Sunday, July 05, 2015

Are Germans hardier than Australians?

In Germany, a lot of people think I'm pretty hardcore because I'm Australian. Of course, we've all seen those posts about how all Australian animals are trying to kill you - on land or in the water, and so is the weather... so automatically, having survived that all for this many years, I must be pretty hardy. And yes, Australia does have a lot of deadly animals. Australia's land and seas are full of spiders, snakes, sharks, jellyfish, stonefish, and many things beside. So yeah, in that case, Australia definitely wins.

Weather-wise though... Last winter was pretty mild - it only got down to about -10. A few years ago though, it got down to -20 (in fact, I was in Prague one day that it was -23 there. Prague is about 4 hours from Berlin, so pretty similar temperatures). So yeah, it gets cold here. But it's cool, we have excellent heating, and you can (usually) dress for the weather.

But in SUMMER... well, when it arrives, it arrives. Last week there were highs of 16 degrees... yesterday and today highs of 39. And the thing is, there's no air conditioning here (except in shopping centres and some (!) supermarkets), and as there's not really any large body of water nearby, there's no regulation from that (a river and some canals don't quite have the same effect as the sea). We also live on the third floor, and as we all know, heat rises.

So imagine this: a humid (ugh) 39-degree day, in the third storey of a building, with no air-con. Sounds pretty horrible, right? Oh, it is. But that means that not only does Germany get incredible lows in winter, it also gets super highs in summer. In Adelaide, the temperature during the day doesn't drop far below (+)14 degrees for most of winter. Yes, summer is pretty hot too, but at least there's air-conditioning everywhere.

But yesterday I swam in a lake for the first time! We went to Kallinchen, a 30-minute drive from where we live. It was so crowded, and people had little beach tents and beach umbrellas. The water was lovely and cool (according to the sign it was 23 degrees), but there were just so many people. And so many bratty kids. Times like this I miss Adelaide beaches. Though one good thing - there were trees, so you could actually sit in the shade without a beach tent! No photos of mine because I left my things in the car so they wouldn't get stolen, but one from the internet so you can see what it looks like.

Update: thank goodness we have a fan.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

An apartment without a kitchen

The German property market is dominated by rentals. Very few people buy, but as a tenant you have a lot more rights than in Australia. For example: no inspections (the apartment is yours - no one's allowed in unless you say so); they can't kick you out, even if you don't pay rent (well, after a certain number of months they can), unless they or an immediate family member wants to actually live in the apartment; you can paint and put holes in the walls and basically do whatever you want - as long as it looks like it did when you moved in when you move out.

Unfortunately, there is no legal requirement for there to be a kitchen in the apartment when you rent it. Bathroom yes (I think...), but it is entirely possible to rent an apartment without a kitchen. Which is what we did. When we got the keys, the walls were unpainted (and we had to render them first), there were no floor or window coverings, and there was no kitchen. Of course, Ikea is the answer for everything, so after meticulous planning of our stupidly-proportioned kitchen (the window pretty much takes up one whole wall, and the heater is in a very stupid spot), we made three trips to Ikea (all up it's probably around 20 trips now, but only 3 for the main kitchen items), lugged everything to the third floor (there's no lift), and built a kitchen. BUILT A KITCHEN.

Now, we've moved in. There's carpet, and a kitchen, and laminate. We have a TV and a wardrobe (it took a while). There's still some furniture that we need, a blanket is currently serving as our bedroom blind (the rest of the windows have nothing), we only sorted out all the kitchen cupboards properly last night, and we need to decorate it... but this apartment is home :)

View from the kitchen window a couple of weeks ago... seems strangely distorted, but I think it's just the shadows....

Thursday, October 02, 2014


I've been doing this for TEN YEARS. And for ten years, you've been reading boring posts about my life and looking at photos of people you may or may not know, and places you may or may not have any interest in. Reading my strange commentaries on whatever and putting up with my teenage emo angst.

My bloggiversary was actually ALSO September 29th (which was my Berlinniversary), but I forgot so am just posting now. If you go back through my archives you may be confused - my blog only dates from 2005. But I really have been doing this 10 years - for some reason my blog went really strange in April(?) 2005 and I had to delete it and start again. Unfortunate, but we're probably not missing out on much. Not sure how much of value 15-year-old Sarah really had to say ;)

So anyway, thanks for the readers who have stayed through this whole journey (Mum), and for those who have come and gone. Although I'll probably never be internet famous, I'm always glad to see my pageviews go up.

And as a special(?) treat, let's look at my face from 2004, and my face from 2014! Hooray!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014


Today is my Berlinniversary! I've been here for a whole year, and man has time flown! Who would have even thought I'd still be in this crazy city? But I'm still super glad I stayed.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

That subtitle change

In year 11 physics, Elizabeth and I came up with the subtitle of my blog. It was a "mathematical" "equation" which apparently equalled my life (we really just made up a bunch of things and put various maths/physics terms in there. Also the  sign, just for good measure). But it's been a long time since then, so I changed it. Probably not permanently, but I think it fits better now anyway. But MORE IMPORTANTLY, I finally capitalised Sez's Life! Like an adult!

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!)