Linda Nightingale to the Rescue

I am currently (or finally if you ask him) dating a German man. While it’s true that Germans aren’t known the world over for their romantic side, I feel that this is something that should be rectified.

A German man, or at least this German man, shows you in a thousand different ways how much you mean to him – and he does it in a way that doesn’t make me want to vomit.

These little Germantic gestures include things like:

  • getting up at crackofdawn o’clock to drive me halfway across the city to a morning lesson when I’m running late
  • having a thermos of black tea with milk waiting in the car to soothe the savage beast
  • doing the midnight run to the petrol station when we run out of wine
  • having a word with a security guard at a concert to see if I could stand over by the exit so that I might see something other than the backs of tall Germans’ heads – it actually worked
  • buying me little gifts, not because it’s a special occasion but simply because he thinks I’ll get a kick out of them
The Terrible German Language by Mark Twain
The Terrible German Language by Mark Twain
  • He also bought me the rather entertaining Travel Pussy, which shows how well he knows me…
  • He listens to my bizarre questions about his mother tongue and claims to find them “endearing”

Anyway, I could go on but that’s probably enough for now. The point is, he does so much for me that when he injured his leg playing football, I felt that this was my chance to do something for him so I offered to move in and play nurse for a week or so.

Regular readers will know that I’m hardly the most tender soul on the planet but well, what was the worst that could happen? My mother told me to wish Manfredas luck in between disbelieving snorts of laughter, and I told his next-door neighbour to call 112 if she heard screaming coming from the apartment. We were all set.

The second I moved in, I felt at home. This was partly to do with the fact that he’d previously bought me slippers that said “Home” on them. I quickly unpacked my bits and bobs and put them away in the drawers and spaces that he’d cleared for me. If he was horrified by the lack of neatness, he didn’t say anything.

We had decided from the get-go that we would speak more German. Ostensibly, this was to improve my fluency but I think he was secretly hoping for the entertainment value. Naturally, I didn’t disappoint.

Me: I just need to brush my hair. 

Manfredas: Ha ha ha ha! 

Me: What? What did I say? 

Manfredas: Bah hahahaha! 

Me: Oh wait. I know. Breast, right? I said that I need to breast my hair… 

(Bürsten – to brush, Brüste – breasts)

Me: What’s “to score” in German? 

Manfredas: Schießen.

Me: But that’s “to shoot”.

Manfredas: It’s the same in German. 

Me: But isn’t there another word for “to score”? 

Manfredas: Erzielen.

Me: And “Ziel” means “goal”, right? 

Manfredas: Yes.

Me: So… in German, you goal it in the goal? 

Manfredas: Sigh. 

Me: GOAL IT! GOAL IT IN THE GOAL! Ha ha haha! Anyway, es ist nicht vorbei bis die dicke Frau singt… (it ain’t over til the fat lady sings)

Manfredas: NEIN! That doesn’t work in German. 

Me: Oh well. It was worth a goal I guess…

Amazingly, he didn’t kick me out and, as the days progressed, we slipped into a nice routine. I’d go out to work, popping back home whenever I could, and picking up any supplies we needed along the way.

Every morning, I’d get out of the shower to find that he’d laid out everything I’d need to make breakfast, including a fresh pot of tea.

German planning
German planning

Every evening, I’d come home to find my washing done and a delicious meal underway. Pasta bake, pork tenderloin, roast chicken, burgers barbequed on the balcony… I started to wonder who was taking care of whom. Still, I wasn’t complaining.

How to hang your washing, German-style
How to hang your washing, German-style

We’d spend most evenings out on the balcony, chatting, drinking wine and making up stories about the neighbours. I’m convinced one guy, who Manfredas dubs “The Constant Gardener”, is actually out there to be closer to the all the bodies he’s got buried under the lawn (but that’s just me).

Berlin sky at night
Berlin sky at night

Regrettably,  Manfredas’s leg got a little better every day so, after 9 days, I moved back to my own place. Yup, it’s back to toasted sandwiches and beans on toast for me. I’m not sure I was any better as a nurse than I am in the kitchen, but if it’s true that laughter is the best medicine, then maybe I helped a little after all.

OK, it’s time to breast my hair before bed…

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Hat, heels, Hochzeit (2)

Everyone filed (in an orderly German fashion) into the front room of the boat for the 2.5-hour tour that would take us around scenic Potsdam and Wannsee. This was probably the most painful part of the day for James as, at 6’9″, he had to stoop just to fit into the boat. Still, I had more pressing things on my mind, namely THE CAKE.

YESSSSSS...
Yogurty, moussey, fruity, spongy, creamy, biscuity goodness…

Luckily, Germans aren’t known for scrimping when it comes to portion sizes so, after queuing for a couple of minutes, I had a slice of cake roughly the size of my head. It was practically a meal in itself and would definitely keep me going until the actual meal later that evening.

Yum.
Yum.

I settled in with my new South African homies out on deck, taking in the views, listening to the tour guide and chatting to whomever came along. The Bridemama emerged and pulled a well-used piece of paper out of her bosom.

BM: Are you relative or friend? 

It turned out that she’d written down several conversation openers – I’m not sure she could understand the answers but she somehow managed to pull it off. I later learned that Kat’s brother had, in recent weeks, been teaching her a few expressions in English but that she’d forgotten them all on the day. Hence, the cheat sheet – more German genius.

The boat docked after 1.5 hours to let the wedding party off for photos but not before I got a quick pic with the beautiful bride. The bright orange dress was deliberate as I’m not much of a swimmer (I sink like a stone) but I knew I’d be visible if I happened to go overboard.

The biggest hat in the world
The biggest hat in the world

The rest of us continued on, munching on our tiny traditional “English Afternoon Tea” sandwiches as we went. At 17.30, the boat docked, around a 5-minute walk from the reception venue. Taxis were available for those who wanted them, but most people chose to walk.

Schloss Glienicke
Schloss Glienicke

You know, villa, boat, palace… just an average day in the life for this expat.

The courtyard was decked out and champagne service beckoned. A bagpipe (Dudelsack haha!) player was standing off to the side waiting for the bride and groom to show up so I asked him if I could take a photo of him.

Me: What is the German word for “bride” anyway? 

BP: Die Braut. 

Me: Not to be confused with “das Brot”. (bread)

BP: Ha ha ha, NEIN! 

Hamish the German
Hamish the German

I grabbed a glass of champagne and tottered around on the cobblestones a bit. A table full of kindly English people took pity on me and invited me to sit with them. Again, I had to explain my tenuous connection to the wedding party but thankfully, everyone seemed to think it was cool rather than downright weird.

The palace courtyard. Or a typical Saturday afternoon for me...
The palace courtyard. Or a typical Saturday afternoon for me…

In typical German fashion, an AGENDA for the evening was set out.

So German...
So German…

We all gathered to watch the German wedding tradition of log-sawing. Seemingly, it’s a demonstration of the couple’s abilities in teamwork. They were both given workman’s gloves, which really set off Kat’s dress, and then they got down to it.

German log-sawing
German log-sawing

I can’t say either of them will ever make it as lumberjacks but I hope they won’t have to. There probably isn’t much call for lumberjackmanship (I went a bit German there) in London anyway. We all gathered for the group photo and then it was time for the 4-course dinner. 13427974_1122601124449930_158288312928114469_n

I was seated at the same table as my new English buddies so chatting was easy. The girl beside me was a teacher so we had something in common. She was also alone as her husband was the best man and, therefore, seated at the top table, beside Santa. He looked like he was about to pass out from nerves at any second so his friends took it in turns to go up and distract him. At 6’7″, he would have gone down hard.

Dinner was delicious, and wine and conversation flowed. The waiter copped on pretty quickly that we were the high-maintenance table wine-wise and was always ready with a bottle.

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Then it was time for the speeches. Santa Claus went first with a short speech in German. An English translation was distributed to the English-speaking guests. Then it was James’ turn. Bless him, he read his speech first in English and then in German. I admired his balls while mentally correcting his pronunciation (because I’m a bitch like that). Finally, it was the best man’s turn. He delivered his speech in English and there was a German translation given out to the German-speaking guests. More great organisation. He also didn’t faint, which was good.

Dessert
Dessert

Dessert (Riesling champagne ice-cream soufflé with strawberry and mint salad) followed and then it was time for the party to begin. A band was getting set up in the next room so we all headed in that direction, ready for the couple’s first dance. “We’ve only just begun” by The Carpenters. Perfect.

Awwww
Awwww

The band played all of the 60s and 70s greats, everyone danced (except me because I have two left feet) and a free bar ensured everyone was well-lubed. The night ended with a midnight Currywurst and Pommes snack and then buses were waiting to take everyone back to the city centre.

All in all, it was an amazing day. The way they integrated the two cultures/languages and made sure that everyone was included must have taken so much planning. There was no dead time, everyone had a ball, and most people saw something more of Berlin than they normally would have.

Kat and James, I tip my big, floppy hat to you and wish you all the best. Thank you both so much for having me (the random Irish blogger) at your special day.

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And, if anyone else wants to invite me to their wedding, the answer is YES.

Hat, heels, Hochzeit (1)

“Hochzeit” is the rather unromantic-sounding German word for “wedding” and, as you may recall, I received an invitation to my first German wedding some time ago. Kat and James’ big day arrived last Saturday. I’d been looking forward to it for months so I was a bit surprised when a fit of nerves kicked in at the last minute.

I was going to a wedding where I knew nobody except the bride – and had only met her once.

Me: What if nobody talks to me?

Han: You’ll be fine. 

Me: Oh God. What if they put me at the virtual table? 

Han: What?

Me: You know, all the guests who couldn’t make it. It will be me and seven iPads shooting the shit over champers.

Han: (Sigh) You’ll be fine.

My mother had told me fascinators were all the rage so I decided to go with the biggest, floppiest hat I could find. I slipped on my 6-inch wedge heels and, at that moment, realised how crap clutch bags are. My flip-flops, wallet, hair brush, perfume and make-up would have to go. Luckily, living in Latvia had trained me well in the art of staying upright in high heels for extended periods of time.

I teetered my way to the Park Inn Hotel where a coach was waiting to take us to the wedding venue. The groom was English so the coach would contain me and around 65 of his nearest and dearest. Everyone else seemed to know each other and I had a premonition of being “that strange Irish girl who knows nobody and writes a blog” for 14 hours or so.

I needn’t have worried. Chatty Charlie sat down behind me and proceeded to talk my ear off for the next 45 minutes. Keeping the conversation going wasn’t an issue as he did that all by himself. He didn’t even realise I wasn’t German until around minute 44. Eventually, we pulled up outside Villa Schöningen in Potsdam.

The rather lovely gardens
The rather lovely gardens

The groom (I assumed from the pictures I’d seen on Facebook) was greeting people on the steps so I hung back a bit until most people had gone inside. This gave me the opportunity to have a quick chat with the bride’s aunt and her friend. I could tell they were Berliners from fifty paces – brightly coloured hair, sparkly outfits and dirty laughs. Maybe I’d be OK after all…

We made our way inside and took our seats. Unfortunately, there would be a slight delay as the taxi that was due to pick up Kat’s parents hadn’t shown up. Her mother bustled in around ten minutes later, all smiles, bright red hair and shimmery blue dress.

BM: HALLO! I AM THE… (that pause when you start a sentence in a foreign language then realise you have no idea how to finish it) BRIDEMAMA! 

The bridesmaids followed shortly afterwards and then Kat walked in, looking stunning in her white dress and accompanied by Santa Claus – no mean feat in the middle of June.

The beautiful bride and her dad/Santa
The beautiful bride and her dad/Santa

Kat and James kissed when they met at the top of the room, only to be reprimanded by the rather stern registrar with a “NOT YET!” The room erupted and the tone was set for the rest of the ceremony. I have to say, it was probably the nicest, most personal ceremony I’ve ever attended. There was no religious nonsense, just the story of how they met, fell in love, what they love about each other, and their hopes for the future – all delivered with classic German directness, in English and German.

While the registrar was talking, the rings were passed around the room so that everyone had the chance to instill their best wishes for the couple in the rings. I thought that you probably wouldn’t be able to do that in Ireland as someone would nick them, but what a lovely tradition.

The happy couple
The happy couple

Once they were married (and allowed to kiss), we all made our way out to the gardens. We were each given a little cup of confetti which I managed to throw all over the head and shoulders of the man in front of me. Ho-hum. Another German tradition was about to begin – the releasing of the doves, or Taubenwerfen in German. (I just made that up.)

They both looked a little nervous as the doves were handed to them. I can’t say I blamed Kat. If I was wearing a white dress and had a Scheiße-risk in my hand, I’d look a bit nervous too.

Putting a brave face on it
Putting a brave face on it

Kat’s aunt in my ear: Oh! Maybe we can make “puff puff” (while making a shooting motion with her finger). 

I may have snorted some champagne out of my nose.

Fly, my pretties!
Fly, my pretties!

The two birds were released without incident and then another five or six were let out of the wicker box at their feet.

And they're off!
And they’re off!

Everybody cheered and nobody got shat on. Total win.

While I was sipping my champagne, a couple approached me. I remembered them from the bus; they’d been giving me sympathetic glances as my ears nearly fell off. They turned out to be South African, living in London, and knew hardly anyone at the wedding either. They were really good fun and interesting, well-travelled people. We decided to stick together as none of us wanted to talk about the England match or Brexit.

The wedding planner rounded us up and we were off to our next adventure – a 2.5-hour boat tour. As we walked over Glienicke Bridge (the Bridge of Spies), the Bridemama stood in the middle – the  old divide between East and West – stopping the English guests and giving them a quick history lesson.

The Bridge of Spies
The Bridge of Spies

Germans never miss the chance for a bit of education.

Part two coming shortly – there will be cake. Oh yes, there will be cake…