Category Archives: Humor

Linda and the Uwes

With work dwindling and an ever-sketchier internet connection, I’ve had to resort to new ways of keeping myself entertained. None of these, obviously, involve cleaning my flat – or learning to bake or crochet.

My initial attempts to be at my laptop by 10 a.m. every morning have largely fallen by the wayside – mainly because there’s no need for me to be at my laptop by 10 a.m. every morning. Being up at 10 just leaves me with around 10 hours to fill until I can start drinking wine with a relatively clear conscience. Showering and getting dressed can kill half an hour but, some days, that’s also a bit effortful and napping is still, and always will be, a viable alternative.

So, a couple of days ago, I was at my desk, ostensibly working on something but really marvelling out the window at the German kids in my building careening around the courtyard on their various wheeled German devices. Suddenly, I noticed a movement out of the corner of my eye. Since the only moving thing inside my flat at the moment should be me, this attracted my full attention. A spider. Urgh.

However, while I’m not the greatest fan of spiders, I decided that this one could stay a while and keep me company.

Me: I shall name you Uwe.

Uwe: …

Me: No, Uwe, the walls and corners are your territory. The ceilings and floors are off limits. I do not want to find you crawling up my leg or dropping onto my hair from a height.

Uwe: … (proceeds to abseil down the wall and onto the floor)

Me: Uwe! Jesus! What did I just say?

Uwe: … (probably grinning in a spidery kind of way)

Deciding Uwe must be a bit hard of hearing, I proceeded to carry on with whatever I was doing with my legs tucked under me, always keeping a careful eye on Uwe’s whereabouts under the desk. Up my little filing cabinet, back down again, up the side of the printer, back down again. A brave but unwise attempt to teeter towards my office chair. Me banging on the floor with a shoe to try to persuade him back in the opposite direction. Off he went – up the side of the printer again and this time into the paper feed.

Me: Uwe! NEIN! I need to use that later and I do not need you getting mashed in the inner workings of my printer right now!

Uwe: …

As pets go, house spiders are really not the best company.

Why You No Love Me?: 6X9 Funny Spider Journal: Amazon.de: Songbird ...
Image taken from amazon.de

Anyway, he eventually toddled off behind the curtains and that was the last I saw of him for a while. Later, I needed to use the loo so I went upstairs to the bathroom. Huh, what was that small dark shape on the ceiling of my shower? Uwe? Is that you?

Upon closer (but not too close) inspection, I decided it wasn’t Uwe – this spider was a bit smaller with shorter legs.

Me: Hey! Uwe Junior! How’s it hanging?

Uwe Jr.: …

Me: I see you are a spider of few words, just like your father.

Uwe Jr.: …

Me: Right, I’ll leave you be. You’re fine up there for the moment but I want you out of that shower by the morning… erm, OK, mid- to late-afternoon. Got it??

Uwe Jr.: …

Me: Good.

I went back downstairs where Uwe Senior kept me entertained for the rest of the night by playing peekaboo from behind my bookshelves.

The next day (I’d like to say it was morning but that would be a downright lie), it was shower time. Uwe Jr. had clearly broken his end of the deal. There he was, nestled up in the corner above my shower.

Me: Last chance, Uwe Jr. I’m turning on the shower.

Uwe Jr.: …

Maybe he was asleep. If he stayed where he was, I could be in and out before he woke up. I got undressed and turned on the water.

Uwe Jr.: ARRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

He proceeded to wobble unsteadily across the ceiling to directly over where my head would be.

Me: NEIN, Uwe Jr.! That’s exactly where I DON’T want you to be! Get back in your corner!

Uwe Jr., however, didn’t pay me any heed and continued his precarious acrobatic show. I decided that, in the face of this show of blatant disrespect, my best course of action would be to launch a bottle of conditioner in his general direction. Just close enough to startle him back into his corner or, at least, to somewhere I could reach him and get him out of there. My first throw missed by a mile. Verdammt. Still, it’s kind of awkward to shot-put a bottle of conditioner while hanging naked and dripping, half-in and half-out of a shower. I forgave myself for the terrible girlie throw and tried again.

Again, nothing for Uwe Jr. to be remotely concerned about. However, the bottle was now descending at speed towards my face. I yanked my head out of there, hitting my temple off the metal frame with a resounding thud. It would actually have hurt less if the bottle had hit me in the face rather than my face hitting the shower.

Me: Ow, ow, owwww! God damn it, Uwe Jr.! I’ve had it! I’m coming in!

Uwe Jr. appeared unperturbed, so I stepped cautiously into the shower and proceeded to wash myself with one eye constantly on the ceiling. Let me tell you, washing your lower legs and feet with your face pointing upwards is better than any yoga class. Just as I was ready to get out, Uwe Jr. made his way to the top of the glass door, waving at me from up there with one spindly leg. Again, the last place I wanted him to be. I swear he was doing this on purpose. I slowly slid the door open but not before I registered a little dark shape falling towards the floor. God damn it, where was he now?

Me: Uwe Jr., I know you’re down there – show yourself.

Uwe Jr.: …

So, I waited, dripping, until he revealed himself. Ah ha! There you are, you little bugger! I gingerly stepped over him and onto the mat. Uwe Jr. made a beeline towards my wet feet but some quick-witted naked tap dancing on my part scared him under the curtain.

It’s hard to say who the winner here is. We both got some exercise but probably both ended up mildly concussed. Where the Uwes are now beats me – I haven’t seen either of them since. Perhaps Uwe Jr. shared his horror story of a naked jiggling woman and they’ve decided to keep a low profile for now.

Me: Is that what you’re doing, Uwes??

Uwes: …

Hi-diddle-dee-dee, a hermit’s life for me

As Corona and the madness that goes with it spreads, I have decided to take myself out of circulation for a couple of weeks. This is for two excellent reasons:

  1. I do not want to get the Corona virus.
  2. I do not want to have to fight with crazy people over toilet paper. (I wonder how long these people will be sitting in their toilet paper fortresses before they realise they’ve forgotten to buy food and water…)
Happiness is…

However, it turns out that the hermit’s life actually suits me down to the ground so, in case anyone else is struggling with their period of isolation (whether self-imposed or not), I thought I would share some of my positive experiences.

  • Aside from the obvious benefits of not having to brush my hair or wear any make-up (as evidenced in the photo), choosing what to wear for the day has now been boiled down to two options – do I stay in my pajamas or do I put on my tracksuit? In fact, when all of this blows over, I’m not sure I’ll be able to readjust to wearing shoes again.
Happy feet
  • This is probably more one for the ladies (but who’s to judge) – it’s time to let the girls out! Yes, if you’re only wearing a pajama or tracksuit top, putting on a bra seems kind of pointless so feel free to let your boobies breathe.
  • Showering is optional – as is the need to pluck or shave anything. When you’re home alone with nobody else to smell you or cut their hands on your leg hair, you can let your hygiene standards droop as low as your titties. For online meetings and appointments, you only really have to make half an effort – Profi on the top, party on the bottom.
  • Thanks to Corona, or Covid-19 to give it its gangsta name, I’m learning new vocabulary, both in German and English. Hamsterkäufe is used to describe panic buying in German and hamstern is also a verb, meaning to hoard. (Don’t you just love this language?) And, thanks to the beautiful Trevor Noah for coining “pandumbic”. Unfortunately, I fear that the pandumbic will continue long after the pandemic has shuffled off its mortal coil.
  • Speaking of the fight against stupidity, if you only have yourself to talk to, you might find that your conversations have actually got more scintillating than when you interacted with the wider world. “What’s that, me?” “Ha ha ha, God, I’m hilarious…”
  • Consider joining an online gym. There’s nothing like a German shouting at you to “GIB GAS!!!” to increase your motivation levels. I’ve been working out every day (for at least 2 days now) – in the dark, obviously, so my neighbours can’t see me huffing around my living room, red-faced and sweaty, with boobs a-flopping. (This is the one time the no-bra thing isn’t a great idea.)  The idea is that I will emerge like a beautiful butterfly in a few weeks time – after I’ve showered, plucked and shaved, of course. The other advantage is that my exercise mat makes a rather pleasing farty noise when my back hits it at just the right angle and speed. Who says exercise can’t be fun?
  • And finally, think of all the money and time you’re saving. No lengthy commutes, no going to bars or clubs, no going anywhere really. Instead of sitting in a noisy, overcrowded pub, shouting at your friends over overpriced drinks, you can get quietly smashed in the comfort of your own home for a fraction of the price. In fact, it might even be recommended as who knows if Covid-19 can survive in a person who’s more alcohol than human? Might be worth an experiment.

Anyway, those are my thoughts for now. How are you coping? Personally, I’m off to sit on my sofa with a glass of wine, waiting for the day when Corona is just a crap beer again. I raise a virtual glass to you all and hope that you stay happy and healthy.

And please, don’t beat anyone up over toilet roll. Beat them with toilet roll – the world will be like one big Corona pillow fight. Wonderful.

 

 

 

 

 

See gulls?

After five years of living in Berlin, it seems I have finally found a pleasing pocket of this sprawling metropolis that suits me down to the ground. Yes, I recently moved to the lovely, leafy suburb of Pankow – and I only had to go via Wedding, Charlottenburg, Friedrichshain, Neukölln, Wedding (again), Lankwitz and  Friedrichshain (again) to find it. Well, nobody ever said life in Berlin would be easy.

The great thing about Pankow is that it’s (shock horror) a couple of stops outside the Ring train line, which means that it’s largely free from hipsters, wankers, hipster-wankers, men who wear trousers that show their ankles, drunks, drug dealers, drug users, pickpockets, people on trains who reek so much you can smell them on your hair and clothes for hours afterwards, foreigners who expect everyone to speak English, and people who walk around with poo running down the backs of their legs. Yes, Berlin is a wonderfully diverse city like that.

OK, I’m back. The Berlin Tourist Board just called to offer me a job…

Anyhooooooo, anyone who knows me knows that I have long lamented the local habit of people dumping their useless crap on the street. However, in Pankow, even this is rather civilised. People actually put out useful stuff like kids’ clothes and toys, books, and household objects that… wait for it… still work. And woe betide anyone who goes rogue.

Asocial, uncultured people left me here. This is Pankow, not Kreuzberg. Wake up. (I might fall in love with whoever wrote this if I ever find them.)

And so it was, last Saturday, I was on my way back from the speed-packing odyssey that is LIDL when I saw a little treasure trove outside my very own apartment building. It could be that I’m getting old, or perhaps even odder, but I was overjoyed to see that someone had put out mugs. Yes, MUGS!

The sign says that you can drop a small donation to the Berlin Animal Shelter into their mailbox. CIVILISED.

Now, you might be thinking it’s a bit strange for someone to get so excited over something so mundane but bear with me. You see, I’d bought these stupid cups in Kaufland when I moved in, with kind of fancy handles. Little did I know that I wouldn’t even be able to fit all of my midget fingers in there and that gripping the handle in a certain way would cause calluses on my ring fingers.

(I have also just realised that it’s rather difficult to take a photo of a finger on your right hand when you’re right-handed. And that my knuckles might be a tad overweight.)

So, I grabbed the two biggest mugs (with gently rounded handles) I could see and strolled back to my apartment, pleased with my haul. I sent a message to my building’s WhatsApp group thanking the “mysterious neighbour” who’d left out the brilliant cups and got a nice message back. All was well in the world of Pankow (or Pandow, as I now think of it).

“Be bambootiful” 🙂

A couple of days later, I was scratching my healing calluses (because I’m a very sexy person) when a personal WhatsApp message popped up on my phone.

“Hi Linda, this is Sigrid from the front building. You recently took the cups that my husband left out. Was there a white cup with a “Möwe” on it?”

Shit, shit, shit! Had I done something wrong? Weren’t the cups put out for people to take after all? Had I accidentally stolen from my lovely new neighbours? Was I being a weird foreigner in the land of German unwritten rules? And what the hell was a “Möwe”? It didn’t sound anything like “panda” but this is German so who knows!? ARGH! Panic, panic, panic!

I willed my wizened fingers to function and entered “Möwe” into Linguee. “Seagull”. Huh. OK. Couldn’t really get much further from a panda. Relief flooded over me. Then I remembered the other mug. I was pretty sure it was just plain gold but I pulled it out of the cupboard in trepidation to make sure there wasn’t a seagull I’d missed anywhere. Nope, no seagull. Thank God.

I messaged back to say that I hadn’t seen any mug with a seagull on it and Sigrid replied to say that maybe her daughter had hidden it somewhere. Laughing smileys were exchanged and we went our separate virtual ways, with me safe in the knowledge that I could go on living in my apartment without being known as the “sticky-(callused-)fingered Irish girl”. Phew.

Still, I like a story with a happy ending so I messaged her yesterday to see if she’d ever found the mysterious seagull cup. Turns out it’s nowhere to be found. Either her daughter is a really good hider or someone else on the street has a penchant for cups with seagulls on them. Who knows? Will we ever know?

And people say life in Pankow is dull…

(It is. It really is. Please don’t move here. Especially if you’re a hipster, wanker, hipster-wanker…)

 

 

 

Send me your stories!

After four and a half years here in Germany, I think (hope) I’ve tripped over pretty much every obstacle this crazy, wonderful, bureaucracy-loving land has put in my way. Each time, I picked myself up again, albeit with a muddy face and grazed knees, had a chuckle about the absurdity of it all, and carried on – writing a blog post or two (actually 154 of them) along the way.

Still, I thought, surely there’s a more bump-free way to integrate into German life? (I’m getting contemplative in my old age, you see.) It was around this time that a German colleague approached me with the idea of working on a German-English book together. We toyed with the idea of writing a dual-language storybook but I’m crap at fiction; I find real life is generally much funnier.

So I started thinking about what I would have appreciated when I first moved here, with around four words of the language and a naively optimistic attitude to becoming German. The answer was – a “German in my pocket” – someone who could answer my questions, tell me the right way to say something, and basically just guide me through everything from scaling the wall of bureau-crazy to figuring out which pizza toppings I was ordering. Short of shrinking Germans so people can carry them around with them everywhere, the next best solution seemed to be a book. 

So, we’ve written one!

At the moment, we’re adding the finishing touches, making sure everything is “in Ordnung” legally and financially (in case it actually sells) and then it will be formatting time. We’re hoping to publish at the end of this month – I’m working with a German so this will most likely happen. We’ve got 20 chapters, chock-full of useful information, FAQs, useful vocabulary and (hopefully) some entertaining reading.

Now, obviously I’m hi-larious but I thought a nice way to round out the book would be to add some funny anecdotes from other expats here – you know, to show that we all go through the same stuff and (for the most part) survive. And that’s where you come in.

Anything from the red tape madness to everyday adventures; if it’s funny, I’ll find a way to make it fit. All I need is a paragraph or two and the name you’d like to be credited under – this is your big chance to finally be Tallulah rather than Nora or Doris if that’s what your heart desires.

So please, have a think, take a little time to write a few words, and put them in the comments below. If you’re shy, you can send it to me at linda_ogrady@hotmail.com – although surely Germany has knocked any shyness out of you by now.

Making me happy should probably be reward enough but, if your story is included, there might be a few giveaways…

(Note: This is all me and totally unapproved by the German partner so don’t take any giveaways as a given.) 

Thanks in advance!

Linda.

 

Toilet training

If there’s one thing the Germans seem to love, it’s explaining the obvious. Yep, you might think that your folks did a pretty good job toilet training you all those years ago and that you’ve been using toilets successfully ever since, but that is clearly not good enough for our German friends. Oh sure, they try to educate in “humorous” ways, but really, anyone who puts this amount of thought into the correct usage of toilet facilities is not messing around.

So, hold in that pee until the end of this blog post and you will be rewarded in toilet heaven…

Say NEIN to poo!

The sign says “All colleagues who don’t have their workplace here in the office, please pay attention to the following instructions from the Board!” The exclamation mark makes it fun…

There is then an entire laminated A4 page of instructions, which, if you actually took the time to read, you’d probably wet yourself. Two things spring to mind: firstly, did the people who do have their workplace in the office get some sort of special training which makes them exempt from reading the instructions? And secondly, did the Board members really take time out of their day to come up with a list of instructions, type them up and then laminate them? If so, that is some classic German efficiency right there.

You might think it goes without saying but never, EVER, pee out of your shoulder while holding your arms out wide. The Germans will not think you’re big or clever and there’s a fair chance you’ll end up peeing on your own hand – serves you right. Instead, perch on the edge of the toilet seat, hold an imaginary book, point your toes towards the ceiling and let rip. At least I think that’s what it means.

It’s no secret that the Germans like a good agenda – so much so, that they’ve even come up with a 5-point agenda for washing your hands. No, you filthy creature, you will not be spreading your dirty viruses on German soil. You will follow the agenda! Put your hands under running water (as opposed to unrunning water?), soap ’em up good and proper for 20 to 30 seconds, also between your fingers, rinse thoroughly and dry your hands with a paper towel. Got it? No? OK, here’s a more simplified version with no words and bigger pictures.

And just in case you’re still a bit confused:

Finally, one thing you’ve probably been using incorrectly all your life, is your toilet brush. Not to worry, the Germans are here to save the day.

No, you silly billy – don’t use it to brush your hair! Ganz falsch!

Toilet paper is used to wipe your Arsch, not a toilet brush! But you’re getting closer…

Ah, there you go! Yes, toilet brush for use on a toilet. Oof, the relief of finally figuring that out. I’d been wondering why my hair always smelled a bit funny.

Thank you, Germany. I’d never have got there without you. And now, dear reader, go forth and pee with Germanic abandon. But remember, not out of your shoulder.

Falling short

In contemplating the 473,937,493 “easy” steps it would take for me to become a real German, I never imagined that I might need actual steps to complete the journey. Or, at the very least, a stepladder. Yep, it turns out that I may just be too damn short to be a proper German.

Ever helpful, Germany has been throwing some not-so-subtle hints my way for a while now.

1. I can’t reach around two thirds of my flat.

I’m sure that smug German egg cup is laughing at me…
So close…

German apartments were clearly not designed for leggily-challenged Irish women. Everything in the kitchen and the bathroom has to reside on the bottom shelves as they’re the only ones I can reach without having to stand on a chair. What lurks on the lofty top shelves will remain a mystery, but the good news is that I only have to clean what I can see. I just have to remember never to invite anyone over who’s taller than me – which could rather limit my social circle here in the land of the German giants.

2. German mirrors mock me. 

Does this make my head look big?

See that dark speck at the bottom of the mirror? No? Look a bit closer… Got it? That’s me. Or at least the only bit of me I can see in the mirrors in many cafés, bars and restaurants. I have to make sure that I look semi-decent before leaving home because that’s probably the last glimpse of myself I’ll catch all night.

Standing on tiptoes might reveal the top half of my fringe; jumping up and down creates a weird gurning expression that isn’t really conducive to checking if my make-up is OK. It also attracts some rather odd looks from the other women in the bathroom who aren’t Lilliputian and will never understand my short-world problems.

3. Limited limbs

German clothes, it appears, were designed for German people. Go figure. That’s a photo of the sleeve of an XXS jumper. My hand is actually in there – it’s just somewhere around the elbow mark. German trousers make me footless, German jumpers leave me handless and kneeless. The upside is that even if I fail to make it to the gym for a week, I still look tiny thanks to the swathes of German fabric floating around me.

This is all quite compelling evidence but the real kicker came a few days ago. I found myself in the strange and wholly unusual position of actually wanting to cook something. As the only things that are an absolute must in my kitchen are tea, milk and sugar, this would require a trip to the supermarket. I sauntered around picking up what I needed and eventually happened upon the frozen foods section. As everyone who is kitchen-skills-impaired will know, it’s always good to have a back-up pizza in the freezer so I decided to add one to my basket.

Unfortunately for me, freezers in German supermarkets are German-sized and stocked by German-sized Germans. And naturally, the one I wanted was right in the back, packed in tight. I slid across the glass top and leaned in. Nope. Not quite there. I leaned some more. My hand brushed off the edge of the box. Almost…

I hoisted myself onto the edge of the freezer and stretched. Both feet dangling above the floor, I gripped cardboard but couldn’t dislodge the damn thing. Grunting with effort at this stage and vaguely aware of someone standing behind me, I elegantly dismounted and turned around with a “nothing to see here” expression on my face. A slightly bemused-looking (TALL) German man was standing there.

Can I help you? 

I answered his chest:

Who? Me? Oh, I’m fine but if you insist… (nonchalant shrug)

He reached into the freezer, smoothly freed my desired pizza and handed it to me.

Erm, thanks. That was a bit embarrassing. 

No, no! Not at all! It really was packed in there! 

Bloody Germans are so nice. And frickin’ tall.

There, there… don’t fret – you were totally worth it. Mmmm, delicious pizza…

In conclusion, it seems the one step that might stump me, is the fact that I’m stumpy.

Hmm, kind of rhymes…

OK, here goes:

There was a young girl who was stumpy,

Her road to being German was bumpy,

But with a “der,” “die” and “das,”

Her short Irish ass,

Was determined she wouldn’t be grumpy. 

You. Are. Welcome.

How to derail a German fitness class

Now that temperatures have dropped to around zero in Berlin, I foresee a lot more sitting happening in the months to come. With my arse already big enough, I decided it would be a good idea to join a gym. As luck would have it, FitX have just opened a new fitness studio fifteen minutes from where I live. At €20 a month, with a free backpack, towel and snazzy drinks bottle thrown in, the decision to join practically made itself.

Free stuff! Yay!

This was a couple of months ago and, believe it or not, I have actually been going – two or three times a week, no less. (Oh please, no need for applause – you’ll make me blush…) While I am, obviously, your perfectly normal gym-goer, other people’s behaviour has me slightly confused.

  1. Why do (mainly) women go to the gym to hog a machine and then spend their time doing nothing but looking at their mobile phones?
  2. Why do (mainly) women friends go to the gym to hog two or more machines and then sit there chatting to each other like they’re in a coffee shop?
  3. Why do men sound like a rhinoceros having an orgasm when they lift weights or do a few sit-ups?
  4. Why would any woman show up for a work-out in a skirt and ankle boots?

The mind boggles.

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago, I thought I’d try one of the classes FitX offers, figuring it would be good for both my German and my gelatinous bits. Zwei Fliegen mit einer Klappe schlagen, as it were. Naturally, I didn’t want to overdo it – this would be my first exercise class since leaving Latvia – so I chose X-Life which, judging by the video, seemed to be largely aimed at pensioners. Perfect.

I walked into the studio, where around six or seven mainly older, matronly types were warming up. Thanks to my astute observational skills, I noticed that they all had resistance bands (I had to google what they’re called in English) and stick thingies (enough googling – you know what I mean) beside them. I sauntered nonchalantly over to the equipment area and picked up one of each. Clearly, I had this fitness thing down.

I did notice that the other ladies’ sticks had knobby bits on the ends and mine didn’t, but the woman next to me had the same one I did, so I figured it would be fine. The trainer arrived; she had a butt you could bounce coins off so I supposed I was in safe hands.

We ambled our way through the warm-up exercises, puffed our way through some resistance band training and swung our sticks around with gay abandon. (Most people don’t know this but I was a majorette in my youth so I have plenty of experience’ swinging a stick around – I even did it in the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade once. Unfortunately, I dropped it due to nerves and, to this day, can still hear the hooting cries of “yeh dropped yer baton, missus!”  ringing in my ears.)

Image result for st patricks day majorette
That’s me on the right. Not really. (Image taken from The Doyle Collection.)

Back in the present day, I found myself in a pair-work exercise with the rather substantial lady next to me. We’d crossed our resistance bands and were stretching them as best we could. My partner seemed to have more upper-body strength than I did, however, and almost rendered me airborne several times.

Ahh, exercise over. Back to the safety of solo stick exercises. Up on the stage, the trainer held her stick out in front of her, holding it at both ends, and proceeded to bend it into an U shape. I watched as the septuagenarians in front of me followed suit and tried to do the same. Huh, my stick wouldn’t bend. I glanced over at my fiendishly strong partner and she seemed to be having the same problem I was. Much grunting and grimacing ensued but the damned things wouldn’t give an inch.

We must have been making a bit of a ruckus as the trainer suddenly noticed us, red-faced and sweating, down the back of the room. She looked slightly incredulous for a second then burst out laughing into her microphone.

“Oh my God! Ha ha ha! It won’t work with those ones! Oh God! Ha ha ha! You must have been wondering how everyone else was so much stronger than you were! Ha ha ha!!” She was almost doubled over at this stage.

That was when I realised that my hapless partner and I were trying to bend the metal sticks you put weights on while everyone else had flexible sticks made of foam – with the telltale knobby bits on the ends. There was nothing else to do but join the trainer in her convulsions of laughter.

“I’m Uri Geller!” I sang out as I ran over to pick up the correct sticks for me and my partner. We did our best to continue with the rest of the class but every time we caught each other’s eye or the trainer looked at us, it was game over and all three of us dissolved into fits of uncontrollable giggles.

So, what started out as a butt-improvement exercise ended up with me being the butt of the joke.

You really can’t take me anywhere.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Secret Life of Binz (3)

The next morning, I was sitting on the loo, doing my business and minding my own business, when I noticed something rather odd – there was a bench right outside the bathroom window. I sat there, snickering to myself, imagining some garden party guests suddenly showing up and getting an unexpected eyeful. Thankfully, it was a Monday and not exactly garden party season so I figured I’d be safe enough.

Then the garden party showed up. Eight or ten jovial Germans stopped right outside the window, with two men so close they were practically touching the glass. Dear God, please don’t turn around, please don’t turn around. They turned to face each other so now I could see their profiles. Another inch or two and they’d be looking directly at me. I did what any normal person would do in this situation – I stopped praying, snatched up the toilet roll and scuttled, crab-like, over into the corner, where I hoped I could wipe without being watched. I wasn’t quite ready to perform “LO’G Drops a Log” in front of an audience…

View from inside
View from outside

Safely back in the kitchen, I had a nerve-calming cup of tea, waited for the party to move on, showered faster than I ever had in my life, and walked into town. After a “not strictly breakfast” breakfast, I made my way to Pauli’s Radshop to rent a bike. Poor Pauli.

Pauli trying to make a run for it.

After several abortive attempts on a bike with back-pedal coaster brakes…

“Pedal forward! Pedal forward!”

“I’m trying! I’m trying!” (Thump)

…Pauli and I decided that this option was definitely not for me. He found a bike with normal brakes, made it “Linda-sized” and I wobbled around the yard on it a few times. Success.

Next up came the issue of me not being German, therefore, not having everything neatly packed in a bicycle-friendly backpack. Nope, I had a whopping great handbag with me. But not to worry; Pauli was a total pro and had attached a basket to the back of the bike before I could say “rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz” (which has absolutely nothing to do with riding a bike – I just thought I’d scare you with a terrifyingly long German word).

After paying my €8 and signing a contract (Germany), I sailed off confidently down the street. Ah, this was great. So much more relaxing and civilised than Berlin – lovely cycle lanes, hardly anyone else on wheels – perfect.

Unfortunately, I was so busy trying to blow falling leaves out of my eyes, I went wrong somewhere and ended up on a main road. Not to worry – the Binzians are sweet, patient folk, I thought. They’ll understand.

Opa thundered by shortly afterwards in his black cab, roaring at me that there was a cycle lane, beeping, and making rather a rude gesture out the window. Sweet old man. Ah yes, what I’d thought was a pavement on the opposite side of the road was actually dual function. I dismounted, wheeled the bike over the road through a couple of ditches and carried on.

Finally, I reached my destination – Prora.

Anyone fancy a dance?

Prora is quite the fascinating place. It was built by the Nazis as a beach resort between 1936 and 1939 – sort of a Nazi Butlins, if you will. The original structure was massive – stretching 4.5 km along the beach front – and was meant to hold up to 20,000 holiday-makers as part of the “Strength through Joy” programme (Kraft durch Freude (KdF)). The idea was that every worker deserved a beach holiday – they’d come here, relax and recuperate, then work harder than ever when their holiday was over.

There’s a documentation centre you can visit where they show a very interesting video on the history of the place, on loop all day, with English subtitles. For obvious reasons, construction was never completed, and since 1945, it’s been used as a Soviet military base, an East German Army restricted military area, a Bundeswehr military technical school, and a refugee centre. Plans to sell the whole structure for development failed so now it’s being sold off to investors bit by bit.

 

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This being Germany, cafés are obviously a priority and so I found myself here.

The Horn family strike again.

After a relaxing cake break, it was time to hop on the bike again and back into town. If Pauli was relieved to see that me and the bike were still in one piece, he didn’t show it. I parked up and walked next door to his brother’s fish shop where they sell Glühwein for €1.50 a cup. I also got to sit in my first ever Strandkorb, which I think makes me officially a German. 

Happiness is…

It seemed that, for once, I was ahead of the German schedule. Four or five couples arrived shortly after me and all asked for Glühwein but it seemed I’d got the last of it – take that, Germans, haha!

After a rather brilliant night out with a fun Italian, two South Africans, and quite possibly the most boring Englishman ever to have lived, I woke up to my last morning in Binz. After a furtive visit to the bathroom, I packed up and braved the gale-force winds and torrential rain to go and get some pastries from the closest bakery.

The Horn family really have baking sewn up in these parts.

After a deliciously gooey Schokobrötchen and cup of tea, sadly it was time to leave. My new German mum and dad dropped me to the station to catch the Flixbus. But, of course, it wouldn’t be Binz if there wasn’t one last bit of kink to see me on my way.

Mr. Karsten Breast – you couldn’t make this stuff up.

Oh, Binz, you weird and wonderful place, I’ll miss you.

 

The Secret Life of Binz (2)

The next morning, I woke up full of the joys after the best night’s sleep I’d had in ages. I dawdled around my lovely flat and eventually made my way into town. It was a beautiful, sunny, autumn day and I had to stop myself from singing out loud with happiness at how pretty Binz was in the sunshine.

La la la la la, I am so happy!

I made a beeline for a café I’d noticed the day before, in hopes of a nice hearty breakfast.

Me: Hi, can I still order breakfast? 

Ute: (looking rather horrified) No, it is too late. 

Me: Huh. 

To me, wanting breakfast at 12.30 on a Sunday isn’t unreasonable but then I’m not German. As I looked around the place, I realised that the Germans (who’d probably been up since 5 a.m. and hiked or biked 50 km already) were already on rounds of Aperol Spritz and beer. I had some catching up to do.

Me: OK, I’ll have a Toast Hawaii and a cup of tea. What time does breakfast finish then? 

Ute: 11.

Me: Oh. 

I knew then that I would never eat breakfast in this town.

When my sandwich arrived, I’ll confess to doing a double-take. I looked at Ute for some sign of humour or even the vaguest twinkle in her eye but there was nothing. I stared at what was on my plate.

Wouldn’t you?

It was, quite unmistakably (to me at least), a titty toasty. Was there more to this idyllic little town than met the eye? Or perhaps Oma was moonlighting here and had brought a touch of her kink to the Küche? Maybe everyone in Binz had a little kink in them? This might turn out to be the best trip ever, in that case. It was also rather a good sandwich, once I got over the pine-nipple thing.

I had decided that today would be a day of walking so I headed for the promenade and the beach, looking forward to taking some cheerier photos that would do the place justice.

I walked along the edge of the water until I came to this rather interesting structure.

According to my extensive (ahem) research, it’s called the Müther-Turm, an old rescue tower (is that the correct English term?) which is now used as an observation tower. Seemingly you can even get married in there. I guess it’s only for quite unpopular couples though as you could only fit a handful of people inside. I still can’t decide if I like it or not. Eye-sore or eye-candy? You decide…

I strolled back along the promenade, admiring the rather spectaculous autumn colours…

Oooh…

…making new friends…

Yeah right, Binz. You’re not fooling anyone with your wholesome woodwork…

…and having a right old chortle at what is definitely one of the most German signs I’ve ever seen.

It’s important to keep your dogs and your dangly bits separate.

I meandered my way back towards the lake along the “Art Mile” where I was (unsurprisingly) accosted by more titties.

Flying titties!

After all of the excitement of the afternoon so far, I decided I was definitely ready for a glass of wine before continuing on my journey of discovery.

This looked like a likely spot.

Unfortunately, I’d missed the German boat yet again. Now that I was ready for an alcoholic beverage, all of the Germans had moved onto Kaffee und Kuchen. Sigh. Can’t keep up with these people.

And you’ll never guess who owned the place…

More horn.

After relaxing in the sunshine with my book for a little while, I set off again. The lake was also rather gorgeous – like everything else in Binz.

As it was still such a beautiful day, I thought I’d keep going and walk through the woods for a while. Yes, you may call me “Linda Nature von Grady” from now on.

I walked and walked and before I knew it, I was outside the sand sculpture exhibition which I’d been planning to visit the following day. Oh well, as I was there, I decided I may as well go in.

I wondered if this was part of it. I call it “Butts in Sand”.

I paid the rather exorbitant €8.50 entrance fee and in I went. The theme this year is “A Journey through the Whole Wide World” and it delivered – even if it was a rather quick journey. I was done in 15 minutes so I went back around a second time to get my money’s worth. While the sculptures were very impressive, I didn’t really feel it was worth €8.50.

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On the way out, you could buy a wooden horse’s head for around €10,000 but I figured I could probably buy a real horse’s head for that – if I was so inclined – and kept going.

Neeeeeeeeeeee.

I headed back into town just in time to catch sunset over the beach…

…and then it was time for food again. As I was eating my dinner, I had the strangest feeling of someone looking over my shoulder but it was OK – it was just a massive arse.

After all of my exertions, I thought an early night was probably in order but, as it was only around 8 o’clock, I thought I’d make a stop at the Rasender Roland restaurant to break the journey home.

Old Roland was just pulling in to his resting place for the night so luckily, the restaurant was still open.

Raging!

I’d just about finished my first glass of wine and was debating another when my bill was placed in front of me. Huh. Seemingly they were shutting up shop for the night. It was 9.20, after all. Still, from what I’d seen so far in Binz, these two homely-looking ladies were trying to kid the wrong woman. I had visions of them breaking into Roland and taking him on a joyride to the secret Binz Swingers Convention. And I’d lay bets that Oma and Opa are the ringleaders.

 

Part three to follow…

The Secret Life of Binz (1)

Every now and then, I like to get away by myself for a few days.

Mammy O’Grady: Well, you always were a bit odd.

Me: Indeed. 

As I’d never been to the German side of the Baltic Sea, I decided that now was as good a time as any to check it out. I settled on Binz on the island of Rügen, picturing myself skipping along the beach in the autumn sunshine, the sea breeze in my hair, or holed up in my flat reading a book while rain lashed against the windows. Either way, I’d be happy.

After a relaxing four-hour journey, the Flixbus rolled into town just after midday. I still had three hours until I could check into my apartment (Germans are usually rather strict about this sort of thing so I didn’t imagine I could rock up early) so I grabbed my suitcase and set off in the drizzle to find somewhere to eat.

After a few minutes, I came across Oma’s Küche; perfect for a wet and windy afternoon.

Quaint and wholesome.

The waitress told me I could leave my soggy case inside the door and seated me at a cosy table in the corner.

I took this as a sign and ordered a glass of white wine and the potato soup (which naturally came with chunks of sausage). I picked up Oma’s newspaper/menu and started to read. I learned that the place was named for the owner’s granny, a kindly old soul who, even in the middle of the night, would get up to cook something hearty for her beloved grandchildren. Opa started a limousine service with a small fleet of London black cabs and they were in business.

I turned the page to see that children are banned after 5 p.m; it seemed that while Oma would do anything for her own grandkids, she wasn’t so tolerant of other people’s. It came as a bit of a surprise that the menu was peppered with smutty jokes. I mean, children read this – before 5 p.m. obviously. I finished up, paid and went to use the facilities, where I made a new acquaintance.

50 shades of brown??

On my way out, I noticed a sign that I’d missed on the way in.

Men: No shoes, no shirt, no service. 

Women: No shirt, free drinks. 

Did this place turn into Oma and Opa’s S&M Dungeon after 5 or something? I decided I wouldn’t come back to find out.

I still had a good hour and a half before I could check in, so I thought I’d have a stroll along the main street up to the pier. Despite the gloomy day, I immediately fell in love with Binz. It seemed that every sensibly-clad German in the country had made their way here and they were now happily striding around, rosy-cheeked and colourfully all-weather prepared. The buildings were absolutely gorgeous and the streets were spotless – not even a stray cigarette butt or a hint of graffiti – a far cry from the grime of Berlin.

 

I stood on the pier, the wind making my hair stand on end, and mused that if I hired a little boat, I could sail to Latvia from here in around 10 years. Or die a horrible death at sea. I decided the latter would be preferable and turned back to lovely Binz. As I still had a bit of a walk ahead of me, I headed in the direction of where I thought my flat was.

After around 15 minutes, I passed the Kleinbahnhof and was lucky enough to see the famous “Rasender Roland” (Raging Roland) pulling into the station.

Everything in this place is so fricking cute…

I carried on and eventually reached my home for the next three nights.

Along the way I passed my new neighbours…

… and sincerely hoped I wouldn’t be woken up by an errant cock at the crack of dawn.

I was greeted by a jolly older German couple who led me downstairs to the apartment and showed me around. The place was massive – two bedrooms, fully-equipped kitchen, and a gleaming bathroom. It was far too big for just one person but, as it was only €50 a night, I’d decided to go for it anyway. My new German mum collected my “Kurtaxe” (visitor’s tax), explained the rules (because Germany), and presented me with my Kurtaxe card a few minutes later.

 

I immediately felt right at home. I only hoped that I would have enough chopping boards…

 

My original plan had been to go to the supermarket, pick up some stuff for the morning and a bottle of wine for the night, drop it off and go out again, but when I realised how far away the supermarkets were, I decided to just go out with my teabags, milk, sugar and (€1.99 from Netto) Chardonnay in a classy Edeka plastic bag.

In a bid to satisfy my craving for sausage, I found a place on the main street that served Nuremberg Rostbratwurst . The waiter was super-friendly, and my food arrived in a matter of minutes.

Not even remotely phallic.

I was starving after all the walking and maybe the sea air so I devoured it almost as quickly as it had arrived. But, not wanting to head out into the cold night again so soon, I ordered another glass of wine and settled in with my book. The other diners were mostly in and out again in around half an hour – one old lady didn’t even finish her beer, which I think might be against the law in Germany.

I eventually made my way to the promenade for a moonlit saunter. It was a beautiful night – crisp and clear – so I’m not sure how long I walked for. I found myself outside Hotel Dorint, which is normally far too sophisticated a place for the likes of me. My bladder disagreed and in we went – me, my bladder and my Edeka shopping bag. I was pretty sure that I was the only person in the place who had a €1.99 bottle of wine stashed on their person but they didn’t need to know that.

It was just me and a German couple. The man was kissing his dog, which I find rather repellent, but it did provide me with a conversation opener.

Me: What’s his/her name?

Frauke: Willi. 

Me: Heh heh.

We got chatting and I learned two interesting things:

  1. Dogs aren’t allowed on the beaches in Binz from April to October.
  2. Even dogs have to pay the Kurtaxe.

Me: But that’s crazy! Dogs don’t have jobs! They don’t earn money! How can they pay taxes?! 

The answer is: Because Germany.

 

Part two to follow…