I’ve just got back from six days in Berlin, and wow, what a fantastic time I had. Berlin is an amazing city, full of life and energy. I did some touristy stuff, did some less touristy stuff, met some great people, checked out various neighbourhoods, went to the beach, drank excellent beer, ate delicious sausages, went to the Pride parade, watched a lot of football, and basically, had an absolute ball.
Needless to say, I’m not overly thrilled to be back in Riga. Today, the temperature is 13 degrees, it’s raining on and off, and my heating is back on – in late June. Even though it’s Līgo today, my heart just isn’t in it. (A walk around Riga earlier revealed the same miserable-looking faces, only now with flowers in their hair and leaves on their cars.) In short, I think my days of trying to get excited about Latvia are over. If that makes me a Līgo grinch, then so be it. Instead, I’m going to try to keep the German feeling going.
As regular readers of this blog will know, I’m planning to move to Germany in September, and I’ve decided that Berlin is the place for me. So this trip, while a bit of a jolly, was also intended to see if I could actually ‘do it like a German’. Step one was to rent an apartment instead of a hotel.
The apartment had looked nice on the website, had had a couple of good reviews, and was close to a tram line. Funnily enough, it was located just off Baltic Sea Street, which should have given me a clue as to the weirdness that ensued. On entering, I was surprised to see that the living room contained a sex swing and a complicated series of ropes hanging from the ceiling. There was also a rope ladder to nowhere.
OK, I thought, a bit odd, but maybe this is how Germans spend their free time? I know they’re quite active people so maybe they like making moving around their apartments more of a challenge? I promptly tried to make my way from one end of the living room to the other without touching the floor, but clearly, I was not German enough yet.
I moved on to the bathroom where everything was relatively normal, apart from the bizarre toilet flush which liked to spurt water all over your hand if you held it down for too long. More exercise in the form of leaping backwards and yelling – clever Germans…
There was also this little mirror, positioned at crotch level, that gave you a very nice view of your feet. I deduced that foot care and the correct footwear are also very important to Germans. However, after a day or so, I noticed that if you sat on the loo and leaned forward, you could smile at yourself in the mirror. This seemed like a far more likely use for it, as Germans (from what I can tell so far) are a cheery, friendly bunch. I suppose they smile at themselves in their little mirrors first thing in the morning to give themselves a little extra pep in their step for the rest of the day. It was what I started doing anyway.
Of course, the other reason for renting an apartment was that I figured I could save a bit of cash on eating out all the time. First stop was the Penny supermarket across the street to buy teabags, eggs, bread, milk, biscuits and, naturally, wine. I’ve clearly been in Latvia for too long as the speed that the cashier beeped everything through made my head spin. I was half-trying to put the first item into my bag when she’d finished. Then I was rummaging around for my card in a panic, while a growing queue of Germans waited. And of course, my card didn’t work, so I desperately had to scrape together every bit of change I had in my wallet. I gave myself a ‘Disappointing. Must do better.’ on this particular aspect of becoming German.
Another thing that I had failed to factor into this money-saving scheme was that cooking at home produces waste. In my apartment in Riga, this is no problem – everything goes into one black sack and then, while I can still carry it, out to THE bin.
In Germany, it’s not quite that simple. Everything has to be separated in order to go into the correct one of 4 million bins.
After a day in the apartment, I was wandering around a bit like Quasimodo, only repeating ‘the bins, the bins…’ Bottles, plastic, paper – OK. But what about other stuff? I’d heard stories of people being complained about for not separating their rubbish correctly. Take a tea-bag, for example – do you have to take the paper tag off the tea-bag and throw that into a separate bin? Do people really check this stuff? Clearly, I have a long way to go on this score also.
Still, all in all, I felt like the week was a massive success, even though I have some stuff to work on. As well as my German, I may also have to master my volume levels as some German men actually prefer to listen to the football commentary rather than an Irish girl cheering in their ear…
But for now, it feels like Berlin and I will be a good fit. I think German toilet roll sums it up perfectly.