It’s not the start of a bad joke but, rather, the beginning of an excellent Friday evening. You see, the Germans have regulated the hell out of most things but, thankfully, they haven’t got around to stopping foolish foreigners from trying to make very dangerous German drinks.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you, Feuerzangenbowle…
Feuerzangenbowle (Fire tongs punch)
I had my first FeuerverylongGermanword at the Christmas market at Schloss Charlottenburg last week and, as with most things German, I instantly fell in love. I mean, it’s got wine, rum, sugar and FIRE – what’s not to like? So, when Young Germany posted a recipe, I just knew I had to try and make it myself.
Now the thing about making Feuerzangenbowle is that it’s rather dangerous, so the last thing you want to do is make it at your own apartment. Instead, you put the suggestion out there and wait for…
After living in a city for close to two years, you might think that you know all of its little quirks. Berlin, however, is the city that just keeps giving on the weirdness front. Located not far from Kochstraße*, in the centre of Berlin, is a sight that will leave most men feeling shrivelled and inadequate.
Without further ado, I give you…
This art installation is called “Peace Be With You” by Peter Lenk and was erected (snigger) in 2009. It’s located on the wall of the Tageszeitung Building on Rudi-Dutschke-Straße, directly opposite the offices of Bild – two major newspapers. The main figure (the one with the big penis, in case you missed it) is said to bear a striking resemblance to Kai Diekmann, former editor of the latter.
His penis reaches to the very top of the building, passing various placard-holding figures along the way.
So, I know what you’ve all been thinking: “I just wish there was some way I could get more of Linda…” (Ahem.)
Well, it’s your lucky day! After much pondering and faffing around, I’ve finally decided to start a photographic blog of Berlin.
As you know, I’ve been more of a “words girl” up to this point so the photography thing is pretty new to me. I’m not even sure I’m terribly good at it but I want to be, and just getting out there and seeing more of Berlin is so much fun.
The blog tagline is “From the pretty to the gritty” and that’s really what it’s about. I don’t just want to show the beautiful bits (of which there are plenty, believe me) but more the everyday, the quirky, the weird and the wonderful.
For the most part, I’ll be keeping the words to a minimum – the world breathes a sigh of relief – but of course, I’d love to hear from you lovely people. Any comments, suggestions, criticisms and crap jokes are always welcome. Or, if anyone wants to tag along on a Fotowanderung (still making up German words), just drop me a line.
Obviously, there’s not much on the site at the moment but I hope to update it twice or three times a week so bear with me.
In the meantime, I’d be delighted if you’d hop on over to Eye on Berlin and let me know what you think.
(Yes, I’ve decided to stick with the “eye” theme – it’s worked for me so far!)
After you’ve found somewhere to live in Germany, registered your address, opened your bank account, applied for a tax number and left your religion, the next thing you’ll have to contend with is the health insurance issue.
Having health insurance is compulsory in Germany. While I think this is a nice idea in theory, as someone who goes to the doctor maybe once a year, it can also feel like you’re sitzpinkelling your money away.
Still, you really have no choice on this one. Even if you decide to be a rebel, and don’t take out health insurance for a few years, Germany will eventually send the Gerichtsvollzieher (bailiffs) after you and you will owe the full amount of health insurance premiums since you moved here, plus 1% interest. And that probably is as scary as it sounds.
If you’re in full-time employment, your employer has to cover 50% of your health insurance. If, however, you’re a freelancer (like me), you have to take the whole hit yourself. Although there is a lot of information about German health insurance online, I decided to save time and just ask some people I knew who they were with. TK Insurance won the poll, so I looked up their website.
Here’s the general gist – your contribution is calculated as a percentage of your gross salary. Currently, this is 14.6 percent (general contribution rate) plus a TK-specific additional contribution rate of 0.8 percent. Yikes. There was also this rather confusing section on the application form…
What if I earn between €450 and €4,575 a month?
I decided to stop faffing about online and just call an actual person. When I’d hung up, I decided I probably would need health insurance after all, as the information had given me a minor coronary. Even if you don’t earn anywhere near €4,575 a month (which I don’t), they’ll assume that the absolute minimum amount you’re earning is €2,100 and calculate your contribution based on that figure – whether you’re actually earning that much or not. This would have made my monthly contribution €314.69 – and would have meant that I would be moving into a doctor’s surgery to try to get my money’s worth.
Fortunately, I’m a firm believer in ranting so that’s exactly what I proceeded to do when I got to the staff room the next day. As luck would have it, one of the other teachers had just sorted out his health insurance that morning, for the princely sum of €75 a month. This sounded more like it.
I went home and looked up Mawista. It really does exist and is an insurance company dedicated exclusively to covering foreigners living in Germany, for up to five years. Their “Employee Flexible” package costs just €75 a month and covers medical treatment, dental treatment, temporary stays outside Germany, and even massages (though probably not the kind with the happy ending). Essentially, it covers almost everything TK does, but at less than a quarter of the price. Sign me up.
I filled in the ridiculously simple online application form and was informed that my application was being sent for processing and I would have my documents shortly. This was at 11.38. I went and took my washing out of the washing machine and was just hanging it up when I glanced at my laptop. It was 11.43 and my documents had arrived. I was covered.
I haven’t needed to go to the doctor or dentist yet, but hey, I think I might just start going once a month anyway. I may as well try to get some use out of the €75 a month that I would otherwise be spending on wine and cake…
Useful information for foreigners living in Germany can be found here
As it’s my two-week anniversary here in Berlin, I thought it might be time to reflect on what Riga does better.
Right, moving on.
Sunday saw me kissing Hermie goodbye Hermie kissing me goodbye, and me clanking down four flights of concrete steps with a 30-kilo suitcase. So much for Quiet Sunday. Still, I made it to Bjorn’s place (now ‘our place’) in one piece and have settled in perfectly. Just to prove the point, I bought a nice pair of slippers, because nowhere feels like home without a nice pair of slippers waiting for your tired little tootsies.
In the mornings, I wake up to birds singing and this view from my window:
It might just be my imagination but I’d swear even the birds sound happier in Germany. I looked out just now and there were a couple of bunnies frolicking around the yard/forest… I mean, seriously, is this place for real?
Bjorn also seems happy to have me here. In the mornings, I’m greeted with ‘Hello, Sunshine’ (which I definitely am not), and in the evenings, when I get home, ‘Hello Pretty’, which I also definitely am not. Still, I guess it beats ‘Hello Demon Bitch from Hell’ and ‘Hello Roadkill’.
He says it’s nice having me around the place, which is just as well as it seems like we’ve already synchronised our peeing habits. This was evidenced by me, half-asleep, stumbling in on him in the loo in the middle of the night. He took it well.
He also hasn’t mentioned (or hopefully slept through) me waking myself up from a dream by shouting ‘NO, NO, NO’ at the top of my voice on my first night here. I might have been dreaming about Hermann, but then surely it should have been ‘NEIN, NEIN, NEIN’?
In other news, I started teaching today – and it went well. I’ve been offered five more groups starting from mid-October. Now I just need to get the red tape show on the road so I can actually get paid for them.
My new landlady seems to be having difficulty adding my name to the lease, which is holding everything up – so much for German efficiency. I might set Hermann on her…
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sailaway from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ~ Mark Twain