Tag Archives: Flak tower

Another one bytes the dust

Getting a home internet connection in Germany is notoriously painful. I’ve known bloggers who moved flat, said they’d be back, and were never heard from again.

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People have died waiting for wifi (probably). In fact, someone told me that you had to wait for someone to die in order to take over their connection. But, with German healthcare being what it is (i.e. excellent), I wasn’t willing to wait that long.

My company of choice was Kabel Deutschland; I teach there so I already know half of the customer service department, which could come in handy if any problems arose. This, unfortunately, was not to be as they require a minimum contract of two years. With my temporarily permanent living arrangement, I needed something a bit more flexible. Having scoured a few free advice websites, I came across 1 & 1 Internet. As they’re an internet company, I figured emailing was a viable option, and I did just that a week before I moved flat.

The (probably) lovely Marco got back to me within a day, recommending the best package for my needs. Sounded good. I then muddled over the form for a day or so and sent it back. Cue a shitload lot of very confusing emails, of which I could understand around 10%. I’m a Luddite in English so this was way beyond my German capabilities. An angry-sounding German (not as common as you’d think) called me to shout incomprehensible things at me, while I trotted out “baby’s first words” in response. Anyway, I got through it and managed to get an appointment for only 19 days after I moved in. (You might think the “only” is sarcastic but this is Germany so…)

The modem arrived in the post, I’d arranged to have the day off work, and was dutifully sitting on my sofa at 8am, prepared to wait for up to five hours for the technician to arrive and work his magic. At 9.14, I received a text message saying that the technician had been unable to access the apartment and that I would have to arrange another appointment. Um, WHAT? I immediately called 1 & 1 but the customer service rep’s English was the equivalent of my German so that conversation was a non-starter. Someone else would have to call me back. Nobody did.

I wondered if I could squeeze in beside Frederick the Great. He has spuds and everything.
I wondered if I could squeeze in beside Frederick the Great. He has spuds and everything.

But the day wasn’t a total loss. That afternoon, I was off to meet the American Ambassador and family for a Berliner Unterwelten tour of the Humboldthain Flak Tower and “Myth of Germania” exhibition. Sometimes it pays to be the token English-speaking person. The family turned out to be lovely, they had a great time, and I got to watch scary security men say “Clear” into walkie-talkies and be ferried across the street in a super-vehicle with blacked-out windows. Click here to see hi-larious images of me in a shower cap and hard hat –

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Anyway, after that life went back to normal. On Friday morning, I was leaving a lesson and on my way to my other job when the phone rang.

Me: Hello, Linda speaking.

Körbl: Hallo, you need new appointment with Internet Techniker.

Me: YES! Yes, I do! When is it? 

Körbl: 10 minutes.

Me: 10 minutes past what? On what day? 

Körbl: (Sigh) NEIN, 10 minutes from now.

Me: But, but… I’m not at home! I’m on the other side of the city!

I briefly scanned Schlesisches Straße to see if a helicopter pad had magically appeared since the last time I’d been there. It hadn’t.

Körbl: OK, we make new appointment. I call you later. 

Me: (sinking to my knees) NEEEEEEEEEEEEEEIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIINNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN!

This time, however, someone did call me and I managed to get an appointment only 14 days after the first one. (Again, not sarcastic.) Yesterday saw me dutifully sitting on my sofa at 8am in my favourite “Carpe that fucking diem” t-shirt, though I was more ready to “carpe” someone by the throat if nobody showed up this time. At 9.30, the doorbell rang. I’m not sure if the poor “Techniker” had ever had a woman so happy to see him, but he’s a German internet provider so he probably has women (and men) throwing themselves at his feet all the time. He stopped outside the door to put surgeon’s slippers on over his boots while I chuckled and thought, “German”.

I gleefully danced around after him as he tugged at cables, and made Star Trek noises with his “device”. I trailed happily after him down to the basement and back upstairs again, while shouting inane things like, “It’s a green light! Green lights are good, right?” I was like the puppy he’d never had – and probably never wanted. Finally, he announced that everything was working. I managed to refrain from flinging myself at his surgical slippers, but only just.

GREEN LIGHTS!
GREEN LIGHTS!

So, I now have wifi in my flat. I didn’t die, nobody else had to die, and the whole process only (that word again) took two attempts and around a  month and a half. Basically, I am gewinning at life. So come on, Germany, what else have you got? (Probably shouldn’t ask that question…)

A tour and a tribute

Yesterday, the lovely Dietmar arranged for me to do a tour with his company – Berliner Unterwelten.

What a nice thing to do, I hear you say. And really, it was all the more so as this was the third time he’d arranged it. Honestly, I don’t know why this man puts up with me.

My flatmate saw this and thought of me. Cute.
My flatmate saw this and thought of me. Cute.

He had originally wanted me to do a tour of the flak tower in Humboldthain Park and organised it several weeks ago. I was instructed to be at the office no later than 2.45 to pick up my ticket. As I’m practically German now, this was no problem. I was even a few minutes early. Unfortunately, it was the wrong office.

After a dash on the underground, I made it to the right office at around two minutes after three. The girl was very nice about it, but the tour had already started so I was out of luck. (Incidentally, this girl would become my new landlady around two weeks after this – small world.)

The next week, Dietmar kindly arranged for me to do the tour again. This time, I was on time, at the right office – but unfortunately in the wrong shoes. I’d somehow missed the bit in the programme about sturdy footwear being a must. After four years in Latvia, sturdy footwear is just not in my vocabulary.

After apologising profusely again, Dietmar organised a ticket for me yesterday. Unfortunately, the flak tower tour is now finished until April – bats take over the building as their preferred hibernation destination – so I was going to do Tour M instead, “Under the Berlin Wall”.

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Dietmar also provided me with a ticket for the Germania exhibition which I was to go to before the tour. My landlady handed over the tickets, gave me directions on how to find the museum and off I went. I realised shortly afterwards that I clearly hadn’t been listening properly.

For anyone who has never been in Gesundbrunnen station, this place is a maze in mental asylum green. I went up and down stairs and escalators, in and out of doors, walked along platforms, and did more u-turns than a vodka-fuelled Latvian driver. Eventually, after a rather one-sided German conversation with a transport worker, I found it.

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You’d be forgiven for not realising this was a museum, right?
“Myth of Germania” is an absolutely fascinating insight into the mind of a megalomaniac. Aided and abetted by the architect, Albert Speer, “Myth of Germania” explores Hitler’s planning of an über metropolis, “not meant merely to serve Berlin’s citizens with a modernized habitat but rather as a representation of the Nazi regime’s sheer power.”

Saying that I enjoyed it sounds all sorts of wrong – “enjoy” is just not the right word for an experience like this, but it’s an important and extremely well put-together exhibition and one that I highly recommend. (Drop me a line and I’ll give you detailed instructions on how to find it…)

After a quick cuppa, I made my way back to the meeting point for the tour. I was a) early, b) in the right place, and c) in the correct footwear. Success.

The (rather cute German) tour guide had everyone’s attention right from the beginning as we explored bunkers and heard stories of the Germans’ ingenuity in figuring out ways to escape East Germany, by going under the Berlin wall. The transport system, the sewerage system and self-made tunnels were all utilised and we got up close and personal with two out of three.

Jumping the Wall - while it was still possible.
Jumping the Wall – while it was still possible.

We learned of the successes and the failures, the tales of true love, and the sheer bravery and spirit of these people that just would not be kept down. Although everyone knows about the Berlin Wall, this tour really hammered home the human aspect of it.

After (finally) managing to take one of the Berliner Unterwelten tours, I can’t even find the words to say how much I admire Dietmar for setting up this association. If you ask him about it, he’ll be incredibly modest, so I’m going to blow his trumpet for him – which I’m sure he’ll hate…

Established in 1997, Berliner Unterwelten researches and documents Berlin’s underground. I may not be completely correct with the figures, but I think in its first year, BU had 3,000 visitors; last year, it passed the 280,000 mark. And although 450 people are part of this organisation, it really is a testament to the awesomeness that is Dietmar.

Easily one of the most fascinating people I’ve ever met, I think meeting him on my first night here was probably one of the best things that’s ever happened to me. (And his brother can sing the Irish anthem.)

In this city which I now call home, but that is still relatively new to me, it’s amazing that I already have someone that I can call a true friend. I honestly feel that with him in my life, anything is possible. And if that’s too mushy for most of my readers to handle, “tough titty” as another good German friend once said.

So, if you come to Berlin, be sure to check out one of BU’s tours. Who knows, some day, I might even be your tour guide – as soon as my German gets good enough to call emergency services in case you have a heart attack on my watch…