Another German mouthful

Baumblütenfest, or Treeblossomfest for you non-Germans, is a festival that takes place around this time every year in the picturesque town of Werder in Brandenburg. I decided to rope my Aussie friend Sheila into accompanying me.

Me: Hey, do you fancy going to this?

Sheila: Is it a flower festival?

Me: Yeah.

Sheila: Ummm…

Now, I know what you’re thinking – trees, flowers, picturesque little villages – it doesn’t exactly sound like your kind of thing, Linda… Silly me. I forgot to mention that it’s also famous for fruit wine.

Wine. With fruit.
Wine. With fruit.

Sheila: Sold.

As with most things in Berlin, the day got off to an entertaining start with Sheila (aka “The Half-Naked Aussie”) locking herself out of her apartment in her underwear. However, after (probably) scaring the little old lady downstairs half to death, she managed to get a spare set of keys, get dressed and we were off. We boarded the RE1 at Ostbahnhof and double-checked to make sure we hadn’t accidentally got into a first-class carriage; I vowed to take German regional trains more often. The feeling of scuzziness that comes from drinking beer on a train quickly wore off when all the horny, scantily-clad teenagers and already drunken revellers started boarding at subsequent stations. It was 1pm.

By the time we got off the train 45 minutes later, our lovely carriage resembled a rugby scrum, but, being the tough women we are, we battled our way through and picked up our first glasses of wine – for €1.20. I went for a rhubarb number; Sheila made the unfortunate choice of going for a currant wine. Five minutes later, the drunkest man in the world bumped into her and the violently red liquid went flying. Amazingly, not a drop of it got on her white t-shirt but she quickly realised her mistake. I, on the other hand, was wearing black from head to toe. Call me sensible – or well-practised at these affairs.

Never wear white to an alcohol-related festival.
Never wear white to an alcohol-related festival.

As the festival takes over the entire town (for almost two weeks), we had been forewarned to make our way to the top of the hill and then walk stumble crawl roll back down again. It turned out to be excellent advice. We did just that, stocking up on more wine for the uphill struggle. Everywhere, merry Germans were imbibing copious amounts of wine, chowing down on sausage, and bursting into spontaneous song and dance. It made for highly entertaining viewing.

Mermans (merry Germans)...
Mermans (merry Germans)…

After a while, however, we stumbled across what was pretty much “The Secret Garden” – except with more Germans. We got some more wine, Sheila inhaled a sausage, and we grabbed a bench to admire how the other half live.

We somehow managed to bump into a group of friends after I spied Nigel coming back from a not-very-secret piss behind the toilets – Brits and their non-sitzpinkelling ways, eh? We all sat down at a large table in the garden and welcomed whoever else happened to come along. This included a German woman who talked about “sex wine” for around an hour non-stop. (I never did find it.)

The evening wore on, the rain started, and everyone at the Fest got progressively messier. A German even managed to get me up to dance which is something that rarely, if ever, happens. By the end of the night, Nigel was asleep on the table while gently puking up the fruity contents of his delicate English tummy; Fritz was also asleep but less vomitously so. He would get his comeuppance later though.

In a bid to get back to Ostkreuz, he somehow disappeared at Warschauer Straße, which is one stop before it. There seems to have been some time lost at this point, but he eventually got on a train to travel the final stop. Unfortunately, he fell asleep and woke up in Spandau, nineteen stations in the wrong direction. After a couple of phone calls, we managed to talk him onto another train going in the right direction. He fell asleep again and woke up in Kaulsdorf, six stations past where he needed to be. If only he’d been awake, he would have seen more of Berlin in one night than most people see in their entire lives. Oh well, there’s always next year…

For more information on Werder and Baumblütenfest, click here. (You’ll be glad you did.)

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Job hunting in Germany

Little by little, I can feel myself becoming more German. This manifests itself in many different ways, but a few that spring to mind are:

1. I now rinse out empty jars. Some day, I might even bring them out to the correct bin.

Badly rinsed jar
Badly rinsed jar

2. I have been known to walk 2 to 3 kilometres out of my way to find an ATM machine in order to avoid paying the ridiculous charges other banks inflict upon the unsuspecting.

3. I say “kilometres” instead of “miles”.

4. I speak German more and more often.

5. I’ve had street beer, park beer and train beer. And I don’t even feel guilty about it any more.

6. I can open a beer bottle with a lighter in under 3 seconds. It took an English friend of mine two years to crack it; I did it on my first attempt. In Germany, bottle openers are for Sitzpinklers.

Anyway, the long and short of it is, I love Germany. I love Berlin. I love the people and the way of life and I want to stay here for a very long time – possibly forever. However, in order to do that, I need to find a job.

With teaching hours as scarce as Germans not wearing Jack Wolfskin, I’m currently job hunting. If I’m honest, I’d been getting tired of teaching English anyway. Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy it, and I’ve met some lovely people, but the work itself isn’t that challenging any more. It’s a handy “in” to a country where you don’t speak the language, but I never imagined myself doing it forever. The lack of work right now is just the kick up the arse I needed to start looking for something else. And, by god, am I looking.

Every day, I trawl recruitment websites, looking for marketing, advertising, and especially, writing-related jobs. And there are quite a few out there. As Berlin is start-up city, a lot of them don’t even require German, as the working language is English. Of course, as an Irish person, I’m trailing behind most Europeans on the language front. Some ads say things like “Fluent English is a must. German would be an advantage. Knowledge of Spanish, French, Dutch, Japanese and Swahili also a bonus”. Umm. (Hangs head in shame and has a little cry.)

In addition, for every ten jobs, I’d say nine of them are tech-related. Technical writers, app developers, gaming enthusiasts, SEO, SAP, LINUX, SEM… half the time I can hardly understand the ads even though they’re written in English. I’m thinking of changing my name to “Linda O’Gradysaurus”.

I did, however, apply for one of these jobs – not because I thought I had a chance of getting it, but because they offered “outrageous randy benefits” and I wanted to see what those would entail. They rejected me – possibly because I pointed out in my email that “outrageous randy benefits” made them sound all kinds of dodgy.

Maybe something like this?
Maybe something like this?

If I had my time here over again, I would have started looking for something much sooner. The recruitment process takes an insanely long time. Most companies use sites like “Jobvite”, where you can track the progress of your application. Oddly, sitting there looking at it and clicking “refresh” doesn’t make things move any faster. Still, at least German companies are polite enough to actually contact you to let you know you’ve been rejected. This, unsurprisingly, has happened a number of times.

Still, it seems like my luck might finally be changing. Last week, I had a Skype interview and, on Monday, I’ve got an interview with another company. I would be ecstatic if I got to work for either of these companies so please, cross your fingers for me. (Or press your thumbs – it’s a German thing.)

There is something worse than naked neighbours

The last thing on earth I wanted to see on Tuesday morning was an angry Hildeberta with a pen and paper in her hands. Groan. Was the dreaded cleaning rota finally going to materialise? I ventured a little closer with a cheery “Good morning!”, and peered at what she was writing. “Lieber Nachbar…” Phew, it seemed I was off the hook.

Me: What’s happening? 

Hildeberta: DID YOU HEAR ME LAST NIGHT? 

Me: (backing slowly away) Ummmm… 

It emerged that, in a fit of rage, she’d stomped upstairs in her pajamas to deal with our insanely noisy neighbours. I had actually heard our front door opening at around 1am but as I was nice and warm in my bed, I just thought, “Sod it. Let the bloody burglars come to me. I’m not moving.” I nodded off again a few minutes later.

Meanwhile, Hildeberta had been banging away on the neighbours’ door, determined to have it out with them. She said she could hear them talking in rather coarse German, tiptoeing around for a bit, and then all was quiet. So she came back downstairs and went to bed again. Having got no satisfaction (duh nuh nuh) the night before, she was now writing a note to them in VERY SHOUTY LETTERS.

The truth is, this has been going on for months now but, as Germans are oh so polite, we didn’t do anything about it. I had previously offered to be the short, silent, crazy-eyed sidekick to Hildeberta’s dignified lead – think Joe Pesci and Robert de Niro in Casino – but my flatmates had turned me down.

You see, there are laws against this sort of thing in Germany. Between 10pm and 6am, you’re not supposed to do anything that could disturb your neighbours in any way. This includes, but is not limited to, hoovering, turning on your washing machine, blaring your TV, and revving your car engine. I have even heard of the police being called on a crying baby. And while Berlin is generally rather lax with this sort of stuff, our neighbours are a pretty extreme case.

I put forward several theories as to what could be going on up there, but as my macabre imagination freaked out Hildeberta and Hildegard, I’ve toned it down to what is probably the most likely one. So here it is – Gebhard’s Guide to Driving your Neighbours Crazy:

1. Look at your watch and realise that it’s around midnight.

2. Put on your hobnail boots.

3. Proceed to line dance for 30 – 40 minutes.

4. When you’re good and warmed up, move every piece of furniture in your flat to a new position.

5. Jump off every piece of furniture while still wearing your hobnail boots.

6. Repeat.

Luckily for Gebhard, Hildeberta and Hildegard are extremely well-mannered individuals with the patience of saints. I, on the other hand, am not. This has led to me jumping up and down, banging on the ceiling with a sweeping brush in my hand while roaring obscenities at night, and “treating” Gebhard to my version of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” at the top of my voice first thing in the morning. However, it seems that none of this has had any effect whatsoever.

Hildeberta dropped the note up on Tuesday morning. As I sit here writing this, 2 Unlimited are blaring from on high, and Gebhard is having what sounds like multiple seizures (in hobnail boots) directly above my head. (Although, if I were forced to listen to 2 Unlimited at that volume, I’d probably have a seizure too.)

So it seems he’s not just an inconsiderate moron, he’s an inconsiderate moron with embarrassingly poor taste in music. It’s now around 9.30. At 10.01, I’m going up there. Now, where’s my pen…