The BAD little town that’s so good (1)

With Easter weekend on the horizon, I decided it was time to get away for a couple of days’ rest and relaxation. After a little deliberation, I chose the town of BAD Saarow, partly because it looked pretty and wasn’t that far away, and partly because it sounded like a misbehaving small bird, which is what I am most of the time.

Deutsche Bahn, in their infinite wisdom, had chosen this weekend to do work on several regional train lines so, with a small house on my back, I set off to get the first train that would take me to the second train that would take me to the first replacement bus that would take me to the second replacement bus…

Finally, at around 1.15, we pulled up outside BAD Saarow train station.

Blink.
Blink.

After a quick glance around to make sure everyone hadn’t turned into fairy tale characters, I got off the bus. I took a couple of photos of the train station – mainly to prove that it actually exists in real life. My hunger and need to pee brought me back down to earth and I wandered across the road to a café, looking over my shoulder every now and then to make sure the station was still there.

I sat at an outside table and a waitress promptly brought over the menu. Fancying something a bit hearty after my extensive travels, I ordered the Wurstgulasch mit Nudeln. The fact that they didn’t have wine should have been a warning sign, but I was still in a bit of a daze so I just ordered a cup of tea instead. My “Gulasch” arrived…

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If you’re thinking, “My, it looks just like chunks of sausage in an abundance of tomato ketchup thrown on top of some pasta”, I can assure you, that’s exactly what it was. Still, it was edible so I ate enough so as not to alarm the waitress, paid and trundled off.

I was actually staying at a guest house in an even smaller town, called Neu Golm (I know, right?), which was around 3kms from the centre of BAD Saarow;  I just had no idea in which direction. Seeing no taxis outside the train station, I headed for the harbour, thinking they might be hiding out there.

Spring! Finally!
Spring! Finally!

I had seen pictures of Scharmützelsee (Lake) and, well, this is Germany, so I was expecting it to be “pretty”, but my expectations weren’t even close to the reality.

As the sun danced on the calm water, I danced around merry Germans, mentally congratulating myself on having chosen this place on this fabulous weekend. Soon, however, the weight of my backpack overrode my smug delight and it was back to the train station which also houses the information office. I asked the lady about buses and it turned out the next one was in around three hours. So, I asked her about taxis. She called one and the driver said he would be there in 15 minutes. I said I’d wait outside.

Who wouldn't?
Who wouldn’t?

Five minutes later, she came out in a panic to say that there’d been an accident on the Autobahn and the driver would be delayed indefinitely. I followed her back inside and watched as she frantically dialled other taxi companies, took money for souvenirs and fended off requests for bicycle rentals and boat tours. I resisted the urge to whisper, “Relax, this is all just a dream. None of this is actually happening…”

In the end, she decided to call the owner of the hotel to come and pick me up.

Herr Scherr to the rescue
Herr Scherr to the rescue

15 minutes later, I was standing outside Landhaus Neu Golm.

Is this the real life...?
Is this the real life…?

Herr Scherr handed me a key with a key ring that was almost as heavy as my backpack, explained the dinner/breakfast times, and we were done. My room was on the ground floor, spotless and airy, with the comfiest bed I’d ever set my tired arse on. But, this was no time to get lazy. It was Easter Saturday, i.e. the last day you could buy a bottle of wine until Tuesday.

I set off for a little stroll around Neu Golm – which took around three minutes. Neu Golm, I established, consists of some houses, a picturesque church, and a “yoof” centre that didn’t look like it was going to cause me any sleepless nights.

It seemed like the only activity in the area that day was a potato sale. It was almost like someone knew the Irish were coming…

Spuds! Woop!
Spuds! Woop!

I walked back in the direction of BAD Saarow – a pretty, peaceful walk which consisted of trees and fields, more trees and fields, and some more trees and fields.

Have some trees...
Have some trees…

After surviving the armageddon-style scrum that you find in supermarkets the day before a public holiday, I meandered back to the lake and eventually to the terrace of a restaurant I’d had my eye on earlier.

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Oddly, they were closing up the outside section.

Me: Can I sit outside?

Waiter: Sure! 

Job done.

I settled in with a glass of white wine, on a cushion that they brought out specially, and enjoyed all the light I could see while reading “All The Light We Cannot See”. Spooky, eh?

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Having taken another billion photos, it was back to the hotel for dinner. With the menu rather heavily geared in the pork direction, I opted for the Schnitzel with onions, garlic and fried potatoes. It’s safe to say German portions will be the death of me.

It was bigger than my torso.
It was bigger than my torso.

From my vantage point at the window, I noticed that something was happening at the Youth Centre.

Me: What’s going on over there? 

Waitress: Oh, Easter Fire. 

Me: Huh. Can anyone go or is it invite-only?

Waitress: Anyone can go! No problem! 

So I stumbled across the road with my Schnitzel-baby in tow. About thirty people were standing around a massive bonfire, talking, drinking and warming themselves. I bought a dodgy-looking shot from the lady working the “booze window” and made my way over. Naturally, in a village with a population of around fifty people, I stood out.

Bonfires and dodgy drinks - the backbone of any German celebration
Bonfires and dodgy drinks – the backbone of any German celebration

It seemed that the entire fire department was there and, sure enough, one of them came over to test the level of “stranger danger”.

Fireman Sam: You’re not from around here…

Me: No. I’m from Ireland. 

And that was that. Instant “in”. Soon my new buddy and I were surrounded by curious Neu Golmers, wondering how an Irish girl had wandered into their midst on Easter Saturday. Shots were downed, Glühwein flowed, many a funny conversation was had, and I soon felt like an honorary Neu Golmer.

Before midnight, I was invited along to a well where it seemed the Germans were going to dip their heads in freezing water, or something. With my bed within crawling distance, I declined. Maybe next year…

(To be continued…)

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On noise and nudity

On Friday, my half-naked neighbour graduated to being full-on naked. While I’m not a fan of my eyes being assaulted by a swaying, sagging, dimply arse, I do have bigger problems with the guy.

As I’ve mentioned before, he’s an opera singer. Or opera student. Whatever. All I know is that it entails him singing sporadically, at the top of his voice, from early in the morning until late in the evening most days. I’m as much of a music lover as the next person, but I do need peace and quiet while I work (or nap).

Maybe if he’d mixed it up with a bit of Johnny Cash, I could have stood it, but it was wall-to-wall opera. Opera, opera, opera. I was going out of my mind. Sorting him out had been on my to-do list for quite a while, but I wasn’t sure how to go about it.

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German organisation

The helpful, and often fabulously entertaining, “Free Advice Berlin” Facebook page came to my rescue. On this page, people can post pretty much anything they like in the hope that a kind soul will help them out. Questions have included everything from people looking for unusual products or cool bars, where to neuter a cat or buy a TV, help with moving flat, and even a Russian asking someone to explain feminism to him. (Good luck with that last one.)

The post that caught my eye, however, was by a musician. He explained that he wants to study sound engineering and plays around 13 instruments, including the drums, which he practises at home. Amazingly, he was getting noise complaints from the neighbours…

People were quick to comment on this one and, luckily for me, this being Germany, there are RULES about this sort of thing. It turns out that you can’t actually practise an instrument (voice included) for more than two hours a day. I downloaded the “Merkblatt zur Hausmusik” that someone posted, which contains scary terms like “Gemäß § 5 des Landes-Immissionsschutzgesetzes” and “Einschlägige Gerichtsentscheidungen”. I wasn’t entirely sure what they meant, but I figured you probably wouldn’t want to mess with that stuff.

Fun with German words...
Fun with German words…

A quick perusal through my rental agreement backed up the general Berlin rules with more specific house rules.

Take that!
Take that!

Ah, lovely German rules.

After a night filled with bad dreams about jiggly, naked opera singers, I was rudely awakened on Saturday morning at 9.30am by the man himself. I repeat, 9.30 AM on a SATURDAY. This was war.

WAR I tell ya!
WAR, I tell ya!

But instead of banging down his door like the fighting Irish woman that I am, I opted for the more civilised German approach. This involved me sitting at my laptop in a fury, with extreme bed hair and fluffy pajamas, and hammering out a “pleasant” letter to my neighbour, “politely” asking him to stop with all of the fucking singing because he was driving me fucking mad disrupting my work and my sleep.

I printed out the letter and the Merkblatt and, after making myself slightly less mental looking, popped them both into his letter box.

And now I wait. I guess there’s a good chance an angry, half-naked opera singer will show up on my doorstep. If that does happen, rather than resorting to fisticuffs, I’m hoping we can have a good old-fashioned sing-off. Throw in a couple of beers and a bit of Schlager and that would seem to be the most German way to handle things…

 

One of those “days”

On Tuesday morning, I opened up my laptop and was instantly hit by the vague feeling of dread that it was one of those “days”. You know the ones – International Mountain Day, International Day of the Girl Child, International Day of Yoga, World Toilet Day, International “We’re all just Awesome” Day*… For some reason, breastfeeding gets an entire week all to itself at the beginning of August. I guess squirting stuff out of your tits is considered very important in some circles.

Tuesday, however, was International Women’s Day. While I’ll never understand the people who think clicking “like” on a photo is somehow going to cure cancer, I mostly leave people to their delusions. I only ask that they leave me out of it. It seems that I was the delusional one on this occasion though – there was no escaping International Women’s Day.

Just as I was about to tuck into my breakfast, I was “tagged” in this monstrosity.

Appetite murderer
Appetite murderer

Now I know the person who tagged me meant well, but “precious”? “PRECIOUS”? My boiled egg bore the brunt of my fury as I wondered why “smart”, “educated”, “driven”, “ambitious”, “well-travelled”, or around a million other adjectives weren’t chosen instead. But I guess “SAWED” isn’t as catchy as “perfect”. I even had trouble taking in the porn star hair and revealing clothing as my retinas were too scarred by all the pink.

Vomit.

So, my day was off to a bad start. Yes, Tuesday was International Women’s Day, but do you know what else it was? It was a Tuesday, and this woman’s Tuesday typically goes a bit like this. Get up at the crack of dawn, teach lessons, go to meetings, squeeze in some proofreading work, pay bills, do some banking, answer emails and phone calls and try to eat something, that is, when I’m not on one of the eleven trains that I have to take that day.

Bleurgh
Bleurgh

If I don’t feel particularly beautiful, precious or radiant by the time I get home that night, it’s because I’ve been using what’s in my head all day, not worrying about what’s on it. Like most other women. Yes, this may come as a surprise to some, but we don’t sit around all day braiding each other’s hair, having pillow fights in our underwear, shopping, giggling  or dreaming of being princesses. We work our damn asses off.

You might be thinking, “Linda, what are you getting so worked up about? It’s just a couple of harmless memes!”, but it did get me worked up. It got me hopping mad, in fact. You see, International Women’s Day was actually started for a reason, to promote women’s rights. The theme for 2016 was “Pledge for Parity”, which somehow seems to have got lost in the sea of banal nonsense that was being puked out all over the internet.

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Spew

In Lithuania, IWD is “celebrated” by having police officers pull over women drivers and give them bunches of flowers. Aw, gee, thanks. It’s not like I have anything more important to be doing. How would you like to be picking those pretty petals out of your teeth for the rest of the day, officer?

In China this year, Women’s Day was marked by the special treat of giving women some dried meat to chew on. Yum, yum. We all know women like nothing better than sucking on a bit of meat, right?

From jingdong.com. I kid you not.
From jingdong.com. I kid you not.

The President of India in his message issued on the eve of IWD said: “On the occasion of International Women’s Day, I extend warm greetings and good wishes to the women of India and thank them for their contributions over the years in the building of our nation.” On the day itself, a 15-year-old Indian girl was in critical condition after being raped and set on fire. Well, thank you for that, Mr President. I’m sure your trite twaddle means a lot to the women of India, and especially to that girl who’s fighting for her life in hospital.

So yes, I really have little to worry about. I’m lucky enough to come from a country, and now live in a country, where I have rights. I can choose to get an education, to live by myself, to work, to support myself, to travel freely, to stay single, to not have children (tempting as World Breastfeeding Week is…), to walk the streets without looking over my shoulder, and to pretty much do whatever the hell I like. And I appreciate that every day.

Other women are not so lucky and that’s what International Women’s Day is, and should be, about. Next year, chew on that (when you’re done with your meat sticks) before posting meaningless, frankly offensive imagery left, right and centre.

 

* OK, I made the last one up.

The meat sticks, however, are very real and you can read more about them here:  https://ladyofthecakes.wordpress.com/2016/03/09/ready-for-your-belated-womens-day-special-chew-on-that-bitches/

 

 

 

 

 

Sow you, sow me…

In German, you can add the word “Sau” (sow) to quite a lot of other words to add some porky emphasis to your point. So, for example, “saukalt” (pigging cold), “saublöd” (pigging stupid), or “saugeil” (frigging great) are all possible.

One sausage to rule them all...
Pigging delicious

In my efforts to amaze and impress my students, I like to bust out a few German expressions every now and then. This is normally met with reactions like, “AWWWWW!” and “Aww, so süß!” (Aww, how sweet!), but I persevere anyway.

So I was at a lesson, one rainy afternoon…

Me: Ugh, das ist wirklich ein Sauwetter. (Ugh, this weather is really shite.)

Gudrun: Ja. Hey, what’s “Sau” in English?

Me: Sow. 

Gudrun: Sow – Sau. Huh, maybe that’s where the English word for “sausage” comes from?

Me: Ha ha! (Hmm, I wonder…)

Sauresearch
Sauresearch

Linda-brain in overdrive is a dangerous thing and, really, something that should be prevented from happening with any sort of regularity. But, on this occasion, there was no stopping me. My brain hit the ground running – there’s a nice image for you – and, by that evening, I was ready to share my profound new theories with my unfortunate German friend. I installed myself on the sofa and prepared to make linguistic history.

Me: So, I’ve been thinking…

Long-suffering friend: Oh no.

Me: You know the English word “sausage”?

LSF: (Groan)

Me: OK, and you know the German word “Sau” and the verb “sagen” (to say)?

LSF: I’m German. 

Me: Yes, yes, but listen. What if “sausage” comes from those two German words? 

LSF: Go on…

Me: I mean, maybe, back in the day, in a village called BAD Wurstemburg or something, there was a local guy who used to sell pigs at the market? He’d have called out descriptions of the pigs and “Get your pigs, five for fifty!” or something, making him…

LSF: Yes…?

Me: The Pig Sayer! Sausager! 

LSF: Groan.

Me: Or, OR, maybe in BAD Wurstemburg, or wherever, the pigs developed kind of an attitude problem and the locals found it hard to deal with them.

LSF: (Pours another glass of wine)

Me: (Singing) Who they gonna call? THE PIG SAYER! 

LSF: (Downs said glass of wine)

Me: You know, he’d have been like Robert Redford with the horse-whispering, except in Lederhosen – and with pigs, obviously. Whenever someone had an uppity pig on their hands, they’d send for Sieghard the Sausager. 

Sieghard the Sausager
Probably not a realistic likeness of Sieghard the Sausager

Me: But “sausager” was a bit too cumbersome for native English speakers to get their poor little tongues around so they shortened it to “sausage”! Ta-dah! 

LSF: Is any of that true? 

Me: I have no idea. Let me check. 

Of course, it turned out that I was talking absolute nonsense. The word “sausage” actually comes from the old Northern French word, “saussiche”. How dull. Anyway, it’s all sausage to me. I live to drivel another day. My apologies to any Germans who make my acquaintance.