Tag Archives: Neukölln

An Irishwoman, a Brazilian and a Norwegian walk into a…

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
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 an innocent friend to invite you round to their place. This is where brave, wonderful Brahilde (Brazilian Hilde) stepped in. She invited Norhilde (Norwegian Hilde) and we were all set. A new Facebook chat group was born.

Me: OK, here’s the recipe. Brahilde, what have you got? 

Brahilde: Um, I’ve got cups…

(Finally, a woman after my own heart.) 

Me: OK, so we’ll split the ingredients and bring everything around to your place. Norhilde, I’m shit with things like spices so you can get those and the rum. I’ll get the wine, fruit and Zuckerhut (sugar loaf).  

Norhilde: Done.  

Me: Brahilde, do you have a big saucepan? 

Brahilde: I have little saucepans…

Me: (for once feeling “kitchenly” superior) OK, I’ll bring a saucepan as well. 

I popped over to the local supermarket, obviously located the wine easily, picked up a few oranges and lemons and went on the hunt for the Zuckerhut. Damn, where was the Zuckerhut? I found a jolly German lady who works there.

Me: Excuse me, do you have Zuckerhut? 

Shophilde: Yes, I think we have it somewhere…

Me: (Babbling like a lunatic) You see, I’m going to try and make Feuerzangenbowle this evening but I think it’s going to be a bit dangerous. 

Shophilde: For your head or just in general? 

Me: Both. 

Anyway, we found the Zuckerhut, I paid up and jauntily left the supermarket. I had very sensibly decided that three bottles of wine was probably too much so I told the Hildes that we’d only use two.

One was for drinking while we made the other drink. Sensible, like I said.
One was for drinking while we made the other drink. Sensible, like I said.

I crammed everything into two plastic bags and headed for the station. This time, I was almost hoping I’d get groped as I couldn’t wait to see the expression on the guy’s face when he got walloped with a massive saucepan and three bottles of wine. Luckily for Berlin’s gropers it didn’t happen.

I clanked my way through Neukölln and arrived at Brahilde’s apartment where everything was looking rather festive. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I thought it would be a shame to watch the place burn to the ground.

Fire hazard
Fire hazard

Norhilde showed up soon afterwards with the rest of the ingredients. She did admirably with the spices thanks to a lot of help from Google Translate. And the rum…

Tip: Do not let a Norwegian buy the rum for Feuerzangenbowle. You need the cheapest, nastiest, strongest rum you can find and a Norwegian will only buy the finest, most expensive, ridiculously non-flammable rum. 

Tip: Choose a friend who owns a CORKSCREW.

After an emergency dash to the supermarket, I poured the two bottles of wine into the saucepan, added the crushed fruit and proceeded with merry abandon to throw in the spices I’d never heard of as well.

Hey, good looking...
Hey, good looking…

At this point, we realised that we didn’t have a sieve or tongs or anything that would be particularly useful (normal) to hold the sugar over the saucepan. Brahilde gamely suggested her cutlery-drying utensil and we were back in the game.

Do not attempt to do it like this.
Do not attempt to do it like this. I am an idiot.

We placed the cutlery-drying thing upside-down in the pot and put the Zuckerhut on top of it.

It wasn't at all phallic.
It wasn’t at all phallic.

I poured a shitload of rum on top of it and Norhilde lit a match.

Pfft.

The match went out.

I poured on some more rum. Norhilde lit a match.

Pfft. 

The match went out.

Scheiße.

Why won't you BURN??
Why won’t you BURN??

Thankfully, I’d had a message from my German friend earlier that day saying that if the rum wouldn’t light, heat it up and try again. We poured half the bottle into another (little) saucepan and warmed it up. I gently spooned some over the Zuckerhut and Norhilde lit another match. WHOOSH! WE HAD FIRE!

20151211_224751
Not dangerous at all.

I continued to spoon and Norhilde continued to light matches and I only set the saucepan of rum on fire a couple of times. Soon, all of the Zuckerhut had dissolved into the saucepan and we were ready to taste it.

20151211_224827
Like I said, do it in someone else’s apartment.

I’m not one to brag but I really think I have a talent for making Feuerzangenbowle. I’m not particularly gifted in the kitchen, but this, this was amazing.

YUM!
YUM!

And we all lived.

Fun night.

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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.

2014-02-01-21-30-51
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.

20151127_174226[1]
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!

 

 

Living on my own

Me: Of course, my dream is to live by myself eventually.

Kayla: Oh, my Aussie friend is looking for someone to take over her flat for a couple of months. Maybe you two should meet? 

Me: Hell yeah. 

And so, through my South African friend that I used to work with in Dublin who now also lives in Berlin, I got to meet Ailsa, the Aussie artist who’s going on an artists residency in the States for a couple of months. She’d had some problems with Airbnb people before, so she wanted to leave her flat in safe hands. (Ahem.) Enter me. Naturally, she loved me at first sight and we both agreed that I should have her apartment.

Of course, Hildeberta and Hildegard were heart-broken when I told them I’d be moving out. Who would leave long dark hairs all over the apartment when I was gone? But, on the plus side, they now get to clean every second week instead of every third week so I guess there’s that. Naturally, I will miss them a lot, but we’ll still see each other and I’ll have them over to my flat for a (hopefully not poisonous) dinner soon.

I moved into my new pad in Neukölln on Tuesday with the help of Fritz, who I hoped would be more alert behind the wheel than he is on trains. He came to my place at 10am (on the dot) and by 10.40, we had everything moved into my new flat. German-Irish efficiency. (Yes, it is a real thing…)

I fully intend to.
I fully intend to.

Words can’t describe how happy I am to be finally living on my own in Berlin – even if it is just for a short time. Of course, it’s more expensive than my old place, but I’ve decided to start living my life the way I want it to be (rather than how it actually is) and hope that everything else falls into place. Madness? Perhaps, but it feels wunderbar. And I get to play “If I were an egg, where would I be?” in a whole new LIDL.

I’ve already charmed the Lederhosen off the auld lads who are permanently installed outside the bar next door, and I’m planning on joining them several times a week – to practise my German. I’ve also met the little old Turkish lady who’s like the gatekeeper to the building and a good woman to have on side. She also doesn’t speak a word of English so our first meeting was quite entertaining.

Zeynep: Are you from Australia too?

Me: No, I’m from Ireland. 

Zeynep: (brief pause) JOHNNY LOGAN!!!

Me: Erm, yeah… 

(Ah, the good old days, when Ireland got more than “nul points” in the Eurovision.)

My first act upon moving in was to accidentally melt cheese all over the kitchen floor thanks to my new sandwich toaster. I’d gone to get dressed and put on my make-up after turning it on, and came back to find molten hot cheese covering the nice wooden floor and some wiring. I’d forgotten how fast those things toast, clearly.

Don't worry, Ailsa, it came off easily...
Don’t worry, Ailsa, it came off easily…

I’ve also had to permanently close the door to the storage room, as I kept walking in there thinking it was the kitchen or the bathroom. But, thankfully, I’m less confused now, and becoming more successful at living. Last night, I had Nigel over for dinner and managed not to kill either of us. I cooked a sausage casserole that I was hoping would feed me for the week, but Nige polished off three-quarters of it in one sitting. Still, at least he didn’t wildpinkel on the balcony.

View from my awesome balcony
View from my awesome balcony

This morning, feeling rather continental, I decided to have my Schokobrötchen and tea on said balcony while sunning myself in my underwear. This afforded me the treat of seeing my Turkish neighbour doing his morning stretching routine on his balcony. Or at least he was doing it until he spotted the half-naked Irish woman eyeing him.

What I'll be doing every morning from now until July.
What I’ll be doing every morning from now until July.

On the whole, after only two days, I’m enjoying living here so much that I think I might have the locks changed while Ailsa is in the States and not open the door when she comes back. Although, I’m not sure how German law enforcement would feel about that.

OK, I know exactly how they'd feel.
OK, I know exactly how they’d feel.

So, for anyone who hasn’t been keeping track of my journey in Berlin, this is how it looks so far…

North, south, east, west...
North, south, east, west…

Where to next? Who knows, but I should probably start looking tomorrow…