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Celebrating 100 Years of UFA

Located in historic Potsdam, just a short 30 min train ride from Berlin, you’ll find one of the oldest and most iconic production powerhouses in the world. The Universum Film AG (UFA) was founded on December 18, 1917 – exactly 100 years ago – and its history is as illustrious (and notorious) as the region it calls home.

Producing films since 1912, the Babelsberg Film Studio remains Europe’s oldest and largest studio, covering a floor plan of approximately 25,000 square metres. Despite the ebb and flow of its success and failure over the years, the UFA has proven itself a stubborn brand – an enduring asset to Germany, producing contemporary and historic content for a range of audio-visual platforms.

Established just a year before the end of World War I, the UFA provided greater competition against foreign-made films, while delivering massive publicity to the German Empire’s war efforts. Under the Third Reich, it became the HQ in charge of delivering a pastiche of provocative Nazi-era propaganda.

From the 1920s onwards, the company made headway with popular genre films, successfully competing against the likes of Hollywood’s ‘big-5’ studios. Credited with kick-starting the international careers of many of Germany’s biggest acting exports, the studio also played host to a number of iconic films, including Fritz Lang’s Metropolis and Josef von Sternberg’s The Blue Angel.

To celebrate the studio’s 100-year milestone, an exhibition on the facility has opened at the Deutsche Kinemathek Museum for Film and Television in Berlin – a must see for a taste of Berlin’s, and Germany’s, incredible and at times volatile history.

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Marlene Dietrich in The Blue Angel

Inimitable directors and iconic actors

During the early years UFA supported many groundbreaking directors and producers. Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau, Georg Wilhelm Papst, Ernst Lubitsch, Fritz Lang and producer Erich Pommer were among the finest, producing enduring 1920s classics.  Not one to fall victim to changes in technology or trends, UFA moved on to making ‘talkies’ – 1930s sound films that would ensure their relevance in coming decades. It was during this era that Marlene Dietrich received her starring role in Sternberg’s The Blue Angel.

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The well-known director Fritz Lang during the shots of the space film “Woman in the Moon”, whose premiere is met with great anticipation.

Political motivations

Born during a politically turbulent era in the country’s history, UFA put German cinema on the map. Demanding international attention and defining itself as a prominent vehicle to voice issues and views, the UFA brand allowed leaders to exert their political influence. Following the end of the war, the studio was able to embrace the 1920s silent-film movement, eventually being rescued from financial ruin in 1927 by Alfred Hugenberg, owner of the powerful media company Scherl Group.  Thanks to Hugenberg’s position as Chairman of the German National People’s Party, in 1933 the company was well placed to serve the goals of Joseph Goebbels’ Nazi propaganda machine. Despite this rather dark time in the company’s history, the business bounced back from ruin yet again, becoming fully privatised in 1956, and continuing to develop new strategies to accommodate a changing media environment.

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Studio Babelsberg in Potsdam

The exhibition

From the great highs of altering the cinematic landscape to the troubling lows during the Nazi-controlled 30s and 40s, UFA has proven itself a cultural treasure, as well as a persevering and determined brand. If you’d like to learn more about UFA’s cinematic history, Ufa – The History of a Brand is on at the Deutsche Kinemathek Museum for Film and Television in Berlin from 24 November 2017 to 22 April 2018.

Where: Deutsche Kinemathek – Museum für Film und Fernsehen, Tiergarten (Potsdamer Straße 2, 10785 Berlin)
When: 24 November 2017 to 22 April 2018
Cost: 7€ (free on Thursdays from 4 – 8pm)

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Berlin in 1920: An UFA film set in Tempelhof.

Buying Christmas Trees in Germany: What You Need to Know!

Just like that, the year is almost over, and the 2017 Christmas season is in full swing! There’s nothing quite like the smell of pine needles permeating the living room to cue forthcoming festivity, and with 29,5 million Christmas trees sold in Germany last year, there’s little doubt that the humble Christmas tree remains the most festive and popular December household addition. When buying Christmas trees in Germany, there are a few things you’re going to want to know – check out our definitive guide below…

christmas trees in germany

The humble history of the German Christmas tree

Where exactly did the idea of erecting a tree in one’s living room come from? Thousands of years before the advent of Christianity the Pagans employed branches from Fir trees to brighten the home during solstice. Even the Egyptians added a little greenery in the form of palms to worship their god Ra, as well as the Romans, who decorated their temples during the festival of Saturnalia. The Christmas tree itself however likely became popular in the mid-16th century thanks to Protestant reformer Martin Luther. As the story goes, Luther was walking in the forest a night before Christmas, saw the light shining through the tree branches and went home to tell his children that it reminded him of Jesus. From then on, people took Luther’s lead and added an evergreen tree to their living rooms. Not simply a German tradition, the popularity of adding a tree to one’s living room spread internationally, with the United States and United Kingdom leading the charge.

christmas trees in berlin

Timber versus plastic

Suffice to say, Germans are fond of wood – with over 90 billion old and young spruces, oaks, beeches, and firs throughout Deutschland, the forest is national symbol, the basis for much of the country’s 19th century Romantic-era poetry, fairy tales and legends.

When it comes to the yearly Christmas tree, whether or not to go with real or artificial is a crucial question. There are pros and cons to each. On the one hand, artificial trees can be purchased once and re-assembled each year; you don’t have to water them, and they won’t die if you place them next to your central heating. On the hand, they’re fake, they don’t smell Christmassy, and their eco-friendliness is questionable. In the end, nothing quite beats the smell, feel and cultural appropriateness of a bona fide timber tree.

Varieties, types and options

When it comes to choosing a tree, you’ll find are several types to consider:

  • Nordmann Fir – The most popular Christmas tree, it will last up to six weeks and boasts shiny, soft needles.
  • Noble Fir – With dense blue-green foliage, this is a hardy tree that easily lasts for weeks.
  • Douglas Fir – Not as tough as some other Firs, with a tenancy to drop needles after two to three days.
  • Korean Fir – A less common variety, the Korean Fir is beautiful when cared for well.
  • Red Spruce – Delicate and appealing, the Douglas Fir doesn’t last as long at some other varieties, but is a popular tree offering extremely dense yet slender branches.
  • Black Pine – Not your classic Christmas tree, this variety offers long needles, a pleasant scent and can last for longer than three weeks.

christmas trees in berlin

When to buy…

For years I’ve been a steadfast supporter of waiting until the very last moment to purchase my Christmas tree. This wasn’t out of laziness, but rather to avoid any untimely tree death only days into the festive season. Over time I’ve realised that with the right maintenance and care, a good quality tree can easily live four to six weeks (and sometimes even longer).

What size do I need?

When choosing the size of your tree you’ll want to consider a few things – how large is your flat, is it a furnished apartment, and what is the ceiling height? In Germany you’ll find there are a few different types of apartment buildings: Altbau (old buildings <1949), Neubau (new buildings >1950), Plattenbau (pre-fabricated homes, which often feature low ceiling heights, 1926>) and contemporary construction. Altbauten generally feature higher ceilings, whereas Neubauten and Plattenbauten can have limited ceiling heights. When renting a furnished flat in Berlin, you will need to check your ceiling height to determine the right size for your apartment.

The general rule for purchasing the right Christmas tree size is to pick one that is at least 20cm lower than your ceiling height. Measure your ceiling height with a tape measure to ensure you don’t purchase a tree that is too tall. Of course, the size of your tree will also be influenced by your budget, and a more compact tree can look just as magical when decorated and lit.

Tree size and width will vary depending on variety, but generally come in three options, full, narrow and slim. In furnished flats, you’ll want to consider the diameter of your tree in order to ensure the room remains liveable and comfy.

How much should I pay?

The price of your tree will vary depending on height and shape, but expect to pay between 15€ to 60€ for a 115 to 200cm high Christmas tree. You will also want to invest in a good stand to safely house your tree. I personally like the German-invented Krinner stands, which are simple and easy to use.

christmas trees in germany

So, where do I find my Christmas tree?

If you’ve decided to adorn your Berlin apartment with a living tree, you’ll be wondering where to pick one up. Dedicated Weihnachtsbäummarkts pop up in shopping centre parking lots around the city, and offer a range of differently sized trees. Shops such as Bauhaus and Ikea also offer inexpensive trees, while online purchasing is becoming popular thanks to the added convenience of delivery. If you don’t have time to head out and pick up a tree from the market, check out these online stores: 123Tannenbaum and Tannen Express.

Keep in mind, there’s always the option of renting a tree too. Eco-friendly and sustainable, these rental trees (known as ‘wandering pines’), are in a sense ‘recyclable’, dug out of the ground with their roots intact, put into pots, and then replanted once the season is over. However, warm conditions of apartments over winter can easily destroy the tree’s delicate root system. To combat this, most companies acclimatise their trees to the heat first, and reacclimatise them to the cold afterwards. Once they’re replanted, they’ll recover for two years, before being dug up for another season. Check out Paderbäumchen and Green Tree for more info on rental trees.

Now I’ve got a tree, how do I get it home?

Obviously, this will depend on where you purchase it, and how far away from your flat it is. Most likely, a local tree market will be a short walk from home, and the tree can simply be carried back to your furnished apartment. If you live further away, you can rent a furniture taxi, or sign up for a car-share service such as DriveNow or Car2Go.

Placement and keeping it fresh

The secret to a lush Christmas tree is all in the care and maintenance. You’ll want to pay attention to where you locate your tree, along with how often you water it, what you feed it and, most surprisingly, how you decorate it (hot lights can dry out the branches).

The most common varieties of Christmas trees (fir, pine and spruce) don’t live long when exposed to hot temperatures. To combat your tree’s premature passing you’ll want to ensure you keep it away from excess heat. Opt for a cool and dark space away from damaging daylight or heaters. Additionally, watering your Christmas tree will ensure your Berlin apartment looks green and vibrant throughout the season. For a medium sized tree (approx.160cm) about two litres of water per day should do it. If you’re looking to be more specific the average tree absorbs about 950ml for each 2,5cm of its diameter.

Feeding your tree is a contentious issue. Some swear by it, and others deem it unnecessary. I heard of a range of options from commercial tree preservers to homemade preparations such as lemonade, glycerine, corn syrup and even aspirin. Personally, I don’t do it. Any living Christmas trees I’ve purchased have easily survived the full season with only daily watering.

christmas trees in germany

Decorating a Christmas tree

Essentially, there are no rules as to when you can purchase and start decorating your tree. Traditionally, twelve days before Christmas was a popular time, whereas some put would start on December 6 in honour of Saint Nicholas. If you’re Catholic, you might wait until after noon on Christmas Eve. As with many traditions, they tend to fade over time, and these days it’s very much up to the individual. As a keen observer of all things Christmas, I generally aim to have a tree up in the first week of December, as soon as I locate a suitable one to lug home.

As well as baubles and tinsel, lighting is an important consideration when decorating your tree. Choose small LED lights that will emit a low heat, ensuring your tree doesn’t dry out prematurely.

Got a large budget to work with, and no time to decorate? These days there are plenty of services that offer pre-adorned Christmas trees to time-poor consumers. Expect to spend upwards of 200€ depending on the style and choice of decorations. Check out Weihnachts Baumversand (Germany-wide service) and Tannen Paradies (Berlin and Brandenburg).

Disposal and recycling

Two of the most common questions surrounding Christmas trees in Germany are when to take down your tree, and what happens to them once the season is over.

The traditional time to take down it down is January 6, aka Three Kings Day. Known also as Epiphany or Dreikönigsstag in Germany, this traditionally marks the twelfth day after the birth of Christ and the day the Magi (the Wise Men) arrived at the manger in Bethlehem.

But what do you do with it then? Depending on your district, the local council stipulate certain days where they will pick up your tree from the side of the road. You can find the scheduled dates here, or enter your address via this website. Remember to leave them un-bagged, un-crushed and by the road no later than six o’clock the morning of the pick up! Once your tree is collected they will be shredded and used to generate ‘green’ energy – offering a substitute to fossil fuels, an eco-friendly contribution to the energy grid.

As for all those unsold Christmas trees, for the last several years the Berlin council has repurposed them as elephant fodder, with the Tierpark Zoo taking the festive foliage and gifting it to their African and Asian elephants as a fun snack.

It’s good to know that everyone gets to enjoy the nourishing goodness of a Christmas tree in Berlin come Christmas time.

From all of us at Crocodilian, we hope yours is particularly special.

Merry Christmas, and Frohe Weihnachten!

– The Crocodilian Team

christmas trees in germany

12 Incredible Short-Term Stays in Berlin

Talk to any expat in Berlin and you’re likely to encounter at least one nightmarish story of paperwork and bureaucracy. If you’ve just landed, and are planning to stay a while, you’ll no doubt find yourself swamped with a bunch of obligatory forms and tasks (like signing up for a German bank account, etc.), which you’ll need to complete before you can move onto the next step of locating a longer-term apartment.

Finding that ideal flat can take time. Booking short-term stays in the meantime can ease the stress of your move, provide an instant spot to settle, and allow yourself to get comfortably acquainted with the city and its surrounds.

In a metropolis saturated with accommodation options, it can be tricky picking the right hotel in the right place. From affordable hotels to more luxurious residences, we’ve collated our 12 top tips for your inner Berlin stay. Check them out below!

AFFORDABLE

1. The Dude Berlin

Evocative of Kreuzberg’s vibrant personality, this cosy and eclectic hotel is located a short walk from many of Berlin’s must-see spots, including museum island.

Where: Kreuzberg (The Dude Berlin: Köpenicker Str. 92, 10179)
How much? From 109 € for a double room

2. Linnen Hotel

Fashioned as a contemporary, boutique ‘inn’ this chic yet shabby residence on Eberswalderstraße is an affordable, welcoming and tasteful space to get acquainted with the city in style.

Where: Prenzlauer Berg (Linnen Hotel: Eberswalder Str. 35, 10437)
How much? From 88€ for a double room

3. Michelberger Hotel

One of Berlin’s oft-overlooked hotels, this funky residence is everything you’d expect from the city’s lively cultural district. Colourful, eclectic and inventive, rooms feature loft bedding, unique furniture and the assistance of a welcoming team of locals.

Where: Friedrichshain (The Michelberger Hotel: Warschauer Str. 39-40, 10243)
How much? 85,50€ for a ‘cosy’ double

short-term stays

4. Montbijou Hotel

Enviably located next to the scenic Montbijou Park and two minutes from Hackescher Martkt, this relatively new 101 room boutique hotel is perfectly placed to take advantage of Berlin’s central district.

Where: Mitte (Montbijou Hotel: Monbijoupl. 1, 10178)
How much? Approximately 85€ for a double room

short-term stays

The Montbijou Theatre opposite the Bode Museum © Bernd Schoenberger

5. The Circus Hotel

Funky décor and a cheerful signature style ensures The Circus Hotel is a top spot for recent Berlin arrivals and those who desire something a little out of the ordinary in a convenient central location.

Where: Mitte (The Circus Hotel: Weinbergsweg 1A, 10119)
How much? From 89€ a night for a double economy room

 

MID-RANGE

6. Gorki Apartments

If you’re looking for more of an ‘at-home’ feel to your stay, then you might want to consider a stint in a Gorki apartment. Unique and neutral, these spacious pied-a-terres offer the perfect starting point for exploring Berlin.

Where: Mitte (Gorki Apartments: Weinbergsweg 25 10119)
How much? Prices upwards of 120€ per night for a studio apartment

7. Orania Berlin

Up until now it was fairly difficult to find luxury accommodation in the multicultural heart of Berlin, Kreuzberg. Orania Berlin fills this void in style, offering sumptuous rooms and an opulent bar that regularly hosts musical events and parties.

Where: Kreuzberg (Orania Berlin: Oranienstraße 40, 10999)
How much? From 161€ a night

short-term stays

Oranienstraße 40/41 (now the Orania Berlin) & Oranienplatz in 1984

8. Titanic Gendarmenmarkt

Set alongside Berlin’s prettiest square, Gendarmenmarkt, this beautiful hotel offers a range of essential facilities and is conveniently located near public transport links and other essential amenities.

Where: Mitte (Titanic Gendarmenmarkt: Französische Straße 30, 10117)
How much? Classic rooms from 180 €

LUXURY

9. Soho House

With past lives as a department store and the Reich Youth headquarters, the cultural landmark has been tastefully restored and rejuvenated to provide a range of stylish suites, apartments and loft accommodation.

Where: Prenzlauer Berg (Soho House: Torstraße 1, 10119)
How much? From 250€ for a small room

short-term stays

10. Das Stue

It doesn’t get much more luxurious than Das Stue. Situated in the former Danish embassy, this 1930s structure is imposing yet inviting. Serenely positioned in Tiergarten, the hotel features direct access to the Berlin Zoo and décor by the iconic Patricia Urquiola.

Where: Tiergarten (Das Stue: Drakestraße 1, 10787)
How much? From 215€ for a Stue room

11. Hotel Adlon

Short-term stay are a brilliant way to explore a city, and where better than one of Berlin’s most iconic hotels? The Hotel Adlon is advantageously positioned directly next to the Brandenburg Gate, and offers every possible luxury.

Rich in history, the Adlon was commissioned by Kaiser Wilhelm II and officially opened in 1907, with the Kaiser regularly utilising the majestic marble-clad meeting rooms as a social gathering point. After the hotel’s owner Lorenz Adlon died tragically in 1921 after being struck by a car at the Brandenburg Gate, his son continued the hotel’s opulent reputation and the Adlon remained a luxurious social centre for celebrities, journalists and politicians alike.

Where: Mitte (Hotel Adlon: Unter den Linden 77, 10117)
How much? Rooms from 240€

12. Hotel De Rome

If you’re looking for luxury and a central location to explore Berlin, then Hotel De Rome should be at the top of your list. Constructed between 1887 and 1889 by architect Ludwig Heim, the structure originally functioned as headquarters for the Dresdener Bank. Living through various incarnations, the elegant building served as State Bank of the GDR, eventually being destroyed after the fall of the wall in 1989.

Lovingly restored to its former opulence, this 5-star hotel boasts a spectacular rooftop terrace, and is flanked by another of Berlin’s most beautiful squares, Bebelplatz. Of particular note to guests and visitors will be the ultra-lavish spa and swimming pool. This has been located within the bank’s original vault – the spa and treatment room accessible by passing through the original 15cm thick steel door.

Where: Mitte (Hotel De Rome: Behrenstraße 37, 10117)
How much? Classic rooms from 320€ a night

short-term stays

Tired of short-term stays and want something more permanent? If you’re looking for the perfect apartment in Berlin, contact us at Crocodilian and we’ll help locate your ideal home today!