Category Archives: Travel

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…

 

The von Grady guide to Mauritius

Manfredas: You know the way it’s your birthday in January and mine in February? 

Me: Uh huh.

Manfredas: Fancy going to Mauritius to celebrate? 

Me: (running)

Manfredas: Where are you going??

Me: Packing! 

And so, after a near miss by Manfredas with the ticket inspectors on the S-Bahn, we were off.

I won’t bore you with oodles of photos of idyllic beaches, glorious sunsets or stunning scenery because you can google those yourself. Hint: google “Mauritius” – that’s really how it looks. I won’t even attempt to get my blog stats up by posting Halle Berry-style shots of me emerging from the water in a bikini. (Just google “Halle Berry bikini” – that’s far less scary.)

That’s probably a more accurate representation of me on the beach in the midday sun.

Instead, I’m going to take you on a slightly alternative tour of Mauritius, courtesy of the ever-so-slightly rambling mind that is mine.

You are welcome.

Upon arriving at our guest house and settling in a bit, Manfredas announced that he would be putting his valuables in the safe.

Me: Good idea. I’ll do that too. 

Manfredas: Cool. I’ll just put the key up here on top of the wardrobe. 

Me: Erm, are you sure that’s a good idea? 

Manfredas: Well, if we take it with us and lose it, then we’re really screwed. 

Me: Yes, you’re right. Now we can only get robbed by German, Scandinavian or Dutch people. Oh, or short people with the strength to drag a chair in front of the wardrobe and stand on it. 

Manfredas: Sigh. 

Guest house pool (without me emerging in a bikini).

We were off to a great start.

I decided to make us a nice cup of tea to get things back on track. We had a choice of two cups – Piglet or Pooh. Upon closer examination, I discovered that the clever designers had not only drawn a picture of each character, but also broken them down by body part. I’m still not sure why they had to draw such close attention to Piglet’s arm but maybe someone can enlighten me…

Arm?

After a couple of days’ relaxing on the beaches or by the pool, we decided we should explore a little. First up, the Botanical Gardens. 

Now, if you’re anything like me, when you picture botanical gardens, trees probably play a role. And, sure enough, it turned out that there were trees in the Botanical Gardens – lots of them. The only problem was:

Erm…

Manfredas: How the hell are you supposed to “refrain from walking/standing under trees” in a botanical garden? 

If the finest of logical, German thinking couldn’t make any sense of it, then other people didn’t stand a chance.

RULE BREAKERS!

However, it wasn’t just the tourists who were prone to a bit of flexibility with the Mauritian law…

This might be my new favourite photo ever.

As it’s entirely possible that Mauritian buses are solely responsible for global warming (kind of)…

The BEAST

… on this day, we had decided to rent a car to go and visit the Seven Cascades in the south of the island.

Manfredas: They drive on the “wrong” side of the road here but it’s fine; I’ve done it before.

As I’ve never felt unsafe in a car with him in the past, I took him at his word. And so began the most terrifying day anyone has ever experienced on the über-chilled island of Mauritius. Bollards, walls, ditches, sheer drops, lamp-posts, parked cars and scooters, small children and stray dogs whooshed past me, inches from my face.

Me: Jesus Christ! Could you leave a bit more space on this side of the car?! 

Manfredas: Sorry! I don’t want to go too far into the middle of the road! 

BUMP.

Manfredas: What was that? 

Me: (cowering) Kerb.

Manfredas: Shit, really?

Me: Yes bloody really! We’re not making it back with this mirror…

Manfredas: It’s fine. I’m getting the hang of it now. 

BUMP.

Manfredas: What was that?

Me: Car mirror…

A couple of lifetimes later, we arrived at where the Seven Cascades should have been.

Me: This looks like a bus depot. 

This was really rather observant of me as it was a bus depot. We circled around, following signs for the Seven Cascades and finally arrived at… the same bus depot.

Luckily, a local man was standing by. He ushered us down a dirt track, assuring us that there was parking down there somewhere. We crawled along, parked up where a couple of other cars were parked and got out.

Me: This looks like a dead-end dirt track. 

It was. Fortunately, our new friend wasn’t far behind us. In broken English/French, we managed a conversation that saw us following him down said dirt track.

Kindly stranger: (shoving something under my nose) Smell! 

Me: Oooh, lovely…

KS: Is mint! 

Me: Oooh, lovely. 

KS: Here! Is for you! 

Me: Oooh, lovely! 

I’ve never really known how to comment on plants and stuff.

I tucked the leaves into my handbag for politeness sake and we carried on a bit until we were finally greeted with a view of the Seven Cascades in the distance.


Me: Oooh, lovely! 

And it was. But short of hiking down there, that was as close as we were going to get. I tossed the mint on the path when our new friend wasn’t looking and we headed back to the car for the death trip home. This time, I wisely decided to close my eyes for most of it.

All in all, we had a fantastic time. The island is gorgeous, the people are among the friendliest on earth, the food is amazing, and Manfredas had what, I hope, will be one of his most memorable birthdays.

So, I’ll leave you with some random observations.

  1. Some guest houses have bed clothes that would be more at home in Latvia.
ARGH! My eyes!

2. Avoid Mauritian wine at all costs.

This was not Mauritian. Hence the smiling.

3. Mauritians take the sacred “O apostrophe” and use it to wipe their bums.

2-ply…

And finally, finally, since you’ve borne with my ramblings for so long, here’s the long-awaited bikini shot.

Just kidding.
Ahh, that’s better!

Au revoir!

Note: This post is in no way sponsored by the Tourism Board of Mauritius. If they see it, they’ll probably never let me back. 

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.

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:

“Where?”

“Why??”

“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.

Urgh.

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…

cake!

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!?

ARGH!

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… 

Sacré vert! It’s Green Day in Paris!

A random Tuesday night in the local bar:

Me: I think Green Day are coming this year. I’d love to see them live.

Manfredas: I’d be up for that. When are they coming?

Me: Not sure. Hold on, I’ll check… Aw crap, they’re coming on Thursday! There’s no way I can make that. 

Manfredas: (Sad face)

Me: Oh well. Guess I’ll just have to wait until the next time they’re in town. (Sigh)

The next morning, I woke up to a Facebook message:

Manfredas: Do you fancy going to see Green Day in Paris? 

Me: ??? Mais oui, bien sûr! 

Within the next couple of hours, flights were booked, concert tickets were reserved and an AirBnB apartment in the centre of Paris was found. German efficiency. Stupidly early on the 3rd of February, we were off!

We got to Orly Airport and made our way outside to wait for the Orly Bus to the city. The first one was too full to get on, with passengers’ faces squished against the windows. We managed to squeeze onto the next one, where we stood like sardines the whole way into the city. There was no chance to validate our tickets so it would be a free journey back. Irish rule-shirking.

We navigated the Métro easily and were soon standing in front of our apartment building on a postcard-perfect, cobbled street in Saint-Michel.

PARIS!
PARIS!

We had been sent a list of quite detailed instructions by the owner of the apartment, Julien. Unfortunately, he had failed to include the correct code for the front door. Luckily, another resident was leaving just as we were punching in the wrong code for the fifth time so we finally managed to get in.

After that u have to cross the yard : dont climb the first stairs but the last. The flat is at the 4th floor (without elevator) and it’s the door in front of the stairs, the last possible.

The door is sometimes a bit hard to open.
The lock to open is the lower one. The tip to do it easily is to push the key until the end and to take it back a little. Then turn a quarter round unclockwise and it’s done ;).

I wisely let Manfredas grapple with that.

Please don’t throw anything anormal in the toilets, it’s getting blocked really easily. There is a bin under the bathroom sink.

Poor Manfredas would refuse to poo in the loo for the whole of our time there. He figured, using flawless German logic, that a lady poo would probably be OK but a manly poo might be too much for the delicate French plumbing. It was actually quite hilarious having a German in a French apartment; if he’d had his tool kit, I think he would have spent most of the weekend straightening the crooked shelves and replumbing the entire apartment.

Thankfully he didn’t and it didn’t seem like Julien possessed anything remotely practical so we were able to leave the apartment and start exploring. The narrow, winding streets around the apartment were just so pretty and so French that I may have had a tiny orgasm. We certainly wouldn’t go hungry or thirsty as practically every second building was a bar, restaurant or café. The chances of going broke were far higher.

€20 for two scoops of ice-cream...
€21 for a lemon tart…

We managed to find a place that wouldn’t require taking out a loan and enjoyed our first croque monsieur and bottle of wine in Paris. We strolled around for a while, scoped out where the bus to the concert venue went from, and I exclaimed “Sacré bleu!” and “Oh là là” sporadically and for no apparent reason.

After a little rest (and some wine) in the apartment, we made our way to the bus stop. Upon overhearing our conversation on the bus, a lively debate sprang up among the locals about which stop we should get off at. Yeah, the French are soooo unfriendly…

We got off, got half-heartedly frisked on the way in, and made our way to our seats. Manfredas went and got us a couple of beers and then Green Day were on.

Billie Joe! It's me!
Billie Joe! It’s meeeee!

Having been a fan for quite a long time, my expectations were high. Green Day surpassed every one of them – they absolutely rocked the house. There was a lot of audience participation and one girl even got to keep the guitar that she played on stage. Manfredas had the added bonus of listening to me roaring along with the band for over two hours. Lucky devil.

We stumbled out of the stadium on a total high, jabbering on about how amazing it had been and how cool it was that we were actually in Paris and had seen Green Day. I wondered if I should hang around and wait for Billie Joe to come out so I could creepily stalk him but decided that a celebratory glass of wine was more important.

Coming across as a complete “Basket Case” probably wouldn’t have endeared me to him much anyway.