Category Archives: wine

A blast from the past

Last week, a little bit of Latvia came to Berlin in the form of Yummy Jānis, my Latvian ex-boyfriend.

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Aww, those were the days…

He told me that he’d be flying into Schönefeld Airport at 13.55 on Friday and I told him he was on his own as I wouldn’t have time to get there after my German lesson. I helpfully sent him a map of the Berlin transport system and left him with dire warnings on which ticket to buy and to make sure to VALIDATE it.

After my lesson and much merriment, I dashed home to drop off my bag and straight back out again to meet Yummy at his hostel. He was staying in the ghetto area of Neukölln, so he should have felt right at home, albeit with a few more Turkish people than he’s probably used to in Latvia. His hostel was right beside the train station so I had no problems finding it.

Me: Are you nearly here?

Yummy: I’m still in the queue at the ticket machine.

30 minutes later…

Me: Any progress?

Yummy: I’ve got a ticket.

Me: Sigh.

This is why nobody flies into bloody Schönefeld if they can help it.

I wandered off to pick up a few bits and pieces and kill some time. Heading back towards the hostel, I noticed Yummy standing directly underneath a massive sign pointing to his hostel.

Me: Oh good, so you’re all checked in.

Yummy: No, I couldn’t find the hostel.

Me: …

I led him to the hostel and waited in the lobby as he took 30 minutes to drop his bag off and put a sheet on the bed. It was around two and a half hours since he’d landed and almost dark by then. I dragged him on to a train and off we went.

Me: Did you validate your ticket? 

Yummy: I think so. 

Me: Let me see it… No, you didn’t. 

So we got off the train again, validated the ticket and back on another train.

Me: (waving my hands around a bit) The world-famous Brandenburger Tor, the Reichstag… Right, do you want to go to a Christmas market and drink Glühwein?

Luckily, he gave the correct answer.

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Can you smell the Glühwein and sausage?
Gendarmenmarkt is probably one of the most popular Christmas markets in Berlin, with certainly one of the most beautiful backdrops. We got some Glühwein, Yummy had a sausage and we wandered around savouring the sights and smells.

Me: Huh, it’s not even that crowded. Lucky. 

Yummy: (pale and sweating) My god, it’s so crowded. I’m kind of freaking out. 

Me: Yeah, I guess when you’re used to being one of like five people in your country, this probably is crowded. 

Hordes of Latvians. ARGH.

So we left again.

Yummy: OK, I’m kind of calm again now. Can we go eat? 

Me: But you just had a sausage. That would keep me going all night. 

Yummy: I’m a grown man. 

Me: Sure. 

I took him to a semi-deserted restaurant on Oranienburger Straße, where I had hoped I could show him the hookers doing their thing, but it must have been too cold for them. Yummy presented me with a couple of Latvian “treats” to make up for it.

Yay. Black Balsams. My favourite...
Yay. Black Balsams. My favourite…

 

With Yummy fed, watered and feeling more like himself again, it was off to my favourite watering hole in Friedrichshain. There, we joined my neighbours (not the naked ones) from when I lived with Hildeberta and Hildegard. And, would you believe it, the Latvian chick Yummy had sat beside on the plane was in the very same bar. She was over visiting her boyfriend who now lives in Germany. They both seemed normal enough (for Latvians, anyway), so they sat with us and a raucous evening of Irish-German-Latvian hilarity ensued.

With Yummy off to visit his cousin in Hamburg the next day, I was left to my own devices. As luck would have it, the Lankwitz one-day-only, 5-hour extravaganza of a Christmas market was taking place on the church grounds.

Possibly the smallest, shortest Christmas market in Berlin.
Possibly the smallest, shortest Christmas market in Berlin.

 

As everyone knows, the best way to get over an excess of Glühwein is to have more Glühwein so I headed straight for the longest queue which, I felt, had to be where the Glühwein was at. I strolled around for a bit and when I started losing the feeling in my feet, adjourned to the one bar in Lankwitz I hadn’t tried yet.

Unluckily for me, it’s a Hertha BSC bar and a football match against Bayern Munich was in full swing. It was standing room only so I did my best to look interested and supportive, despite wearing the rather eye-catching red of the Bayern team. Not to worry. With Bayern comfortably hammering Hertha, the place cleared out a bit and I was able to perch on a stool at the bar.

The man next to me immediately started talking to me and, in no time at all, I was being introduced to everyone and having my wine bought for me. Maybe Hertha fans weren’t so bad after all. Nobody really spoke any English and, as well as practising my German, I also had at least three old blokes offering to cook me dinner.

Gunther: You should pay attention. All of the men will be after you because you are the only relatively young, semi-attractive woman in the bar. 

Looking around, I realised I was now the only woman in the bar. Couldn’t he just have left it at “young and attractive”? But no, that just wouldn’t be German, would it?

 

Huge thanks to Yummy for coming to visit – I hope you had a fun night!

 

 

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Battle of the bags

I have recently begun to embrace the German love of discount supermarket shopping. This is more due to my financial situation than any particular desire to shop at discount stores, but whatever the reason, I figure it’s probably bringing me one step closer to being a “real” German.

Before I moved to Germany, I’d never set foot in an Aldi or Lidl in my life. This is partly because, in Dublin, they’re usually in slightly awkward locations and I would have needed my own transport to get there. The other reason is that I’m a bit fancy and I didn’t much like the idea of picking stuff up off crates instead of shelves. Despite my poor long-suffering parents trying to convince me that the quality of the products was just the same, I remained unconvinced.

Fast forward to my move to Berlin. Oh, I tried to maintain my fancy ways and started off by shopping at Kaisers and REWE, much to the horror of my equally long-suffering German flatmates. Within a few months, however, with my income dwindling, the time had come to get down, dirty and frill-free.

No frills shopping. Shudder.
No frills shopping. Shudder.

Before embarking on this low-cost adventure, I had been wondering why other foreigners make such a big deal about the speed of shop assistants here. Now I think I’ve got it figured out – the cheaper the supermarket, the faster the shop assistant. If Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves had been faced with a Lidl shop assistant instead of a maniac with a bomb, they would have failed miserably in their endeavours. Just like I do pretty much every time.

Oh, every time I go, I think that I’m mentally prepared. “This time”, I say to myself, “I’ll be the Gewinner and you can suck it, Lidl Lady.” And every time, I become an even bigger Geloser.

As I get nearer the top of the queue, I can feel my heart start to race. When I’m three or four people back, I get into a fighting stance and open my backpack. The noise of the dividers clacking off each other as the shop assistant flings them along the side of the conveyor belt sets my nerves on edge. Finally, I make it to the top of the queue.

Lidl Lady: Guten Morgen.

Me: (Eyes narrowing) Hallo…

The theme tune to “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” starts playing in my head as we eye each other. And then we’re off.

Beep, beep, beep, beep, beep – her hands are a blur as she tosses my items onto the tiny metal space at the end of the belt. I panic and start throwing stuff into my bag, forgetting that bread should be at the top, and instead crushing it with a litre of milk and a bag of potatoes. But there’s no time to worry about that now – she’s finished beeping stuff through and the metal shelf is still full. She’s holding my onions in one hand and my shampoo in the other until I clear some more space.

Sweating, I cram in a few more items with one hand, while frantically searching for my wallet with the other. Lidl Lady is looking at me like I’m a simpleton, while all of the Germans in the queue are tapping their feet, drumming their fingers, and wondering how they’re going to make up for this lost 45 seconds.

I tap in my PIN number, growing redder by the second until it’s unclear where my tomatoes end and my face begins. They get rammed into the backpack as well. They’re already more purée than solid food, but the important thing is that they are IN THERE and I’m almost ready to go.

Quashing the urge to have a little cry, I swing my backpack onto my back, force out an airy “Tschüss!”, and defiantly swagger towards the door, tomato juice dripping down my back.

The Germans are probably tutting behind me, but I don’t care. I’ve just bought enough food to last me the week (and enough wine to last me for around two days) for the bargain price of just over €12. So, I’ll be back, Lidl Lady, oh yes, I’ll be back. And one day, one day, I will be victorious.

 

Doing Dresden (Part two)

After bidding farewell to the new Mrs Miserychopsski, I hit the pretty streets of Dresden again.

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More "wow"
More “wow”

You may have heard of Dresden as the birthplace of PEGIDA, and yes, this is true. However, I did see something along my way that gave me hope that at least some people there are a little more open-minded.

20150214_142233[1]It was just a shame there were only around six of them…

Next on the list of must-sees in Dresden is the Frauenkirche. Unfortunately, the interior was closed to the public on that particular afternoon, but the exterior was pretty impressive. Built in the 18th century, the church was completely destroyed in World War Two (like pretty much everything else in Dresden). However, that didn’t stop the Germans and they rebuilt it after the reunification of Germany. Again, I think they did rather a nice job…

Not bad, eh?
Not bad, eh?

Shiny happy Germans were out in droves. That’s the nice thing about the Germans – even if it’s freezing, as soon as the sun comes out, they’re instantly out and about. I guess this is what keeps the wolf from Jack Wolfskin’s door.

Bubbly Germans
Bubbly Germans

However, much as I admire the Germans’ hardiness, I’m just an Irish pussy at the end of the day, and my hair was starting to resemble that of those trolls you used to stick on the end of your pencils. That meant one thing – it was time for tea and cake. Indoors. I found a nice café and ordered my typical black tea with milk and a Dresdener Eierschecke, which Google helpfully translates as an egg “spotted bull”.

20150214_150803Despite being a little bland, it filled a gap, and after all…

20150214_163345[1]This gave me enough energy for a final stroll just as the sun was about to set over Dresden.

I made my way over the bridge and back into new town as it was definitely wine o’clock at this stage. I found a cute little bar called “Bottoms Up” and had a couple of glasses of wine before heading back to the apartment for a nap. I set my alarm for 8pm and in spite of the high-pitched singing of my host and the incessant bird music she was playing, I managed to fall into a deep sleep. A little too deep. When I opened my eyes again, it was 1.57am. I briefly toyed with the idea of going out anyway, but for once, common sense won out and I slept again until 9am the next morning. I must be getting old.

I could hear the sound of birdsong in the next room but wasn’t really in the mood for conversation, so I sent the bird lady a quick text to see if it was OK to leave my stuff in the room for the day.

“Of cornelia it is OK.”, which shows that even Germans fall foul of predictive text once in a while.

I really wanted to do a boat tour, but unfortunately, I was early – by a month. So I hopped on the sightseeing bus tour instead as I had to get to the Blaues Wunder bridge but had no idea how to get there. (This time I’d asked Dietmar – Mr Germany – about what I should see BEFORE I went…)

The tour was quite interesting even though I’d already walked a lot of where we visited the day before. Still, it was good to get some more facts and figures, information about the total destruction of the city, the beauty of its rebuilding and news of upcoming festivals and celebrations. On a whim, I decided to jump off at Großer Garten, a baroque style park. There had been a wall around it at one point, in a bid to stop any “common hussy” from wandering in, but that was gone now so this common hussy made the most of it.

20150215_130823[1]Although everything was a little bleak-looking at this time of year, there were some definite signs that spring is on the way.

20150215_131048[1]20150215_132311[1]The park is home to the Dresden Zoo, the children’s railway and the Botanical Gardens, but I only had to time have a walk around the Summer Palace and lake.

Apart from the random rollerblader who chose that moment to stop and check her phone, I was very impressed. And I could only imagine how much more beautiful it is in summer.

After another half hour or so on the bus, we finally pulled up at the Blaues Wunder bridge – “Blue Wonder”, but maybe they should have called it “Blue Steel”? While I’ve seen prettier bridges, the surroundings were absolutely lovely. Three palaces on a hill overlook the Elbe as it flows under the Blue Wonder, and this suburb of Dresden had more than a little fairy tale feel about it as well.

See what I mean?

Cute or creepy?
Cute or creepy?

All too soon, however, it was time for a final glass of wine before getting the bus back to Berlin. Unfortunately, the sun never did come out the second day, but I’m looking forward to visiting again in summer. Unless they rebuild the “common hussy” wall, that is.