Category Archives: German women

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.)

Gold.

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.

Brrrr.

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.

OPEN! YES!

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.

Woof.

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.

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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…

Why I’ll never be a good German Hausfrau

“Whose turn is it to clean the apartment?”

This is not a real question. If Hildegard or Hildeberta have got to the stage where this question has to be asked, then it’s definitely my turn to clean. Sigh. 

This is where ze Germans and I have very different opinions. I hate housework with the fire of a thousand suns; it bores the pants off me.

20150309_183355[1]
Pants – bored off me. (A German would have ironed both the pants and the sheet before taking that photo.)

Before I moved to Germany, I watched a BBC documentary called “Make me a German”. The show claims that the average German woman does four hours and eleven minutes of housework A DAY. When I’d picked myself up off the (probably not hoovered) floor, my skeptical side kicked in. Surely nobody could spend four hours and eleven minutes a day doing housework. But, now that I live with two German women, I’m starting to realise that it might actually be true. They love it.

If you want to see a German woman really excited, go out drinking, cover your white dress in red wine, and then come back home and look helpless. They’ll spring into action with the same gusto I normally reserve for cake.

Mmm, cake...
Mmm, cake…

And by god, they’ll get those stains out, even if takes four hours and eleven minutes… After all of this excitement, they’ll probably unwind by ironing everything they own or cleaning their shoes. They find this relaxing.

Hildegard: Feel free to borrow the iron any time you like. 

Me: I haven’t ironed anything in around 20 years. I’m a fan of the “take it out of the washing machine quickly and hang it up” method. Then if there are still wrinkles, you just wear the item of clothing until they fall out. The “body heat” approach. 

Hildegard: (Thud)

There are a few other household-related things I’ve done that have resulted in sharp intakes of breath and widened eyes.

Hildeberta: What are you doing? 

Me: Pouring my soup into a bowl.

Hildeberta: Huh, I’ve never seen anyone pour soup directly from a saucepan before.

Me: Really? What do you do? 

Hildeberta: Use a ladle. (She didn’t say “like a normal person” but I guess she was thinking it.)

Me: Huh.

Unnecessary washing-up
Unnecessary washing-up

On another occasion:

Hildeberta: What are you doing?

Me: Filling the kettle.

Hildeberta: Through the spout?

Me: Yeah, I find that opening and closing the lid adds valuable seconds to the process and I’m all about efficiency in the home.

Hildeberta: Huh. 

Don’t get me wrong – it’s not like I’m trying to be lazy or a bad flatmate; I just genuinely don’t see stuff. To me, the flat simply never really looks like it’s in need of cleaning. It’s the cleanest place I’ve ever lived. My mother always said that there could be an elephant sitting in the middle of the living room, and I wouldn’t notice it. I think she’s right. Incidentally, Hildeberta just popped her head into my room.

Hildeberta: Hey, where’s the other chair? 

Me: What chair?

Hildeberta: Didn’t you have two?

Me: Oh, I think you’re right. Hmm, I wonder where the other one went…

Then I remembered that my landlady had come around several months ago to pick up some of her stuff. She must have taken it. Yes, you read that correctly – several months, and I still hadn’t noticed that the chair was gone. I probably never would have.

Now there’s talk of putting together a housework rota. Clearly, this is the last thing on earth I want. Anyway, I probably won’t notice the rota any more than I notice the dirt.

The cupboard of boredom and doom.
The cupboard of boredom and doom.

On a positive note, however, I have a new fan. Hildeberta’s dad is the latest German to enjoy reading the blog. This is good news for me. Now, not only does Hildeberta have to listen to all of my stupid adventures first-hand, she also has to read about them, and then hear all about them again from her dad. He likes to recount my blog posts to her whenever he calls – charming man. I’m hoping that this means that she just won’t have time to put together a rota.

Thank you, Herr Hildeberta. You might just have saved my Speck…

 

You can find the highly entertaining BBC documentary here: