Tag Archives: Tea

Forest Chump (Part Two)

On New Year’s Eve, I was out of bed by 9 for breakfast. Much as I love being a “Continental European”, I will never get on board with the continental breakfast – especially not in the depths of winter. Someone else could have the slabs of cold meat and cheese. I was having cereal, raisin toast and a lovely big pot of tea.

Where's the bacon?
Where’s the bacon?

After that, it was back to my room to shower and psyche myself up for my first ever walk in the forest. I toyed with the idea of going full-on Latvian and wearing heels but the Germans might kick me out for that. Sensible footwear it was.

So damn cute.
So damn cute.

I’d seen people heading down a little lane opposite the hotel, so that was where I started. The skies were ominous but the walk was actually quite… pleasant. I’d pass the odd dog-walker every now and then and we’d exchange smiles and hellos but apart from that, it was was perfectly peaceful. And very tree-full.

Sexy German trees...
Sexy German trees…

After I’d been walking for a while (keeping an eye out for wolves, naturally), I stopped a likely-looking, Jack Wolfskin-clad German couple in very sensible shoes.

Me: Hello, my fellow forest nymphs. Is there a lake around here somewhere?

They gave me a rather dubious look up and down and were probably thinking, “What the hell is this Arschloch doing in a forest?”

Horst: Well, there IS a lake, but it’s around a 7km walk in that direction. 

My face must have dropped slightly, as his wife chimed in.

Hilda: But there’s a river around 400 metres that way. 

Me: Right, be on your way, my feisty forest faeries… 

I trotted off in the direction she’d pointed in, but I think maybe the famous German sense of humour was at play here.

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Are you a river?
Are you a river?
Are you a river?

I decided to follow a man out walking his dog and three-year-old for a bit. I figured that if there were wolves, they’d probably go for the mutt or the toddler first. This, however, got annoying fast as (what are the chances?) it turns out they were English speakers and the daughter couldn’t get the names of the Seven Dwarfs straight. Before I started yelling, “Bashful, Sneezy, Dopey, Grumpy, Happy, Sleepy and DOC!”, I needed to get my zen back. I climbed an embankment and did the unthinkable. Yes, it’s the photo the Latvians thought they’d never see…

It's me! Hugging a tree!
It’s me! Hugging a tree!

After sending the pic to a couple of people and enjoying the virtual “thuds” as they fell off their chairs, I sauntered back to the hotel, river-less, wolf-less but happy.

I enjoyed a quick red wine nap-cap and then went back to bed for a couple of hours. Turns out trees and fresh air are exhausting… When I woke up, I decided that there was no harm in being sociable for a while and hopped on a bus into Lübeck. The bus dropped me off outside a rather suspect-looking bar – you know the kind of place that you’re not sure if you’ll come out alive but you’ll probably have some good stories if you do? In short, perfect.

As I walked through the fug of smoke, every head in the place turned to look. At this point, it’s important not to show fear so I marched to the bar and asked the 80s hair-do behind it for a glass of wine. The man next to me immediately offered me a chair, shook my hand and introduced himself. In no time at all, we were gabbing away like old friends.

I thought the guy on the other side of me could be trouble as there seemed to be some tension between him and my new buddy – I would have ended up on my back on the floor if he’d lunged for him. But then, dream boat that I am, I got a toothless smile from the tattoo-covered trouble-maker and knew that I was going to be just fine. (In these kinds of situations, it’s always good to get the scariest-looking person on side.)

A guy came around selling roses and my new buddy bought me one. An hour later, he came around again, and my new buddy bought me a second one. Two white roses also appeared from somewhere else in the bar and soon I had a veritable garden in front of me.

Time to go
Time to go

After the drunkest man in the world accidentally smashed a pint glass on my jeans, it was time to head back to the hotel. Germany on New Year’s Eve is characterised by the sounds of rocket launchers and ambulance sirens so, rather than wait 50 minutes for the next bus, I got a taxi. I gave the cute Cypriot driver one of the roses and he almost teared up as it was the first time a woman had ever given him a flower.

Back in the room, I poured myself a glass of wine and settled in for some (probably) classic NYE entertainment, German style.

Yes, it was just as scary as it looks.
Yes, it was just as scary as it looks.

At midnight, I watched the supremely baffling German favourite “Dinner for One” and wished myself an excellent 2016. All in all, it was the perfect day.

The next morning, I woke up full of the joys and, after another walk in the forest, fairly skipped to the bus stop. I made my way to where I thought the bus to Berlin went from with a song in my heart and feeling all kinds of goodwill towards mankind.

Me: Tra la la la la are you going to Berlin la la la?

Random stranger: Can you speak in English?

Me: Sure! Is this where the Berlin bus goes from?

Random stranger: I am not ticket.

Me: Yeah, clearly the English thing is working out great for you.

And, just like that, I was back.

Until we meet again, trees.
Until we meet again, trees.

The Littlest Hobo

At the end of this month, I will be moving out of flat number five and into flat number six. Not bad going for ten months, even by Berlin standards.

My plans to change the locks in Ailsa’s place failed and I dutifully moved out at the end of June. Ailsa came back from America to a spotless clean apartment, which she was very happy about, and I was very happy that she hadn’t arrived a couple of hours earlier when this was not even remotely the case.

Aware that I was about to be homeless – again – I started putting out feelers to see if I could find somewhere to keep me off the streets for another few weeks. As luck would have it, my German friend, Adalwolfa, was going to the States for a month with her dad and was looking for someone to take over her room. Funnily enough, the flat is about a ten-minute walk from Hermann’s place so it feels a bit like coming full circle.

I’m now sharing with a charming young German gentleman and a (thankfully) sane Swede. My first act in a bid to impress my new housemates was to make a cup of tea with a spoon and a half of salt, which I then proceeded to spit all over the kitchen. Eberhart came to my rescue and pointed out where the sugar was, though probably not before thinking he was living with a complete lunatic.

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In my defence, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone keep salt in a jar with a spoon in it before. Surely that’s just asking for trouble, or is it yet another example of the much-maligned German sense of humour?

Anyway, since then, things have been going just fine. Although some of the décor leaves a little to be desired…

Um...
Um…

and the kitchen would give Hildeberta and Hildegard the willies, I have a huge room, working wifi, nice flatmates who don’t ask anything of me and, most importantly, a roof over my head. As Adalwolfa is a bit of a technical genius, I’ve also had hours of fun with her remote-controlled lighting system, hitting random buttons to see which light comes on or goes off. I’ve even managed to make it through almost an entire month with only one mini-lecture about putting packaging in the bio bin.

However, all good things must come to an end, and conscious of being under serious time pressure, I started looking for a new flat right after I’d moved into this one. And, I can hardly believe it, but I think I’ve found the perfect solution.

There is a company here called Berlinovo, which has apartments all over the city. The real beauty of this, particularly for someone with my sketchy employment history and even sketchier prospects, is that there’s no deposit, you can rent by the month, and only have to give a month’s notice when you want to leave.

The flat is small, but fully furnished (down to a corkscrew – I checked),  there are good transport connections, and I will be living on my own. ON MY OWN – how sweet those words are…

I'm this happy
I’m this happy

Regarding my current area, I will miss my new favourite bar, where it’s rumoured they eat foreigners for breakfast. I, however, have fit in like a dream, and the scary-looking locals have turned out to be lovely German pussycats, who help me with my language skills every time I go there. If there ever comes a time that I need to rob a bank or hide a body, the German that I’m learning from these characters will come in very handy.

I will NOT miss my local Italian restaurant, where the lecherous, elderly Sicilian waiter seems to think it’s perfectly acceptable to follow timid young women (yes, me) into the ladies bathroom, and attempt – repeatedly – to kiss them.

Numerous shoves in the chest failed to convince Salvatore that the feeling was not mutual.
Numerous shoves in the chest failed to convince Salvatore that the feeling was not mutual.

Anyway, for better or worse, soon I will be leaving all of this far behind and making the 25 or so S-Bahn trips it will take me to get all of my stuff from one end of the city to the other. This will probably be a walk in the park in comparison to setting up an internet connection…

Starting with a startup

I’ve finally started my new job. The hold up was due to the fact that startups here seem to advertise a position, make someone jump through hoops to get it, and then realise that they don’t have any money to pay said someone. So, after a lot of faffing about and toing and froing, I’ve agreed to start on the money they’ve managed to scrape together, BUT with the condition that I work flexible hours to supplement this pittance salary with teaching hours. This is sensible as depending on whether or not they make any money this month, I might not have a job to go to next month.

Of course, this means that instead of just going to one place every morning and staying there for the day, I have to travel across the city to an English lesson at the crack of dawn, travel back across the city to put in the hours at the new job, and then sometimes travel all the way back across the city for an evening lesson. I actually feel guilty about the value for money I’m getting out of my monthly travel pass.

The main casualty in all of this – apart from my sleep – was poor old Dolf, who I had to ditch. This wasn’t really a bad thing though as it seemed like the man was actually learning backwards, something I wouldn’t have believed possible before.

Me: What time is it in this picture? 

Dolf: 1982. 

He also beat his cat in front of me – not a euphemism – so I wasn’t overly sorry to give him up.

It's 1982.
It’s 1982.

Aside from all of the faffing and travelling, the new job is going pretty well. My three male colleagues are charming and pretty easy on the eye but, of course, I’m too focused on work to notice…

The downside is that as the company needs money to stay afloat (and keep me in gainful employment), it’s much more sales than marketing at the moment. While pestering complete strangers on the phone all day isn’t how I want to spend the rest of my life, I’m gradually learning to throw my dignity to the wind and enjoy being a nuisance. Anyway, someone, some day, might actually think I’m doing them a favour. Hopefully that day comes sooner rather than later.

Our building is brand new and, at the moment, practically deserted. This is probably because all of the offices haven’t been rented yet, companies haven’t moved in yet, or startups have gone bust before they managed to gather together their shrapnel for the first month’s rent. We have a little office that’s just big enough for the four of us, but that could definitely do with a woman’s touch – no, not this woman.

Where are Hildeberta and Hildegard when you need them?
Where are Hildeberta and Hildegard when you need them?

As the building is almost empty, there’s never any problem calling the lift, which speaks to me in German I can understand whenever I push a button. The kitchen is a few doors from our office, but again, could do with a woman’s touch. Someone has, however, managed to find a kettle from the 60s which you have to plug out to turn off, as there is no on/off switch. This has already led to several adventures where I’ve overestimated the time it will take to boil and come back to a kitchen full of steam and water dripping down the walls.

Each company has a drawer and a cupboard to itself where you can keep your cups, spoons and other bits and pieces. Unfortunately, I keep forgetting to bring a spoon so I have to rob another company’s sole spoon every time I want to make a cup of tea. When they hide it (which they sometimes do), I have to use the random knife that’s in our drawer. After rooting through most of the drawers, I’ve also discovered that nobody has brought a corkscrew which means that it probably won’t be that sort of building.

Spoonless kitchen.
Spoonless kitchen.

Apart from playing “Hunt the Spoon”, it’s also fun watching other companies move in. So far, as our neighbours, we have a company called “Electric Eyes” – probably not as exciting as it sounds – and another called “Sweet and Sticky” – hopefully not as horrible as it sounds. I’m already imagining that after I take a couple of months to get to know them and they start giving me stuff, I’ll be able to cut my sweet and sticky cake with my laser beam eyes. This may be about as realistic as me buying a pot plant for the office though…