natedsanders.com/

Rochus Misch. Image taken from: http://fc07.deviantart.net/

Bunker, 1945.

Bunker, 1945.

Stasi prison. Image taken from: http://www.stadtentwicklung.berlin.de/

This weekend, 7-8 September, is the Tag des offenen Denkmals in Berlin. 900 Programme spots will be open for visitors to see the history of Berlin.

Explore the former Olympic stadium area where Hitler held his infamous 1939 Olympics, Stasi Prison, abandoned spy station TeufelsbergLangemarckhalle (which contains 12 pillars bearing the 76 flags of the regiments that took part in World War I), and other NAZI and GDR sites.

〪〪〪

Programm and a great map can be found on official website: http://tag-des-offenen-denkmals.de/programm/

The English team giving the Nazi salute. May 14, 1938, Berlin Olympic Stadium

Olympic Stadium 1936, East Gate. From the article: http://hautevitrine.com/2011/08/02/haute-vitrine-by-leslie-hossack/

The myth about interns making only coffee is in the past. It is time to clear the things up, as there is no doubt – internship has become a new form of public crime and this is a global problem and not a few capitals issue. I will be speaking from a personal and friends’ experience, also summarizing recent case studies in London and New York. For those who are currently interning or thinking of having an internship I will provide a list of organisations, which should help you to learn more about your rights.

September the 24th, 11:00am

Berlin, Germany

Social Media Week Berlin 

I will give a speech

on Unfair Internships

More info: http://bit.ly/15pPEwE

Facebook Page: Berlin Internship Justice

Introduction

I had 10 internships in my life, each one of them was an experience (because even bad experience is an experience), however some of them were certainly breaking the human and labor rights, and this is something I am going to tell you here. And yes, I have always clearly known what I wanted and what my expectations are. I have three degrees, I’ve graduated with the highest marks and have a great work experience from volunteering. I have always had excellent performance, and these are not my words, but the written words of the employers in the recommendation letters.

There are many general articles about unpaid internships being illegal (mainly American, English and Canadian), which already shows that the problem is noticeably big; especially the fact that pages like Monster have forbidden unpaid internship offers or the fact that 9 British companies have been forced to pay out almost £200,000 to interns who were required to work without payment, after an investigation by Revenue & Customs. Yet there are not so many case studies, or interns speaking themselves (or let’s say noticeably fewer). And the main reason is – we are scared to be blacklisted, but many of us still think it is the system and in cities like London, New York and Berlin this is a part of the education and is a “must”.

What is internship?

In one sentence – it is an educational process which is usually taken during the studies or right after the graduation, in order to help young people gain real work experience putting their theoretical knowledge into practice. Initially the length was from 1 up to 3 summer months. And as American law says the intern has to benefit from it and not vise versa; when the employer benefits from an intern – he has to pay.

But far before that, internships were referred only to medical students, who did paid internships, but it was truly unpleasant work.

An image created by http://www.adangerousfigure.co.uk/

Alexander Augustus & The Bite Back Movement – http://www.thebitebackmovement.com

My case

My first 5 internships were during my studies in Latvia, and helped me, the young and unexperienced, damn a lot. I am truly thankful to LKK for throwing us into the real world. Each internship was only a month long (the perfect length, in comparison to 6 months they insist on now), and it was enough to learn about the organisation itself, get involved into a current project and fulfill the tasks for which you were marked later in school. I was not paid, but I had a chance to enjoy cultural events for free, meet famous musicians and build connections and I did not feel used or exploited.

In the UK, where I moved in 2008, studies were less time consuming, i worked over 20h a week in a photographic shop, where I was paid tiny bit over the minimum wage, at the same time I was also involved in to the City Festival, that I photographed and ran an art event for. During my last year of studies I started looking for jobs in London. And i’ve noticed internship offers up to 12-18 months unpaid. I did not worry much, simply because I was not going into the question. Later I decided to move to Berlin where I faced the problem for real. At first I was thinking: – 3 months of free/low paid internship and then I am in, but the truth was different…

  • Bad example

The last company I worked for was paying thousands of euro for the office cleaning. So, basically cleaning the space I was sitting at would have made me earn easily over the material minimum, but instead i choice to boost my CV and got paid €300/m doing marketing, which was lower than any other intern. Oh, a little mistake they would say later.

The saddest internship was when I was taken for a position my boss did not know anything about himself. So, question: how was he suppose to teach me? I was explaining him instead.

Also, ironically they all say that you must work 40h a week in order to unite with the team and get good results, as you’ll be an important part of the chain. And then you sit 8h on the computer doing nothing, even Facebook bores you. Waste of time: – was my conclusion. Learned nothing, but got a great reference. Oh, those references, I have tons of them. They help no one.

My naive hopes to reach the full employment banged against the wall at least 3 times…

  • Good example

When I just moved to Berlin I needed a quick integration, so I took an unpaid internship with ArtConnect Berlin, a platforms for creatives in Berlin. In the beginning it was a non-profit making organisation, and even the founder was working for free. She never insisted on 40h, and was keeping it to flexible 20, so that I could also work in a restaurant. She taught me WordPress and as a result this blog was born. When the first money came through, they were all honestly split.

Other case studies

While in Berlin this is an extremely difficult situation, because it is the mecca of startups and the absence of minimum wage makes everything much more complicated, America and England started the action against unpaid internships, simply because it’s illegal.

Since the victory two weeks ago in a lawsuit brought by unpaid interns against Fox Searchlight Pictures (Black Swan to be exact), three suits have been filed challenging the legality of unpaid internships. The complaints against Condé Nast, Warner Music and Gawker Media are the latest in a rising tide of lawsuits brought by unpaid interns, many of which are still in progress.

 Stephen Suen, ProPublica (full article)

This month marks the 75th anniversary of the US Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, which set the first federal minimum wage, created overtime protections and the five-day workweek, and virtually ended child labor in the United States. We should celebrate its legacy by giving all young people paying jobs instead of worthless lines on their resumes.

 Ross Eisenbrey

The coffee myth
Would I like to be paid a minimum wage for making coffee all day? If I did, I’d find a job in a cafe. Making good coffee could be important if this is an internship at the coffee factory, but working in the office I want a teaching process which is relevant to my studies. However employers are not interested only in coffee making; they quickly understand that a young flesh could also be used for calls, sales, orders, PR, marketing, business, design, documents, calculations, well pretty much everything. Let’s boost the business with a young energetic spirit. The companies looking for interns now have longer lists of requirements, because when you want one person to do everything, he/she can not be just a college graduate who only worked before as a packer in a super market. An internship for the experienced? No, thanks.

Family Support

I am 28, I am the only child, I don’t have a father, my mum is an accountant in Latvia, where wages are ridiculous. And even if she could support me financially, she’d avoid it to the last minute. From the age of 18 she made me leave the country and build a career. 8 years later as an intern I am paid 3 times less than for selling goods in a shop when I was 20. I am forced to work overtime, late evenings and weekends, so are my friends who took un(der)paid internships.

My rent in Berlin is €270. When I was paid €400, I left with €130 for the rest of the month. I cycle until it snows, and then I am forced to get a monthly travel card for €75. So, there is no way I could survive on this money without extra income.

Those taking fully unpaid internships can not pull living outside of parents house, even if they work during the weekend. This violates human rights, and excludes students with jobless parents. These students are forced to postpone career and work in shops, bars or similar places.

Where exactly is the problem?

1. Internships became longer (from 3 up to 18 months)
2. Mostly full time (no flexible hours)
3. Remain being un(der)paid
4. Non-educational but employee-replacing (and this is illegal!)
5. Exclude those from poor families (postpone their careers)
6. Internships which don’t exploit or teach, ask to make a coffee (there are not many of those, but still..)
7. Stop graduates from paying back their tuition fees
8. It’s not enough with just one internship
9. Un(der)paid interns aren’t protected by health and safety laws.
10. Their intellectual property goes to the employer.
11. Unpaid interns don’t receive a pension scheme.
12. There is an enormous gap between the internships and professional jobs. Millions of junior positions have vanished from the market.

Internships are almost impossible to avoid. That’s why a question “Who forces you taking those internships?” is no longer relevant. Firstly many more universities force students to take internships and secondly without experience you cannot get far, and since the junior positions can be counted on fingers, for many of us internship is the only way to go.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the U.S., more than 1.1 million secretaries vanished from the job market between 2000 and 2010.

What are we talking about if even White House and European Parliament have unpaid interns?

Law

Of course, the law varies from country to country; Germany for example is too loose at the moment about the interns’ rights and this is what minimizes the acuteness of the problem. So, what is illegal in America is most likely legal in Germany. There is no clear guidance in Germany, which would help intern to choose the right company. New York and London have been taking care of this question very seriously for quite a while now, and I will list their solutions in the end of this article.

“I have heard employers say that they just love their unpaid interns because they see them as free employees,” said Charles Lamberton, president of the Pittsburgh-based Lamberton law firm who represents plaintiffs in employment disputes and other civil rights cases.

In France for example, the law says if the unpaid intern is in the company longer than two months, he has to be paid. And the number of interns per office is also regulated by law.

Company’s Size

Should we only blame big companies? Should we close eyes on the startups? I don’t think so. The unhealthy business model creates unhealthy conditions inside the company; and the first ones to suffer are interns.

I have been inside both of those higher mentioned. And the true answer to this is: that young companies who have to work extreme hours in order to achieve their first goals need full experts and not interns (as startups ONLY use interns for their profit; if there is an acception, please let me know!), whose performance is  less effective. It is very important for a startup to get first good, professional impression, and if the intern (who’s mostly never controlled by anyone) does a mistake on a social platform, which is recognized by someone big it can cause the company much bigger lose than 300 euros a month.

Can’t plan the budget, don’t start the business!

Besides there are young professionals without 5-10 years of experience, who’d rather do it for a slightly over a minimum wage pay rate instead of taking another internship and hope that it will lead to a full employment.

In case of a  big company it is simply effrontery:

At Bank of America in London, an intern died after working 72 hours straight. (Read full story HERE)

Sheryl Sandberg made $91 million last week, the same week her Lean In organization was searching for an unpaid intern. (Read full article HERE)

An unpaid internship is a great thing for a person who is still in school, as long as they get to observe a lot and work only a little. An unpaid internship for a graduate is a violation of labor laws. (Steven Craig Wood)

Our students are so paranoid about putting a famous company’s name on our resume that we end up not seeing the bigger picture. (Anjita Chowdhury. Read full article about internship scenario in India HERE )

The BFI has been accused of using unpaid interns to fill the gap after it axed nearly a 5th of its workforce. (You can sign the petition against it HERE)

India

Psychological preassure

How do I pay tuition fees when i work for free? I never had guts to ask the employer how he thinks I am living on €300/400 a month. The fact is the entrepreneurs do not waste time on such questions, they have more difficult tasks in their lives, like for example pleasing the investors.

A useful tool turned into a trap. Now many employers simply take an advantage. The number of unfair internships will vary from country to country, even from city to city; and there is no summarized data by countries. Brussels, the heart of EU, is not better than London or Berlin; July 17th 2013 there was an intern protest against unfair internships. 

When Alex Godson accepted his first unpaid internship in Brussels after receiving a master’s degree in international relations from the University of Manchester, he believed a full-time position was just a few months away. (The Globe and Mail: read full article HERE ) 

But the approximate picture has been visualised by Intern Aware in the following infographic.

An infographic created by Intern Aware

An infographic created by Intern Aware

What can we do? What are the solutions?

Since I am talking here globally, there is no one simple answer. But I would like to point out several organisations and pages which take care of intern rights.

The UK:

1. Intern Aware http://www.internaware.org/

Share your experience, they can help you claim the money, if your internship was unfair.

2. Graduate Fog graduatefog.co.uk

Interns’ rights campaigner and author of How to Get a Graduate Job in a Recession.

Intern Aware

Intern Aware

The USA 

1.  Ex Intern unfairinternships.com

A critical look at un(der)paid jobs called internships

2. Unpaid is Unfair unpaidisunfair.org

Unpaid internships are unfair. The United Nations should be no exception. Please sign our petition and tell the UN that young people matter.

3. SLAP studentlabor.org

The Student Labor Action Project (SLAP) engages students in economic justice campaigns.

4. Interns ≠ Free Labor https://www.facebook.com/interns.x.free.labor

Working to end #wagetheft guised as #unpaidinternships. Law student & Public Interest Fellow at Georgetown. • Contact: eric.glatt[at]gmail

5. Intern Labor Rights internlaborrights.com

In this era of historic inequality, class divide, soaring student debt and persistent unemployment we call for an end to unpaid internships: Pay your interns!

6. Intern X Twitter: @InternX

My mother got a pregnancy internship. As a result, I was born as the first baby-intern in the world. Still interning, at 52. #workforCV

7. Intern Justice internjustice.com/aboutuspress

Protecting the rights and wages of interns, workers, and college athletes. Pianko Law Group PLLC

Canada:

1. Canadian Intern Association https://www.facebook.com/CanadianInternAssociation

The Canadian Intern Association advocates against the exploitation of interns and aims to improve the internship experience for both interns and employers. Visit our website at www.internassociation.ca.

internships by wes and tony

Belgium

1. Internship Black List https://www.facebook.com/InternBlackList

Informal network of concerned citizens aiming to take social action to end the illegal exploitation of unpaid interns in the Brussels EU Bubble.

Germany/Austria

1. Plattform Generation Praktikum https://www.facebook.com/PlattformGenerationPraktikum

Ein weiteres Anliegen ist uns das sammeln von Erfahrungsberichten.

2. Planet Praktika http://www.planetpraktika.de/fair.php

Know your rights in Germany.

3. GPA-djp Jugend https://www.facebook.com/gpadjpjugend

Die “Gewerkschaft der Privatangestellten, Druck Journalismus und Papier” (kurz GPA-djp) vertritt Angestellte, JournalistInnen, Lehrlinge, Studierende, SchülerInnen, A-Typisch Beschäftigte und Zivil- und Präsenzdiener. Mit fast dreihunderttausend Mitgliedern ist die GPA-djp die größte Teilgewerkschaft Österreichs und damit ein wichtiger politischer Akteur.

Netherlands

1. HIA hagueinternsassociation.org

HIA is an association of interns working at UN-related and intergov’t orgs in The Hague. We work to improve intern welfare & promote intern rights.

EU:
1. Quality Internshiphttp://qualityinternships.eu/
On this website you can find the European Quality Charter on Internships and Apprenticeships that lays basic quality principles for internships and apprenticeships to become a valuable and quality experience across Europe.
2. InternsGoPro http://internsgopro.com/
Let’s build the quality database on companies in the EU together! (this one is highly recommended)

We have to reach for those who can affect the law, internships should be fixed to one month, and during the studies. Internship can be unpaid, but never exceeding 2 months. When exceeding 2 months should provide a National Minimum. Universities should explain students the definition of the internship and their rights. 

If you are from Germany or Berlin in particular and you feel my pain, join this Facebook page to unite https://www.facebook.com/berlin.internship.justice

Here is the updated Power Point Presentation on Internship Culture in Berlin: KNOW YOUR RIGHTS! 

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