Tag Archives: public transport

Today was quite the day

I’m not normally one to complain (ahem) but today really took the piss. It actually started yesterday with monsoon-like rain all day, which instantly flooded the city causing major traffic delays, flooded U-Bahn stations, knee-deep water in some buses, building evacuations and, because it’s Berlin, people swimming down major streets and being pulled along in dinghies while drinking beer.

I’m not exaggerating

A storm in German is “Sturm” or “Gewitter” – a really bad storm is called “Unwetter” which, in English, would be unweather. Obviously this makes no sense at all as it’s actually ALL the weather in one go and not even remotely unweather. But hey, German…

This morning, expecting delays, I set off for my lesson a bit earlier than usual, grimly plodding through the drizzle. The bus showed up and dropped me off at the U-Bahn station. What should have been a simple ten-minute ride was made impossible by the fact that around six stations along the way were closed due to flooding. This was one of them.

So I travelled two stops, got off, got on the replacement bus and waited while another 100 people squeezed their soggy selves in. The problem with that is that the doors don’t close when people are in the way of the sensors so other passengers were yelling at people to get off at each stop; one man’s beer belly held us up for a good five minutes.

The BVG (Berlin Transport Company) representative had “reliably” informed me that the bus was going all the way to Zoo, one stop past where I had to go. But no, the driver stopped at another U-Bahn station along the way claiming that the U-Bahn was running again. She kicked us all off, down we went and no, stupid cow, the U-Bahn was not running.

By this time, I was already half an hour late so I had no choice but to cancel my lesson. I waded across the road and actually managed to squeeze into a replacement taxi. Yes, things were so bad that the BVG were transporting people using TAXIS. Then it was back on the U-Bahn, back on the bus and, finally, home. It had taken me almost 2.5 hours to achieve absolutely nothing and end up back where I started.

I wrote a scathing email to the BVG and consoled myself with the thought that I had a nice evening with my friend to look forward to – preferably with excess amounts of whiskey. Shortly afterwards, he messaged to say that he wasn’t feeling well and had to cancel. My opera singing neighbour started up and I contemplated justifiable homicide.

Still, I had to calm myself down as I had another lesson to go to this afternoon. I had carefully checked to make sure that the S-Bahn was running normally and set off. I got to the station right on time only to see the three words that every German dreads – Zug fällt aus. My train had “fallen out” and the next one wasn’t until 11 minutes later.

Argh!

A torrent of swear words, a bit like the torrents of rain, ensued. I sent my student a message telling her I’d be a few minutes late. She was actually happy enough as she’d ordered cake and would now have time to eat it. Nothing makes a German happier than coffee and cake.

After walking up the stairs (because of a broken escalator) and being accosted by a rude beggar, I eventually made it to the lesson. While I spoke flawless German, the barista insisted on answering in English – which resulted in him receiving a von Grady growl. It started raining halfway through the lesson and by the time I left, it was more unweather.

The town that I’d left just a couple of hours earlier was now a swimming pool. My boots weren’t quite up to the challenge and I squelched my way home, as engulfed in misery and self-pity as my feet were in water.

How it looked when I was swimming home
How it looked 30 minutes after I’d got home…

Grrr.

Manfredas: Hey, do you fancy dinner at the Surf Inn? 

Me: Yeah, sure. 

Manfredas: As long as it isn’t flooded. But I guess then we could “surf in”.

Me: Too soon…

Why I will never move back to Dublin

I recently had an interesting conversation with my friend Simone:

Me: I think I might be a weird expat.

Simone: How so? 

Me: Whenever someone asks me how often I go home, I look a bit confused and tell them “every evening, same as you” and then I realise what they meant. Do you still think of Germany as home?

Simone: Hmm, tricky question. I feel like parts of me are in different places.

Me: Ha, I feel like all of my parts are in Berlin! 

And that’s the truth of it. Of course there are some people that I miss in Ireland, but if I never set foot on Irish soil again, I wouldn’t be any the worse off for it. Maybe I’m being unfair on the Irish but it does seem to be a particularly Irish condition.

Most articles I read by Irish expats see them counting down the days until they’re next back on the Emerald Isle, drinking copious amounts of Barry’s Tea and cooing over some random relative’s new baby. In the meantime, they envelop themselves in a comforting Irish bubble in whatever country they happen to be in, bemoaning the fact that the locals aren’t more “Irish”.

I, meanwhile, am rolling my eyes and feeling faintly nauseous.

But back to the title of the post. I was recently back in Dublin and, while I had a nice couple of days, mostly I was amazed at my total disconnect with the place. So, some reasons I could never live there again:

1. Everything is so expensive

OK, it might seem a bit shallow but everything is such a total rip-off that it turns my stomach. The quality is the same as in Germany (if not worse), yet people are paying at least twice as much.

20161009_1626221
Thank you, my arse

No, your eyes do not deceive you; that’s €6.75 for a glass of Chardonnay. As far as I’m aware, it didn’t have gold flakes or diamonds in it and I can get a better glass in my local bar in Berlin for €2.80. The “Have your party with us” invitation would probably require remortgaging your house. I didn’t see a bottle in a supermarket for under €9, while here in Berlin, I’ve discovered litre cartons of wine for €0.99 in LIDL. I’m not saying it won’t kill you but it’s nice to have options. And you can always use it as paint stripper – if you survive.

Before you judge me, it’s not just booze. You might find it hard to believe that I’m not this naturally beautiful (ahem) but I do use hair dye. A quick glance in Boots confirmed the worst:

€10.49...
€10.49…

In Rossmann (the equivalent store here), it’s €4.95. I mean, really, what the …? Don’t even get me started on rental prices and childcare costs.

2. Public transport is dire

The weekend before I went back, Manfredas’ dad asked me if I would take the S- or U-Bahn from the airport to my house. He probably wasn’t expecting the guffaw he got in return. You see, in Dublin, we have two overground train options – neither of which go anywhere near each other, the airport, or where I’m from, and buses. Oh, the buses.

SIGH.
SIGH.

Gamely, I thought that I would take the bus from the airport and proceeded to look up my options. Half an hour later, ready to throw my laptop out the window, I decided I would take a taxi.

Hello, one ticket to stop 3702, please.
Hello, one ticket to stop 3702, please.

Ticket prices are based on “stages”, for example, 1-3 stops is one price, 4-13 is a higher price… really, life is too short. Drivers will accept exact change only; there’s no information on the majority of bus stops about where you are, when the next bus is coming or where’s it’s going to, and stop announcements on the bus are helpfully in English and Irish which most Irish people can’t even understand. Jesus, even Riga was streets ahead – there you go Latvians, your long-awaited compliment.

3. Irish people believe their own hype

Ah sure, there’s no place like Ireland for the craic, is there?

If “the craic” means standing around in over-priced bars, unable to hear yourself speak over the self-satisfied roaring of people standing right next to each other raving about how much “craic” everything is, then yes, you’re probably right.

Ah sure, you just can’t beat the Irish, can you?

I probably could. I’d just need a big stick.

Ah sure, there’s no better place in the world really, is there?

You see, everything in Ireland is just brilliant, according to the Irish. That is, when they’re not complaining about how shite everything is. Go figure.

4. The lifestyle

I’ll admit that “silent Sunday” in Germany was a bit of a shock when I first got here. However, after the first few weeks of waking up on a Sunday and realising that I had no food – yet again – I got used to it. I also got used to seeing families out biking, walking or playing in the park together.

Believe it or not, the last Sunday I was in Ireland, it was a glorious day. It was the second week in October and probably one of the last days that people would see blue skies for months. And what were the locals doing? They were walking around shopping centres, glassy-eyed, spending money on things they don’t need, paying for silly rides for their kids, and buying over-priced meals from food courts – probably while talking about how much “craic” they were having.

Oh, what craic we're all having.
Oh, what craic we’re all having.

There are plenty of green spaces around where I grew up, but they’re mainly used as short-cuts to get somewhere else. Unlike in Berlin, there are no barbeque areas, no dog-walking zones, no playgrounds… not even a bench to sit down and read a book on for a while. People rush from over-heated home to over-heated shopping centre. The first thing I did when I got back to Berlin was a bit of good, old-fashioned “lüften”. Ah, the relief.

5. Irish people never shut up

Fionnuala: Oh, blah blah, the weather, blah blah, so-and-so’s wedding, blah blah, state of the economy, blah blah, guess who died, blah blah, so-and-so’s hip replacement, blah blah…

Me: ARRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHH!

Anyway, it seems I’m being a bit of a hypocrite on the last one as I’ve just gone over 1,000 words. Guess you can take the girl out of Ireland…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meeting the Manfredases

Manfredas: Do you fancy a couple of days in Hannover? We’d be staying with my parents…

Me: Oh God.

But I agreed to go; the chance to see a typical German family household with alles in Ordnung trumped my nervousness at having to try to be “normal” in a foreign language for an entire weekend. I made Manfredas stop at a supermarket close to their house so that I could pick up some flowers. I figured that I could at least make a good first impression even if it was going to be all downhill from there.

Me: What kind of flowers does she like? 

Manfredas: I dunno. Everything? 

Me: Sigh.

We arrived just after sunset and were greeted at the door by Mr and Mrs Manfredas. I needn’t have worried – they couldn’t have been nicer and more welcoming. We were ushered into the dining room where Abendbrot (evening bread) was waiting for us. Abendbrot, as far as I can tell, is basically breakfast without the jam and Nutella. Yes Germans, your secret is out…

Me: (eyeing a suspicious-looking grey mass on a plate) What is THAT?

Manfredas: Leberwurst (liver sausage).

Me: Jesus. 

I excused myself to go to the bathroom, which was so clean you could have eaten your Leberwurst off the floor. His dad had rigged up a radio to the light switch so it was a very nice, musical pee. I made sure to compliment Mr Manfredas on his ingenuity when I got back downstairs.

Musical bathroom
Musical bathroom

After a little more small talk – yes, Germans do that – we were off to visit Manfredas’ friend and his wife. We sat in the “party kitchen”, drank wine and good whiskey and I managed to not come across as a total idiot – I think.

The next morning, after a musical shower and a massive breakfast, we hopped on the U-Bahn to the football stadium where Hannover 96 were playing Sankt Pauli. As the Germans are capable of having ideas, the cost of the trip to and from the stadium is included in the season ticket in a bid to encourage people to leave their cars at home.

20161001_1258031

The weather was a bit shit but Mrs Manfredas had been nice enough to lend me a practical German raincoat. As we approached security, I prayed that she had no illicit substances in her pockets. Having been briskly frisked and having my phone charger taken off me, we were in. The match was sold out and the atmosphere was buzzing. Sechsundneunzig – immer nett und freundlich. Various chants were being sung and I sung along with what I imagined the right words were.

Me: Are they saying “Ole asshole”?

Manfredas: Ha, NEIN! “Ole HSV!” (pronounced like “Ha ess fow” in German so an easy mistake to make…)

Hannover won 2-0 in the end and the stadium was a testament to what simple creatures men really are.

Woop! Ole asshole!
Woop! Ole asshole!

We met up with another of Manfredas’ friends on the way out and proceeded to the Hannover version of Oktoberfest. It was a bit like Las Vegas on steroids.

20161001_1516371

We managed to stick the noise and drunkenness for one drink and then walked to the old city to find somewhere a bit more civilised. The German love of sausage appears to be strong in Hannover.

Manfredas brought me to Gosch, which is where the Hannover wannabes hang out. I looked a little out of place amid the primped and preened ladies in my over-sized red raincoat, jeans and trainers but it’s Germany so nobody really cares. Still, I wanted to find somewhere a little more “me” (i.e. dodgy) so we left after one.

Walking past a bar where women  with partially shaved heads and tattooed necks were roaring out the window at some poor bloke on a bike, I decided we’d found it.

Yup, this was the place!
Yup, this was the place!

We stayed for as long as I could bear listening to the Hannover Hyena laughing toothily at everything I said and then went for a bite to eat.

Sunday morning was sunny and warm and, when I got downstairs, Manfredas and his dad were sitting in the garden putting the world to rights. I decided there and then that my mission in life was to become a German pensioner – these people know how to live.

After another huge breakfast, Manfredas, his dad and I took a stroll to the nearby Blauer See, not five minutes from the house. Of course, this being Germany, there was also a beer garden.

20161002_1216421

Manfredas: Do you want something to drink? 

Me: Ummmm.

Manfredas: My dad’s going to have a beer. 

Me: OK then, I’ll have a glass of wine. 

It was 11.55.

We sat and chilled for an hour or so, sunning ourselves and enjoying the peace and quiet. I made witty conversation – in my head – and Manfredas and his dad pretended that what I said in reality was actually correct German.

20161002_1153051
Blauer See

We all went for a delicious lunch in a Croatian restaurant and then it was time to pack up and get on the Autobahn back to Berlin.

I can’t say how the Manfredases felt about me, but I’m a huge fan of theirs. From the moment I arrived, I “felt myself at home” as the Germans would say – the musical bathroom was just a bonus.

 

 

Groper on the train

You really do see allsorts on the public transport here in Berlin – the teeth suckers, the foghorn nose-blowers, the people who talk to themselves, the people who sing to themselves, the people who pee into a bottle when the train stops for no apparent reason, and the people you’re convinced you can still smell in your clothes and hair a week later. All of this I can cope with but, this week, I had the misfortune of bumping into the lowest of the low – the groper.

My little train station
My little train station

I was on my way to my afternoon lesson with my Costa Rican student, where I usually spend the guts of 90 minutes saying, “WHAT?” It was just after 1pm and a beautiful, sunny day. I had achieved the most coveted of all train manoeuvres and bagged four seats to myself. After a couple of stations, however, a man got on and sat next to me.

Apart from a quick “tsk” of annoyance that he had chosen to sit next to me in a half-empty carriage, I didn’t pay him any attention. He did the typical “man thing” of spreading his legs as wide as they could possibly go and placing his hands on his knees. Scheiße, his hand was brushing my knee.

I moved over a bit, but I could still feel his hand, so I moved over even further. I ventured a look at him in the glass panel in front of me and saw that his face was glistening with sweat. Willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and hope that he was just an inconsiderate space-invader, I squashed myself up against the window. Nope, I could still feel his hand. This definitely wasn’t right. I looked down and saw that he had extended two fingers and was touching my knee with them.

My poor violated knees.
My poor violated knees.

After a very brief, incredulous moment during which I processed that this was actually happening to me in broad daylight, I lost it.

“WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING, YOU FUCKING WEIRDO?! GET YOUR FUCKING HAND OFF ME!”

Yes, there was a lot of swearing and I spoke roared in English but, really, it was simply a knee-jerk (pardon the pun) reaction. I was just happy to get words out in any language. He got up quickly and walked to the opposite end of the carriage, getting off at the next station.

There is no handbook to tell you what to do in situations like this. Should I run after him? What then? Grab him? Hit him? Pin him down and get someone to call the police? But what if he turns violent? Maybe he has a knife? What if he gets his willy out?

NEIN to getting willies out on public transport.
NEIN to getting willies out on public transport.

The only other time something like this happened to me was while I was living in Lyon. That time, I ended up with a knife held to my throat for telling a handsy Algerian something rather rude he could do to his mother’s posterior. I wasn’t keen on repeating the experience.

And so I did nothing. Yes, I got him away from me but I probably only drove him onto another train where he’d pull the same act on some other unsuspecting woman. I feel useless. I’m frustrated that I was put in this position and that I did nothing to stop him from doing the same thing in the future.

When I saw this man on Thursday afternoon on the S25, he was wearing blue jeans and a navy jacket. He has dark slicked down hair and wide, high cheekbones. I only saw him in the glass reflection so I can’t give a better description than that, unfortunately. However, someone out there knows who this sweaty pervert is and I would kindly ask you to get him some help before he runs into me again.

The saddest thing is that this seems to be so common. Nobody was particularly surprised or outraged that I was groped. I would go so far as to say that it’s almost expected that this will happen to a woman at some point in her life; I have very few friends that haven’t had something similar happen to them. Do men ever have to deal with this crap? I’m really interested to find out.

If nothing else, at least I’ve added one more word to my ever-expanding German vocabulary – ein Grabscher, a groper. Pretty appropriate, wouldn’t you say? I just hope I don’t have cause to use it again.

 

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!

 

 

On yer bike

Part of being a good Berliner, as anyone will tell you, is owning a bicycle. And since I’m now in a living arrangement where I can look at a bicycle as a bicycle (rather than just one more thing that will have to be moved in a month’s time), this seemed like the perfect moment to take the leap. Sheila, the half-naked Aussie, had generously offered me hers because she has to go back to Oz for a bit. But then, she’d also fallen off it into the back of a convertible as it was too heavy for her. I politely declined.

Fortunately, my Irish friend, Séamus, builds bikes for a living and (rather conveniently) was working on a nice petite model that might just be ideal for me. Unfortunately, he lives on the other side of the city. This wouldn’t normally be a big deal, but with Berlin’s transport system up to its old tricks again, it took a bus and three trains to get there. Not to worry, I took one look at the shiny red beauty and instantly decided that it would be mine.

You will be mine, oh yes...
You will be mine, oh yes…

While Séamus rattled on about tubes and wires and oil and other important stuff, I was thinking “pretty, red, pretty”. But, being a professional, instead of just letting me ride off into the sunset, he insisted that we go down to his backyard and give it a couple of test runs to make sure it was a good fit for me. After a few precarious moments, I was off on a wobbly circuit of the yard and amazingly managed not to crash into any of the cars or fall off. A quick height adjustment of the handlebars and I was good to go.

Me: It’s going to be a bit of a nightmare getting it back to mine on public transport. 

Séamus: (giving it a manly kick) Ha, don’t worry. Parts of this thing are over thirty years old. I don’t think you’ll manage to destroy it in an hour. 

Little did he know.

He offered to ride with me to the station but, as a good law-abiding German, I refused as the one thing the bike didn’t have was lights. It’s only about a two-minute ride but rules are rules, you know. Plus, I just knew I’d be the unlucky bugger that got caught.

When we got there, people were streaming out of the station as the S-Bahn had shut down three hours early. So now, instead of two trains which would leave me a 5-minute walk from my door, we would have to walk for 15 minutes, and I’d have to take two trains and a bus. With Séamus practically wheeling the bike for me, and me impractically bitching and moaning the whole way, we made it to the next station. I got (and validated) a ticket for the bike and then I was on my own.

I’d thought moving my worldly belongings by public transport was tough until I tried to get a bicycle up and down escalators. Still, despite almost falling on several people and ramming an old lady in the shins, I made it to the bus-stop. The bus came bang on time and I hefted the bike through the middle doors.

“NEIN!” came a cry from the front of the bus. “NEIN!”

I figured he was probably talking to me, so I elegantly alighted and wheeled the bike to the front door to see what all the fuss was about.

Bus driver: No bikes. 

Me: But, but, I don’t have a choice. I just bought it and it has no lights so I can’t ride it. 

Bus driver: NEIN!

Me: But I bought a bike ticket! It’s only a few stops and there’s so much room and…

Bus driver: NEINNNNNNNNN! 

And then he closed the door on me. The fact that I’d managed to have this “conversation” in German gave me some small satisfaction, but not enough that I didn’t pause to give him the finger and call him a pedantic prick. (I used English for that one.)

So, there I was, stranded at the side of the road, facing a good 45-minute walk. It was almost 11.30pm at this stage and I just thought, “You know what, Germany? Stick your rules. If one set of rules means that I have to break another, then so be it”. And I got on the bike. It had reflectors and there was nobody on the footpaths, apart from (comfortingly) other cyclists riding without lights. About five minutes down the road, my cardigan got stuck in the wheel, which required a dismount, a good deal of swearing and some tricky extrication.

I got on again, sheer fury driving me forwards. Bloody mothers can wheel their jeep-sized buggies filled with their squealing brats onto buses. The bus driver will even make the bus “kneel” for them so they can more conveniently torture a busload of people’s eardrums for god knows how long. How am I, standing silently in the middle of an empty bus holding my bike, more unacceptable than that? Just because I didn’t push the bike out of my lady orifice doesn’t make it any less my new baby… And then I looked up and I was home. Huh, I was only a couple of minutes later than if I’d taken the bus. Good old rage.

Today, I decided to take Red Beauty out on a spin to a nearby park. The first thing I was faced with was a sign saying there was no cycling in the park.

Grrrr...
Grrrr…

Followed by a sign saying that you actually could cycle in the park.

It seems mothers and squealing brats are allowed too.
It seems mothers and squealing brats are allowed too.

Jesus, Germany, make up your mind…

Still, it was all worth it in the end.

20150827_162415[2]

20150827_163434[1]

20150827_163658[1]

That bus driver can still kiss my (newly-toned) white Irish ass, though…

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.