This is the first post of 2016 so I wish all readers, ‘einen guten Rutsch ins neue Jahr’. In English this translates as, ‘Slide well into the New Year’. In icy weather, this could be taken quite literally and this week temperatures in Berlin are due to fall even further.

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The Tiergarten on Sunday 17th January 2016

For Germans, the shocking assaults in Cologne on New Year’s Eve and the ensuing demonstrations have meant that 2016 hasn’t started smoothly at all, but with a terrible jolt. A serious social and political crisis looms over them and with an estimated 80,000 refugees arriving in Berlin in 2015 the German capital has its work cut out. If you follow this link, the Deutsche Welle website has excellent coverage of how Berlin is coping with the situation.

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Refugee accommodation in the Olympiapark sports hall

The map below can be accessed at the Arriving in Berlin website in English, Arabic and Farsi and shows the most important locations for refugees in Berlin.

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Berliners are also deeply affected by the death of David Bowie whom they count as one of their own. Bowie lived in Berlin for just over two years (1976-79). It changed the direction of his life, had a huge influence on his music and became part of his soul forever. On Twitter this week the German Foreign Office thanked him for helping to bring down the Berlin Wall and the German Ambassador in London tweeted back that Bowie would always be part of his life and that he was ‘a great friend of Berlin’. There is a petition on change.org demanding that Hauptstraße in Schöneberg, the street where Bowie lived, is renamed David-Bowie-Straße. Berlin politicians seem open to the idea, although apparently this can’t officially happen until five years after someone’s death. In the meantime one Berliner has taken matters into his own hands and stuck Bowie’s name across the streets signs.

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David Bowie’s front door has become a shrine with flowers and candles and constant flow of people coming to pay their respects. Only a couple of days earlier, on Friday 8th January many of them had attended a party to mark Bowie’s 69th birthday and the release of his new album. It was held in the Meistersaal (concert hall) of the Hansa recording studios where he worked.

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David Bowie with sound engineer Eduard Mayer in the Meistersaal in 1987

Just a week later, on Friday 15th January, there was a ‘Trauerfeier’ (a memorial ceremony) in the same venue. These events were organised by Berlin Musictours who also run walking tours that trace Bowie’s life in Berlin. You can do your own quick online tour by following this link to the Berliner Zeitung and watching their video. It’s in German but pretty easy to follow.

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Photo taken from the Berliner Zeitung article

I will be in Berlin later this week to see how things are ‘sliding’ into the New Year. In the meantime, if you are planning a trip in 2016, don’t forget to check out the events listing on the Berlin tourist website. They also have some good deals which combine accommodation with Berlin travel tickets. And their blog is full of insider tips, with plenty of information on winter sports in Berlin.

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