loud, dirty and grey…just the way we like it

a bit of green in the courtyard

a bit of green in the courtyard

“Die Berliner sind unfreundlich und rücksichtslos, ruppig und rechthaberisch, Berlin ist abstoßend, laut, dreckig und grau, Baustellen und verstopfte Straßen, wo man geht und steht – aber mir tun alle Menschen leid, die nicht hier leben können!” (“The Berliners are unfriendly and inconsiderate, gruff and self-opinionated, Berlin is repulsive, loud, dirty and grey, construction works and blocked streets where you stop and go. But I feel sorry for those people who can not live here!”)
(Anneliese Bödecker, Berlin philanthropist and social worker, born in 1932)

There were people that were gruff and there was plenty that was loud, dirty and grey in Berlin last week, but this was the view that greeted us as we left the flat every morning. Gorgeous, eh?

The dogs had the time of their lives. There’s plenty to sniff on that stinky pavement. Unlike in Munich, where there are plenty of places for a dog to run free, there’s a leash law in Berlin. This means if you’re in the city proper, you’ve got to go to a Hundeauslaufgebiet (Dog Going Out Area) if your hounds are going to get any room to roam.

There are plenty of beautiful places in the German capital, but dog parks there are definitely not a tourist destination. Oo-whee. Talk about dystopian. If you want a set location for that apocalyptic film you’ve been working on, you should really consider the desolation row that is the Hundewiese (Dog Field) at the Mauerpark in the Prenzlauerberg district of what was formerly East Berlin.

Here’s a photo I found:

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your local dystopian dog park

That almost looks nice. Looks are deceiving.

Not that Ella and Louis were complaining. How many Bavarian dogs get to go holidaying in big, bad Berlin for a whole week? Not many, I can assure you.

blurry photo of two Bavarian dogs in Berlin

blurry photo of two Bavarian dogs in Berlin

Here they are waiting outside the Döner Kebab shop. Did they get a few scraps of that sweet succulent meat that comes from the Dönertier? Indeed, they did.

I should probably explain what a Dönertier is, but that’ll have to wait for another time.

Hanging out in my temporary Wohnzimmer

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As Joni sings in my thoughts, ‘You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone…’, I’ve spent this week in Berlin without wifi. It’s been more difficult than I imagined. Originally, I assumed I could make it work by just frequenting cafés that were wifi friendly. It hasn’t worked out that way exactly. Although there are plenty of places where you can connect, there are just as many that used to but haven’t altered their websites.

One place I’ve found myself going to again and again is Wohnzimmer in Prenzlauerberg. I could praise its virtues – it’s much more than just the wifi – but regular readers can look at the photo above and assume I feel right at home here. Art Deco entrance ways and comfy design couches. Weird and mismatched as some of the decor is, it’s definitely a great space.

Well, now my battery’s almost dead. Such is connectivity for me at the moment.

Bound to be adventures in Berlin

 

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Berlin Berlin…wir fahren nach Berlin

Going to Berlin tomorrow, and although there’s no wifi in the flat we’re staying in, the city is purportedly all wired up. You can connect anywhere there, or so I’ve been told.

I’ve written about the capital of Germany on this blog before. What, you don’t believe me? Check out these links:

Berlin, Berlin, wir fahren nach Berlin

Willkommen in Berlin

and some of my favourite photos are here:

another day in Berlin

Some of you who badger me with requests for more photos of my dogs Ella and Louis will be happy to know that they’ll be making their first trip to Berlin

There are bound to be adventures and there just might be hijinks involved. If you’d like to know more, watch this space.

The Media’s ‘Silly Season’ is Upon us – What the Germans call the Sommerloch

This originally appeared in MunichNOW, which you can find here:

The Media’s ‘Silly Season’ is Upon us – What the Germans call the Sommerloch

We have entered what the Germans call the Sommerloch, which is yet another example of a German word for a situation that we did not even know was needed. Directly translated, this is the ‘summer hole‘, but for some it is more colloquially referred to as the media’s ‘silly season‘.

To fully understand this phenomenon, one first has to understand that many Europeans are on holiday for the entire month of August. Small shops are closed and getting a craftsman to do even the smallest job is inconceivable. Politicians are far away from their constituents, and as a result, there is little traditional news to report . Because these newsmakers are absent, journalists are left to write about topics that would not normally make it into the news.

Several years ago, a lot of both real and virtual ink was spilled to describe Yvonne the wild cow which had miraculously escaped from a slaughterhouse in Upper Bavaria. A few years previously, there was an octopus who could accurately predict World Cup game winners.

One of the most recent examples of such stories we read only last week on the German news site Focus Online. We were alerted to the plans that some Swiss had to annex regions of Southern Germany; culturally and philosophically, the southerners are far more aligned with the Swiss than with Northern Germany, after all.

These feel-good stories would perhaps otherwise be mentioned in the local section of a regional paper, but for a few weeks in the summer they receive unexpected national and even international exposure. Whether this is proper news is debatable at best – and certainly laughable.

In English, we might say that we are having a slow news day. In this case, we have an entire season of it. In Germany, we are right in the middle of the Sommerloch.

German words and not talking opera

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She looks somehow optimistic, doesn’t she? What’s that she’s holding in her hand anyway?

You know, it can be a bit odd when you tell someone you like living in Germany. The person cocks his head, and either says it outright or visibly thinks, ‘But you could live in Spain or Italy…or anywhere. Why Germany?’

Then you admit that you actually enjoy speaking the German language…oh, and that you genuinely like the people.

The person you’re talking to cannot fathom that last bit. It is simply unfathomable.

Germans are boring. Everyone knows that (they’re not boring, but stereotypes are persistent). Actually, some Germans are painfully dull. However, I’ve met some Brits and dare I say even more Americans who’ve got the personality of drying paint. Every culture has its share of the socially inept. The comically uncurious.

Germans are humourless (aside from slapstick – many Germans adore Mr Bean, after all – the German sense of humour is  utterly language dependent…you’ve got to know the parlance to get the jokes). They’ve got a sense of humour. Do some individuals take themselves too seriously? Well, sure. Of course. I avoid those. I seek out the ones who see the lighter side of life here. The ones who can laugh at themselves.

And finally? Germans are orderly rule followers. Well, this one’s kind of true. It is true. There are exceptions, but on the whole there is a social order here. People do what they’re expected. They break rules and sometimes they lie, but for the most part rules are there to be adhered to.

Is that so horrible?

It’s rather good for someone of my ilk (a bit whimsical) to live in a society where things are reliable. If a German tells you he’s going to do something, generally that something gets done. It’s sort of refreshing.

What got me thinking about all of this? Well, I read this very funny page by Ed M Wood:

My Favorite German Words, My Barber and I

Go ahead. Click on the link above. It’s not going to hurt you.

There’s so much in here I can relate to. The words he chooses are some of my favourite. The way he winds the story of him and his barber through the list of words? Yes, I like that, as well.

My friend Amy has one of those calendars where you learn a little bit of German everyday, and she regularly regales me with the more ridiculous things that the damned thing is trying to teach her. If you think Ed M Wood‘s article is funny, you should hear Amy arguing with her German calendar.

Here’s the one from yesterday:

 

Quatsch keine Opern!
(Translation: Be brief!)
Literally? “Don’t talk operas!”
I like that a lot. Don’t talk operas for goodness sake. Not bad advice.

 

Shedding the Kummerspeck

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Why do I find myself going back again and again to photos of my trip to Seville?

It’s not only that it’s such a beautiful place – I’ve seen my share of those. There’s something about Spain in general and Seville in particular.

So this is a bending, sunlit corridor. At this particular moment, it seemed like the way to approach the blog this evening.

Plenty going on in the world of lahikmajoe presently. For one thing, I’ve got family visiting. That’s often good for a bit of fodder for the old Miscellaneous Blog. After that, or during their visit, the World Cup kicks off.

I could tell you I think Argentina has an easy draw and they’ll waltz through their group, but everyone knows that. Not very optimistic about the chances of the United States team, but every four years the fans get their hopes up. I’d say Germany was an early favourite a year or two ago, but they seem mismanaged of late. We’ll see if they can turn that around. I’ll certainly be cheering them on. I’m always for my adopted homeland. It’s a thing with me.

Otherwise, the weather has turned warm, or warmer, and the mostly beautiful of Munich have begun their annual shedding of Kummerspeck (‘grief bacon’) and clothing of nearly all sorts. I suppose I should talk about those last things at another time – hopefully soon.

 

 

not a Berliner

There in the distance? That's the JFK bridge in Hamburg.

There in the distance? That’s the JFK Bridge in Hamburg.

Lately, there’s been plenty for me write about, and I just haven’t been doing it. The last several posts were photos that I certainly liked, but there wasn’t much text. The whole point of this blog is to show off my writing, so these filler posts without much content go against what I originally set out to do. There might be times when a curious photo and a few lines of texts is all I’ve got time or energy for, but I’d prefer that to be the exception rather than the rule.

My favourite week in Munich tends to be when we have our Filmfest, which starts this weekend, so I already had something up my sleeve in which I’d planned to ramp up this blog again. Then I was out and about with Ella and Louis, the sister and brother Hungarian Vizslas that have featured prominently in this blog, and found myself walking across the John F. Kennedy Bridge.

Why not at least  a mention of what happened today, 26 June, exactly 50 years ago? If you’re like I am, you check out ‘this day in history’-type entries in the paper or online, so you already know that this is the day in 1963 that Kennedy gave his famous ‘Ich bin ein Berliner‘ speech in front of the Rathaus Schöneberg in West Berlin

Whatever you think of his politics, and I’m most certainly not going to get into that here, it was the height of the Cold War, and a significant gesture of solidarity to the citizens living in the divided once and future capital of Postwar Germany.

The Berlin Wall went up, and the Americans response was to send planes in filled with supplies, so that the city could continue to survive while surrounded by  Soviet-supported East Germany. Not an easy time here in my adopted home country, and at that moment in history it was incredibly unclear what was going to happen next.

The gratitude that West Germany felt for Kennedy’s show of support – both symbolic, as well as practical – was what led to major German cities naming things like bridges after him. The one here in Munich is the northern part of the Middle Ring Road that goes over the River Isar. It’s not particularly beautiful, and I doubt many locals under a certain age even realise that the bridge even has a name. 

The Kennedy Bridge in Hamburg (pictured above) is what divides the Binnenalster and Außenalster, which are the beautiful lakes right in the heart of the Hansestadt that is Hamburg. Whether you’re on the S-Bahn or ICE Train between the Main Train Station and the Dammtor, in which case you’re riding along the JFK Bridge, or walking along the Alster, there’s a memorial to Kennedy staring back at you. 

Fifty years. Not such a terribly long time, I suppose. Wonder if they’d still name any of this stuff after him today.