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Britain to Berlin .... in a pandemic!

On October 1st we arrived at our temporary accommodation in Berlin, the culmination of some considerable planning and even more organisation. At no time did the plans include moving in a time of global crisis, and when our house in York went on the market in March … and promptly came off it again just days later as lockdown measures were introduced, we wondered if we would make it.

We came to Berlin twice last year and were enthralled on each occasion. Both of us have lived in Germany before .. in fact it’s where we first met a few decades ago and one of us, Annette, spent a short time living in this remarkable city in the time when it was still a West German ‘island’ surrounded by the communist East German state. From a historical standpoint, the city is utterly fascinating with still potent reminders of both the events of the 1930s and the more recent East West split when the city was divided by the famous Berlin Wall. But now it has another additional draw for us.

Gradually over the course of the last decade we have become fully plant-based and have immersed ourselves in understanding and learning as much as we possibly can about the benefits, the pitfalls, the scientific research of eating this way. And we’ve just completed a full year of learning with two of America’s leading lights in plant-based nutrition education, Drs Rick and Karin Dina. This has further propelled us towards a relaunch of our business with the emphasis fully on education. Where better to do this than Berlin, the “vegan capital” of Europe? This is a significant part of the reason for our choice, alongside other factors.

Was Britain’s vote to leave the EU a factor? It was certainly a motivating force. We both studied European languages, primarily German, at university and have been passionate Europeans ever since, each of us working with our languages and always maintaining links with Europe such that the prospect of ideologically distancing ourselves as a nation from the richness of a strong and diverse union of countries seemed, and continues to seem, alien to us. The timing of our departure also relates to Brexit; we knew we needed to arrive in Germany and register here before the end of the year as December 31st 2020 marks the end of the Brexit transition period and with it the commitments detailed in the Withdrawal Agreement drawn up by both the EU and Britain. This agreement ensures that any British citizen living in an EU country before this cut-off date will retain many of the rights and freedoms of EU citizenship. Hence our seemingly unusual choice of timing for the move!

For the time being, we’re staying in a Studio apartment and fairly quickly we’ve realised that this can pose quite a few challenges, not the least when it comes to food preparation. No longer do we have our (relatively) spacious kitchen with its variety of work surfaces where we can both busy ourselves with our allotted tasks without encumbering each other. Gone are the gadgets which made our daily culinary adventures seamless and simple, like the Omni Blender, the Magimix, the Magic Bullet (everything in our kitchen seems to be magical!). Instead, we have a single tiny worktop alongside a sink which is the new stage for our thrice daily creations. At least we have a refrigerator, a dishwasher and two rings on an induction hob, so there is some modicum of convenience, but the first few days proved to be fairly challenging as we became accustomed to this enforced downsizing. Nevertheless, we have really got into our stride now and every day we are managing to create our favourite fruit breakfasts, fruit and leafy green salad lunches and dinners which usually involve an assortment of vegetables, beans, pulses, mushrooms and wild rice or quinoa. It's proof that it can be done, that plenty of space and numerous gadgets are great, but they are not essential for eating wholesome healthy foods.

Graham getting creative in the tiniest of kitchens!

As those of you who follow us regularly on social media know, what and how we eat is tremendously important for us and we will always strive to do this as well as we can. This is one of the things that drew us to Berlin, as we have highlighted earlier, since not only is it a thriving centre for plant based eating, but also there is an abundance of good, healthy organic food available at virtually every corner. It's not exclusively available at the trendy Bio-Company or Denn's Supermarkets (each of which has a branch directly across the road from us!), but it appears that the seam runs deep in Berlin, as all of the standard supermarkets stock a good range of organic foods, as well as the discount chains Aldi, Lidl and Netto. Even the cosmetics and drugstore chains stock a good range of organic dried fruits, nuts and seeds, such that you have an almost endless range of choice as to where to buy some of these items. The retail experience here really is the gold standard as far as we are concerned, and we feel very fortunate to be able to play a part in this. It provides us with the oxygen we both need to thrive and flourish in what we do and we hope that we can continue to inspire and support you to keep seeking out ways to achieve and maintain optimal health.

Wholefoods lunches and dinners created in a very small space!

Bio Company Organic Supermarket ... literally across the road!

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