Ground dog day, part 2

KLM saves the day

So there we were: My husband in Berlin, myself in Atlanta. Our two kids were in a hotel with my mom, the dogs in crates at our house, and I was running around getting last-minute items in boxes, going to the house closing, selling our car, cleaning up after the movers left, and hoping that we would be able to leave on Friday as scheduled.

Rosie, our amazing travel coordinator at Starwood Animal Transport, managed to pull through a miracle and book the dogs on another cargo flight, that Thursday night, on KLM. The dogs would fly into Amsterdam, not Frankfurt. But we could still fly on Friday as planned.

My husband re-scheduled his time off from work, then booked a train ticket to Amsterdam. Frankfurt is a six-hour drive from Berlin, but Amsterdam is over seven and a half hours.

Driving the dogs in one day from Frankfurt would have been difficult but doable, but seven-to-eight hours one way, crossing a border, and then coming back the same distance in 24 hours? Too much. Plus, dogs are allowed on almost all trains in both the Netherlands and Germany.

Ironically, we had originally considered flying at the same time as the dogs and taking the ICE train from Frankfurt. But the prospect of juggling luggage, plus scared dogs, plus exhausted humans was daunting.

If only we had known ..

Continue reading “Ground dog day, part 2”

Ground dog day, part 1

You know what they say about the best laid plans

Spoiler alert: This saga has a happy ending. I am writing this sitting in our apartment in Berlin, both dogs safely snoozing on the floor next to me.

When we first knew we were moving to Berlin, we prioritized making a transit plan for our two dogs – Abe, a Brittany/Blue Heeler mix and Pinky, part Rat Terrier/part anxiety in motion.

On our only other international move, we flew three cats to Seoul – one in the cabin with us and two in the hold as excess baggage. Our experience then convinced us that this would be way too stressful for the pups. Many airlines no longer accept animals as baggage on international flights, anyway. So, despite the additional cost, we budgeted to hire an animal transport company to book them on a live animal cargo flight.

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Berlin’s ‘rental barracks’

Today’s coveted altbau began life as the derisively titled ‘Mietskaserne,’ housing for the massive influx of workers who moved to the city during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

For those of us who have fallen in love with Berlin’s altbau (literally, “old build”) apartments, it may seem hard to believe that these were once considered tenement housing.

In the industrial boom that accompanied the first unification of Germany in 1871, hundreds of thousands of migrant workers streamed into the capital in immediate need of housing. The result? Massive construction of mid-rise, five- and six-story apartment buildings lining the radial avenues and ring roads outlined in city planner James Hobrecht’s 1861 master plan.

Then, as now, the street-facing facades concealed larger interior courtyards. Detailing the history of these developments for CityLab, journalist Feargus O’Sullivan writes:

Built to a height of five or six stories, the tenements did have spacious, light-filled apartments overlooking the street, sheltered behind often elaborate facades encrusted with factory-made plaster decorations. To pass through the main archway into the courtyard behind, however, was to enter a starker, more utilitarian space, one even now more likely to house communal trash cans than trees or flowers.

The further back and higher you went back in these complexes (many had two or three successive courtyards), the worse conditions got for early residents, with toilets shared among a whole floor. In some areas of the city, the tenements also contained artisan workshops towards the back. Developing a reputation for dinginess, the Hinterhof (back court) became an icon of Berlin poverty, celebrated in songs and paintings both as the heart and the bane of the city’s working-class life, busy with brawls and and organ grinders, damp and sooty.

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