betterplace – moving from the governmental district to artsy kreuzberg

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It was never boring. Outside, there was always something going on – police, the street being blocked due to some VIP (very important politician) visiting, sirenes, blue light. There were so many convois of big black cars with tinted windows. Of course there were also loads and loads of tourists, sitting in double decker busses, or sightseeing by foot, and school classes, either on their way to Bahnhof Friedrichstraße or to the Reichstag with its famous glass cupola. So on our way to lunch, if the flags sitting on the corners of the German Parliament were at half-mast, we always knew how the official mood was like. As for our eating habits, we mostly ended up at the Thai on Luisenstraße – there weren’t too many options. Some of us developed a dangerous addiction to Butter Lindner products (delicious yet close to affordable deli pastries). It was only in our last days in the Wilhelmstraße that we discovered the City Casino. No, it’s not what you think, we didn’t play blackjack or anything like that – it is more of a police staff canteen.

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The Humboldt Viadrina School of Governance which used to be our home for 7 1/2 months, was a bit of a stage itself. There, Peter Eigen of Transparency International and Gesine Schwan host a number of illustrious people, like Kofi Annan (who we, unfortunately, missed) or Prince El Hassan Bin Talal of Jordan. The Prince came round for a spontaneous visit together with Princess Sarvath, who is as interested, studied and involved as His Royal Highness himself (plus she has a black belt in Taekwondo), his entourage and security. Having no other solution at hand I was asked if I was willing to be the officially accredited “house photographer” to capture this important visit to the School. I was willing – and honoured. What a unique experience!

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Now Kreuzberg. betterplace has moved closer to the scene. If I get up just a little from my seat I can overlook the Spree river with the huge sculpture of the three metal men, the canal, the sluice, the Badeschiff swimming pool, and a huge construction site right opposite our building – there is so much happening and moving around this zone between Schlesisches Tor, Oberbaumbrücke and the Arena. Our new office mainly consists of one beautiful room so big that it could easily accomodate a skate ramp. Since we are based on the fifth floor and the elevator has to be ordered (AND paid for) we don’t have to worry about exercising too little any more. Also, you don’t have to feel guilty about eating a huge plate of penne ai quattro formaggi at Heinz Minki, and topping it off with a brownie or other sweet sins.

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In spite of the interesting times at the School (especially Marion Schulze, Cosima, Jutta, and caretaker Holger & Co supported betterplace a great deal) – it’s so wonderful that we can be here now. Above all, it’s a big motivation booster!

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