Humboldt Fellowship in Berlin

Two years ago I was over the moon. I just found out that I won the 18-month Humboldt Fellowship for Experienced Researchers in order to finish my monograph. My destination was Berlin, the Deutches Archäologisches Institut. The idea of living for a year and a half in this vibrant city, surrounded by excellent libraries, made me quiver with joy!

And then, reality struck. I had to move to another country, yet again. This involved making arrangements about my salary, renting a flat, re-learning German and finally acquainting myself with my new adopted country. My first brush with German bureaucracy was a complete disaster. Humboldt Foundation refused point blank to pay my stipend into my University Research Account, which means that I had to let go of my salary and take a year of unpaid leave, with severe consequences for my pension. Of course, this arrangement in the end worked like a charm, since the pound collapsed :)

Renting a flat was the other obstacle. I decided to rent online an overpriced apartment in Prenzlauerberg, with the hope that I will enjoy living in a trendy and, yet, safe area. My expectations of the area were fulfilled but the apartment fell well below its standards. And the worse part is that I had to enter very painful negotiations in order to leave earlier than the stated time in the contract. After a lot of heartache and some financial loss I moved to a new apartment in Rosa Luxemburg Platz at a third of the rent I have been paying. This place belonged to the granddaughter of Robert Havemann and it was full of memorabilia; a veritable treasure-hunt for an archaeologist like me! :)

My abilities to speak German took off very fast. Well, they had to. As soon as I arrived in East Berlin, whenever I asked the indigenous people, if they spoke English, they answered… Ruski. Bear in mind that the reunification of the city of Berlin is far from being complete. Humboldt Foundation generously paid for three months of lessons with a private tutor. I worked hard and finally got to a satisfying Grundstuffe level. Unfortunately, my German was not good enough to help me befriend many Berliners, who tend to keep to themselves. But I did manage to maintain comfortable levels of contact with other locals (Turks, Italians, Greeks, Russians, French and… Germans).

My work in the DAI was the highlight of my trip. Researchers came and went, while I made some very good friends among the more permanent members of staff. Some of them even followed me in my crazy ventures to find the best tango school in the city! The library proved to be a little less than excellent for my subject. So, I complemented the existing material with books from Freie Universität and the Stadtbibliothek. In this process the DAI staff was most helpful and I would like to thank them from the bottom of my heart. :) :)

The second most wonderful experience I had was the Humboldt Study Tour around Germany. The Foundation paid for two weeks of holiday around the country, which included a bus tour and accommodation for researchers and their partners! During that trip I built friendships that I am certain will last a lifetime. Above all, I came to understand German society and some of the more obscure workings of the German system. :)

In the end, between German tutorials, tango lessons, trips to neighbouring cities and visits to libraries, I managed to finish my book. The official title is the Roman Monetary System and I expect it to be published in the summer of 2010 by Cambridge University Press.

Economic historian and numismatic consultant


  1. Okay, this isn’t exactly relevant to your post, but is it really snowing on here?

  2. On this webpage!

  3. As I am close to finishing my time as an AvH Fellow (24 months in Hamburg, plus 4 months of language courses in Göttingen) I can say with no doubt that this was one of the best periods of my life…true German admin hit on my nerves but I got through it…after all!!!…true not all is perfect…but the Germans are direct, easy going people..they do not open up easily but when they do, lifelong friendships are being built. From my experience, the 4 months of intensive german classes (5 hours a day) made me reach level C1, speak almost fluently, hence better integrate, and for the first time read and write legally in German…this alone has changed me foor ever!..and I did the AvH tour in summeer 2009 (had I done it in summer 2008 we would have been together)…and also found it fabulous experience! xx :) Kyriaki

  4. Another satisfied customer! I think we should come up with different ways to spread the word.

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