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Wednesday, November 18, 2009: Unemployment sucks in Europe -- !5% in Berlin, higher in Poland. But there's huge safety net and you don't see poverty's signs, like beggars and filth. Europe's economy is turning up and opportunities abound. I checked into commercial real estate -- stuff with a rent roll. Prices plummeted last year, financing evaporated and deals went into hibernation. But it's now coming back. The banks are lending and some owners are selling. Finding the real bargains is not for faint of heart. But it was nice to hear of people making money with real estate. A friend flipped a building during the Spring-Summer for a huge profit.

The Wall has been down 20 years. Berlin is transfixed. It's a "happening town full of young people, many of whom are artists." They open their shops only on Sunday in December, not other months, Which makes Berlin really dreary.

The stats from MarketWatch:

After falling a mere 0.2% in Q2 2009, Eurozone GDP rose 0.4% in Q3 pulling the region out of recession. The rise was slightly below the commission's expectations of a 0.5% increase. Industrial production surged 0.3% in September adding weight to the recovery. Germany (0.7%), France (0.3%) and Italy (0.6%) all grew in Q3 while Spain (-0.3%) and the UK (-0.4%) continued to contract.

Travel stuff:

+ The Internet is now easy in Europe. Every hotel has it, or the corner Internet Cafe has it. The more pricey hotels charge more for the Internet. But their Business Centers are usually free, despite signs.

+ Email can be a real pain -- especially if you're using Outlook. Google's Gmail is free and ultra-reliable. Any Internet browser will get you in. I love Gmail.

+ Bargain with the hotels before you leave. With begging you can easily get the room down 20% to 30%. Get them to throw in breakfast.

+ The most useful gadget to bring to Europe is a GPS. We took a Garmin Nuvi 350 with a $150 chip of European streets. It crapped out in rural Poland. But it worked perfectly in Austria and Germany. I even walked with it.

+ November is cheap to travel. British Airways (and others) have sales. I bet the prices will go even lower on some days. Our planes were not full.

+ A friend traveled and always sent his friends great pictures. Someone asked him, "Which camera did you use?" He said he didn't own a camera and had never taken a photo in his entire life. He simply bought local postcards, scanned them when he got home and sent his friends "his pictures." The moral here is you can never do as well. So why bother?

This is the famous bust of Queen Nefertiti from around 1370 BC. On the left is my photo. On the right is Wikipedia's which is much better. I bet they didn't shoot through glass with lousy lighting. The bust is in Berlin's Egyptian Museum which is part of the Neue Museum.

Berlin is loaded with museums, which incidentally the state funds. Buy the three-day pass and hit them all.

+ Exercise is absolutely critical. You can't travel and not exercise. Your legs will die. I ran on treadmills and swam in the pool if they had one. There are public pool spas all over.

+ Part of traveling is a pain. Customs. Immigrations. Lines. Waiting. Yuch. The key is to ask questions. A security lady in Berlin was organizing stuff for the conveyor belt. I asked, "Seen any good shoes recently?" Her answer: "No."

I complemented the lady at the American Airlines Friendship terminal at Heathrow on her fancy new digs. She growled. Her furniture was so "modern" that she said "I can't get off my chair to answer the phone because I can't get back onto my chair."

+ Getting local money in Europe. You lose something on everything -- credit cards, debit cards and ATM machines. I tried cash. I suspect the solution might be to buy Euros before you leave. But I don't know. One of travel's great pleasures is being raped.

+ This is me in the $9,000 jacket I didn't buy.

European clothes are generally twice what they are in the States. This jacket came with a removable mink lining, lots of "fine detail," and a charming, aggressive saleslady. The price includes 19% VAT, which I'd get back if I had the right paperwork and was prepared to have it stamped in the right place at the right time on the right boarding pass. It's efficient, though bureaucratic. It really was a nice jacket. The saleslady told me she'd sold it to lots of "important people." But she wouldn't name one.

+ This is me with "the suitcase."

Chatting up the concierge turned up this fact: People in the most expensive suites steal the most. In order: $150 bathrobes, towels, wooden Kleenex boxes, candleholders and jewelry cases, . The hotel knows about the thefts but doesn't pursue the crooks.

The next day I told the concierge I'd stolen everything I could. But I now had "a problem." Namely, I'd run out of suitcase space to carry back the stolen loot.

The following day he produced a suitcase that was mine for the taking. I was not able to convince him that I was joking. He looked offended when I left without the suitcase (and the bathrobes and the towels). It was a brand-new suitcase.

+ Imagine this in New York.

A Berlin subway sign tells me when the next train will arrive. And, it always did.

+ Berlin has KaDeWe, Europe's biggest department store. It has an entire floor selling food. There were at least 200 varieties of sausages,

endless salads, live and dead eels, beer and champagne by the glass. You could get drunk or fat just eating bits and pieces.

Germans love to eat. This is one of the checkout clerks at KaDeWe. Not all Germans are this big. The young girls are blonde, tall, thin, leggy and wear boots with hugely high heels.

This is a sandwich from a local street vendor.

I felt sorry for the poor fish.

Watch out for new scams. Assume every email you get is a scam. The latest scam just happened this morning. Someone got into my Facebook account and emailed one of my Facebook friends, pretending they were me, that I was stranded in London, that everything I had was stolen and I needed $300 to get it all back. Please send $300 by Western Union asap.

It's total bullshit. I'm safe and sound in New York. I'm watching the conversation between "me" and my friend on FaceBook, as we speak.

Nice to see the stockmarket went up while I was away. I should go away more often.

This column is about my personal search for the perfect investment. I don't give investment advice. For that you have to be registered with regulatory authorities, which I am not. I am a reporter and an investor. I make my daily column -- Monday through Friday -- freely available for three reasons: Writing is good for sorting things out in my brain. Second, the column is research for a book I'm writing called "In Search of the Perfect Investment." Third, I encourage my readers to send me their ideas, concerns and experiences. That way we can all learn together. My email address is . You can't click on my email address. You have to re-type it . This protects me from software scanning the Internet for email addresses to spam. I have no role in choosing the Google ads on this site. Thus I cannot endorse any, though some look interesting. If you click on a link, Google may send me money. Please note I'm not suggesting you do. Read more about Google AdSense, click here and here.