Category Archives: Festivals

The Wine Fest that Wasn’t

It’s summer in Berlin which means that there are around ten festivals happening every week. In fact, there’s so much going on, it can be close to impossible to decide what to do. This weekend, however, the choice was easy. My two favourite words were mashed together into one German word and the decision was made. Weinfest.

Get in my belly
Get in my belly

After a relaxing brunch, Manfredas and I hopped on the bus to Britzer Garten. I had been there once before and thought it was beautiful so I was looking forward to going again.

Unfortunately, the festival wasn’t being held in the park proper but in a side bit next to a windmill.

Windmill. Check.
Windmill. Check.

We walked for around 10 minutes after the bus journey, wondering at the lack of drunk people on the streets. Clearly, this wasn’t going to be a massive party.

We got there to find not much of anything at all.

Is that it?
Is that it?

There were only three stands in total and two of those were selling coffee and cheese. Erm, what? But there was ONE wine stand so we marched over there and asked the barman what was going on.

Weinman: Well, there were supposed to be four wineries here but two cancelled and the third crashed in the outskirts of Berlin so now it’s just me. 

There wasn’t much we could say to that so we ordered a couple of glasses of Weißburgunder and sat down, lowering the average age of the revellers by around 30 years.

Manfredas: I’ve been thinking about why this isn’t really a fest.

Me: You mean apart from the lack of people and wine? 

Manfredas: Yes, apart from that. It’s because there’s no sausage. 

Me: I think they’re going for a more classy “wine and cheese” French-style of proceedings. 

Manfredas: THIS IS GERMANY! GERMANS NEED SAUSAGES! 

Me: Right. 

Since we’d come all that way, we decided to have a second glass and chill out for a while – the good thing about a fest with 20 people is that there is never a queue for the toilets. When we were around half-way through, a van pulled up and a band (dressed in American GI uniforms) stepped out.

Me: Oooh, there’s a band! We have to stay now!

PARTY!
PARTY!

They started at 6pm on the dot and the lead singer explained that they were normally Checkpoint Five but they were missing their drum and keyboard players so, that night, they were Checkpoint Light.

Me: Oh, hahahaha! This is just too funny! A wine fest with no wine and a band with no members! Ha hahahahaha! What are drums in German anyway? 

Manfredas: Schlagzeug.

Me: Hit thing! Ha hahahahahaha! 

Yes, we had started ordering wine by the bottle at that stage…

The band launched into energetic renditions of all the old American doo-wop classics, with every second song being an Elvis number. I was in heaven. Amazingly, the tables started filling up and we were soon sharing ours with a bunch of fun, middle-aged Germans.

They ordered a cheese plate which came with Schüttelbrot. Seemingly, it’s the preferred bread of the Alpine regions but it was far more fun whacking it off the table to try and break it than it was to attempt to eat it.

My new German friends drummed along with the music.
Bread that’s harder than the table

We all roared along with the music, providing percussion by beating the table with the bread. I’m pretty sure that Elvis was spinning in his grave by that point.

People were up dancing, the wine and conversation flowed and what could have been a total bust turned into a fantastic night out.

Even the Latvians turned up.

EEEK!
EEEK!

I can’t wait to go again next year. I only hope that it’s as disastrously funny as it was this year.

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The third Alsace post will be up next week! 

 

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Cherry Fest and Fancy Dress

Apart from a lifelong aversion to idiots, I’ve been pretty lucky on the allergy front, i.e. I haven’t had any. So, it was with some surprise that, at the ripe old age of 38, I suddenly developed hay fever.  I put this down to some sort of weird German tree that I have never encountered before; clearly I’m not allergic to birch as Latvia is 98% tree and 2% people and I survived just fine there. (Kind of.)

Anyway, as with most things, I felt that the best way to tackle my new condition was head-on. In a bid to show my “Heuschnupfen” who was boss, I decided to take it to a tree festival. However, going to a festival with just your hay fever for company would be a bit dull so, luckily, my good friend Han said he’d come along for the sneezy ride.

Evil trees...
Evil trees…

Kirschblütenfest (Cherry Blossom Festival), now in its 10th year, takes place in the Japanese, Chinese and Korean Gardens of Gärten der Welt (Gardens of the World). This all sounds lovely until you realise that Gärten der Welt is in the ever-so-picturesque district of Marzahn-Hellersdorf – so far east that you could easily think you’d crossed into Poland.

Marzahn-Polskidorf
Marzahn-Polskidorf

Han: Do you know where we’re going? 

Me: Um, kind of. I don’t usually go this far east. 

Han: Yeah, I always feel that the further east I go, the greater the risk of being stabbed. 

Me: … 

Following the instructions on the Fest Facebook page, we hopped off the train at Wuhletal and ran for what we hoped was the right bus. It wasn’t. Instead of getting mad at being flagged down for no reason, we must have looked forlorn enough that the driver felt sorry for us, took the time to give us detailed directions and let us on the bus without even checking our tickets. He dropped us back at Wuhletal and we got back on the train. So far, so circular.

This time, we managed to get off at the right stop, find the right bus and, in no time at all, we reached the end of the world Gärten der Welt. It was a tad busier than we had expected.

What the ...?
What the …?

We decided to be clever and go for some coffee and cake in the hope that the queue would have cleared a bit by the time we came back. No such luck. If anything, it was longer. But at least there was a little entertainment to keep us occupied.

Very tall Asian lady
Very tall Asian lady

After queuing for close to an hour and paying the princely sum of €7, we entered the gardens. Relieved at finally being able to walk at a speed greater than 1mm an hour, we scoffed at all of the people who had left one queue just to join another – this time for coffee. We, on the other hand, had far better things to do.

Like this!
Like this!

You might think that I’d feel like a bit of an idiot, climbing onto statues and taking silly photos, but you would be forgetting one very important fact – this is Berlin. You are never the craziest-looking person.

Still, even by Berlin standards, people had really pulled out all the stops. Some were vaguely on theme with an oriental flavour…

Some were just bizarre…

Some were probably at the wrong party…

Because you always need goths...
?

And one was, nope, you’ll never guess…

A Canadian Mountie
A Canadian Mountie

Having recovered from our embarrassment at dressing normally, Han and I set off to explore the gardens. While some of the park is still under development, the parts that are finished are quite beautiful.

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The “Catholic” Gardens, in particular, were rather interesting in their design – and far nicer than actually going to church on a Sunday. (Sorry, mam.)

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DSC00393

Heaven (or sky) in German - see what they did there?
Heaven (or sky) in German – see what they did there?

The day turned out to be much nicer than the forecast had predicted and we happily wandered around, feeling the sun on our faces and enjoying the madness. This being Berlin, there are no silly “Keep off the Grass” rules and, as far as the eye could see, Geishas, fairy-tale characters, goths and possible asylum escapees amicably intermingled.

While I’ve always believed that I could have been a samurai…

Can I have a go of your stick?
Can I have a go of your stick?

this didn’t really feel like the day to find out. Instead, we strolled over to a stage to watch some traditional Asian dancing. In keeping with the fairy-tale theme, I have done a “Queen of Hearts” and chopped off some heads for your viewing pleasure.

Knowing there was probably going to be a scrum for the bus (and with me now sneezing uncontrollably), we decided to leave a little early. I left Han at his station and proceeded to my next train. The drunkest couple in the world sat down beside me. He was tiny and loud; she looked like she’d been hit in the face with a shovel repeatedly (but probably hadn’t felt it). He took a dislike to me for some reason (not shovelled enough?) and I left the train with him shouting insults at my back. Ho hum. Onto the next train.

On the platform, I was approached by another little man. This one turned out to be a rather persistent Algerian who seemed determined to find love on the S-Bahn.

Actual footage
Actual footage

Unfortunately, it was not to be. I leapt out of the still-moving train at my station and headed for home.

And we all lived happily ever after. Probably.

 

Breaking Berlin

Everyone told me Berlin would be a tough nut to crack. In fact, reading some of the expat forums, it’s a miracle anyone moves here at all. But, me being me, I like to take all of these things with a pinch of salt and find out for myself – the hard way. Berlin was my dream and I was going to achieve it or go down fighting. And I won’t lie; the last few months have been rough, far rougher than I’ve let on in this blog. I’ve spent many a sleepless night (and panicky day) wondering if I could afford to make it through the next month.

Homemade Twister - for when times get tough
Homemade Twister – for when money gets really tight

But, lest you think this post is going to be one long whinge-fest, fear not. It seems like things are finally starting to come up Linda. In the last few weeks, I’ve moved into a flat by myself, which is still standing; I’ve been made Senior Editor of Berlin Logs, which is going into print in the next couple of months; I’ve been invited to the first birthday party of Nestpick, simply because they want to “strengthen their relationship with great bloggers”, and I’ve been brandishing my shiny new press pass to get a complimentary ticket to one of the biggest shows in Berlin.

Yeah, right... ;)
Yeah, right… 😉

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention… I GOT A JOB!

This in itself was a bit of an ordeal – two Skype interviews, a face-to-face interview and a “test day”. They said they’d let me know last week. And as I’m practically German now, I took them at their word. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday passed by in a blur of clicking “refresh” to see if THE email had arrived. It was reminiscent of being a teenager waiting for THE boy to call – which he usually didn’t. (Looking back, I dodged a few bullets there.)

Finally, on Friday, in a fug of desperation and knowing they work until 6pm, I sent them an email at 5.55 to see if there was any news. Cue almost breaking my fingers clicking “refresh” – to no avail… until 7.20 when AT LAST the email came through telling me that I had the job. Oh, the sweet blessed relief! The messages, the phone calls, the wine, the celebrations!

The details still have to be figured out and it will probably be at least a month before I start, but I’ll be working for a small start-up company (perfect), doing sales and marketing (perfect), with three men (perfect).

Now, I just need to figure out how to do my German taxes and life really will be perfect. But then, there’s a four-day weekend coming up, complete with a four-day beer festival, so maybe the taxes can wait…

Working on my biceps
BEER

Related Links:

http://www.palast.berlin/en/home/shows/the-wyld/

https://www.nestpick.com/

http://www.berlinlogs.com/

http://www.braufest-berlin.de/en/

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.)