Berlin-London-Dublin-Tokyo: Granular Memories and Random Facts.

I was travelling for the last 35 days around the Globe and I feel obliged to share some memories, cool moments and thoughts with you. To keep it short, I’ll steer away from the traditional storytelling. Instead, I’ll draw fast and granular memories from those cities, interesting facts and worthwhile places – like impressionists did with their paintings.

Berlin

In order to boost team spirit and synergy we brought our US and Ukrainian teams together to launch the newest SAAS project from Readdle. After initial research we decided to pick Berlin as our base for those two weeks.

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Berlin is known for its startup eco-system, tremendous energy and creative people. I’ve heard great things about the spirit in Berlin, which is very different from classic German cities such as Munich and Frankfurt. It’s a melting pot.

Berlin is the cheapest (in a good way) capital in the EU. “If you are spending more than $10 on a meal – you are doing something wrong”, – said my German friend who lived there for a few years.

Kebabs! Best value for money I ever had in my life! No joke! For $4 you get an amazing chicken kebab from a friendly Turkish guy. You can function on this whole day. By the way, Kebabs were invented by Turks in Berlin, once they came to rebuilt the city after the end of Second World War. There’s a huge Turkish community which consists of 300.000 people.

Berlin is famous for its underground and techno nightclubs. Since I was on my own most of the time, I didn’t get much experience of that. Instead, I visited a few mainstream clubs like The Pearl and Felix, which were fine. The good vibes and amazing cocktails were served at this famous bar under the bridge – Tausend. You should definitely try “Odessa Jailbreak” and “No Nuts – No Glory”. Oh yes, and the “Old Fashioned” one at Ritz-Carlton is a must – the best I’ve tried yet.

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Berlin is huge. 9 times bigger than San Francisco. So pick your staying location wisely. I would recommend staying somewhere around Mitte. That’s what I’ll do next time.

Check out the Zoo there. Tigers, lions and panthers are well-fed and healthy. Still in cages though.

If you are there and love eclectic shows that might blow your mind – check out The Wyld musical.

Dublin

Right after Berlin we flew to Dublin, stopping for one day in London. Dublin is a great, atmospheric and traditional Irish city with more pubs than you can think of.

Web Summit brought 20.000 people to Dublin from all over the world. What strikes me most is the fact that the whole country is working to bring the best tech talent and companies to Ireland. Everyone is involved and everyone knows why you are there, from the customs officer to a dancer in a club.

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Since my schedule was really tight, I haven’t done any sightseeing at all. However, I visited a few great places, where the an exclusive events were being held. My exploration started at Guiness Brewery, which is the most famous attraction in Ireland. The factory produces 17.000.000 pints of Guiness per day and ships worldwide. The taste of Guiness in Dublin is different from that bottle in your local grocery store. Irish people also like mixing up Oysters with Guiness – interesting experience.

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Have you ever entered a black door on a black street with just one bouncer outside? I did. The moment you walk in reminded me of Narnia. Nothing can tell you from the outside that there is this chic and vintage whiskey bar with colors of gold, flowers and dozens of people smoking cigars. Great experience. Once again, you have to know places.

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London

The more you can afford in London – the more you like it. Each time I’m there – I like it more and more. Let’s skip all the traditional tourist destinations and dig into some details and interesting places.

It was a pre-Christmas season, that’s why the whole city shined bright with bazzillion lights, filled with millions of tourists and have this tremendous vibe.

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My goal was to visit British National Museum, but the closest I made there was the ice-rink place next to it. Surprisingly enough, it was be fun.

As for the cool restaurants and places to visit: Cocochan for great dumplings, Ice Bar for great shots from your ice glasses, Kouzu for the finest Japanese cuisine experience (get the duck!), Mamounia for sheesha. Burger and Lobster serves full size lobsters (or burgers) for just 20 pounds. As for the clubs – Maddox and Cuckoo are good choices.

If you prefer calm and chilled places, try attending musicals such as “Lion King” and “Phantom of the Opera”. Or you can enjoy the biggest IMAX at BFI next to Waterloo station.

I really liked the Canary Wharf neighbourhood – it feels so chilled, because of the canals, yet energetic and young. I would live there for a few years for sure.

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During a meeting with a friend from Goldman Sachs we visited the trade floor. Oh my God!!! It is exactly what they showed us in movies: a huge open space with dozens of people screaming, calling and trading. Each Table had at least 3-4 displays with huge graphics, scales, numbers and news reports. Amazing atmosphere!

One more funny thing: Harrods had a great deal: spend $16,000 and get a free parking spot for 2 hours. Isn’t it amazing?

Tokyo

It was my second time in Japan – the sheer excitement now changed to deeper understanding of the culture and social dynamics.

Sophistication – this is the right word to describe Japan and its culture. Everything is meaningful, proper and solid. Salary men give their lives to companies they work for. Everything is done with respect. For instance: the hotel wallet bowed to a taxi driver, when he picked me up. By the way, the doors in taxi cabs are opened and closed automatically – so you don’t even have to touch them.

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Shibuya, the most crowded intercrossing in the world, has a small corner with a famous Hachiko monument. We all know Hachiko’s story, how she waited for her owner for years. And this is very symbolic to see a sign of loyalty and love in an endless stream of people passing by.

Everything has to be done properly. A friend of mine, who is doing fast food sausage business in Tokyo (yes, you heard it right) has told me an interesting fact, that if you want to speak Japanese with a business person – you have to know the language perfectly. It’s not acceptable to make mistakes while talking, because “how can we do business with you if you can’t even talk properly?”. It’s almost impossible to learn Japanese to that level in less than 10 years. That is why they use local translators or joint ventures for doing business.

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Since I was visiting TechCrunch Japan and meeting with local business people, I found out another fascinating fact that doesn’t fit the Western culture. A startup or a founder has only one chance to make it right. If you fail – you loose respect and probably won’t get funding in the future at all. Quite tough, right?

Let’s switch to food. Food in Japan is amazing. Whether it’s a cheap ramen for $6 or a rare sea urchin – the taste is always delicious. Kobe beef sushi was the best beef I’ve tried in my life! The variety of dishes even for breakfast is shocking. Unfortunately, I didn’t make to the famous fish market this time, where they sell huge tuna at the auction at 4-5 AM. Next time then.

A few times after long days of meetings, I went walking around the small streets, parks and highways. Sometimes Tokyo feels like a cleaner version of New York. It’s super clean. With 30 million people living there, it doesn’t feel overcrowded. People don’t run on the streets, in fact, I was the one walking faster than others. If you are walking on a street at 5 PM you will hear the mysterious melody – tremendous atmosphere, especially if you are lost and just wondering around.

Another surprise for me was a unique blend of traditions and high-tech in such a modern city. You can see small Japanese gardens here and there, people bowing to each other, historic monuments and signs surrounded with high-rises.

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To better understand Japan and Tokyo, you have to live there for a few years. So if you are courageous enough – I totally recommend you doing that. The good thing is that Tokyo less expensive than any other alpha city (according to locals $50K annual income will allow you to make a decent living there).

Great trip. Amazing 35 days. Feel free to ask questions and directions – I’ll be happy to give tips and guidance, as well as connections.

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