Berlin International Film Fest (Berlinale) Boot Camp Pt. 1

Berlinale Boot Camp Pt. 1

10 Things You Can’t Live Without While in Berlin for the Berlinale:

#1 –  International Credit Card – Check with your bank before you leave and make sure they know you are traveling abroad so your card stays valid.  Some banks will reissue a card that has a special data chip on it that is recognized by machines in Europe. (More on banking in a future post).

#2 – Do I have to remind you to bring warm layers?  Hat, gloves, scarf and water-resistant jacket.  If you ski, bring your Black Diamond jacket that resists wind, is compact enough to roll up into your bag during the day and keeps you toasty in the snow or cold rain. Berliners are very similar to the locals in Park City when it comes to Festival Fashion.  Low-key, informal, comfortable.  So dress appropriately for the weather.

#3 – Waterproof shoes.  Yes, waterproof, with non-slip soles.  Warm, cozy and dry.  That’s the ticket.  You never know when you’ll step off a curb into a puddle or deep snow.  Trust me, it’s worth the investment if you don’t already have a pair.  Timberland makes some great après-ski type boots (no not the St. Moritz ‘I’m a star” shoes, the I survived the Sundance Film Fest version and nobody noticed version).

#4 – Laminated pocket-sized U-Bahn map.  This will be your best friend and you’ll be referring to it often.  By the way, the quickest way to navigate the underground here is to check our your route by the color(s) on the map, then you can quickly make your way around the subway.  I plot my routes ahead of time using a code:  Route# —Direction—Stop for example:  U4 tow. Nollendorf Platz x Viktoria Luis.  This is listed in order of the stops along my entire route so I have a concise list and can pull it out quickly if I need to. (More on purchasing U-Bahn tickets in a future post).

#5 – Get a good city map.  News stands sell fold-out maps that have the city laid out in quadrants. I didn’t think I’d need mine as much as I did and I can attest to the fact that it will make your life much easier if you have one on hand.

#6 – Use your iPhone or Blackberry to call up a map before you leave your hotel and while you still have access to the internet.  Once you do a search for the location you need to find, the map will stay in your phone’s memory.  Then GPS will help you find your way once you exit the train station and start your walk.  This is a nice feature to have in your pocket, especially when it is snowing or raining and you don’t want to get your map wet.

#7 – Umbrella – yes, an umbrella.  The small folding kind that you can keep in your laptop bag works great.

#8 – One (and only one) waterproof laptop bag. Trust me, your messenger bag will definitely be exposed to the elements and if you want to keep your laptop and other belongings dry, bring something waterproof with you.

#9 – A one-Euro coin and a plastic shopping bag.  The grocery stores charge a deposit of one Euro when you take your shopping cart and then return the coin when you are done.  Also, unlike U.S. stores, grocery stores don’t provide you with plastic bags.  You have to buy them, so save yourself the hassle and bring them with you when you go shopping.

#10 – Euros.  What?  Yes, Euros.  Exchange your money before you come to Germany and bring lots of it with you.  Every time you use your credit card, the American banks will charge you anywhere from $3 to $5 for the transaction plus a fee to exchange the funds.  It can get ridiculously wasteful.  If you want to open up a German bank account, you have to be a registered resident, so come prepared with cash.  Additionally, a lot of stores don’t take Visa or Master Card.  They prefer cash or what is called a “C” card, which is European banks version of a debit card, the EC Karte, and you can’t get that card without an account.