Pull up a chair

A company that I teach at has recently moved offices. Unfortunately, their new conference room is a bit like a fishbowl, surrounded by around 50 other people who waste no time in gawking in at my highly entertaining lessons whenever they happen by. While I have no problems with having an audience, my Germans (believe it or not) are a little on the shy side.

As a result, they’ve decided to have their lessons in one of their offices. This would be fine but for the fact that desks, shelving units and files take up most of the space. Being the short-arse that I am, I also can’t see my students’ faces over their computer monitors. In short (ha ha), it’s not ideal but I persevere.

On Friday morning, the usual dance of manoeuvering chairs around the desks and wheeling extra chairs in from another office began.

Me: Jesus, it’s like musical chairs in here. 

Bertha: What is “musical chairs”? 

Me: Oh, you know that game that kids play. If there are six kids, there are five chairs. When the music stops, they have to stomp on each other to get a seat. 

Bertha: Oh! Yes, Germans play that, too!

Me: What’s it called in German? 

Betlinde: Stuhltanz (chair dance).

Bertha and Bertilda: NEIN! It’s “Reise nach Jerusalem”. 

Me: What? Journey to Jerusalem? 

Bertilda: Yes. 

Me: But why? What does Jerusalem have to do with anything? 

Bertilda: I know not. 

Me: Don’t know.

Bertha: Maybe they have not enough chairs in Jerusalem? 

Me: Don’t have. Hmm, it seems unlikely. Jerusalem has been in the news quite a bit recently but I don’t think I’ve seen any mention of a shortage of chairs…

Curiosity sufficiently aroused, I did a Google search when I got home. It turns out that nobody really knows where the name “Journey to Jerusalem” originated but there are a few educated guesses. It could date back to the mass migration to Jerusalem during the Crusades when space on the ships was limited. It could also refer to a military manual from Byzantine times when (yawn) Emperor Maurikios devised a method to (yaaaawn) identify enemy spies…

Curiosity sufficiently dampened, I was about to close the window when things got interesting again. Seemingly, “Stuhltanz” is the East German term, and “Reise nach Jerusalem” is what the West Germans call it. They also call it “Journey to Jerusalem” in the Philippines, probably because the Philippines are so similar to Germany in every possible way…

I’m not sure how accurate the following translations are (I found them on a website called grandparents.com) but they tickled me so here you go – a short list of what “musical chairs” is called in other languages:

Japanese:”Isu tori game”(The game of stolen chairs)

Romanian: “Pǎsǎricǎ mutǎ-ţi cuibul” (Birdie, move your nest)

Swedish: “Hela havet stormar” (The whole sea is storming)

And my personal favourite:

Russian: “Скучно так сидеть” (It’s boring sitting like this)

If anyone has any more to add to the list, I’d love to hear them. My thirst for largely useless information really does know no bounds!





Digging up the dog in Rheinsberg (Part 2)

Here it is – the long-awaited, “exciting” second installment.

You’ll be relieved to hear that I did eventually manage to get my cup of tea to my mouth, by adopting a new technique I like to call the “Wurstfinger-out manoeuvre”. I might patent it.

I am a genius.

While elegantly sipping my exquisite Netto own brand tea, I spotted Oma emerging from the tool shed in the garden and decided to pop out to say “good morning”. This was just after 10 a.m. and I was feeling rather pleased with myself for simply being up, even if I was still in my pajamas with bed hair. Oma, however, looked like she’d been up for hours and was suitably full of the joys. I raised an eyebrow at the toolbox she was carrying and she threw back a cheery, “So ist das Leben!” (Such is life!)

I couldn’t even imagine a life that would involve me chirpily carting around a toolbox at 10 a.m. (or any time of the day for that matter) but then I’m not a German Oma; she’d probably built the shed while I was sleeping.

Feeling a little underachieving, I went back inside, showered and got myself ready for the day. I figured I would probably have enough plasters to get me through.

Now looking slightly more presentable (and appropriately plastered), I set out in search of food. Before long, I hit the jackpot – a cosy little café that served… Käse-Schinkenbrötchen! The nice lady behind the counter even offered to heat it up for me. (I think there must be something gormlessly endearing about me, or my accent, that Germans find appealing as she just glared at everyone else who came in.)


On the way out, I discovered that there must be some live dogs* in Rheinsberg as dead dogs don’t poop, as far as I know.

The dump dump.

Satisfied with my morning so far, I set off for the palace and lake. My plan was to take a few photos of the palace and lake, walk around the lake to the obelisk, take photos of the palace and lake from the other side and then walk back again. Just when you thought this trip couldn’t get any more exciting, eh?

I set off, convincing myself that I was enjoying the (freezing) fresh air. Along the way, I passed a few other brave souls out for a walk, all very clearly German in their sensible footwear and all-weather clothing. Most of them gave me a cheery smile and a hello. It could have been the even more gormless, half-frozen look I was sporting at the time.


Anyway, I achieved my goal of making it to the obelisk, taking a lot of pretty photos along the way.

At this point, I was feeling so “at one” with nature, that I decided to carry on walking for a while. After ten minutes or so, I noticed something odd. I was completely alone. I hadn’t passed any Germans since the obelisk. Did they know something I didn’t? Had I missed a sign or something? I sent Manfredas a quick message.

Me: Are there wild boars in Brandenburg? 

Manfredas: Hmm, I think you’ll be quite safe in the middle of the day. 

Pfft. What did he know? Maybe the wild boar had never smelled Irish meat before and would disrupt their nocturnal habits for a nibble. Feeling more like eating than being eaten, I headed back towards town for some cake.

Unfortunately, I came to a Glühwein hut first.

Actually, there was nothing unfortunate about it; it was bloody brilliant. My cockles warmed, I continued on for around three minutes until I hit a likely-looking café.

A mandarin, cream and sponge concoction that was just as delicious as it looks.

Naturally, after all of this wild adventure I was exhausted, so I walked back to my apartment for a nap. A few hours later, I was ready to eat again. (I know – it just keeps getting more exciting…)

I’d spied a reasonably-priced restaurant on my earlier travels and, this being Rheinsberg, had no trouble getting a table. A lively foursome were sitting at the table next to me and thankfully, they didn’t look like they were about to leave any time soon. This was good as we were soon the only people left. We ended up having a nice chat but soon they were also ready to leave. Determined not to be the last one in the restaurant again, I downed my wine and left with them. We parted ways and I headed to the only Kneipe in town.


While it wasn’t the most salubrious of joints, I’m generally quite at home in these places so I plonked myself at the bar and ordered a glass of wine. The heads around me turned. Ah, “strange face in a local bar syndrome” – fun.

Me: Huh. Am I the only woman here? 

Holger: (nodding behind the bar) She’s a woman. 

Me: (casting a dubious look at the barkeep giantess) Oh, yes, of course she is! I meant, you know, as a customer… (eek, bad start)

Holger: Hmm, you speak good German but you don’t sound like a German. Where are you from? 

Me: Ireland. 

Holger: Oh, right then! Shot? 

Me: Yes, please. 

And so began a merry night of shot-drinking, bizarre conversations and terrible dart-playing. It seemed there was some fun to be had in this town after all.

Day three got off to a rather later start and was pretty much a carbon copy of day two, apart from a nice glass of wine on a (currently non-touring) tour boat – and skipping the Kneipe; I was worried I might have some damages to settle from my slightly erratic darts skills.

And, while I may not have dug up the dog, I did find where he’s buried.


All in all, a perfectly enjoyable few days. I can definitely recommend it – especially if you enjoy having entire restaurants to yourself at the outrageous hour of 9 p.m.

*If you’re confused by the dog references, you probably need to read the previous post.

Digging up the dog in Rheinsberg (part 1)

Me: I’m going to Rheinsberg for a few days between Christmas and New Year’s. 

Ze Germans:



“Da ist der Hund begraben.”

Me: The dog is buried there? What?

Ze German: Ja, this means it is a very boring place where nothing ever happens. 

Me: Oh, good. Perfect! 

After a pretty hectic year, a few days in a sleepy, picturesque town in Brandenburg sounded ideal. I’d booked a beautiful apartment a few minutes’ walk from Rheinsberg Palace, Googled how to get there and was good to go. It was while I was on the last leg of the journey, a bus ride from Neuruppin to Rheinsberg, that my phone decided I was roaming. But not to worry – unbelievably, they have WiFi (that actually works) on the buses in Brandenburg. A true post-Christmas miracle…

I texted the owner of the flat to tell her I was outside and, a couple of minutes later, was being warmly ushered in by a jolly German granny. After she’d shown me around the flat and we’d had a jolly chat, I decided that I would like her to be my new German Oma.

The flat was even better than I had hoped; really cosy, newly renovated and adorned with twinkly Christmas lights.

My very own garden

This being Germany, of course there was some form-filling to be done. Rheinsberg is one of the areas that charges a Kurtaxe (visitor’s tax) of €1.50 per person per night. I’m not sure why some places charge it and some don’t but again, this is Germany so there doesn’t necessarily have to be any logic.


Form filled in, Kurtaxe paid, Oma left me to it. At this stage, I was pretty hungry so I hit the town in search of cake. Unfortunately, most places I liked the look of were either having their Ruhetag (day of rest) or closed until March. Hmm. I wandered on and eventually found what I was looking for, settling in with my book, a cup of tea and…


I decided to take a walk back through the town to the palace and Lake Grienerick. It was around this time that I noticed how much Brandenburger folk like to stare at people, or maybe just me. In a town of only 6,000 inhabitants maybe I stood out a bit but I don’t think I’m that odd-looking. After one gawp too many, I alternated between beaming at people (instant confusion) or hitting them with the Latvian-Girl-Death-Stare (instant cowering wreck). This is how I like to entertain myself sometimes.

The palace and lake were pretty impressive, even in the already dimming light. I decided to leave most of the walking and photos until the following day but managed to snap a few pics before heading to the charming Ratskeller Restaurant (nothing to do with rats) for a glass of wine to warm up.

After that, it was off to Netto to pick up a few essentials (shower gel, tea, wine and crisps) and then back to my apartment for a little nap. I woke up a couple of hours later, feeling wonderfully refreshed and ready for food.

Unfortunately for me, my packing skills are a bit Irish, i.e. fecking everything into a bag with no particular rhyme or reason. While rummaging for my make-up, I felt something prick the index finger on my right hand. What the …? I withdrew my hand and watched with fascinated horror as the blood started flowing. Oh shite.

A quick (very quick) look in the bag revealed that my razor had landed blade up and that I had gashed myself quite badly. Then it was time to run. In the bathroom, I tore through sheets of toilet paper, wrapping the offending finger, waiting for the blood to soak through, binning the blood-soaked tissue and repeating. After a few minutes, the sink and surrounding area looked a bit like the bathroom in SAW. How could something as small as my finger bleed so bloody much!?


Swathed in half a roll of toilet paper, I found my handbag and tried to locate a plaster. In the chaos that is my bag, you never know what you’ll find but luckily, there was one plaster. I stuck it on, thinking that would be the end of the matter.

But no, blood started seeping out above, below and even through the damn thing. I thought about tearfully calling Oma at this point but decided she probably had enough to cope with as she had around 20 family members staying with her.

By now, it was 8.15 p.m. and Oma had told me that the supermarkets closed at 7. My last hope was the Späti (late-night shop). I waved my bloody stump at the Späti guy, while asking calmly and politely if he sold plasters. He did not. BUT (Gott sei Dank) LIDL was open until 9 p.m. I raced down the road, squeezing excess blood into a tissue as I went and located the plasters.

With three more plasters wrapped around the original plaster, I figured things would probably be OK. I found a nice Italian restaurant I’d seen a poster for earlier in the day and ordered. Little did I realise how difficult knives were without a fully-functioning index finger. Every time I pressed on the knife, blood started seeping out again until I’d gone through another four plasters and created the ultimate Wurstfinger. I was so focused on my finger that I failed to notice I was the last one in the restaurant. It was around 9.30.

I finished off my wine and hit the town. Unfortunately, the town was shut. Oh well. I guess I had been looking for a quiet few days; it didn’t get much quieter than this. Back at the flat, I fired up my laptop and started chatting to my Irish friend on Facebook.

Me: Aw crap, my finger is bleeding on my keyboard. Hang on…

Sinéad: Did you put pressure on it? 

Me: If shouting at it to stop bloody bleeding counts as pressure, then yes.  

Sinéad: Erm…

The next morning, I had a new problem.

Massive sausage finger vs tiny, tiny cup


Did the bleeding ever stop? Did I manage to get that cup to my lips? Did I dig up the buried dog?? Find out in the next “exciting” installment…