Thoughts on the way to Berlin

The weather was amazing, Spring has come and the good nice days are back. I know from experience that Berlin can be tough in winter, very dark and depressing. The kind of city where you NEED that ugly looking fake sun lamp.

Here I am again, on the road, writing while in my Flixbus which left Wroclaw at 6 am this Saturday morning on the way to Berlin. It’s kind of a funny situation, my friend decided at the last minute to go for a trip in Mexico, she took off last night and left her cat to her neighbour. Since I really love cats, and that she won’t be there for so long, I said « it’s fine I will go to your place and get your cat back to Poland while you are in Mexico » because, why not right ?
As I am writing these words she is still flying and will arrive there at about the same time I get into Berlin.
I took my computer since I am not sure if I will manage to come back before Monday.

Traveling with the refugees

Bus has never been my favourite transportation, this time I had no choice, unfortunately, given the situation with refugees, all trains from Wroclaw to Berlin are fully booked for the evacuations.
I don’t mind, I prefer them safe in Berlin and the rest of Europe than being shelled in Ukraine.

The situation in Wroclaw, Poland

The situation is a total nightmare. In the 15 minutes I spent at the Wroclaw Bus station at 6 am, at least 10 buses coming from the border arrived, full of kids and pregnant women, and elders. They are exhausted, you have to understand that when they finally get there, they spent DAYS queuing at the border to get registered, they had their homes destroyed and had to leave their husbands and sons at the border. War is cruel and conscription is the ultimate mandatory sacrifice Ukraine government had ask their citizens to do. I hope this war will end soon, that negotiations will prevail. I don’t see any good outcome before the Russian’s president is dead and that the World become a more peaceful place again.

I have been totally amazed by the Polish citizens the last couple of weeks, they have been given all their free time to welcoming and helping the best they can, the Ukrainians, before their government finally respond to the humanitarian situation.
In Wroclaw Station, it was no more than a week before they even created an app to help with organising shifts of volunteers, every day they are publishing a file with all the products they need, from cat food to underwear.
The first two weeks food was cooked and given by the citizens to the refugees arriving, before the city finally took over and organised it. Still, the need is there, more and more people are arriving every day, as we speak almost 80 000 Ukrainians arrived in the region of Wroclaw.

They are amazing, they basically translated to Ukrainian all the signs in a 1km radius, transformed the 1st floor of the station in a resting and welcoming area, organised desks for administration and deciding where people would go next.
It’s very impressive, when you get there, they are hundred of young babies and children, young pregnant women and elders. Only fathers of more than 3 children were allowed to come to Poland, and disabled. 

Welcome to Germany…

In my bus today, there are many refugees moving to Berlin and Germany. I trust the germans to welcome them more than the French. At first I was keen to offer my help for refugees to travel to France, but then I figured out the French government has never been good at treating refugees in a decent way, I am not sure they can be trusted, I think they are better at giving money to Poland. When I got to Wroclaw on the 25th of February, I had the chance to cross the way of a French convoy, on their way to Ukraine. It’s good to remember that, even if government can suck sometimes, the people of Europe are ready to be doing their best to help. I think this crisis as shown so far, scared governments and very courageous people. 

Our bus had just crossed the border, that the German polizei arrested us, asked everyone to come outside for an ID check. It even started to snow at this point, it really felt like this scene in Harry Potter where the Death eaters stop the train to search for Sirius. I could see the Ukrainians where worried that they wouldn’t be allowed in the country, because even if EU publicly welcomed them, there is not any law about it yet, and you know – the Germans, they love to make things as per law -…


 It turned out that they just wanted to register the 50 Ukrainian passeports, they didn’t even look at my ID, when they spotted from far it was a French one, they must have been thinking « oh no not a French (I get it a lot, are we really pain in the ass ) » , they briefly interrogated two passengers, one was for Georgia and another one from South Korea.

France presidential’s elections

The French opinion


I am quite disappointed by my government and my people at the moment. It seems that French are mostly pro Russians, and that all of the French candidates to the elections next month are praising smoother approach with Putin, what a shame ! It seems the French are more preoccupied by the price of Gas, the cost of life that the war. In my opinion, they lost their little confort and freedom during the pandemic and at the moment where they could finally have a nearly normal life again, war in Ukraine happened. It’s easier to close your eyes, and say that we can’t help because it would be risking the world peace and a possible nuclear conflict.

The very ugly


Macron will make great benefits of this situation, it has discredited all the other candidates, will assure him to be re-elected, it has put nuclear power plants back to the top choice for any country to be independent from Russia. Also Gas price make Americans happy in a way, they can finally make profits again from their tight oil production.
I was wondering why Macron would only « accept » to take 100k Ukrainian refugees in France, I think the truth behind this is super UGLY. Since most refugees are children, pregnant women and elders, they probably calculated that I was a COST and not an affordable labor coming. It reminds me of the article I wrote about how much our economies rely on cheap labor : The exploitation of cheap labor, a necessity ?

Berlin life after the pandemic

The crazy 2G, 2G+ and 3G system

I was surprised to see that Germans covid rules are still enforced and very very strict. They will ask you for you covid EU pass and proof of ID in most places (and will be not nice at all about it or very German ? ), and in some places which apply the + , you will also need a recent antigen test to be able to attend. Basically the scales is that 2G+ is the most strict level, and 3G the least. My German is quite bad but the G letters refers to the words vaccinated, recovered and tested, meaning that 2g+ will only accept people which are recovered or vaccinated plus a recent antigen test. U-Bahn and S-Bang are 3G. Also wearing a FFP2 mask 😷 is mandatory in transportations.

The best brunches, fair prices, and cool lifestyle still winning hearts over the rental situation…

I thought that the cost of life there would have increased a lot since last time I was there. Not that much, except rents (a tough subject in Berlin). It seemed still affordable compared to my last trip in London or when I am in Paris.

I arrived at 10.30 am on a Saturday and was seated in a great brunch place at 12 with a friend, in a place called YaMe NumNums , I saw it was a place to try with an Asian twist, since me and my friend both lived in China 10 years ago, I thought it would be a good idea. It was sunny and the waiter was charming and welcoming, and as normal it might sound today, it was alright to pay by card, which is still in 2022 pretty rare for Berlin ( I did not miss this…) .
They make this amazing pancaked with coconut, and coco homemade sorbet on top, it was so delicious and fruity. It was such a delight.

The weather was amazing, Spring has come and the good nice days are back. I know from experience that Berlin can be tough in winter, very dark and depressing. The kind of city where you NEED that ugly looking fake sun lamp.

a view of Berlin typical architecture from the 1930s , with blue sky

On Sunday I went to a French style brunch in the district of Charlottenburg with another friends I also made while working at a well known Berlin based bank. We went to Café au Lait , fun fact, all waitresses are wearing Tshirts with French words or famous city names. The coffee was delicious, the food seamed a little too much normal to me, which should not probably count as bad since I am from Paris ? 😁

The weather was great and it was already time to head to Monbijou Park and Museumsinsel to chill in the afternoon. I do recommend weekend in Berlin, it’s like a little holidays.

If the weather had been bad, I would have been probably to the Liquidrom, a Berlin based sauna and swimming pool place in the center, where you can enjoy great sauna and then a salty water swimming pool with chill music under the water.

One thing that didn’t change in Berlin is the housing market situation. Unless you buy or rent quite expensive places, there is a war on prices on smaller places for the last 10 years. Most apartments are owned by huge real estate companies whose only goal the last decade has been to make prices sky rocket, while salaries did not… Berlin state already has some of the lowest salaries in the country on average but the rents have reached almost the prices of Paris. With more and more tech companies or even Tesla joining the party, it has become the German silicon valley.

London in uncertain pandemic times

Crossing the border felt almost like the same, security has always been quite tight for the Eurostar so in the end it doesn’t make much of a difference for passengers.

It had been some time since I came to London for the last time, I am not too sure when it was, probably 2017/2018. 🤔 I like the British in the way that everything is made differently here, sometimes it even makes me wonder who is right in the end. The skimmed milk is red, the drive on the left side of the road, they are crazy into fitness and at the same time spend their weekends in the local Pub.

Post pandemic and post Brexit situation

I just arrived in London with the Eurostar speed train, aside from the fact it was almost empty, I did not notice anything that different compared to before Brexit and also before the pandemic.
Crossing the border felt almost like the same, security has always been quite tight for the Eurostar so in the end it doesn’t make much of a difference for passengers.
I happen again to THAT ONE DAY #sarcasm where on both sides of the channel Metro/Underground are being renovated, nothing special, except for the fact I feel so lost at first in the corridors.
Everything is expensive here, but also the payment experience is seamless, where in Paris they are so proud to get rid of paper metro ticket this year #LOL, here you can pay and enter directly the subway by swiping your credit card or watch on the sensor. Apple Pay and other payment systems are everywhere, I am not even sure why they still have ATMs except to support underground economy…

Yesterday, Boris had announced that all covid rules where abandoned, it feels unreal, it’s not like if they are still having around 300 covid related casualties per day… London Mayor managed to save at least the fact that you still need to cover your nose and mouth in the city transportations. Not sure many people read about it, I feel like I am from the only few weirdos wearing N95 masks 😷. I felt a bit probably like how Asian tourists were feeling while being the only ones wearing masks before Pandemic times.

I noticed though, a LOT less french speakers around me, I was heading to Fulham where most French usually settle in the city, that was unexpected, it’s likely to be more related to the Brexit that to the pandemic.

What is a lateral flow test ?

Day 2 lateral flow

A lateral flow test is nothing more than a rapid antigenic test. The standard kit we all love to play with at home with, where you can see in 15min if you are positive or not.
Well, first of all, coming to the UK and being fully vaccinated, you don’t need to quarantine but still need to comply to a what’s called a DAY 2 lateral flow test.
To be able to complete your passenger locator form prior to departure, you will need the booking confirmation code that will prove the British government that you booked the antigen test you will need to perform in the 48h after arrival in the country.

They are plenty of private companies offering those tests in London, with different prices, different delivery time, different platforms. It’s quite hard to chose from the giant list they provide you with, it does feel like a big jungle, and so you know it’s a specialty here, between the price you are supposed to be paying and the amount and the final invoice there is ALWAYS a surprise.


My advice, pay with a prepaid card like on Revolut for example, that will be used that one time for this amount and then destroyed, to make sure those littles companies don’t charge you extras…

The kit will be delivered to your place of stay, it will have a QR code and you will through an app, confirm the result to get a certificated result.

Lateral flow test to leave the country

You will also probably need an antigenic test when wanting to go back to the EU. You can either use the same system as you used the first time, get tested in a dedicated center in the street.

My advice, target either a test center in the airport, arriving a few hours earlier, or if you leave like me by Eurostar, either one of the two testing center in Saint Pancras Station. Results are available within the hour for £40, book in advance.

Is everything back to normal ?

It’s hard to say, there are still a few places where they will ask you to provide a test result to attend, while most pubs and bars don’t care at all about it. Needless to say it is you own choice to either wear or not wear a mask inside stores. Given how many people don’t bother wearing one anymore, I would highly recommend to wear a FFP2 mask.

Must terraces I’ve been too where still offering QR code menus to order, which has the convenience of offering apple pay, but still feels a bit too much like the pandemic.. Plenty of businesses are abandoned, while cost of living has not go down at all, one house nearby my place was sold last week for £9 million… Cost of food has increased a lot, cost of energy went through the roof. At least now people might finally care about isolating their old victorian style houses, finally.

This situation reminds me a big like what Louis Rossmann Youtube channel has been describing the last year about NYC. Landlords are not lowering prices.

Like in Paris, the transportation company here is losing TONS of money compared to previous years, citizen either left the London to live in the countryside in bigger houses, young professionals are working from Mexico or Thailand and the rest continue to work from home.
Wagons are full in the morning, not because many people are going back to work but more because there are a lot less trains.