Tag Archives: German people

Bedding it in Berlin

I’m always meaning to do more touristy stuff in Berlin but, you know how it is – it’s getting colder, I’m a bit lazy…

Luckily, Berlin has the answer to all of my first-world problems. Introducing (drum roll, please)… Berlin Horizontal.

Genius
Genius

I’d only come across this company last weekend while waiting for a friend at Alexanderplatz – it’s hard to miss a bed on wheels, parked in the middle of one of the busiest squares in Berlin. When I got home, I went straight to the Berlin Horizontal website and emailed the owner to try to arrange a tour for this weekend. We arranged to meet at 3pm this afternoon, he took my telephone number in case the weather took a turn for the worse, and even emailed me last night to remind me about the clock going back – all very well-organised and, well, German.

I managed to rope my friend, Heike, into accompanying me, which saved me putting out a message on Facebook along the lines of:

Does anyone want to go to bed with me – in public – next Sunday afternoon?

I probably would have had a few takers though. At least I like to think so…

We showed up a little early and stood around, waiting for our bed to appear. And, oh! The silly giddiness when it did! We shook hands with Richard, the charming, friendly owner of the company, and after introductions and a little small talk, were presented with little blue surgical slippers to put over our shoes. Seemingly, nobody wants to ride in a dirty bed.

Nice and clean and orderly - the way things should be.
Nice and clean and orderly – the way things should be.

We jumped in, fluffed up the pillows and pulled the duvet over us. Richard took a few pictures and then we were off. I think people could probably hear me laughing in Hamburg…

Getting comfortable
Getting comfortable

We took a nicely winding route from Alexanderplatz to Brandenburger Tor, stopping off at Museum Island, the “Lust Garden”, Bebelplatz, Gendarmenmarkt, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, and Tiergarten along the way, with Richard providing an entertaining commentary as we went. I asked him how he had come up with the idea to start Berlin Horizontal, and he told us that this very special rickshaw had been built for some sort of promotion but, after it had fulfilled its purpose, was left forgotten in a garage somewhere. Richard had rescued it from obscurity and started doing his thing.

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A very happy Berlinda

Aside from being in a bed in the middle of a capital city, what makes this tour so unique, and so much fun, are the reactions from passers-by. Everywhere we went, people were pointing, belly-laughing, taking photos and waving at us. Cries of “Good night!”, “Sleep well!” and “Oh, das ist so geil!” accompanied us around the city. A couple of people even wanted to hop into bed with us, and a bus driver stopped to take a photo of the show. I was grinning like a maniac and, at times, was giggling so uncontrollably, tears were running down my cheeks.

Imagining drivers’ phone calls to their waiting loved ones was enough to set me off in peals of laughter again.

“Hey honey, I’m going to be a bit late. I’m stuck behind a bed on wheels on Unter den Linden…”

Followers
Followers

We quickly perfected our royal waves, but it was a bit difficult to look regal whilst crying laughing under a duvet.

Sleeping beauty
Sleeping beauty

After an hour or so, we arrived at our final destination – Brandenburger Tor. It’s not often you get to upstage one of the most famous sights in the world, but we did just that. People even abandoned taking selfies for long enough to take pictures of us instead. Richard also had one last surprise, producing night caps out of his little bag of tricks. (He also has a reading lamp he can rig up for night-time tours.)

Looking insane at Brandenburger Tor.
Looking insane (but very happy) at Brandenburger Tor.

Alas, our tour had come to an end. To say that I recommend doing a tour with Berlin Horizontal is an understatement. I can honestly say, with no offence intended to the men who have been in my life, that this is the most fun I have ever had in bed. However, I do feel it is important to warn you of the side effect of this tour: the temptation to keep waving and grinning at people long after the tour has ended is very strong.

And probably not appropriate on Berlin’s public transport system.

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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.

 

Doing Dresden (Part one)

The first thing that has to be said about Dresden, is that this city is just ludicrously beautiful. I mean, if Dresden were a person, it would be Zoolander – it’s that really, really ridiculously good-looking. I can’t remember the last time I was this wowed by a city; I basically spent two days walking around grinning idiotically at how lovely everything was. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

20150214_155232[1]This time round, I actually made my bus on the intended day. I boarded and unfortunately sat opposite a woman with the mother of all colds, who had no qualms about blowing her nose at a window-shattering decibel level. I was rather relieved when we pulled into Dresden a couple of hours later and I got to leave Foghorn Helghorn behind.

I’d managed to find a room online for just €50 for two nights so I headed off in the direction I expected it to be in. After a couple of wrong turns and a few helpful Germans, I eventually arrived. At a yoga studio. Hmm. I called the number on the booking form and was told that yes, I was in the right place but that the owner wasn’t home right now. Why hadn’t I answered her text?

What text? I cast my mind back and remembered an odd message from the night before. “Lindau. When you will arrive my flat?” I’d just assumed that I’d given my number to some randomer in a bar and made some plan that I had no intention of keeping. For once, I hadn’t. This was of small comfort to me now though, as I had to wait for half an hour for the lady of the house to get back.

So, I did what any self-respecting German would do – grabbed a beer and drank it while I waited outside the building. A classy start to the weekend. Finally, a little slip of a woman of about 70 showed up and let me in. With a steely look in her eye, she non-jokingly told me she’d prefer it if I took my shoes off. Great, I was going to be staying with the female equivalent of Hermann for two days…

But the room was lovely, with its own balcony, and as nobody else was there that weekend, I’d have the bathroom and kitchenette to myself. There was even a comforting picture of a bear who’d ripped a young girl to pieces to help me settle in.

Not bad for €25 a night.
Not bad for €25 a night.
?
?

I freshened up a bit, and went out in search of sausage. I found it in the lovely Gänsedieb, a restaurant located right in front of Kreuzkirche, where the booming of the bells made my head throb. I opened the menu and the first thing that caught my eye was “Cup of goose fat to go” – what new sort of German madness was this? I decided against cups of fat, and went for some Merlot and a sausage – this had never let me down before, and it didn’t now.

One sausage to rule them all...
One sausage to rule them all…

After a second cheeky glass of Merlot – for the cold – I set off in search of a bar. My original plan had been to stick to the old part of the city for the first night, but it was more restaurant-y so I hopped across a bridge to the new part of town. This actually took quite a while as I kept on stopping to look back at the view.

Wow
Wow

I hit a couple of bars on Alaun Straße, but the ease with which I get talking to people in Berlin was nowhere to be found. People nodded or smiled politely, but there was no more contact than that. So, in keeping with the theme of sausage, I decided to visit the gay bar, where at least I knew the music they were playing.

I sat at the bar and almost immediately got chatting to a friendly Dresdener who asked me if I knew this was a gay bar. I glanced around at the guys gazing lovingly into each other’s eyes and the drag queens starting an impromptu karaoke session on stage, and said that yes, I had an inkling. It turned out my new buddy worked for a brewery so we had plenty to talk about. He gave me some pointers for the next night as well, and it was 7am by the time I got back to my room.

I was up at the crack of eleven, feeling a little groggy, but otherwise not too bad. I grabbed a cheese roll and a cup of tea on the way into town and then headed for the old part of the city. As it turned out, I’d unwittingly chosen the 70th anniversary of the Dresden bombings so the police were out in droves, obviously expecting trouble. Putting a slight feeling of unease to one side, I walked on – and then repeatedly stopped to pick my jaw up off the ground.

20150214_134748[1] 20150214_135156[1]It was a stunning day, and I made very slow progress as I walked around, stopping every few seconds to take yet another photo. I eventually made my way to Zwinger Palace, which instantly took my breath away. The truly incredible thing is that 70 years ago, all of this was razed to the ground – 15 square kilometres were wiped out in Allied bombing raids, the city burned for five days and between 20,000 and 25,000 people lost their lives. Zwinger Palace was among the first buildings to be reconstructed and I think the Germans did rather a fine job of it.

Of course, some people were easily distracted by other things…

Boys will be boys
Boys will be boys

I was soon, however, distracted by the most miserable-looking bride on earth. The weather was perfect, her husband looked alright, she was having her photo taken in the middle of a fairy tale – what on earth was the matter? Ah, she was Russian. Her husband should probably get used to that face.

Why so glum, chum?
Why so glum, chum?

Stay tuned for part two…

Dresden Tourism website

No IKEA what’s going on

Last week saw me popping my “IKEA cherry”. I know, I’m probably the only person in civilised Europe who had never been to an IKEA, but I really didn’t feel like I was missing out on that much. However, my new flat, amazing though it is, is lacking a couple of essential items – one of them being a wardrobe – so it was finally time to bite the bullet.

Bjorn had told me about a wardrobe he’d seen there for around €30, so I had a vague idea what I was looking for. (He’d also offered to come with me, but getting him to make a plan and stick to it is about as easy as teaching a cat to tap dance, so I decided to go alone.) Some emergency coaching by Mammy O’Grady had given me an overview of how the IKEA system works, so I felt like I was fully prepared for the experience.

Two trains and a bus later and I was there. Things started off OK – it even seemed like they were expecting me…

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How thoughtful!

After close to an hour of wandering through various departments, looking at billions of items I didn’t want, I finally found what I was looking for. I noted down the number and tried to walk to the exit. And walked and walked and walked, past another billion items I didn’t want. Starting to feel like I was never going to make it out of the store alive, I finally came across an information booth.

Me: Hi, I’m trying to find this item. 

Gunther: (tapping away at this computer) Yes, that’s the correct number. 

Me: I know that. I’m practically German. I’m very precise. What I want to know is where do I find it, where do I pay for it, and how do I get out of here? 

Gunther: Oh, you have to go to the blah blah room to collect it. 

Me: And where’s that?

Gunther: Just walk through this department and the next department and the next department, and you’ll be there. 

Me: (sigh)

So I carried on walking, and eventually made it to the pick-up hall. I lugged the wardrobe down off the shelf and hauled it over to the self-service checkout. I scanned it, swiped my card and got beeped at.

AN ASSISTANT WILL BE WITH YOU SHORTLY.

Crap. Gunther the Second trotted over and explained that the machine didn’t accept foreign bank cards. I left my stuff with him and ran over to the ATM. Naturally, it was one of those ones that charges you around a fiver for every withdrawal. I walked back to where Gunther the Second was guarding my purchase. He then informed me that these checkouts didn’t take cash, so I’d have to queue up at the normal checkouts.

GRRR.

With steam coming out my ears, I joined a queue behind people who were buying enough furniture to fill Buckingham Palace. Luckily the cashier was friendly or I might have beaten her to death with the wardrobe poles.

It might look small and innocent but...
It might look small and innocent but…

I finally made it out of the store, where I stopped for a little rest on a bench. Then it was time to heft my awkward, 10kg package onto various forms of public transport. By the time I made it home, I hated IKEA, Sweden, the person who invented IKEA, people with cars, and furniture in general. Poor Bjorn, who has the misfortune of being Swedish, got his first taste of Irish temper as I ranted about what sort of a sadistic Swedish mind could come up with this store concept.

Come to think of it, Tiger, the Danish chain, employs the same concept – namely that you can’t just walk in and walk out again. You have to walk around every aisle in the shop before you can leave. Are Scandinavians notoriously tight, or something? Is trapping them in shops the only way to get them to part with their hard-earned cash?

Whatever it is, it will be a cold day in hell before I put myself through the IKEA challenge again.