Hafengeburtstag Berlin / Harbor Festival at the historic harbor of Berlin

The history of the first harbor festival of Berlin dates back to a document from 1298! Today it’s a bit more modern and it’s very nice to see something like this still being celebrated.

At the harbor festival in the historic harbor on the Fischerinsel in Berlin-Mitte there was a free event featuring a small concert stage, food / drinks trucks serving German fare, Spanish food, beers, mojitos and more. It was a small event but a nice day out nonetheless!

I had pommes des frites with a quark-based dip.

A bit of history of Berlin

In 1922, the railway system, that connected Berlin to its neighboring cities and villages was electrified and transformed into the S-Bahn, and a year later Tempelhof airport was opened. Berlin was the second biggest inland harbor of the country. All this infrastructure was needed to transport and feed the over 4 million Berliners

Where am I now post language marathon? Started with A1.1 to soon starting a B1.1 intensive in German…

This is a follow up post to all my previous posts doing a marathon via Lingoda. You can read the previous posts below.

Just a note that I did both the French AND the German full marathon at the same time.

Previous post nearing the end of my marathon!

Progress so far in the middle of the marathon

Starting the first month of the Marathon…

Did I get a refund?

Yes! I did in fact get a refund for the German because I fulfilled all of the conditions. Therefore I will be getting about 807 euros back!

Did I get two refunds for doing two languages?

Actually, this question I will never be able to answer because I didn’t meet the conditions to succeed the French part of the marathon due to a few reasons! One of those reasons was that I booked two classes on the final day – thinking that it should be ‘fine’ but I should have waited until the day after. The other reason was that a teacher was not found for one of my classes, I did not get a notice about it until it was too late and, thinking that I forgot to book for that day, I booked another class. I then decided to cancel said class when I saw email.

Anyway, rules are there for you to read – highly recommended that you check the rules very carefully and check your emails.

Am I still using Lingoda?

Well, yes and no. The yes part is that I decided to re-subscribe after a two week break but on a ‘lighter’ plan.

The no part is that I decided to look for a local language school to take up most of what I am learning – largely because I wanted something a lot more intensive with a set schedule of 3 hours per day in one block, 3-4 days per week.

How did I move from learning A1.1 to learning B1.1 since January?

First of all, I didn’t meet the lessons to reach the CEFR certificate requirement because collecting CEFR certification is not my goal. I did some A1.1 units, some A1.2 units etc and now I’m doing A2.2 units. My goal is to challenge myself just enough that it does not feel like I am reviewing a concept (unless, I want to review) while not feeling like concepts are out of reach.

And, to be fair, I decided to do a placement test for a language school. I placed at B1.1 level to start with for my courses. I also did sign up to go to a language course (not Lingoda) for A2.2 but found it more of a refresher and decided to leave the course.

CEFR certification (or TECL or something else) may be my goal when I am learning B2/C1 level.

Discount code for new users…

Feel free to use this code FYUVJH for 50 euros off the first month!*

*Don’t worry this is not a sponsored post…and to be transparent, I get free classes in return also.

If you enjoyed this series, or found it helpful please let me know (or even better… use the discount code if you like the sound of Lingoda) and for my next post I will do a comparison with intensive course and how it fares.

Berlin Maker Faire at FEZ

Today was my first time going to a Maker Faire and it was in Berlin at an area called FEZ which turned out to be this huge type of indoors and outdoors area just for children and young people to have fun. It’s actually my first time seeing this and it was pretty cool.

I only spent one hour at the Maker Faire and it was quiet enough for me as I didn’t intend to purchase anything there.

And left with a few German magazines to practice reading comprehension!

Kostenlos Zeitschriften

Some of the other stalls that interested me were, interestingly enough, most had nothing much to do with technology and more to do with ‘making’

  • Blacksmithing demonstration where I can actually watch a few blacksmiths at work. Very hot and physical type of work! Don’t think I’ll be taking up blacksmithing any time soon…
  • Making your own canoe, with a few canoes on display.
  • Very interesting sculpture made of light and wood with some LEDs – but the LEDs where more like icing on a well-done cake and the sculpture work itself was far more interesting.
  • A project featuring a robotic arm playing drums.

Thankfully not a lot in terms of ‘commercial’ type work, there were a lot of kids and families there though.

Personally, I’d love to go to a much larger fair – perhaps in Shenzen or New York, even London.

Flughafen Tempelhof für das Fest der Luftbrücke ✈️

Fest der Luftbrücke (Festival of the Airlift) took place on Sunday 12 May 2019 at the Tempelhof Airport in Berlin. It’s an occasion with historical significance has it has been 70 years since the end of the Berlin Blockade.

“The Berlin Blockade (First Berlin Crisis) refers to the blockade of West Berlin by the Soviet Union from 24 June 1948 to 12 May 1949. As a result of this blockade could the Western Allies West Berlin, which as enclave in the Soviet zone of occupation was (SBZ), not on the land and water connections provide. The blockade was a means of pressure on the part of the Soviet side with the aim of ultimately classifying Germany into its own economic and political system via West Berlin. This was a strategy developed a few months earlier by the Soviet side and can be understood as the “first battle of the Cold War.

The Tempelhof Airport, one of Europe’s three iconic pre-World War II airports, is not in use for any flights. In fact right now many locals and visitors alike set up for picnics, to fly kites, to go for a run or skate especially for the summer. On this day, however, it was set up with many artifacts from the past as well as present-day vehicles – ranging from DDR-era police vehicles to present-day Bundespolizei helicopters. There was a lot of food stalls set up – from currywurst and fries to Brasilian and Canadian street food. Also a stage set up with bands.

Below is a photo from the US Air Force in Europe band headed by a female Lt. Cln wearing uniforms (I believe from 1949 era?) playing big band jazz.

There were a hanger dedicated to a large video and sound installation with snippets of the speech by Ernst Reuter “Schaut auf diese Stadt” (more details here) and snippet below:

“Ihr Völker der Welt, ihr Völker in Amerika, in England, in Frankreich, in Italien! Schaut auf diese Stadt und erkennt, daß ihr diese Stadt und dieses Volk nicht preisgeben dürft und nicht preisgeben könnt! Es gibt nur eine Möglichkeit für uns alle: gemeinsam so lange zusammenzustehen, bis dieser Kampf gewonnen, bis dieser Kampf endlich durch den Sieg über die Feinde, durch den Sieg über die Macht der Finsternis besiegelt ist.”

Another hanger with some more artifacts, photos below:

Just submitted my application for the German Freelance Visa – May 2019 | Update June 7: Visa approved!

Update: German Freelance Visa approved!

Before I start, here’s a profile about me. The steps that you can take will be different and for a number of reasons ranging from the industry that you work in right through to your nationality.

My profile:

  • Work in tech as a consultant (though not a programmer). Work in IT for four years, combined work experience overall is 9 years.
  • Masters degree in IT with an IT certification.
  • Australian, with the ability to enter Germany visa-free for up to 90 days.
  • Already lived in Berlin from 2017 to 2018 under the German Working Holiday Visa.
  • Some knowledge of German language (studying A2 level).
  • Funds in the bank, a comfortable amount (five digits).
  • Very familiar with the paperwork and processes involved, originally planning to switch to the freelance visa from the German Working Holiday Visa but decided to put it off by a year.

You can apply for the German Freelance Visa in any other German city that you reside in (aka that you have the Anmeldung in). However much of the results if you were to search for this term are in the service.berlin.de website, but it still involves having to go to the Ausländerbehörde in the city that you reside in.

First thing first – copy and paste all of the paperwork that you need from the visa website. You will constantly refer to this. Now let us take a look at the rest of the items below.

My application


  • Freelance employment 
    It must be a self-employed academic, artistic, literary, teaching, educational or other self-employed professional occupation in accordance with s. 18 (1) Income Tax Act (see section “Further Information”).
  • Main residence in Berlin (or in this case, in the city that you reside in and have registered your Anmeldung in)
  • In-person visit 
    The interview should, if possible, take place by appointment.

Documents required

Valid passport

1 current biometric photo 35mm x 45mm, frontal shot with neutral facial expression and closed mouth, looking straight into the camera, light background.

You take your biometric photo at a photobooth but it needs to be the type that clearly states it can do biometric photos.

The form “Antrag auf Erteilung eines Aufenthaltstitels” (Application for Issuance of a Residence Permit)

Fairly straight forward – there are multiple language versions of the form (ie French, Spanish, English)

Financing plan

There is a downloadable template available for the finance plan on the service.berlin.de website for the visa and there are notes available in English.

To back up the finance plan, bank statements were provided. I only provided the latest statement (so, about a 2-3 weeks old) as I didn’t have enough time to generate newer statements. This was OK.

Revenue forecast

There is a downloadable template available for the revenue forecast on the service.berlin.de website for the visa and there are notes available in English.

One thing that the revenue forecast did not include is the amount of income tax that you pay. You can state this in the ‘Other taxes’ row. The amount of tax you pay will depend if you are single, have children, pay church tax, etc.

If you want to work on a fee basis: Letter of intent for the collaboration

Submission of at least two declarations of intent (with information on type, scope and description of the occupation).

These letter of intents are very important because it shows that there is a market for your freelance services. The submission needs to be at least two letters of intent, that means, letters of intent from at least two companies.

The amount of work, payments, hours of work, tasks of work, why you were chosen/how the relationship came about, your expertise and skills (which is why you are being hired) need to be stated, also it needs to be signed on letterhead.

Some blogs have written ‘the more the better’. It all depends on what your line of work. ‘Having more’ does not makes any difference with your application. There should be a mention of economic (in my case) interest in the region.

Fee contracts

I had no fee contracts but can be submitted if you have these.

Curriculum vitae

Add details of professional career, qualification certificates, diploma, references/sponsors.

I also included printouts of my degrees and certifications, as well as two signed reference letters from two companies that I have previously worked with.

Another thing that is not mentioned that I otherwise submitted are the samples of work. I submitted several samples of work, all printouts. A couple of these were samples of work that I have done on a public capacity (ie written an article for a large website, spoken at a conference, etc). Two of the samples, I decided to translate to German (automatic translation) and the rest submitted in English.

Health insurance

Proof of a secure livelihood must also include sufficient health insurance. Those with statutory health insurance are sufficiently insured. Those with private health insurance must consider the type and extent of their health insurance.

Now it is extremely important that you allocate enough time to not only find a suitable insurance provider and plan. Also the insurance provider needs enough time to process your payments and process the additional paperwork. Health care insurance providers also take their time replying back to you (if they even reply back in the first place..). Research well in advance and once you have the right quote and plan, start processing these at least two weeks before your appointment.

My own insurance provider also provided:

  • Further explanation of the health care plan with regard to German law, in German and in English.
  • Health care confirmation for the Ausländerbehörde in German. For example they provided “Bescheinigung für die Erteilung von Aufenthaltstiteln über einen privaten Krankenversicherungsschutz von einem EU/EWR-Dienstleister” alongside additional details (in German).

There are some providers out there that handle ‘expat insurance’ but you need to double check with them, before parting money, that they can provide those details above, at the minimum.

Lease or proof of home ownership

I submitted my lease contract.

Rental cost / expenses for property

Proof of the monthly rental costs (e.g. current account statement) or costs of the inhabited property; in each case in original form.

My bank statement should show expenses of property, but also the lease states amount I pay per month.

Proof of main residence in Berlin

This can be the certificate of registration at the main residence (Meldebestätigung) or lease and written confirmation of occupancy from the landlord.

In this case, I submitted my Anmeldung as proof of main residence in Berlin since the written confirmation of occupancy is required for the Anmeldung anyway. Basically the written confirmation of occupancy states that you have actually entered your apartment, collected your keys, and that you are occupying that said apartment.

German bank account

Open a German bank account, I did not provide my bank details but you still need one for certain things (ie some services require German bank details).

My appointment

I managed to get the necessary paperwork ready fairly quickly. I got my Anmeldung shortly after I moved in, and I got the freelance visa appointment three weeks after I moved on. The appointment schedule is a bit of a nightmare though, for example I checked online and say next appointments not being available until 3 months into the future. Highly recommended to check each day to see if there are any cancellations.

I arrived 30 minutes before the appointment. However interestingly enough, there was a delay of about 20 minute until my number flashed. You go into the right building, level and room to wait.

Upon arrival, all sections of my documentation are all sectioned in its own plastic sleeve and they were handed over to the visa officer. The visa officer had to check some things, so I headed outside to the waiting area for another 20-30 minutes.

Back to the appointment, I was given a Fiktionsbescheinigung (Fictional Certificate) valid for 6 months as the application needed to be sent off to the Senate Department for Economics, Industry and Commerce since a decision cannot be made on their end about the application. Immediate decision (approval, rejection) can be made if you are, for example, applying for the freelance artist visa (but of course, you can only work as a freelance artist of a certain field). Unfortunately it’s not clear how long it takes – I’ve read anywhere between 6 weeks to 6 months, which is why I have this certificate just for some peace of mind so I am not worried about overstaying Germany as per the Schengen Agreement. Another thing is that on the event a decision is not reached for 6 months, there is also the option to have the Fiktionsbescheinigung extended.

Is the communication in English or German?

So while on the train, I was going through my A2.1/A2.2 level notes trying to brush up on my German. Overall, we both communicated a bit in English and all terms were understood, I had a couple of questions and it was all answered. The visa officer also mentioned that he was impressed with my CV with all the samples of work I provided and the copies of degrees also and is confident that I will get the freelance visa application through, it is just that a part of the process (the actual decision) is out of his area.

Total time spent at the interview? About 5 minutes.

In total, amount spent with the visa officer was probably 5 minutes (both initial glance at the documents and the final say). No further questions were asked of my application. This was probably because everything was sectioned off, and it helps to be there being completely organised with all your paperwork and your presentation. Waiting time was a lot longer.

Now time to wait …

This is why extremely important that you have enough funds to wait out the decision period – yes you could very well be living in Germany for up to 6 months with no income since you cannot work in Germany. I was reading a post about someone waiting for just over half a year for a decision (this was January 2019), and another person 7 months ago who waited 2-3 months for a decision. So, if you are in a field of work that requires further confirmation from the Senate, get ready for a mini sabbatical and use that time to catch up on your German lessons, relax and tour the city or country a bit, brush up on some learning in your field or work on your own personal projects. It would also be a good idea to set an interval of when to check, as well as you might even want to find an immigration lawyer, and/or keep your visa consultant/translator in the loop also in case things get a bit topsy-turvy.

Another thing is – make sure to double check all details. Do not entirely depend on just one source of information, make sure to do your research and be prepared. The common theme that I see is that it is up to the individual to make sure that they themselves are informed.

Note to readers: Please note that this post does not constitute as visa or immigration advice and that your experience will be completely different to mine. By the virtue of your nationality, profession, preparation and attention to detail to the process you may also have a different outcome to mine.

Walk around Prenzlauer Berg, Argentinian restaurant and first Weddingmartk of the season

Today, we are hit with a cold spell since people in Berlin are now donning their coats, me with a scarf even. But it doesn’t stop people from heading out to enjoy a more slower pace of the city during Sunday.

I started with a matcha latte breakfast at this Japanese crepe place and then I went for a short walk around Prenzlauer Berg. I then had lunch at an Argentinian restaurant, mainly white wine and empanadas.

And then, went off to Wedding to go to Weddingmarkt which is like a small artisan market. There were some very good ceramics on sale there and some interesting flowerpots. But it was mainly your typical type of wares – mixture of homewares and decorations, stationary and postcards, accessories, plants, food, etc.

Also had my first time (possibly? Or at least second) tasting quark which is like a German cheese-yogurt type of dessert. They offered three flavors in a cup, but for me it was far too much sweets and I only managed to eat 1/3 of it.

Flohmarkt (flea market) shopping at Berlin Ostbahnof during May Day (or Labour Day)

May Day is a public holiday in Germany and while there are many options that you can do during this day, one of those is shopping at the super-größe flea market located at Berlin Ostbahnof, one of the mainline railway stations.

There are many things for many tastes and budgets. From curated porcelain right through to porcelain in boxes selling for an euro. You can get some ‘old’ items (postcards, door knobs, frames), various artworks, even normal stuff like jars or cutlery, as well as some special furnitures and home decorations. I ended up coming out with some wonderful porcelain for coffee / tea / kuchen and some kitchenware items.

Tea cup and small plate for 1.50 euro

Tips for the flohmarkt

  • Have an agenda of what you intend to buy or check out – be it gifts, homewares, a decoration, frames.
  • Make sure to wear flat, closed shoes. Some of the area can be dusty and you do not want to be trampled when it gets crowded.
  • Bring your own bag – I packed a foldable lightweight bag. Some people came with those small personal shopping trolleys, others only clutched their wares.
  • If you intend to buy porcelain or anything delicate, it would be useful to bring some bubble wrap or newspaper with you.
  • Cash only!!
  • Check out the items laid out in boxes (probably not along the main walkaway), you may get some good value finds.
  • You can bargain (ie 10 euro for a sugar container, went down to 8, then 7 – though this was from the person’s side).
  • To eat, there are some areas with benches laid out or you can have a small picnic if you bring a blanket.