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:

Berlin Friedrichshain Weihnachtsmarkt

Really delicious dish – deep fried pastry with sour cream, shaved cheese, roasted garlic. Also a really hot gluhwein.

It’s actually my first time in the area. I arrived about 30 minutes earlier so I took a walk around Simon-Dach-Strasse around the shops including Bad Robot.

Luxembourg over four days

I was busy during the four days – taking a day trip to Beaufort and Echternacht and didn’t really spend that much time around the shops, museums or galleries.

Luxembourg is definitely a place that I would like to come back again, largely because of all the various villages that are very close nearby that you can explore.

Echternacht, Luxembourg

Echternacht is only a one hour bus ride from Luxembourg. Bus tickets were only 4 euros for the whole day and this covered the small city-country, which was great.

The town itself reminded me a lot of regional France, although I overheard German more spoken by the locals.

The town grew around the Abbey of Echternach, which was founded in 698 by St Willibrord, an English monk.

One of the things that you can do here is to relax in the small town centre with a local beer, or take a walk around the river which I did.

Beaufort, Luxembourg

Once you arrive in Echternacht, you can take a very short bus trip to Beaufort which features a castle that was originally built in the 12th century.

Here’s a cat greeting me:

I took the longer way, making my way around the town for a short while..

Before finding a winding path down to the chateau. The good thing about taking the long way is that you come across this walkway along a grassy area..

Which then leads to a very picturesque view of the chateau from the ground.

There is an option to see only the chateau itself, as well as the ‘Renaissance’ part. I opted to see the chateau, a ticket was about 5 euros.

You up inside the castle which overlooks a part of the town.

Maihaugen Open Air Museum, Lillehammer

The Maihaugen open air museum is definitely worth a trip while in Lillehammer. According to their website, more than 200 houses are recreated from a number of periods, as early as 12th century.

Part of the trip involved reenactments from period actors in the ‘open houses’. For example, if you go inside a house there would be a person from the period talking about baking cinnamon rolls but she would provide a recipe for the time. There was also another actor from the 80s, including wearing 80s make-up, talking about their life to the visitors. If you ask them questions, they would answer as suitable to the time. For example, ask a 1950s ‘resident’ of the open house a question about fiber optics and they would not know how to answer.

The overall tour took about 2 to 2.5 hours.

Historical Oslo – Norsk Folkemuseum / Open-Air Museum and Viking Ship Museum

Norsk Folkemuseum Open-Air Museum

The Norsk Folkemuseum is most definitely well worth a visit while in Oslo and Norway in general. It is a bit offsite from the main city centre but it is worth the trek either via as part of a tour, via public transport, car, bike, and so on. This area even has some grazing fields where I spotted sheep and horses.

The Sámi people

One of the exhibitions, and mentioned in some of the houses, is of the Sámi people. The Sámi people are a Finno-Ugric people inhabiting Sápmi, which today encompasses large parts of Norway and Sweden, northern parts of Finland, and the Murmansk Oblast of Russia. There are still groups today, also speaking the language, but their existence were challenged due to Norwegianization attempts by the government some time ago.

Life in a 1800s farm

In the summer, visitors can see some activity going on around a 1800s farm.

For your amusement, a video I took this afternoon of a group of Smålens Geese aka Norwegian Spotted Geese waddling along with their caretakers at Bjørnstad, a large farm from Vågå, #Norway from the 1700’s.

According to their website, the Norsk Folkemuseum is located at Bygdøy in Oslo and has an Open-Air Museum with 160 historic buildings. The museum focuses on the time period from 1500 until present time, and in-door exhibits feature Norwegian folk costumes, folk art, church art and Sami culture. Temporary exhibits, audience programs and activities for children all year.

Norsk Folkemuseum Buildings

Unfortunately there was too much detail involved with the buildings and the history so I only have photos to offer. I would recommend looking their website to read more on the details.

Finnmark 1950s building

Viking Ship Museum

About a few minutes walk from from Maihaugen is the Viking Ship Museum which is composed of a few actual Viking ships which were discovered as burial ships as well as accompanying relics.

Luckily on offer were full-sized ships that have been restored. So much so that you can really smell the wood and finishings. Unfortunately, other items were already plundered at the time of discovery but they managed to get some bits and pieces – a piece of cloth here, in one case only the nails left.

One of the practical/ceremonial sleighs found in the Gokstad viking ship as part of items that were included in a burial.
The Oseberg viking ship. The Oseberg ship was built in southwestern Norway around the year 820, and is made of oak.
The Oseberg viking ship.
The Gokstad ship was built around 890 AD, at the height of the Viking period.  Around approximately 900 AD, a rich and powerful man died, and the Gokstad ship was used for his burial.
The Gokstad viking ship and person for scale.

CERN Open Days – Day 2 – Visiting ALICE (A Large Ion Collider Experiment) and the Prévessin Site

Our guide taking us underground where the actual particle transport take place – this is part of the 27km tunnel of the Large Hadron Collider. Our guide is a physicist with CERN since 1983 and is also shown here being interviewed in French!

Read Day 1 here – visiting LHCb (Large Hadron Collider beauty experiment), the CERN Axion Solar Telescope (CAST) searching for axions, LHCb Data Centre, and Scintillating Fibre Tracker

During the ‘long shutdown‘ CERN opened many of its site to be visited upon by thousands of visitors over a two day weekend on 14 and 15 of September 2019. I was one of those visitors, after having found out about the whole event in June on the morning that registrations opened.

ALICE (A Large Ion Collider Experiment) is a heavy-ion detector on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) ring. It is designed to study the physics of strongly interacting matter at extreme energy densities, where a phase of matter called quark-gluon plasma forms.

The ALICE Experiment seek to answer some fundamental questions, such as:

  • What happens to matter when it is heated to 100,000 times the temperature at the centre of the Sun?
  • Why do protons and neutrons weigh 100 times more than the quarks they are made of?
  • Can the quarks inside the protons and neutrons be freed?

Waiting for the tour was a process in itself – at least three hours spent standing in 25 to 27C sunny weather somewhere in a French village alongside many other people!

Close up, ALICE experiment. Note the absorber in the middle.
A lot of work happens underground beneath the ALICE site. Not part of ALICE in particular, but rather a part of the overall LHC experiment.
The ALICE portion of the LHC experiment itself though currently in the process of being upgraded as seen by the scaffolding.
Awesome Canadian guide who is also at CERN – arrived there studying engineering at a university in Vancouver. However this is not the guide itself talking to us about the specifics.
The underground area where the magic happens. Well, not really magic! This is where the particle collisions take place, or at least the transport of said particles.

Visiting the Prévessin Site

Unfortunately, I was really tired after ALICE and briefly spent time at the CERN Prévessin site which is named after a nearby French village. I went to an exhibition tent set up which also covered the specifics of LHC. The amount of specifics covered – from the absolute minute right through to the 27 or so kilometre site was amazing.

CERN Open Days – Day 1 – Visiting LHCb (Large Hadron Collider beauty experiment), the CERN Axion Solar Telescope (CAST) searching for axions, LHCb Data Centre, and Scintillating Fibre Tracker

During the ‘long shutdown‘ CERN opened many of its site to be visited upon by thousands of visitors over a two day weekend on 14 and 15 of September 2019. I was one of those visitors, after having found out about the whole event in June on the morning that registrations opened.

I managed to register at sites, but the way it functioned was that this was more like a registration as to when you arrive. Therefore, if you did not register for the sites that you wanted to visit you can still do so. There were ample opportunities to get registered. The biggest challenge was getting yourself to Geneva in the first place and making it to the sites. I managed to do a tour of two sites – the LHCb experiment (day 1) and ALICE (day 2).

Day 1: LHCb – Large Hadron Collider beauty experiment

The LHCb experiment is one of seven particle physics detector experiments collecting data at the Large Hadron Collider accelerator at CERN. LHCb is a specialized b-physics experiment, that is measuring the parameters of CP violation in the interactions of b-hadrons. The 5600-tonne LHCb detector is made up of a forward spectrometer and planar detectors. It is 21 metres long, 10 metres high and 13 metres wide, and sits 100 metres below ground near the village of Ferney-Voltaire, France. About 700 scientists from 66 different institutes and universities make up the LHCb collaboration (October 2013).

The tour group that we had was headed by a PhD student candidate in physics, who’s name was Bartosz although I didn’t catch the rest of this full name to give him credit!

The first stop (photo above) was the control room where he talked about a typical day of the scientists and operators involved in the 24/7 upkeep of the accelerator.

Next, we moved on to a few exhibition type of rooms holding a miniscale model of the accelerator, a map overlooking the entire area over some French villages on the Swiss borders.

And then it was time to go underground – about 102 to 103 metres underground! Below are photos of the LHCb experiment:

LHCb data centre

Following the tour underground, we headed overground to look at the data centre processing the results. These data centres are housed in separate containers outside the site and kept cool via the additional containers above it. It is expected that considerable amounts of data will be collected in the next iteration of LHCb and they are also preparing the data centres for it.

Following by two very notable and very interesting sites:

Quality control and assembly (for hardware, parts) site showing Scintillating Fibre Trackers

Unfortunately, I forgot the official name of this site, but they have a separate warehouse which is entirely dedicated to assembling the necessary components for the LHCb accelerator. In this case and during the Open Day, they have the Scintillating Fibre Tracker and paper here.

One of the amazing things to learn about this is that absolute precision that is required, as it requires to be absolutely straight. It cannot be even a few degrees tilt as it would affect accuracy of the results. Even the frame itself has mechanism to avoid condensation, as condensation itself would affect the ’tilt’.

The CERN Axion Solar Telescope (CAST)

The CERN Axion Solar Telescope (CAST) is an experiment to search for hypothetical particles called “axions”. This experiment has been ongoing for at least two decades and is set to continue on.

The telescope will actually only power for a brief moment, about 10 minutes, each sunrise and sunset collecting data. It requires immense power to refrigerate to -270C (temperature for outer space) and pictured below is one of the mechanisms to keep it cool:

And that is it for the first day! Coming soon will be all about the second day.

Japanmarkt im Berlin! August 2019

‘Japanmarkt’ or a Japanese themed market at Birgit & Bier in Berlin near Treptow Park. The venue was like a free-roaming type of beer garden with spaces for various shops and food stalls set up. There was a small stage for a kimono demonstration and I also spotted a dance while leaving.

It was such a nice event. I tried some matcha waffles with chocolate and banana (the ones shaped like a fish), some soupless soba with chicken karaage, sparkling sake and bought a matcha liquor. Also some Japanese stationery. I’m feeling really nostalgic of my high school days. In Australia, at least in my high school, you have the option to learn a language other than English and we had the option to learn Japanese.

After Japanmarkt, I went to a “Designer Garden Market” at another venue but it was a bit small, cramped and not really to my taste.

The Berlin Wall panorama by Yadegar Asisi

This creation is a 360° panorama by artist Yadegar Asisi at Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin. It captures an experience of the Berlin Wall at around that location in 80s.

When you first enter, you will see a series of black and white and colour photographs taken, complete with descriptions. There were also small videos as well as some map details.

Following that, you enter a very very large room, basically the exhibition itself. It is dark, with a tinge of blue. Soundscapes can be heard in the background of what could have been urban life back then.

The panorama itself is almost lifesize and very detailed. As someone who did digital art professionally (for a short period of time) I was really intrigued and I knew the amount of effort it would have taken to photomanipulate this, realistically, and at the detail and high resolution that it was made available in.

Alas, I was expecting a bit more. For some reason, I thought it was like some sort of real life reconstruction where, once you go inside, you are actually physically transported back to the time.

I really like learning more about the Cold War era. There was a Netflix TV series which covered the escapes by the Germans during that time, including a family escaping via a homemade hot air balloon as well as a light aircraft.

How to: Collect your package at the Zollamt (customs office)

Getting a replacement or repair sent from Australia to Germany – what factors do you need to consider?

If you are receiving any packages from outside the European Union, you may at some point have to deal with the Zollamt. They levy customs duties and excise duties after importation and import VAT. With them the actual customs clearance takes place. Before a customs destination (ie the receiver) they hold the package for a temporary amount of time for further clarifications.

I’ve had packages received in the past, in one case it had to go through customs (but I never had to be there physically to pick it up) and I’ve also had gifts sent to me that never went through customs even though it was in the UK and EU. In Germany, you need to physically go to the Zollamt.

Before receiving any goods (either as gifts, as commercial purchases or as goods returned back to you due to replacement/repair) you should be aware of what the requirements are before entering the Community, as well as whether or not you need to pay import fees and if you do need to pay import fees, how much.

The formula to calculate customs fees: ((Value of goods + shipping costs) * inches) * import sales tax

For more information please go to

Waiting for Zollamt notice…

It took me about 6 weeks after I got noticed that my package was sent to get an email from the Zollamt.

In the mail, you will receive a letter most likely three pages of information:

– One page will detail that your package is at the Zollamt with information of the opening hours and days as well as until which date they will hold the package.

– One page will detail that the postal carrier (in this case, DHL) will charge some sort of ‘handling fee’ and that your signature, mobile and date/place is required.

– One smaller page will have some details and numbers.

Sign the required page and bring that, also bring the smaller page with you at the Zollamt.

What to prepare if I am picking up goods returned to me because of a warranty repair/replacement?

According to “Goods exported from the customs territory of the Community can be accepted as returned goods if their re-import was already intended at the time of export, or where re-import was not intended but takes place owing to particular circumstances. If these conditions for the acceptance as returned goods are met, the goods can be released for free circulation under relief from import duty.”

This means that you don’t need to pay anything. However you should now that burden of proof that this is actually a valid return is dependent on yourself. Therefore the following are needed to show proof:

  • The receipt (die Quittung).
  • Email sent to the company that you are sending the product to them due to it needing replacement/repair.
  • Email confirmation/s back from the company saying that they are OK with the replacement/repair and that they have actually sent these back to you.

To make it easier I had the emails printed up already translated from English to German.

Also you cannot show them screenshots. There is a computer in place where people can log in to their email accounts and print up. You cannot print from a USB. I did see a sign for the Zollamt email address, I’m not sure if you can send the Zollamt your own documents though and how that works out exactly. But, there you go.

If you don’t have said documents, you run the risk of not showing proof that it’s an actual return and paying the import tax.. or at least having an uncomfortable time with the officers there.

Anyway, they give you a waiting number and you wait. So, even though the room was sparse, I waited for 40 minutes. I think it’s because other people had to go in and out of the waiting and customs inspection rooms (where the officers are located). You have a bluntish instrument to cut the package open and show the contents to them.

Anyway, that was it. The whole ‘experience’ took up at least 3-4 hours of my time though because of the travel (and the various SBahn work) but now I got my lovely package from Australia! (Which by the way was a pair of $900 prescription glasses that I needed fixed, and some lens cleaner that was sent to me)

((Also shoutout to the Zollamt lady with the awesome holographic nails working there!))

Mary Jane Cannabis Convention Berlin

Disclaimer: I bought some cheap tickets online and decided to go for completely novelty reasons but also because I was curious as to what the whole industry is like. I don’t smoke or vape, nor do I grow or invest, nor do I partake in anything pretty much related to this nor do I have any need for medical marijuana.

So, I am back from the Mary Jane Cannabis Convention in Berlin at Arena Berlin. It was a really interesting event although I was probably only there for about 1-2 hours before deciding to leave. It was crowded – the site listed out 250 international exhibitors, 25,000 visitors and 30,000 products. Interestingly enough there was no age limit but people under 18 needed to have their parents there and I did see a few kids there with their parents.

Most of the people there were pretty much the demographic that you’d expect here, with some I guess what you call dabblers or tourists. It’s a convention, so you have all sorts of thing that you’d expect going to a convention – ie checking out items from fertilizers to growers. And then you have the various suppliers on board for vapes, rolling papers, rolling kits and whatnot. And of course there is the produce – anything from edible hemp and CBD-infused products right through to CBD crystals and so on. Oh and weed.

Best “I’m in Berlin” moment was drinking this hemp infused (?) lemonade overlooking the river, with some people on the river standing up wondering “What the heck? Why is there so many people? What is the festival I wonder?”. Unfortunately the moment taken in a photo does not capture it in full.
Various hemp products – this one by an Italian supplier. I was a bit tempted to buy the handmade hemp pasta but it was 7 euros. I did try their hemp biscuits and breadsticks but it really was not that delicious.
Awesome live DJ
Some CBD infused softgel caps and CBD oil of various strenghts
These guys capitalized on the whole Netflix Narcos brand even though they are not associated with the series.
Some ‘high tech’ cabinets available in 3 wood surfaces, automatic/manual monitoring to control lightning, humidity and temperature, and so on. When it’s closed it looks like any other furniture.
In front are some samples of CBD infused hot/spicy condiments that you can try with fresh cucumber. There were also other condiments that you can try out infused with CBD – I tried these plus pesto with bread at another stall.

Ok, I came out with a few items though largely around CBD-infused products – tea, coffee, a lightweight oil, a couple of lollipops and someone gave me some CBD-infused dog treats.

I largely stayed away from stuff that I felt just really gimmicky and also a lot of the sugary stuff, except for the two lolly but they were only 50 cents each..

Italian Street Food Festival, Berlin

Enjoyed myself at the Italian Street Food Festival in Berlin! I went on Sunday at noon. Get off at Ostkreuz station, walk down Markgrafendamm including the ://about blank which still had music blaring and a small line-up outside and then you reach Osthafen where the Italian Street Food Festival is.

Since I arrived at around opening time it took about 15-20 minutes for the vendors to get ready a bit but I took advantage of there not being a lot of crowds.

A lot of seating area and this was in an inner city ‘beach’ with a small water area (not for swimming though). There was a live DJ playing music (not pictured here).
This was a Sicilian seafood caponata with really really fresh and tasty seafood. Berlin being inland, I have no idea how fresh they made it. Underneath was a Sicilian aubergine type of salad. They had bread to accompany it and it was really delicious and filling. It was almost like soda bread – not thick/dense nor thin/fluffy. This was topped with a basil leave and chopped almonds.
I ended up buying some truffels and a type of bruschetta with sliced pastrami ham and truffels in olive oil. It was delicious. They also gave me advice to store the truffels which is in olive oil and marinate it in for about 10 hours.

I have to say that I really need to make sure to go to Sicily since I love the cuisine there!

Four days in Hamburg

Overlooking the Altetouristk
Around 11am at the Fischmarkt area
Port for the Fischmarkt area taken outside the Fischauktionshalle
Some sort of bike swap or bike market at St Pauli

I spent 4 days in Hamburg in Germany. Really amazing city and the second major German city that I visited other than Berlin.

The entire city is quiet compact and pretty much a lot of the major sites are walkable from each other.

Some highlights:

  • Seeing the ships and port at Baumwall and walking alongside it from Baumwall U-Bahn to the Fischmarkt area.
  • Walking along HafenCity Hamburg where the Elbphilharmonie Hamburg is located. Also a very nice area to take in the buildings and other sites.
  • Having an Erdbeeren Prosecco overlooking the area at Jungferstieg overlooking the Alsterfontäne, especially when it is sunny. On Sunday there was an outdoor music setup but I had to leave.
  • Going on Sunday morning to the Fischauktionshalle – I went later (around 10am to 10.30am) to get away from the crowds of people there in the morning and went for one of the local specialties, Fischbrötchen, inside. They also had live music playing as well as a lunch buffet on the upper level. You can also buy these outside in the food vans parked outside, but I found the quality is not as good.
  • Going shopping and a coffee in the nice cafes around the city area.
  • Watching a wedding in Hamburg take place outside the Internationales Maritimes Museum Hamburg.
  • Walking along the Alter Elbtunnel from one side of the canal / river to the other and seeing the city from the vantage from the other side. Also exiting via the larger elevators which had a loading capacity of 6 to 10 tonnes each.

There are lot of things that you can do in Hamburg – I’d love to come back and go see a theatre or show and also see the museums. Maybe next time!

6 to 10 tonne capacity elevator
Walking or riding a bike inside the Elbtunnel
Fischbroetchen is a local specialty.
HafenCity Hamburg building
Buildings at St-Pauli

Karneval der Kulturen 2019, Berlin

Sehr passend, dass ich einen Tag nach der Nachricht über die Genehmigung meiner #Deutschen Aufenthaltserlaubnis nach Karneval der Kulturen #Berlin gegehen bin. Ich komme morgen wieder!

Ich hatte eine Mandel sizilianische Granita und am besten gegrilltes Hähnchen aus einem afrikanischen Stall. Morgens, vielleicht Lebensmittel aus Russland, Polen, usw. Lecker!

Very fitting that one day after the news about my #German residence permit being approved, I went to Karneval der Kulturen #Berlin. Coming back again tomorrow! Had a almond Sicilian granita & best grilled chicken from an African stall. Tomorrow maybe foods from Russia, Poland, etc. Delicious!

Ended the day buying some more ‘home’ things and these white roses.