Tag Archives: Trump

I speed-dated a European

With most of Germany being on holiday, my work schedule is pretty light at the moment. As a result, I’m spending much more time than I should scrolling through my Facebook feed. Still, every now and then, a little gem pops up that makes a bored blogger’s heart skip a beat. In this case, it was a post by Pulse of Europe called Speed-date a European.

Having read that it wasn’t a romantic thing, and assuming that there would be no touching involved – I’m still scarred from the Cuddle Party – I decided to ask my Irish friend, Gay, along for the ride.

Gay: What is it? 

Me: I have no idea.

Gay: It sounds a bit mad. In. 

Everybody needs a friend like this.

With the event kicking off at 2 p.m., we decided to meet at 1 for a confidence-boosting glass of wine. Well, come on, we are Irish…

Despite being billed as a “meetup with a twist, a fun way for Europeans from various countries to meet, ask questions, fight bias and smash boundaries”, we still didn’t really know what to expect. But, brave souls that we are, we sat down on the steps of the Konzerthaus, making our Popos comfortable on “I speed-dated a European” cushions.

Happy Popo

If the first surprise was how many people were there, the second was the average age. In my cynical way, I had anticipated the place being overrun with irritating hipsters in their 20s, but no, it was pretty much a sea of grey hair. I actually felt young.

(Photo by Piotr Spierewka)

In light of recent events – Brexit (BOOO!), Trump (BOOOOOOOOOOO!) and Marine le Pen (phew!) – it seemed like the perfect time to get people from different cultures together. The atmosphere was jolly, people waved various flags around and the organisers took to the stage. The opening, by a German girl and a French man, in German and English, was a little Eurovision-y for my taste but that’s why bringing a friend to these things is always a bonus. Eye-rolling and chuckling done with, we settled in for an intro to what Pulse of Europe is about and how the event would work.

Ms Eurovision: By now, you’ll all have red or blue sheets of paper.

Gay and I exchanged confused glances and looked around to see that everyone else had, in fact, got red or blue sheets of paper. He hastily got up and went to remedy the situation. Red sheets were for non-Berliners and blue were for Berliners. The idea was that you had to talk to someone with the opposite colour for five minutes, with three switches taking place during the hour. The words to Ode to Joy were printed on the sheets (in German) but I didn’t give that much thought at the time.

Mr and Ms Eurovision called out various “get the conversation going” questions for each round, but I’ve never needed much help in talking the ear off someone so they were largely ignored. My first victim was a German lady in her sixties and we chatted away happily for the first five minutes. The gong rang and we were supposed to move but, well, sitting… so we chatted away for the next five minutes, too. I could now add “speed-dating a sexagenarian” to my ever-growing list of odd things I’ve done in Berlin.

For the third round, a German man in his sixties sat on the other side of me – next victim ensnared. After a little political stuff from the stage, I spend round four in a sexagenarian threesome. The “prompt question” this time round was “what are your cliches about my country?” I’ve always thought that Ireland was pretty easy to stereotype so I was a bit surprised when my new man date came out with “sheep”.

Me: Sheep?

Thoralf: Yep, sheep.

Me: Anything else? 

Thoralf: Umm… 

Me: Wow. OK. 

Frauke: Wait, it’s green. 

Me: Yes.

Frauke: Oh, oh, RED HAIR! 

Thoralf: (looking at me a bit suspiciously) You don’t look very Irish. 

Me: Nope, I guess I was just born lucky. 

Thoralf: So, what are your cliches about the Germans?

Me: Socks and sandals, putting beach towels on sun loungers on their way home from the pub, beer, sausage, Lederhosen…

Thoralf and Frauke: THAT’S NOT US! THAT’S THE BAVARIANS!

Me: Yes, yes, I know. (I glanced down at my sheet of paper) Um, do we have to sing at the end of this? 

Thoralf: Oh yes, it’s wonderful. 

Me: It might not be so wonderful for you with me singing in your ear but OK. 

And so we did. With Bernd playing Beethoven on a banjo, hundreds of voices filled Gendarmenmarkt square as Beethoven probably spun in his grave. It was great.

Bernd plays the banjo

All that was left to do was for everyone to hold hands and dance around the square but with my “no touch” policy still firmly in place, this was my cue to leave.

No hand-holding, please. I’m Irish.

Taking our free cushions with us, Gay and I made good our escape. Still, I have to say, it was a lot of fun and a very well-organised afternoon. Pulse of Europe runs similar events in cities all over Europe on the first Sunday of every month so if you fancy some talking, singing and maybe even a little dance, I suggest you check them out.

Now, once more for Europe, all together please, with feeling:

Freude, schöner Götterfunken,

Tochter aus Elysium,

Wir betreten feuertrunken,

Himmlische, den Heiligtum…

 

 

 

 

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Forest Chump (Part One)

Every New Year’s, for as long as I can remember, has been pretty much the same. Different faces, different cities, sure, but the usual partying til the wee hours and then feeling like shite for the next three days. This year, however, I came up with the rather loony idea that if I start 2016 off in a slightly different way, maybe it will be a different sort of year…

This was when I decided to do something a bit Latvian odd, and booked myself a room in a hotel in the middle of a forest in Northern Germany.

As an afterthought, I sent my German friend, Simone, a message:

Me: What are the chances of me being eaten by wolves in a forest in Northern Germany?

(No reply)

Me: Or bears?

Simone: Zero to miniscule.

Me: Oh, OK, good. Just thought I’d check…

And so, armed with my deep knowledge of wildlife, forests, survival skills and all things “nature”, I boarded a bus for Lübeck. I figured I’d be seeing enough trees when I got there so I slept for most of the four-hour journey.

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Welcome to Lübeck!

I was ravenous by the time the bus pulled into the station, so I took a couple of half-hearted photos but was really on the hunt for food. After wolfing (haha) down a sandwich and a cup of tea, I was feeling more human and ready to check out the delights Lübeck has to offer.

As with most German cities, it’s ridiculously pretty and well-maintained. If only all of its residents could get with the programme…

Well, it IS closer to the Baltics...
Well, it IS closer to the Baltics…

The promised blue skies didn’t materialise and it was bloody cold but I wandered around taking in the sights anyway. I was rewarded with what every woman is looking for – a horny little devil…

I'm horny, horny, horny, horny...
I’m horny, horny, horny, horny…

And this one wasn’t all mouth and no trousers either. No, he had a great back story. It seems that when the first stones of St. Mary’s Church were being laid, the devil thought that it was going to be a wine bar, so he enthusiastically joined in with the building project. (Can’t say I blame him.)

But one day, the devil realised what the building was actually going to be and flew into a rage. (Can’t say I blame him there, either.) He picked up a huge boulder and was about to smash the place to pieces when one daring local told him to leave it alone; they’d build him a wine bar across the street instead. The devil was very happy with this so he dropped the boulder and has been sitting there happily ever since. I don’t know if he ever made it to the wine bar…

As I was half-frozen at this stage, I decided a far quicker way to see the sights would be to go up to the viewing tower at St. Peter’s Church and kill all the birds with one stone. (In a figurative sense. I love wildlife.)

Niederegger
The best marzipan in the world

Thankfully, with all of the other tourists crammed into Niederegger Marzipan Café, I made it to the top in no time. It was COLD.

My new look. I call it "The Trump".
My new look. I call it “The Trump”.

For some reason, being truly frozen for a short time instead of gradually frozen over a longer period of time made sense to me. The views were pretty spectacular as well.

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After a quick glass of wine at a cute little bar, I got on what I hoped was the right bus. It was already dark when I got off at what I hoped was the right stop.

Yep, looks about right.
Yep, looks about right.

I tripped over a twig 2.5 seconds after getting off the bus and thought, “YES!! This the rustic, outdoorsy, solitary existence I was looking for!” Then, thankfully, I found the hotel because it was a little scary out there, all alone in the dark…

Adorable, no?
Adorable, no?

The hotel has been in the Grotkopp (yes, that is their real name) family’s hands for generations, and Mrs Grotkopp greeted me like I was her long-lost grand-daughter. There was hand-holding and chuckling, chatting about the weather and my Trump “do”, and I wondered what I’d done to deserve such royal treatment. Then I remembered. She’s German. They’re nice.

It was quite possibly the quickest check-in I’ve ever experienced. I was given my key card, told where to go, and that was it. My room was cosy and well-equipped, had working wifi, typical German beds and no poo shelf. Perfect.

Still funny :)
Still funny 

After spending a few minutes scrolling through the usual dreck everyone posts on Facebook around New Year’s, I decided I’d earned a nap. In trying to find the switch on the bedside lamp, I accidentally touched the base of it. Like magic, it came on.

Me: Ooh.

So I touched it again. It got brighter.

Me: Ooooh.

So I touched it again. It got brighter still.

Me: OoohOooh…

Clearly I should not be left on my own for extended periods of time.
Clearly I should not be left on my own for extended periods of time.

After a very satisfying snooze, it was time to go hunting and foraging for food. But luckily, this is Germany and therefore civilised, so there was an inviting little Italian place down the road.

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As usual, I was the last to leave, so the Italian owner came over for a chat at the end of the night. He didn’t speak a word of English but we still managed to have a fine old chinwag about the breakdown of society and how nobody had the staying power to really make a relationship work these days. Incidentally, he was on wife number three, a Ukrainian, with three kids in total, one from each wife. People never cease to amuse me…

And what better way to start the New Year than on a cliff-hanger. Stay tuned for part two – there will be trees, oh yes, there will be trees. BUT spoiler alert: I lived.

Happy New Year everyone!