Tag Archives: Usedom

A trip to Herring Village: Part two

You might think that a night out in Herring Village would be, well, crap, but that’s only because you’ve never been out in Herring Village with me. Over some delicious goulash and wine in the Usedomer Brauhaus, I got chatting to the delightful Waltraut* after making a hilarious quip about probably holidaying in the wrong place since I don’t like herring, or any fish for that matter. We bonded over my knowledge of Ostfriesisch – and, by that I mean, the fact that I had heard of Ostfriesisch, not that I actually knew any. She didn’t either and she’d been living there for close to two decades.

Unable to persuade her to join me in O’man River, the bar with “the best live music in town” (the only bar with live music, as far as I could tell), I perched myself on the last available stool at the bar and enjoyed the surprisingly decent Bad Temper Joe. When he took a break, I politely asked him if he was always in a bad temper and he glared at me so I guess the answer is yes. And, if you want to know why a white German man is singing the blues, you’ll have to ask him yourself.

After a pleasant hour or so, I strolled on over to the hottest venue in town, i.e., the only bar that’s open past midnight. And that was where I met the lovely Lars.

Me: On the off chance I write a blog post about this trip, what would you like your blog name to be?

Lars: I am Lars.

Me: Yeah, but you can’t be Lars.

Lars: I am Lars.

Me: I’m not sure you’re getting this – you need a fake name for the blog. You can’t be Lars.

Lars: But my name is Lars.

Me: But you’re probably the only Lars on Usedom!

Lars: Na, und?

And so, Lars is Lars.

When we woke up the next morning, he offered me a coffee.

Me: Do you have tea?

And that was when he started rummaging around behind a chair.

What is he doing? Does he have a weapon back there? The coffee machine is in the kitchen so why is he rooting around behind an armchair in the living room? I guess if he’d wanted to murder me, he could have easily done it while I was asleep… Turns out, he had this amazing samovar back there. Sure, the tea took around half an hour to actually brew, but I’d never had a cup of tea like it. I went for a pee to pass the time. Upon my return:

Me: Do you know your washing machine could impregnate someone?

Lars: Hä??

Me: It has an “imprägnieren” setting.

Lars: Ha! No, imprägnieren, it’s like your boots, er, when they don’t let water in.

Me: ?? You mean waterproof?

Lars: Ja, genau!

I lingueed it and sure enough, imprägnieren can mean to impregnate or to waterproof. (Or to soak in the case of a washing machine.)

Me: Hmm, I wonder how many unwanted children there are in Germany because of this verb.

It was Lars’s turn to “??”

Me: Well, what if a woman says, “Hey Schatzi, can you imprägnieren me for Christmas?” and he does but what she really wanted was some nice, new, waterproof Jack Wolfskin gear…

Yes, this is actually how my mind works before I’ve even had my first cup of tea of the day. I am an awesome first date.

Lars: Well, I’ve got to go and help my Opa einwintern his Auto.

Me: Ha, einwintern, that can’t be a real verb!

Lars: Na, klar. To prepare something for winter. Einwintern. Steht im Duden.

I checked.

Me: OK, you’re right.

Like Germans are ever wrong.

Me: Can you einsommern something?

Lars: Why would you?

Me: I don’t know. Or einfrühlingen?

Lars: …

Me: Can you auswintern something?

I’m sure Lars was wondering at this stage if it was possible to einsilencen me but, utter gent that he is, he gave me his number for any and all possible future questions and dropped me off in the village before heading to his Opa’s and the einwintern challenge – which probably seemed like a breeze in comparison to the barrage of language questions he was faced with before his first cup of coffee.

I headed to a café I knew from a previous trip – OK, full disclosure, I’d been in Heringsdorf, for a few days, a month and a half before this trip and liked it so much, I’d decided to go back for a week – found a nice table outside, and ordered a croque monsieur and another cup of tea.

Schmidt’s Bistro No. 1 – I don’t know if there’s a No. 2… LARS! I have a question!
I also had no idea what a Diplomatenkaffee is but have since googled – turns out it’s coffee with egg liqueur…

After I’d finished, the waitress came over and gave me a reproving look.

Me: I know, I’m sorry, it was really tasty but just a bit too much for me. Sorry, I’m really sorry.

Waitress: Yes, I know, I remember.

Like I said, it had been A MONTH AND A HALF since I’d been there and she remembered. Clearly I was the only person who had never finished a meal there. Then again, I was probably the only non-German on the island and Germans can actually handle German portions. This puny Irish woman has yet to encounter one she can conquer. I decided to order a glass of wine and show her that I could at least finish one thing.

Waitress: Wine? Like cold wine?

Me: Yes.

Waitress: Wouldn’t you prefer something hot? Like Glühwein? Or hot Aperol?

Me: Jesus, hot Aperol?? NEIN!

What is wrong with Germans?

A lot, clearly. Glüh Gin? I can’t even…

I paid up and headed over to my favourite Bude. The last time I’d been there, this guy had brought the house down…

The German, er, Elvis? Roy? Johnny? Just a very German German?? Let’s simply call him Schlagermann.

…but this time, out of season, things were a bit more sedate. Which was actually kind of good because you don’t really want an over-excited German landing on you when you’re holding a piping-hot Glühwein.

*Waltraut is not her real name and, no, I didn’t give her a choice in the matter.

A trip to Herring Village: Part one

You might assume, as I did, that not many people would be crazy enough to want to travel to an island in the Baltic Sea at the start of November. You’d think I’d have learned over the last seven years never to underestimate Germans in Jack Wolfskin. And so it was that I found myself on a train to Heringsdorf on the island of Usedom, curled up on the floor outside a toilet. The Germans, as with the sun loungers in Mallorca, had reserved every seat on the train.

Happy travels.

An old lady who passed by (probably on the way to her comfortable, reserved seat) asked me if I wasn’t afraid. I said no, that in an emergency, it was actually the best spot to be in. Shortly afterwards, the ticket inspector wished me a pleasant journey; I wasn’t sure if he was being sarcastic or not. Maybe it’s just an automatic phrase he trots out, regardless of whether you’re in first class sipping a flute of Sekt or stiff as a post, leaning on your backpack, praying your water bottle doesn’t burst all over your laptop. I passed the time by googling the places we stopped at that I couldn’t see out the window. Your travel writer is pleased to tell you that Eberswalde looks very nice on the internet.

Guess where…

By the time we were approaching Züssow, me arse was like a grape, as my dad used to say.

(No, I don’t know either.)

I was very much looking forward to a cup of tea and a slice of cake as I had almost an hour to kill before catching the next train. Alas, German efficiency kicks in when you least want or need it. The train driver announced that the 13:08 train (mine) was now leaving at 12:08. We would be arriving on time at 12:12 but the train would wait for us on the opposite platform.

If you ever want to see sensible footwear moving at the speed of light, this is the way to do it.

Just over an hour later, I got my stuff together and moved towards the door. The conductor asked me if I was in town for the “Kur” (a course of convalescent treatments). After a second or two of being impressed with myself for knowing what the Kur is and that this region is pretty famous for it, I was a bit offended that he thought I looked like I needed a Kur. What did he think was wrong with me? Although I guess my arse could have done with a nice massage…

And so it came to pass that I arrived in Heringsdorf an hour early. I had told the manager of the apartment I’d rented that I’d be there at three so my cunning plan was to finally get that cup of tea and cake and then stroll on over at my leisure. Unfortunately, it seemed that German efficiency had ended for the day. The first likely place didn’t open until five. The next café I passed was now a real estate agency, which was also closed. The last chance café had closed at 10:30, 10:00 on Sundays seemingly. I mean, who, in their right minds, is up, showered and ready to buy their Brötchen before ten o’clock on a Sunday!? Germans, that’s who.

I called the guy to tell him I’d be early and waited on the windowsill with my book. The weather at least was glorious, one of those perfect late autumn days. He showed up around twenty minutes later, a nice friendly man, who scored points by not asking me if I was there for the Kur. We sorted out the paperwork – there’s a special tax you have to pay if you stay in one of these spa towns – he gave me a quick tour and then left me to my own devices.

Finally, TEA! Of course, like a good German, I’d brought some tea bags along with me. Always prepared. There was just one problem – I couldn’t reach the socket to plug in the kettle. I did have six chopping boards but that’s not really much use when you just want to boil water.

Short people problems strike again

After some jumping, grunting, sweating and swearing, I gave up and moved the kettle to the bedside table. Finally, with cup in hand, I did a quick recce of the place to see how my “home-away-from-home office” could work. It couldn’t. Sockets beside the bed, too far away. Socket behind the TV, even a contortionist couldn’t plug anything in there. Socket over by the kitchen… if I swapped the coat stand and the table and chairs, and didn’t mind being wedged in a corner, that could work. I gave myself some time to consider the set-up and went for a contemplative wee.

It was only afterwards that I realised there were no towels in the bathroom. Huh. Maybe they were on the bed and I just hadn’t noticed. Nope, not there either. I rooted through every drawer and cupboard in the place. No towels. Scheiße. I didn’t really want to bother the guy again but this seemed quite important. I sent him a message and sat wondering if I could make a scarf / tablecloth combo work…

Maybe, just maybe…

He replied pretty quickly to tell me that no, there were no towels but that he had an emergency set he could drop off in a couple of hours. Immediate problems sort of sorted, I did what any sane person does when they come to the Baltic Sea – headed to the beach.

Bliss!

There’s something about being on the Baltic coast that really brings out the best in Germans. Everybody was in a great mood, walking around with their nordic walking sticks, metal detectors, dogs, kids, shovels… German guffaws filled the air and I felt that all was right with the world again. I located the nearest café, found a table in the sun and ordered.

It was as good as it looks. The guy who made it wasn’t half bad either.

Apart from being attacked by psychotic sparrows, this was the best I’d felt in ages. I ordered a second cup of tea and sat back to enjoy the people watching while pretending to read.

On my way home, I stopped off at the supermarket to pick up a few essentials. Then genius struck.

It wasn’t exactly German engineering standards, but good enough. I’d just have to remember to unplug it before I started drinking. Aside from the practical aspect of actually being able to use my laptop, it could also double as exercise every time I had to hop over it to cross the flat. And when the guy showed up again with the towels, I got him to plug in the kettle for me. He didn’t even laugh at me (that much).

I have no idea how many words that is – how rubbish is the new version of WP!? – but it seems like quite a lot so I’ll finish part one there. (Oh, wait, I just found the info icon… still crap though.) If I haven’t bored you to tears already, stay tuned for part two. There will be men.