Monday, September 08, 2014

Pyronale: Fireworks Championships

Instead of going to see the Schlossbeleuchtung in Heidelberg this weekend just gone, we instead went to Pyronale, "the fireworks world championships" (who knew?!).

The event was held at the Olympiastadion (guess what that one means). I wasn't sure if I'd been there before, but when I walked to about the spot I took this photo, I remembered having a conversation with several of the guys from my Year 12 German trip pretty much *right there*. I've also discovered this photo from that poorly-documented trip.

Fun fact that I (re-)learnt as we were walking up to the entrance; *whispers* Hitler built this stadium. It was built for the 1936 Summer Olympics. I would suggest that he didn't personally build it.

Anyway once we got in (and lied to the security guard about not having any drinks, muahaha you will never take my 500ml of water!), we walked around the outside of the stadium for ages until we got to the Maifeld which is where the event actually was. Our seats were excellent, pretty much right next to the VIP section, which meant we had a really good angle for the fireworks. However, the seats were at the aisle end of the row, which meant getting up for a lot of people. We did go for a walk/ice cream mission in the time that most people would be finding their seats, but still had to do some standing up.
Those are the cheap seats, quite close to the fireworks (closer than you'd probably want to be, really)
So the fireworks. Pretty incredible. There were three teams competing on the Friday - France, the Netherlands, and Russia. Each team had to first present firework goodness on the theme green and gold, then with the accompaniment of some Strauss. After that, they do 10 minutes of fireworks synchronised to music from their country.

My favourite *moment* was in the French display, where a song was talking about l'amour and le coeur (love and heart) and there were heart-shaped fireworks! I didn't even know they could do that!!

Overall though, the Netherlands was both of our definite favourite. Unfortunately I didn't take any photos, I was too busy enjoying the spectacle! Here's a video I found of it:

Monday, September 01, 2014

Heide Park, Soltau

On our way back from the Nordsee we made a stop at Heide Park, which is an amusement park a bit south of Hamburg. A colleague had forwarded me a 2-4-1 voucher so thankfully it only cost 43€ all up for both of us to get in (still ridiculous, but a bit better than paying full price!).

This is a kind of panorama(ish) (kind of not really) (it just happened that the two photos lined up) from the top of the Swiss bobsled ride. It was the most tame ride, and yet the one that actually gave me bruises. As it was two people to a car, it was just a bit squishy. And it's also probably not designed for two fairly tall people. But it did go through a tunnel - which is so much fun!

As it was a Saturday and school holidays, it was perhaps not the wisest time to visit, and we did end up spending a lot of time standing in queues. But we still got to ride a lot of rollercoasters - one of them we rode 3 times, and a couple of others we did twice. Or possibly we did two of them three times.

One that we only did once was COLOSSOS.

If you can't read that Guinness World Records plaque, it says: Colossos at Heide-Park, Soltau, Germany, is the world's steepest wooden roller coaster, with a drop of 61°. When they winched us up (up the bit on the far left), Raymond and I just sat there going WHAT ARE WE DOING?!!?! The people in front of us were freaking out even more. And if it felt steep going up, it felt like 90° going down again. I didn't peek when we were at the top, but Raymond said that it looked like it was straight down. SUPER fun, but so scary. The cart also didn't feel particularly secure, as you're only held in with a bar across your lap (but I lived, Mum!). But super fun.

So if you happen to be in the area and have a spare mound of money, I'd advise going on a not-weekend and not during school holidays, but I think it's worth a visit.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Nordsee: muddy but beautiful

We recently had a summer holiday to the Nordsee (North Sea - top left of Germany) which was lovely. The weather was perfect (mid- to high twenties except for an incredibly loud thunderstorm in the middle of the second night and the bucketing rain when we were leaving), the Ferienwohnung (holiday apartment) was straight from Pinterest/Ikea, and the company was wonderful (of course).

But this wasn't your regular seaside holiday. OH NO. See, this part of Germany's coast (and parts of the Netherlands and Denmark) is an intertidal zone, forming a shallow body of water with tidal flats and wetlands (thanks Wikipedia). That means that when I walked over the dike for the first time, what I saw was this:

The picture isn't so clear, but basically: grass, and an ocean that was as smooth as glass - not a wave in sight. It was quite a shock, really (even though I knew there was going to be grass not sand). Thankfully the water was there when I first saw it (Flut) - when the tide goes out (Ebbe), ALL the water goes out and you can walk out on the seabed.

But I got over the shock - wading through the Watt (mud, but very silty) and finding the Priel (tidal inlet) definitely helped, as did reading up on it as I'm still not particularly proficient in maritime German.

The rest of the week passed in a glorious, forgetting-what-day-it-is kind of holiday way, with lots of walking (and sheep!), trips to the beach, Arrow episodes, and beautiful sunsets.

On our first (full) day, we decided to walk to the next town but it was too hot and too far so we gave up almost exactly halfway (2km in). But there were a lot of sheep. We also went for a walk on our last day and saw some more sheep. Here are some photos of sheep.

(click to enlarge)
I have a lot more photos of Raymond chasing sheep to get photos than I have photos of actual sheep... though still had a fair few of those to choose from.

We also got to enjoy a few beautiful sunsets. Sometimes the water was there, sometimes it wasn't, but it was always super pretty.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

A spontaneous trip to the seaside

For an Australian, 35°C is not that hot. Sure, it's on the warm side, but it's bearable. In Berlin... not so much. Not only is the heat here a wet, humid heat (instead of the dry heat I'm used to, living in the driest state on the (second) driest continent*), but the Germans do not seem to have embraced air conditioning to an appropriate extent. In Australia, air conditioning in Summer is everywhere you go. In Germany, not so much. Some supermarkets aren't even air-conditioned (mmm, super good for the food to be sitting out in 35°). Pretty much, you're lucky if you have a fan, or even enough windows to create a cross-breeze.**

It was a long weekend last weekend (for Pentecost?!), and by Sunday it was so hot that I did not want to do anything, including staying in the apartment. So Raymond suggested we go to the Ostsee (Baltic Sea) for the night. You may remember that we already went there, so we looked for a room near where we were last time. Couldn't find anything, so just ended up searching for anything on the Ostsee. After making a call, we found a room in Ueckermünde. So within about half an hour, we set off.

When we arrived at our hotel (which was actually a series of houses... it was practically its own village), we were informed that we shouldn't have been able to book the room (by the receptionist who was quite short with us) but oh well, we're here now (Ok wasn't quite that bad). So we dumped our stuff in our room, then went for an explore in the hope of finding something food-related, despite it being a public holiday AND a Sunday. We ended up at the seaside, and went for a walk on the beach (!!!!) and a paddle instead. But it's ok, we got some delicious fresh Fischbrötchen (bread rolls with fish in them... tastes a lot better than it sounds, trust me) for dinner.

That evening, after a giant chess game (Raymond won), we headed back to the beach (which was about a 5 min walk away) to the truly excellent concert that was going on. By truly excellent, I of course mean that the music was pretty terrible (and the cover band was not fantastic), but it was really lovely because of all the old people who were dancing in pairs in front of the stage. They all looked so happy, and it actually made me really joyful. But it wasn't really for us, so we went back and watched Toy Story 2. Then Rapunzel. Then tried to sleep but couldn't because the concert went until 2am. What were all the old people doing?!?!

The next day, we hung out at the beach/in the park and read our books and walked around.

These are Strandkörbe. Germans seem to like sitting in them instead of on the beach.
A sign at one of the kiosks. Original East German recipe!

Ooooh panorama
 But we eventually had to leave to head back to Berlin, the heat, and reality. On the way back we stopped at a roadside stall and got some strawberries. So delish. Like whoa.

 It was a lovely short trip, and although we didn't have much time there, was still super fun to explore somewhere new :)

*Fun fact: in terms of rainfall, Antarctica is actually the driest continent; not Australia.
**Note: I'm basing this on my very limited knowledge of German apartments, but everyone loves one-point data theorems (and this one has three!)

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Review: Swami Restaurant, Berlin

This was not only the worst Indian food I’ve ever eaten, but the worst service and atmosphere that I’ve experienced in a while. Lukewarm, bland food, and meat in a vegetarian dish: DO NOT EAT HERE.
I receieved a gift voucher for a Sunday brunch buffet for two. The voucher said to call for a reservation, but when my boyfriend (German) and I (Australian) arrived, it did not appear that a reservation was really necessary, given there were only four other customers in the restaurant (which could probably seat about 40-50).
The moment we walked in, I already felt really uncomfortable, as other than some jarring zitar music, there was no noise in the restaurant – no customers chatting to each other, no noise from the kitchen; nothing.
Nevertheless, we approached the waiter, who told us to just sit down (further evidence that no reservation was necessary), then eventually brought us menus, and asked for the voucher. Obviously he knew that we were here for the brunch, but said nothing, even when he came back to take our drink orders. Of course he didn’t really *need* to say anything – we could see the buffet, but would it really have been so hard for him to say „here’s the buffet, help yourselves“? Even for German customer service, I found it pretty terrible.
So, we started on our brunch. The first things I ate were fries, deep-fried bread, and what looked like chicken feet (though I’m fairly sure they were deep-fried onions) – all of which were lukewarm.
After struggling through that, I decided it was time for some curry. As a vegetarian, I chose the veggie curry (with rice). This was at least warm, if a little bland, so I pushed through… until I found what appeared to be a lump of processed meat. In the vegetarian dish.
Vegetarian soup was my next attempt, but it tasted like someone had boiled potatoes, taken the resulting broth (without the potatoes), added some grated carrot to it, and called it vegetarian soup. I got through about two spoonfuls in before I couldn’t eat any more.
The dessert was perhaps the best thing we ate – a yogurt-based dish with some sort of fruit in it. It was orangey-pink (definitely not a natural colour). However, that also could have been because we’d lowered our expectations so far by that point.
Because I had only had tiny portions of everything (because it all tasted so bad), I thought I’d go for some more fries to try to fill up. My bf filled his plate with plain rice; really the only thing that they seemed to do well.
When going to pay, one waiter appeared to not speak any German, and the other (the original who barely said two words to us at the start) needed to finish his phone call before taking the money for our drinks (which weren’t included in the voucher – we both had Indian yogi tea‘ – also not recommended).
I thoroughly recommend NEVER going here unless you want some terrible customer service or lukewarm „vegetarian“ „food“. We both felt really, really sick for most of the rest of the day. Even if you have a voucher – don’t do it!! Your stomach will thank you.
Verdict: 1 star (at least we didn't throw up): DO NOT EAT HERE

Monday, June 02, 2014

The Fault in Our Stars

Back when I first read this book (the two days after I got back to Australia after exchange), I posted a brief review of how much I loved it. But now the film is about to hit cinemas, so I thought I might write about it again.

A few words about the book: I loved it. You might not think that a book about teens with cancer would be a very good read, but you'd be wrong. The book isn't about cancer - it's presented as just part of these kids, not the factor that defines them as people, as much as (of course) it affects their lives. I've now read it in English and in German, and I cried both times (not recommended: nearing the end of the book on public transport).

I've actually already seen the TFIOS movie; in both English and in German. I was lucky enough to win both sets of tickets to pre-screenings (the film isn't released here until 12th June, and in Australia on 5th June).

I was really pleased with the adaptation, and glad that they didn't feel the need to stick to the 'we'd better keep this film under 90 minutes or people will get bored' rule, with the movie running a bit over two hours. While they of course had to leave out several parts, and smooshed other parts together, I think they were nevertheless incredibly true to the book. I don't think I've ever cried so much in a film (Titanic and Passion of the Christ don't count, I mostly cried after they'd finished). They actually gave out packs of tissues with the tickets - not sure if that's something that'll happen everywhere, or if it's just for the preview screenings, but I think it's a really good idea. And let me tell you, there is something incredibly bizarre about hearing a full cinema trying to suppress sobs at the same time you are/crying openly because you just can't hold it in.

Obviously the book and film bring up some 'teenager dying' things (and what is it with ministers insisting on saying 'special friend' instead of 'girlfriend'?) that make me perhaps cry a bit harder than others did. In fact, I took my bf to the second screening (the English/German subtitles one), and he didn't cry at all. But I would still definitely recommend taking tissues. It's unlikely you'll leave with dry eyes. DEM FEELS.

A couple of language things I found interesting:

  • Before both preview screenings they ran an announcement from Ed Sheeran who wrote a song for the film. This announcement was subtitled though I don't remember if it was subtitled in English or German.
  • After this announcement, John Green (the author and also one of my favourite YouTubers) made an announcement saying welcome to the screening, hope you like it, here are some German words I know, sorry I don't know how to say #littleinfinities in German. This had no subtitles. I don't know if it's because they expected that most of the people going to see it would be familiar with YouTube Green, or because they assume that the American accent is easier for Germans to understand, or for some other strange reason.
  • I didn't really notice how it was translated until I was watching it in English with German subtitles, but...
  • They translated 'awesome' as 'krass stark' (terrible, everyone in the cinema kind of exclaimed how stupid it was when it happened)
  • They translated 'douchepants' as 'Arschgeige' heh

So, armed with packs of tissues (take some for your friends and strangers who are sniffing beside you), go and see this film the moment it comes out. Also, read the book. Because it is truly excellent.

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Deleting Facebook from my phone

Two weeks ago, I made a very brave decision.

I deleted the Facebook app from my phone (and also FB Messenger).

Ok, so it's not really that brave, but if you know me, you'd know that I do spent a lot of time on Facebook. Probably more than is healthy. Thanks, FOMO.

So, in order to take my FB usage a little more towards the "healthy" end, I deleted the app. (It was also because the apps were draining my poor little battery because they were always on in the background.)

Then today I saw this which pretty much reinforces my resolve:

Sure, I still have a lot of apps that distract me from looking up, but with Facebook gone I have already found myself spending less time looking at my phone, and more time looking at the people and things in my life. It's pretty great.

You should try it... it's a bit scary at the start, but totally worth it.

Friday, April 04, 2014

That time we went to the German coast and I learnt the names of the 16 German states

I did not realise how much I'd been missing the beach and the sea until we went to the zoo in February and there was a wave machine in one of the enclosures. Then I heard the sound, and realised just how used to that sound I am (despite living nowhere near the beach), and how much it reminds me of home.

Anyway, going to the Ostsee (Baltic Sea) was already on our Winter List of Things To Do, and a few weekends ago we went away for four glorious days of BEACH. I mean, it is winter, so it wasn't really a beach holiday, but there was beach involved.
That small X is where we were. It took about 3 hours to drive from Berlin (plus a lunch break).
We drove up on Friday and I was surprised (though I'm not sure why) that the beach looked the same as any other beach...
Mmm that's some nice barrel distortion
On Saturday we walked to Poland (because Europe is tiny, and it was only 3km away) to go to a market on the border. I was still sick so the walking exhausted me quite a bit, so once we got back we just played cards - Raymond taught me a game that turned out to be Warlords & Scumbags, and I taught him the excellent game of Shithead (or Silly Hat). I also taught him the states of Australia in return for him helping me learn the states of Germany that I didn't know (I can totally name them all now, but keep forgetting Hessen.... and it took me a while to learn Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Schleswig-Holstein).

The weather was mostly really good for us, especially considering it was WINTER - it was around 10°C during the day most days (if not a couple of degrees warmer), and only rained at night!

However, our Sunday stroll to the next town was pretty awful as we were walking along the beach against the wind. Pretty hard going, but we eventually got to Heringsdorf and had a look around.
All directions that way. Also the train station.
The walk back along the beach was much nicer, feat. GIANT SEAGULLS.

After going for a farewell walk along the jetty in Ahlbeck, we drove to Bansin (two towns along) and spotted a Holiday-making Berlin bear! Then we drove back to Berlin and to real life.

Sewing blues

You may remember that I enjoy sewing. In fact, I like it so much that I have bought sewing machines both times I've moved to Germany, and I even started a sewing blog. Though that is so far a failure because I keep forgetting to update it, so I am not going to share the link yet.

So yeah. I like sewing. Mum and Gran taught me to sew when I was young (starting me on projects like a felt pincushion and a needlebook, both of which I still use), then there were classes at school (where I took on more and more complex projects), and now I sew for pleasure. I also sew because most shops do not stock clothes for tall, pear-shaped girls.

I bought a second-hand sewing machine at the start of November from a nice lady who said she didn't use the machine any more, so was selling it. And it worked just fine for a while. But then it started to not work so well. Now, it is in pieces because I started taking it apart (again) but got so frustrated that I couldn't work out what was wrong that I gave up. R has had a look at it - and after he took it all apart then put it back together it worked, and I was so happy! ...but the next time I went to sew with it... didn't work.

(Basically, I think the tension dial is a bit out of whack, and so the thread keeps breaking. Every. Single. Time. I can get about 10 stitches in, then it decides that it's had enough.)

There is no happy end to this story (yet). I'm hoping that it'll somehow just magically fix itself and I'll be able to finish sewing my crescent skirt. But we'll see, I guess.
This is a dress I finished at the start of 2013. Yellow is my favourite colour :)
UPDATE: I have tried a new needle and thread, and I think it *wanted* to work, but then something happened with the bobbin thread or the shuttle maybe. What a disappointing mystery.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Still in Germany

You may have noticed that I did not return to Adelaide on March 5th. I have decided to stay in Berlin for the forseeable future for a number of personal and professional reasons. Here are some of them:

1. Berlin is pretty great
I really like this city. I chose to come to Berlin partly because I've never lived in a big city. It's very different from Adelaide and Heidelberg, but good different. Plus everyone keeps saying how much more awesome Berlin is in Summer, that I shouldn't have come in Winter, and that I have to see it in Summer. Plus I'm getting to know more and more awesome people in Berlin, so that's also excellent :D
Group photo from my birthday dinner a couple of weeks ago :)
2. Adelaide is great, just not for media professionals
I like Adelaide. I will probably end up there eventually. It is home. My family is there, and some friends too - though most of my close friends have already moved interstate. They've moved interstate because that's where the jobs are. Adelaide is pretty sleepy and Melbourne and Sydney are basically where the media jobs are (generally).

3. I don't have the skills to be a media professional yet
My blog has featured a lot of ranting about the University of Adelaide Media degree, but in case you somehow missed my posts from 2007 - 2012, I will sum up by telling you what the HEAD OF MEDIA told me when I mentioned that I thought there should be practical components to the degree: "this degree teaches you how to learn".

Ok, that's great. But unfortunately for UofA grads, most of the other unis offering media degrees train their students to some degree.

That means that despite my two Bachelors degrees and my Diploma of Languages, it's pretty unlikely I'd get a media-related job - also because I didn't have any opportunity to (or interest in) specialising as some of my friends did. To be fair, I probably could have done more during my degree to learn more, but I was too busy having a well-rounded university experience with friends and GAMES and the AUGC)

Too many parchments? Perhaps...
4. Despite having now completed a five-month internship in Berlin, I still don't have the skills
I moved here to do an Online Marketing & Social Media internship. Unfortunately, because they didn't really know what I should be doing, and because one supervisor was in Chile, and the other in Berlin but only came into the office about three times, I feel like I didn't learn that much, and that my time was wasted a bit. Especially in the last month of my internship, where I spent three weeks straight spamming people on LinkedIn. All day, every day. My account got suspended for it.

5. Being a big city, there are more opportunities in Berlin
There is a huge start-up scene here. And just generally a lot of opportunites. Obviously there would be more if I could speak fluent German (I'm passively working on it...), but being a native English speaker is also pretty great.

I'm now doing a marketing internship with a company called XYO, which, two weeks in, is already so much better than my other internship. Everyone actually cares about the product, seems like they want to be at work, the office is so nice and light and right in the middle of Berlin, people talk to each other and seem to care about each other, it's a super international team, and just generally a positive place to be. And as a HUGE added bonus, I think I am actually going to learn things here. And the positive environment makes me want to learn.

Gendarmenmarkt. This is across the road from where I now work.
6. Other
There are of course other factors that I took into consideration when making the decision to stay, but I don't want to write about them on my public blog.

TL;DR - My current plan is to stay in Berlin until my savings run out (that could be months or years), then I will return home, hopefully with the skills required to get a job.

Spring in the Britzer Garten