Tag Archives: Beer

Is Berlin drowning in its own filth?

It pains me to have to ask the question but a few things have happened in recent days (and before that if I’m honest) that really make me wonder.

Take yesterday, for example. I was on my way to the supermarket at around 3 p.m. I was just approaching it when I noticed a man sitting on the street, yelling at the top of his voice, and smashing beer bottles on the ground beside him. Now, people drinking beer in public at all hours of the day and night, broken glass and random shouters are nothing out of the ordinary in Berlin – though I did think it a little wasteful that he was smashing full bottles.

It was around then that a bottle whizzed past my head and smashed against the supermarket wall. I can’t know if he was aiming at me or if he just fancied a more challenging throw but I wasn’t sticking around to find out. I ran, the sound of another beer bottle exploding into smithereens just behind me ringing in my ears.

I hightailed it into the supermarket, which was, luckily, practically empty. I walked over to the cashier.

Me: There’s a crazy man outside throwing beer bottles at the wall. 

Him: What? 

Me: There’s a crazy man outside throwing beer bottles at the wall. 

Him: What’s he doing? 

Admittedly, I was a bit shaken so my German was probably a little hairy.

Me: He’s throwing bottles against the wall. It’s very dangerous for customers. 

That got his attention so he went outside to investigate. I pointed out the man who could have brained me but it turned out I didn’t really need to; a small crowd had gathered and another man was already calling the police. I decided there was nothing else for me to do but carry on with my shopping – now that I still had a head, it would be necessary for me to eat again at some point.

The (rather young and sexy) police showed up just as I was waiting at the cash register and it was all super-dramatic – which way did he go? What does he look like? A description being shouted back, the cops running (sexily) back out the door and peeling off in their waiting van as more sirens got closer.

As I left, I noticed that the man who’d called the police was bleeding quite heavily from one of his legs so I felt even more fortunate that I’d avoided being hit. I have no idea if the police caught him but I learned that the supermarket has cameras on its tills and he’d bought the crate of beer there, so there’s a good chance they’ll nail him. Good thing too – from what I’ve seen, that man has no place on the streets.

Of course, this is the sort of idiot that you can call the police on. But there are plenty more people out there who do their best to foul up Berlin for the rest of us. They range from the totally oblivious (morons on mobiles, for instance) to the “I’m so cool and awesome that normal rules of behaviour don’t apply to me” – yeah, I’m looking at you, gobshite who popped the cap off your beer bottle on the train today and hit me in the back with it. GOBSHITE.

However, it takes a special kind of asshole (two of them actually) to carry a sofa loaded with plastic sacks full of twigs and branches – don’t ask me why – throw the sacks over a wall and dump the sofa on the side of the street, as was witnessed by me and Manfredas from our balcony two nights ago.

FUC is right.

And while you might think that these guys are an exception, unfortunately that’s not true. Berlin has perfectly good dumps and, if you can’t make it there, you can arrange an appointment for the BSR to come and pick up your unwanted crap. Of course, you have to pay for this and that’s the problem – too many people in Berlin don’t want to pay for anything and would rather turn the city into their own personal dumping ground than do so.

I took these photos on a five-minute walk to the bakery this morning. And that was just one side of the street.

As this post has got a bit rantier than I’d intended, I’ll wrap it up by saying that I still love this city. I really do. There are freedoms afforded to people in Berlin that should never be taken for granted – the freedom to go wherever you want, to be whoever you want to be, and to do whatever you want (within reason).

The thing about freedom is that, with it, comes responsibility and that is what I’m noticing more and more these days. So many people just don’t want to take responsibility for anything – and have zero respect for other people or their surroundings.

If I’ve come across as a sanctimonious dipshit in this post then I’m sorry, but I really don’t think that a little accountability is too much to ask for.

Over and out.

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On noise and nudity

On Friday, my half-naked neighbour graduated to being full-on naked. While I’m not a fan of my eyes being assaulted by a swaying, sagging, dimply arse, I do have bigger problems with the guy.

As I’ve mentioned before, he’s an opera singer. Or opera student. Whatever. All I know is that it entails him singing sporadically, at the top of his voice, from early in the morning until late in the evening most days. I’m as much of a music lover as the next person, but I do need peace and quiet while I work (or nap).

Maybe if he’d mixed it up with a bit of Johnny Cash, I could have stood it, but it was wall-to-wall opera. Opera, opera, opera. I was going out of my mind. Sorting him out had been on my to-do list for quite a while, but I wasn’t sure how to go about it.

20160319_170652
German organisation

The helpful, and often fabulously entertaining, “Free Advice Berlin” Facebook page came to my rescue. On this page, people can post pretty much anything they like in the hope that a kind soul will help them out. Questions have included everything from people looking for unusual products or cool bars, where to neuter a cat or buy a TV, help with moving flat, and even a Russian asking someone to explain feminism to him. (Good luck with that last one.)

The post that caught my eye, however, was by a musician. He explained that he wants to study sound engineering and plays around 13 instruments, including the drums, which he practises at home. Amazingly, he was getting noise complaints from the neighbours…

People were quick to comment on this one and, luckily for me, this being Germany, there are RULES about this sort of thing. It turns out that you can’t actually practise an instrument (voice included) for more than two hours a day. I downloaded the “Merkblatt zur Hausmusik” that someone posted, which contains scary terms like “Gemäß § 5 des Landes-Immissionsschutzgesetzes” and “Einschlägige Gerichtsentscheidungen”. I wasn’t entirely sure what they meant, but I figured you probably wouldn’t want to mess with that stuff.

Fun with German words...
Fun with German words…

A quick perusal through my rental agreement backed up the general Berlin rules with more specific house rules.

Take that!
Take that!

Ah, lovely German rules.

After a night filled with bad dreams about jiggly, naked opera singers, I was rudely awakened on Saturday morning at 9.30am by the man himself. I repeat, 9.30 AM on a SATURDAY. This was war.

WAR I tell ya!
WAR, I tell ya!

But instead of banging down his door like the fighting Irish woman that I am, I opted for the more civilised German approach. This involved me sitting at my laptop in a fury, with extreme bed hair and fluffy pajamas, and hammering out a “pleasant” letter to my neighbour, “politely” asking him to stop with all of the fucking singing because he was driving me fucking mad disrupting my work and my sleep.

I printed out the letter and the Merkblatt and, after making myself slightly less mental looking, popped them both into his letter box.

And now I wait. I guess there’s a good chance an angry, half-naked opera singer will show up on my doorstep. If that does happen, rather than resorting to fisticuffs, I’m hoping we can have a good old-fashioned sing-off. Throw in a couple of beers and a bit of Schlager and that would seem to be the most German way to handle things…

 

Acting German

Having been told, on more than one occasion, that I have a flair for the dramatic – it wasn’t meant as a compliment – this week, I decided to put this theory to the test and try out “German with Theatre Games”.

The lesson was to take place at 77 Kastanienallee, which is right at the opposite end of the city. I left myself plenty of time (as usual), found 75, walked past 77, which is a cinema, and hit 79. Huh. Guess it must be down that dark alley somewhere. So I trotted through the darkness until I came to a courtyard. Nope, nothing to see here. So I headed through the second dark alley until I came to the second dark courtyard.

Bingo.
Bingo.

I followed the signs to the third floor and pushed at the door. Locked. I had managed to arrive before the teacher even got there. I stood for a couple of minutes admiring what I hoped was my artistically mysterious, all-black clothing, shoving at the door every now and then.

Knock, knock...
Knock, knock…

The teacher showed up right on time, but I wasn’t allowed in until I had removed my boots. Crap. This was about the time “artistically mysterious” went awry.

Don't you judge me - it's winter...
Don’t you judge me – it’s winter…

When I walked in, Traudl the Teacher had also removed her socks. Great. A hippy. And I hate feet. Still, I tried to make polite conversation for a few minutes until, finally, Claudio showed up. With two people, we could get started. The theme of the “lesson” was drinks and restaurants, something I felt I could get on board with.

But first, we had to move “freestyle” around the room to music, which, as I’m sure you can imagine, is one of my all-time favourite activities…

I chose to shuffle around glaring accusingly at my non-mysterious pink socks. As the room was roughly the same temperature as the streets (0 Celsius), this activity was probably more for survival purposes than anything else.

Next Traudl put a “Ja” card in one corner, and a “NEIN” card in another. We had to ask each other questions to get to know each other a bit.

Me: Können sie singen? (Can you sing?) 

Traudl: No, no, there’s no “sie” in this space, only “du”. (The informal “you” in German.)

Me: OK, but I’m asking two of you so then it would be the plural, “ihr”. “Du” doesn’t make any sense. 

Traudl: Please use “du” in this space. 

Me: Mutter… 

We threw a massive workout ball around for a bit with me trying not to aim for Traudl’s head. Two more girls had shown up in the meantime.

Run free...
Run free…

Next up was a “game” where we had to pretend to be something else. Traudl showed off her acting skills by pretending to be a worm and lying on the floor, wriggling. I wondered why she wasn’t in Hollywood. Claudio ran over and pretended to be a bird and another girl became a tree. The bird took the worm and it was game over. Seemingly we were practising our article forms. This continued for some time and, while I’m not sure it helped my articles much, I’m pretty sure I could be a convincing worm now…

Traudl gathered us all into a circle and it was time to shout, “JA, NEIN AND DOCH”, with various hand gestures,  at each other. After a while, these three words were replaced with DIE heiße Schokolade, DER frischgepresste Orangensaft, and DAS alkoholfreie Getränk. The shouting and gesturing continued for a further ten minutes or so. Admittedly, I’ll never forget the articles that go with these drinks, but can this really be counted as learning the language in any sort of meaningful way?

After what seemed like an eternity, we were put into groups of three (two more people had shown up 30 and 40 minutes late) and instructed to write a drinks menu. After a while, Traudl bare-footedly bounced over to inspect ours.

Traudl: But wait, what’s this? 

Me: Weißbier.

Traudl: Oh no, that’s not a thing. You mean light beer. 

Me: No. I don’t. 

Traudl: (Scribbling out my word) 

Me: No, obviously you have light beer and dark beer but Weißbier is something different. 

Traudl: No, no, you mean light beer. 

Me: Sure. And “DU” can kiss my white Irish Arsch.

It wasn’t like I needed much convincing at this point, but seriously, what can I possibly learn from a GERMAN who knows nothing about BEER? She’d also never heard of Hoegaarden.

Yes, that also exists, you numpty.
Oh look! Things you’ve never heard of DO exist…

Finally, we had to act out a couple of “ordering in a restaurant” scenes, which luckily, we all knew how to do anyway as we’d had zero input in this respect in the preceding 75 minutes.

Seemingly it had taken Traudel – professional actress and German teacher – three years to “perfect” this teaching technique. I’m pretty sure I could have beaten her by 2 years, 364 days and 23.5 hours. She even made two spelling mistakes AND an article mistake in the “useful language” .pdf she posted the next day.

Clearly, I would not recommend “German with Theatre Games”, unless maybe you have a foot fetish. However, Hollywood, you there? If you’re ever looking for a convincing worm, I’ve got just the woman…

 

 

 

 

Learning the Lingo

As an expat living in Berlin, it’s pretty hard to avoid bumping into other foreigners living here. While I’m always interested in what brings people to a new country, I’m equally fascinated by their attitude to learning the local language.

From what I’ve seen, these can be grouped into a few categories:

  • the people who never bother, usually because “everyone speaks English”, or they don’t need it for their job so why make the effort?
  • the people who “try” but languages really aren’t their strong point…
  • the people who think they speak German because they can say, “bitte” and “danke”.
  • the people who get to a certain level and think that’s good enough.
Good enough
Good enough

Then you’ve got the people like me who, if it’s the last thing they do, will speak the language like a native, albeit, in my case anyway, with an endearing Irish accent…

I’m no expert on language learning – far from it – but I’ve got myself from zero to a level I’m reasonably happy with in the space of a year and a half. And boy, do I have a long way to go. Still, I figure I’m probably doing something at least half-right so I thought I’d share some of my thoughts will all of you poor souls in the same boat as I am. Obviously I’m using German as my focus but there’s no reason this shouldn’t work for any other language. Here goes…

  1. Pay attention. It’s not enough to be surrounded by the language every day. You’d be amazed by the number of people who seem to walk around wearing ear plugs and blinkers. You need to listen, to read, to analyse. That couple you’re eavesdropping on on the train… why did she say that sentence that way and not another way? And yes, I’m condoning eavesdropping as an acceptable language-learning aid. There’s no such thing as politeness when it comes to learning a language.
  2. Use everything as an opportunity – and I do mean everything. Take this, for example:
Snigger.
Snigger.

OK, so it’s a titter-inducing advertisement for a sex shop, but look more closely. Dildo King can teach you more than you think – and no, I don’t mean in the self-love department. OK, so sex would appear to be the same word in German – always useful to know. “Macht” comes from the verb “machen” (to make) and “schön” means beautiful. Take it further. “Macht” can also mean “power” or “might” when used as a noun, and how many expressions can you think of that have “schön” in them? What’s the comparative or superlative form? “King” probably isn’t a German word so what is “king” in German? Or “queen”? Thank you, Dildo King, for being such a fountain of educational knowledge…

3. Get input. Before you can start outputting, you need input. Listen to the radio, or just have it on in the background. If a film or TV programme is too much for you, watch a couple of ads or listen to a song. If reading a book is too challenging, read a newspaper or magazine article, a blog post, an ad. But do something. If you’re learning any of the major languages, there’s an embarrassment of riches online that you can utilise.

4. Ask questions. Lots of them. Will you drive your friends mad? Probably, but you can find new friends.

Me: If “ich bin raus” means I’m out, does “ich bin rein” mean I’m in?

Long-suffering friend: That would seem logical but NEIN! It’s better to say something like “Da bin ich dabei”.

Me: Alright, that makes zero sense but OK. German. Danke! 

Me: If you can say “damit” (with it), can you also say “darohne” (without it)?

Long-suffering friend: That would seem logical but NEIN! 

Me: Dammit. Alright, that makes zero sense but OK. German. Danke! 

And so on until everyone you know has been committed.

5. Start speaking. As soon as you’ve got a few basics down, it’s time to put them to use. If you find it too embarrassing speaking to people you know, find people you don’t know. Go into a bar (my personal favourite), order a large glass of something and strike up a conversation with the person next to you. Torture them for as long as they’re willing to bear and then move on to your next victim. Repeat until you can no longer form a coherent sentence in any language or your money runs out.

Prost, my unsuspecting conversation partner...
Prost, my unsuspecting conversation partner…

6. Find a way to learn that you enjoy. Formal language classes, group or individual, aren’t for everyone so find something that suits you. I consider myself really lucky to live in Berlin where there’s always something happening, be it German through art workshops, German through theatre games or various other German language meet-ups. A lot of these activities are run on a donation basis, which also means they’re cheaper than regular lessons. Cheap is good.

7. Have fun with it. Are you going to sound like an idiot for a long time? Yes. Should you care? Hell no. Have as much fun with the language as possible and keep trying until you succeed. I recently played “Taboo” with a group of students. “Divorce” was one of the words they had to describe. They’d got to a certain stage and the other team knew the word in German but didn’t know the English word. A lot of people would have given up at this point but not these guys.

T1: It’s kind of like “air-force” but not. Well, the second part but not the first.

T2: So, “force”…

T1: Yes! And the first part sounds like the princess who died.

T2: Di.

T1: Yes! OK, now put them together…

T2: Die-force! 

T1: JAAAAA!

Me: Well, “divorce” actually but close enough. 

Was there much merriment? Did they sound a bit silly? Did they make tenuous connections?

Yes to all of the above, but they also had a lot of fun and I don’t think they’ll ever forget that word, just as I’ll never forget that lesson.

Anyway, that’s about it for now. I’m sure I’ve forgotten to include loads of things but you get the gist. I’m off to be confused by German TV for a couple of hours.

Schönen Abend 😉

 

 

 

Can’t find a hussy? Try “TravelPussy”!

Having lived in Germany for a while, it’s rare that I’m still surprised by anything. The German bedding system, the massive signs for “Dildo King”, the early morning beer drinkers, the speed at which supermarket cashiers operate, the poo shelf, the reverse poo shelf…

All of these things I take in my stride. But I do still like to be surprised on occasion, and this is exactly what happened at a service station on the way back from Münster.

Manfredas: I got you a present.

Me: From the toilet? 

Manfredas: Well, yes, but I think you’ll like it…

He was right. It turns out that for the bargain price of around €5, you can make me the happiest girl on earth. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you – the “TravelPussy”.

Bah ha ha ha ha ha ha!
What to give the blogger who has everything

Once my initial mirth had subsided, I just had to take a look inside. I’m not quite sure what I was expecting but it certainly wasn’t this.

A sandwich bag crossed with a hot water bottle?
A sandwich bag crossed with a hot water bottle?

Me: What the hell?

Manfredas: What the hell?

Clearly, I would need to read the instructions which, apart from being enlightening, were also one of the funniest things I have ever read.

  1. Open up TravelPussy. (Sure, a closed TravelPussy is no use to anyone.)
  2. Pour a very small amount of TravelPussy-Gel into the “vagina” and spread it. (The quotation marks had me in tears before I even got to the word “spread”.)
Don't leave home without it.
Don’t leave home without it.

3. Turn TravelPussy upside down and fill gently with warm water or simply blow air into it. IMPORTANT! Make sure the water is not too hot, check with your finger! (I really am not making this up.)

4. Place some TravelPussy-Gel on your penis and you are ready for a wonderful experience. (I wonder.)

5. After use, empty TravelPussy and leave it to domestic waste – not in toilet! (Yes, please guys, have some respect for your Pussy – not in toilet.)

I guess this is one of those rare occasions where size really doesn't matter.
I guess this is one of those rare occasions where size really doesn’t matter.

The environmentally-aware among you will be pleased to hear that TravelPussy is made from eudermic and eco-friendly material. TravelPussy-Gel does not contain any paraffin which is good news for those who fancy a smoke while playing with their Pussy. But be careful, it also does not contain any contraceptive or spermicide so you run the risk of knocking up your sandwich bag-hot water bottle if you don’t use a condom. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Over the course of my Saturday night out, the topic of TravelPussy came up. (OK, I brought it up.) Proving that it (she?) still had the power to surprise, it emerged that my dear friend, Nigel, had actually bought a TravelPussy. “For the laugh”, you understand.

Me: How would you sum up the experience?

Nigel: Confusing. Disappointing.

Me: Sorry, I’ll stop laughing eventually.

If you want to see confusion and disappointment in picture form, I highly recommend clicking on this link:

His face…

At the risk of lowering the tone of this blog any further, I leave you with this profound thought for the evening.

20160202_131337

You are welcome.

 

 

 

Welcome to my hood

I am officially declaring my first week and a half of living on my own a roaring success. But, I suspect that since posting these pictures…

…some of you might think that I have taken to tree-hugging, stuff-picking, or whatever else it is people who live near forests do. Not so, dear reader. If there was ever a chance of that, I think it probably would have happened in Latvia, and the closest I came to tree-hugging there was being driven out of the country by stick-wielding local lunatics. (Slight exaggeration, but close enough.)

Far from feeling isolated from my beloved Berlin, I am feeling very much at home here. During the day, I get to scoff at tourists who spend 20 minutes standing in front of a map of the train system, and a further 20 minutes trying to figure out which ticket to buy; in the evenings, I get to come home to my tranquil little haven. It’s the perfect balance. In fact, living here feels a bit like living in a holiday camp, which I can’t recommend highly enough.

Despite being small, the town has absolutely everything I need for daily living – an efficient transport system, supermarkets, banks, a post office, shops, WOOLWORTH, bakeries, cafés, restaurants, bars, late-night shops (for midnight/Sunday wine runs) and even a little cinema. Oh, and there’s also a church for people who like that sort of thing.

The bells, the bells...
The bells, the bells…

In my back garden, there’s a table tennis table which I’ve never seen anyone using, but am planning to take full advantage of at the first possible opportunity.

20150808_153652[1]

Just down the road in one direction, there’s mini-golf and archery, and in the other direction, there’s a swimming pool, tennis courts and an ice rink. In fact, all I need is some bad karaoke, bingo and ballroom dancing and I’d be living in Butlin’s. (For non-UK/Irish readers, Butlin’s is a famous holiday camp in the UK – think “Dirty Dancing”, but without the dirty bits.)

Something the world hoped it would never see again...
Something the world hoped it would never see again…

Dotted all around the town are pretty little allotments where the Mermans, “merry Germans” in case you’d forgotten, grow stuff, grill sausages, drink beer, bask in the sunshine, paddle in inflatable swimming pools and get naked a lot. This last one is, as yet, unconfirmed, but this is Germany so…

20150808_154517[1]

Naturally, I’ve also been to check out my new local bar. I first went last Sunday as a little treat for managing to lug my worldly possessions – solo – from one end of the city to the other. I was mildly perturbed to find that I was in the minority given that I didn’t have white hair, a walker or a wheelchair. Still, the punters were friendly, in a toothless, elderly sort of way.

Not one to give up so easily, I decided to return on a Saturday night to see what kind of crowd it brought in on a more “happening” night of the week. I had no sooner settled in with a nice glass of wine when the waiter came over.

Eggert: Those gentlemen over there would like to buy you a drink.

Feeling a bit like I was in a movie, I looked over to see three men of various ages/sizes grinning back at me.

Me: Um. 

Me: Ummmm.

Me: OK, I’ll have a white wi… no, sod that, I’ll have a whiskey. Irish. No ice. No water. Danke. 

When it came, I raised my glass to the gentlemen, thanked them in German and offered a pleasantry or two. This was greeted with looks of disappointment. Huh? Surely my German wasn’t that bad – it wasn’t like I was saying anything overly complicated. What was their problem?

As it turned out, their problem was that they didn’t have a word of German between them. They were Croatian builders who’d been in Germany for around ten days. Two out of three spoke passable English though, so in the end, we managed to have what was probably the most uproarious night that particular bar had ever seen.

It used to be so peaceful…

With my flat kitted out, my internet provider coming on Wednesday and my new bar of choice selected, there is really only one thing left to do. Yup, it’s back to the dreaded Bürgeramt to re-re-re-re-re-register my address. I guess if they try to make me wait for hours on end again, I can just start screaming, “Nobody puts O’Grady in a corner!” and see where that gets me.

Breaking Berlin

Everyone told me Berlin would be a tough nut to crack. In fact, reading some of the expat forums, it’s a miracle anyone moves here at all. But, me being me, I like to take all of these things with a pinch of salt and find out for myself – the hard way. Berlin was my dream and I was going to achieve it or go down fighting. And I won’t lie; the last few months have been rough, far rougher than I’ve let on in this blog. I’ve spent many a sleepless night (and panicky day) wondering if I could afford to make it through the next month.

Homemade Twister - for when times get tough
Homemade Twister – for when money gets really tight

But, lest you think this post is going to be one long whinge-fest, fear not. It seems like things are finally starting to come up Linda. In the last few weeks, I’ve moved into a flat by myself, which is still standing; I’ve been made Senior Editor of Berlin Logs, which is going into print in the next couple of months; I’ve been invited to the first birthday party of Nestpick, simply because they want to “strengthen their relationship with great bloggers”, and I’ve been brandishing my shiny new press pass to get a complimentary ticket to one of the biggest shows in Berlin.

Yeah, right... ;)
Yeah, right… 😉

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention… I GOT A JOB!

This in itself was a bit of an ordeal – two Skype interviews, a face-to-face interview and a “test day”. They said they’d let me know last week. And as I’m practically German now, I took them at their word. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday passed by in a blur of clicking “refresh” to see if THE email had arrived. It was reminiscent of being a teenager waiting for THE boy to call – which he usually didn’t. (Looking back, I dodged a few bullets there.)

Finally, on Friday, in a fug of desperation and knowing they work until 6pm, I sent them an email at 5.55 to see if there was any news. Cue almost breaking my fingers clicking “refresh” – to no avail… until 7.20 when AT LAST the email came through telling me that I had the job. Oh, the sweet blessed relief! The messages, the phone calls, the wine, the celebrations!

The details still have to be figured out and it will probably be at least a month before I start, but I’ll be working for a small start-up company (perfect), doing sales and marketing (perfect), with three men (perfect).

Now, I just need to figure out how to do my German taxes and life really will be perfect. But then, there’s a four-day weekend coming up, complete with a four-day beer festival, so maybe the taxes can wait…

Working on my biceps
BEER

Related Links:

http://www.palast.berlin/en/home/shows/the-wyld/

https://www.nestpick.com/

http://www.berlinlogs.com/

http://www.braufest-berlin.de/en/