Travel Update 2021: Gozo-Valletta-St Julians (Malta), Palma de Mallorca (Spain), Bavaria (Germany), Szcecin (Poland), Berlin (Germany) and Sicily

It has been a really long time since my last travel update!

So far this year, went to these places and countries.

I haven’t had much time to update the blog at all this year, while in the middle of new contract work, certifications, moving apartments, travel and just enjoying additional time but will do soon!

Travel 2020: Flight from Germany (Munich) to Malta in December

Note: Travel during the restrictions imposed across various countries at this time mean that far more steps need to be taken in order to have a successful trip. In this case, do not use this post as a guide for travel at this or for any other destinations. The restrictions constantly change and it is up to you to know them yourself. This post also in no way encourages travel, do it at your own risk.

This is my second flight to Malta this year, the first being in mid-September and some things have certainly changed since then. The first one was the travel suspension for flights from the UK unless it’s a repatriation flight of Maltese citizens, residents, and any other pressing reason. The second was that a negative PCR test for SARS-CoV-2 must be presented before being able to enter the country. These rules are presented both by the airline (Air Malta) and the airport (Malta International Airport). There are also other requirements and Malta has had various other travel bans and the requirement that you have to be in what’s called a “safe corridor country” for 14 days before arriving, in which Germany was one of them.

Before you leave Germany

Since I’ve already been aware of all the rules and potential issues, I was already prepared with the following:

  • Having enough food in my apartment for the impending quarantine (10 days, or 5 days if you have a negative SARS-CoV-2 PCR result).
  • Making sure the apartment is actually clean (nothing worse than coming back with a surprise that you forgot to throw away rotting bread).
  • A printed copy of my Anmeldung with me (the German residence registration certificate). The rules have changed or will change that you’ll need to show proof that you actually live in Germany if you are not a German citizen. I bring it with me in case that I lose my residence card, for example.
  • An up to date passport with more than 6 months validity.
  • Enough cash and a couple of cards, in case one is lost.
  • A packet of spare surgical masks (ie 10), hand sanitizer, sanitizing wipes.
  • A couple of pens (extremely important with all the forms to be filled in…including surprise paperwork…

Pre departure

The airline (Air Malta) had passengers to fill out two forms – one is a printed, signed statement that you’re not sick and that you are not “actively positive”, not in contact with an active case, etc. This form is handed to the departure staff. It seems like even now a few passengers fail this part and they get taken to the side to fill in the paperwork. Mine was already filled in.

The other one is an electronic form, again attestation that you are in good health.

You will also need to be wearing a surgical mask, N95, FFP2 mask throughout the whole flight. In an earlier flight a couple of months back, cloth masks were used and even had people wearing bandanas that they later wear around the neck.

Another thing is to get a printed copy of the negative SARS-CoV-2 result. The airline staff don’t check this, instead it’s the Maltese airport upon arrival that checks for the test. Note: Actual rules may change, depending on the airline and destination.

Actual flight

I think the flight from Munich to Malta had about 20-30 people, each person taking up one row so it was very spacious. Airlines have filters for circulating air. Everyone is masked up, a dining cart service is provided still where you can buy coffee, tea, even beer or wine. You can also order a small meal. No cash is accepted, only cards.

We then start saying goodbye to Germany, meeting the Alps way above. It has actually been a long time since I last saw this scene, possibly on a flight to Italy mid 2018. I really enjoy peeking out and seeing which of the areas are villages.

The flight was pretty unremarkable. I took a laptop out to work, after wiping the desk with a sanitizing wipe.

Then we slowly made our way to Malta, being greeted and followed by this rainbow.

Arrival in Malta

On my first trip, we there was people in PPE collecting passenger locator forms before you can leave the airport, since at the time Germany was in a list of countries that did not require the negative PCR result. This time around the result is required and this was all done in an enclosed area of the departure lounge.

First they obtain a temperature check.

Then following that are two people with clipboards who’s task is to determine and check for paperwork. It seems that some passengers there had a rapid antigen test of some sort, which was no accepted. Without the test, you had to wait until all passengers left (that had the result) and then go to another area to do the test at the airport. In the testing area, your name and details are obtained and you provide your passenger locator form. No one leaves the area until you are let go by the staff who call out your name, then you are asked to immediately proceed out.

Berlin Christmas 2020

Massive Christmas tree at Tiergarten

Unfortunately, the new restrictions in place (then) had unfortunately wiped out nearly all forms of public life, except for worship (which even then, some services took place in the open air).

These photos were taken before new restrictions in place on December 16 which closed down non essential shops.

In the outdoor stall, you can buy Advent wreaths set in fir, acorns, ribbons, etc. The peak for sales is usually late November, before the first Sunday which is when the first candle is lighted.
A shop laid out in Christmas decorations over a long dining table. This was a pop up concept type of shop at the Bikini Berlin mall, where restauranters (which, had to be closed for dine in service since early November) could sell packaged food.
A fancy flower shop near where the embassies are at the Märkisches Musuem near Jannowitzbrücke.

I would have preferred to have seen open air markets or businesses like flower shops still open. Not only that, but biergartens and restaurants with open seating should have the opportunity to be able to set up winter outdoor seating.

Writing this in February 2021: I’ve been out of Berlin since mid December but based on what I’ve read in the groups, people still need to have that social connection so playgrounds have been full, people still going out for walks, also private gatherings but less. I still keep in touch with a group for the occasional virtual “Friday night drinks”. One person left for the UK and got affected by the travel suspensions, another went to western Germany to see their German family, another somewhere in the north of Germany, another went skiing somewhere in Switzerland over Christmas. For people that could, they left Berlin during the holidays period.

My First Bavarian Christmas in 2020 from Berlin to Munich

I spent about one week in Bavaria (near Munich) over Christmas. It was my first time in this region.

Bavaria by then had come into an outdoor mask mandate (must wear masks outside), a curfew from 9pm until 6am and shops only doing ‘click and collect’. The restaurants that are open are doing take-away. That is also in addition to other restrictions that has been going on in this region and in Germany. As a side note, the restrictions in place will depend on which Bundesland you live in, for example, the city-state of Berlin has different restrictions to Bavaria. However, overall by December, most of it seems uniform.

Train ride from Berlin to Munich – what is it like?

The booking for the train was fairly unremarkable. The seats were completely social distanced and very little bookings going on.

The train departed from Berlin Hauptbahnof. You can buy food and water, and you probably should since the dining cart availability is pretty minimal. They didn’t serve hot water, so no coffee or tea. A basic sandwich was on offer, so I had a chicken sandwhich. And a Twix, since I needed sugar in me.

Arriving in Munich Hauptbahnof, you can get your top up of fresh coffee.

Photos around the village

A coffee place where you can buy coffee beans and have it ground up, chocolates and more. There is also a café at the back doing takeaway coffee. The business owner opened the door, making a “Servus!” greeting.
This is a krippe, or a nativity crib. However the unique thing about this setting is that it is set in a traditional Italian-Napoli style crib called a “Prespi”
The Christmas Eve setting. One of the main differences with Australian Christmas is that the Eve is the most imporant event. Ingredients are also different – for example, a boar ragu sauce and schnappes after. Decorations are also different with the traditional Advent candle setting.
An actual dirndl shop. There were many dotted around the village. I didn’t actually realize the variety available out there. This one had a more wintry/festive look to it.
Not really a Christmas breakfast, but just showing a breakfast of liverwurst, salami, pretzel.

Living in Berlin, October 2020 – Open Air Flea Market (Flöhmarkt) at Mauerpark and Berlin view from Jannowitzbrücke

One of the best things to do on a Sunday is to go to an open air flea market, and the market at Mauerpark is one of the biggest. It’s actually more like a half-flea market and half crafts market. In addition, you can have a snack from one of the many food trucks there, or grab a beer or pizza from the outside biergarten (beer garden).

A licorice stand with a LOT of different types of licorice – sweet, sour, salty, even spicy.
Outside in the sun, with people heading out to a cafe or going for a stroll
The actual part of the flea market. Vinyls were on sale on the foreground. In the background is a long table set with numerous knick knacks, all strangely grouped together as well.
A DDR sign amongst a background of tea sets, random silver containers, plates and various others.
The market itself

Out with friends – Summer and Autumn in Berlin 2020

From around June, about a week or two after I moved apartments to Friedrichshain, the restaurants, pubs, biergartens, cafés re-opened and with some rules. Here’s a collection of photos out and about…

There were some swans in Kreuzberg.
Delicious coffee at a local
Definitely not proud ordering that green colored drink – which is German Weissbier (white beer) flavored with Waldmeister.

Berlin Bakers Against Racism – Photos

I decided to buy some baked goods and sweets. 100% of the proceeds donated to Equal Justice Initiative and KOP-Berlin.

I ordered some homemade salted caramel sauce, brownies, and these Portuguese sweet muffin typical of the Azores Islands called Bolo Levedo. They ran out of Zucchini cake which was vegan and replaced it with some Oreos.

Learning German B1.3 with Lingoda, still with them since January 2019! (+ promo code at the end)

I have been with Lingoda for a while now, and originally I was planning to finish the B1 level by the end of last year but I have had to take a some weeks off here and there, depending on other circumstances. At the moment, I am still making some good progress with B1.3! The important thing is that I am still making some progress, and still learning German at my own pace that suits me..

I decided to actually take some time off one evening and do all my notes in advance. This means, going through the PDF, copying and pasting the materials there so that when it is time to go through the assignments, in-class notes and more, it is all ready for me. Below is how busy I was doing some of the B1.3 classes!

On another note, I was surprised to find out that this month it looks like a couple of people have used the promotional code which means they get 50 euros off and I get 5 free group classes. This has been really great, as I thought about pausing June completely for a small break. Thank you for using the promo code!

Promo code is FYUVJH

While the online classes is not for everyone, we all have to be online. I still have to adjust my learning style to practice free speaking German because I find that my reading and perhaps writing skills are a bit better. But for me personally, I really need the classes in order to be accountable, quiet a few times where I feel a bit discouraged and don’t want to learn anymore. But, just keep on pushing!


Late post: Belgrade, Serbia, January 2020

Definitely a city that I’d like to come back to, I only manage to spend just half a day here after a long trip/stopover in Abu Dhabi when I came back to Germany from Australia.

I’d love to come back to the designer and creative industries districts here, as well as sights and museums.

A city of contrasts between multiple opposing perspectives, you can feel the tension…

And with it, a youthful and creative spirit…

Late Post: Around Oslo 2019 – Viking Ship Museum, Norsk Folkemuseum and walking around the City…

Late last year, I went around Oslo. It was my first time in the small but beautiful city. Unfortunately, I was only there for about 24 hours as it was a stop on the way to Lillehammer but I did manage to capture a few photos.

I would definitely come back to take a trip around the fjords, the sauna and more.

Viking Ship Museum at Bygdøy 

There were also other artifacts, like this ancient Viking sleigh.

Norsk Folkemuseum – Norsk Folkemuseum (Oslo open air museum)

In this open air museum, you can walk around and inside what could have been buildings from the past, dated back to a certain period. I don’t have all the details with me but I highly recommend this. It was also a short walk from the Viking Ship Museum.

Walking around Oslo city…

This post was part of a trip that took me around Lillehammer:

Around Friedrichshain, Boxhagener Platz, Berlin, with COVID-19 lockdowns easing a bit…

May 30

Walk around Friedrichshain, Berlin. There was also a market set up for the weekend, where I bought a spinach/feta type of wrap and some sort of sweet cake with apple and meringue.

  • Bronze (?) plates they place in front of homes of Jews that were deported to Auschwitz by the #Nazi
  • A spinach and feta type wrap from a stall (in front is the very busy park)
  • Friedricshain street
  • A store selling face masks
  • A collection of water cans at a cemetery

May 28:

I recently moved apartments to Mitte and decided to spend an hour or two walking around Boxhagener Platz. I don’t usually come here, and I might have only been through Boxhagener Platz properly once during the day, a couple of times at night. Boxhagener Platz etched into my mind as to what Berlin is like for my first time moving here early 2017 and I am a bit disappointed that it took a few years and a move to do the stroll around.

You can see from the photos some remnants – limitations of a few people only inside the store and one must wear mouth/nose coverings inside. I grabbed a macaron and an ice cream, the ice cream place like the other places during the restrictions had a small table outside for you to order.

The business owners look relaxed and relieved, not stressed, people cautiously outside. Not completely normal but getting close to it.

The restaurants are also open now, at least a majority of it, some seating arrangements being made to make sure that there are less crowds. I am not sure how things are going to be like when the travel borders open between the EU countries. Right now, we’re at a wait and see moment but I have a lot of trust that the right things will be done by everyone.

Brisbane, January 2020

I was in Brisbane twice, both in January 2020, mainly to catch up with a couple of friends.

Much of the city has been largely the same, but with some new developments. It has been since early 2012 that I last lived there, but I would say it was more like 2011 since I was largely out of Brisbane by that year.

I was not sure as to when I would be back again though.

Anyone that is able can travel, but living in a new country is a whole new challenge

For me, I like challenges. It was not enough to travel (solo, most of the time) at different countries. Travel is now just a few clicks away. The ‘Instagrammification’ of experiences has made anyone a travel ‘enthusiast’ so long as they have a good enough mobile or camera to catch the experience.

But, it’s a whole new challenge to live in a country. To talk to the people there, learn the language, learn the systems (from tax to health care), the culture (of work, pleasure, community).

2019 marked what was probably a year of moving and being a digital nomad type after several years spent (since 2011) – first working a bit remotely in my first solo trip which was Canada. Then followed by the UK, the first time I lived overseas fully. Then, back to Canada again, Ireland, Germany, France and finally back to Germany.

I treated the whole thing as this large, long term personal project. Pushing my own personal and professional limits, making sacrifices along the way to chase opportunities. A lot of advance planning took place, while helpful, made my place in the world a bit more fleeting. As it should be. I wanted to build a life that is just purely uncommon, a life that is clearly “21st century expat”. I’m sure and perhaps there will be more opportunities to come.

The journey continues.

Stasi Museum – Germans spying on Germans, psychological warfare (Zersetzung)

Zersetzung is a psychological warfare technique used by the Ministry for State Security to repress political opponents in East Germany during the 1970s and 1980s. Zersetzung served to combat alleged and actual dissidents through covert means, using secret methods of abusive control and psychological manipulation to prevent anti-government activities.

The museum is divided into three levels and several portions dedicated to a portion of the Stasi history.

The use of Zersetzung is well documented due to Stasi files published after East Germany’s Wende, with several thousands or up to 10,000 individuals estimated to have become victims,[3]:217 and 5,000 of whom sustained irreversible damage.[4] Special pensions for restitution have been created for Zersetzung victims.

One of the signs that you see when you first enter the area. The Stasi Museum is located in the former headquarters of the Stasi. The museum is operated by the Antistalinistische Aktion Berlin-Normannenstraße (ASTAK),[3] which was founded by civil rights activists in Berlin in 199
In this exhibition is a story of a woman who actually married an MfS (Stasi) agent who was assigned to conduct surveillance on her. The couple decided to defect to the GDR.
The family did not learn that they were being watched by the Stasi until 17 years after the Mauerfall (Fall of the Berlin Wall). It was only by chance that they realize that the Stasi installed a hidden wiretap in a discarded living room door for them to listen in on the family’s conversations.
In this are some fairly ordinary looking objects – a belt, flask, stereo (for music) but they all held devices to take photos. There were numerous other examples of these being modified by the Stasi to conduct surveillance.
A watering can and the camera installed within.
A shopping bag used to disguise a camera
The shopping bag from the above photo takes photos – here are some examples
This device makes it easy for the Stasi to scan documents found inside households that they have entered – either covertly or as part of an official investigation.

Other links: