Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Brief moments of joy

Well it happened- the sun came out in Kiel. Right now, of course, it is raining but yesterday it was almost twenty degrees. And I´m ashamed to say I was really too hot. It was lovely, the whole city came alive, cafes sprouted up from places I'd never noticed before and people were drinking beer outside, rowing on the fjord, jogging, fishing, you name it.

On the bus today a German lady tapped me politely on the shoulder and said something to me I couldn't hear because my headphones were on. I said "Sorry?" "Is that your scarf?" she said, using the polite form of you. I looked down and there was my Italian nonna umbrella I bought at the Vatican with its lovely blueflowers on a pink background sitting beneath my foot. I was so amazed at the act of courtesy I just said "That is my umbrella. Thank you." I guess I should have expected my umbrella to be too out there for Kiel.

I went for a jog on the weekend (lasted about ten horrible minutes) and had a lovely moment when I ran past a very fat grey goose waddling past me. There is something I have never experienced before. Every day here I see a new kind of bird, hopefully minus bird flu.

Thursday, April 20, 2006


This is why I really hate being here sometimes:

I have had to pay, to date, including keys for Simon, over one hundred dollars for keys to houses which I am only living in temporarily. Not only did I have to pay, but I had to wait two weeks to pick one of them up and get a special permission slip from the housemaster (!) for the other one.

To renew my library membership I need to show my passport plus proof of address. To renew it.

I can´t make small talk in German, I just can´t. And that is because they don´t make it up here, in the north. I am so sick of going into shops and saying something like, nice weather we´re having and getting stared at like I´m a freak.

I forget, pretty much every single bloody time, to weigh my fruit and vegtables before I take them to the counter. Which means I can´t buy them without lining up all over again. Yesterday I went to the shops specifically to buy an apple, lined up for twenty minutes then realised I had forgotten to weigh it.

I can never remember the names for my bike parts, so every time I go into a bike shop I just have to point.

Everything is closed on Sunday, and most shops close at midday on Saturday. Nothing is open past eight o´clock ever. I am in the sticks, I know, but this is a town of two hundred and fifty thousand people!

No-one ever smiles at you in the street. Except for babies, who haven´t learnt not to yet. And the occasional dog.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Decisions decisions

It´s just not my forte, making decisions. I have been umming and ahhing for almost two months about whether or not to use my ticket to go home. I´ve finally decided (almost... no I really have... but I can take it back!) not to take it and to stay in Europe for the summer. Not only is it a terrible thing to waste the untransferable, unextendable ticket but I was really, really looking forward to seeing everyone. But it doesn´t make sense, I can travel then and I´ve got an assurance out of my bossess that it´ll be possible to take three weeks off in December to come home. So I think I´ll do that instead and enjoy it even more. Argh.

Being in Kiel is just the same, kind of stifling and boring but also good if I´m in the right zone to deal with it all. My flatmates just had a house meeting about various issues, including a house party and the argument arose about whether or not a drum and base DJ was necessary to create the right party atmosphere on the dance floor. Dance floor. I felt like I was observing an alien mating ritual on the planet Zargon. Then it was suggested that we should buy about ten to twenty cases of beer, and put all the furniture upstairs in another apartment. It boggles the mind.

But just proving that all student cultures are the same, there was the inevitable argument about whether or not to have an invitation. Some things never change.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Holyday over

It´s Easter Sunday and we´re recovering from a hangover, as is traditional on the last day of a holiday. Last night Simon turned into Mr Party, as he is sometimes wont to do, and charmed a group of Germans from Erfurt who are down here enjoying the Dresden vibe. We drank some absinthe together and went to a happening Dresden club called Flower Power. It was really interesting talking to some of the group, they seem very aware of the "wall in the head" phenomenon- they brought up the topic of the differences between West and East Germany as though the wall were still there. And I have to say, given one evening with a bunch of "Ossis" all my prejudices about Germans seem to be based on the North-west of the country. These people were open, friendly, almost naively so. Actually they reminded me a bit of Australians, except obviously they know where Poland is. It was quite amazing, and made me think I should spend some time in other parts of Germany so I don´t have a completely skewed and bitter outlook. As I am beginning to have.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Crossing the border

I´m ba- ack. In Germany. It feels weird to be back, my tongue isn´t quite making it round the words and people don´t smile at me any more (except for the Aussie and Amis- I can pick ém cause they look slighty baffled that no-one smiles back) but it´s very cool to finally be in Dresden, even if it´s only for two nights. The German here is slightly softer and less abrupt, we´re on the other end of the Elbe from Hamburg and it kind of feels like another country, even though we´re less far away than Sydney from Brisbane. We´re staying in a very cool youth hostel with a groovy bar, surrounded by even groovier bars and designer clothes shops... very dangerous. It kind of reminds me of Melbourne which I was foolish enough to voice and got ridiculed for by Matt and Simon. I then said that the part by the river reminded me of Brisbane... Maybe I´m more homesick than I thought?

It was great being in Prague this time, after I got over feeling stressed out. I got to see places I´ve never seen before thanks ot being there with Matt, who studied there for a couple of months. It made me want to go back which is nice because the last few times it´s been deep winter and I haven´t done anything except sleep and eat.

Only one more sleep and it´s back to work... but somehow it seems more managable now.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Prague blues

So I'm in Prague and it's RAINING. Damn it all. You'd think that bad weather for six months would toughen you up but in my case it's just increased my weather sensitivity to the point where it makes up fifty percent of my conversation and I don't decide what I'm going to do until I look out the window first thing in the morning.

The plus side is that yesterday was lovely and for the first time I sat in the old town square and drank overpriced beer and listened to a bunch of Scottish blokes talk about their wild night at the table next to me. I finally got to see this city in all its spring glory, and understood the appeal. Today, however, and probably for the rest of the week, I will just get flashbacks to all the other time I've been here and holed myself up in the flat because it was too cold or miserable to go outside. It's really no wonder I still don`t really know the city at all.

What's also kind of ruining my holiday is the big decisions I have to make at the moment- whether to sign a contract at work until June 2007 (can I do another winter in Kiel? Will I go on a killing spree?) and whether or not to fork out the money to come home for a month in July, and possiblity miss the only month of summer in a year and a half. I hate making decisions, and I especialy hate making them when I'm on holiday. My mushy, overslept brain just shouldn't be called on to do anything more taxing than decide what to have for breakfast.

Moan moan. Life is just so hard when you're a modern jet-setter.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

City of spasz

Budapest. The Danube is flooding, which was a surprise, although it made more sense than "maybe they just don't want any customers on the boat restaraunts and that's why all the walkways are under water" theory which we flaoted for a few hours on our first night. This is a great city, I feel really comfortable here, although that could be due to the ever-lovely Hungarians who work for the walking tours, pub crawls and our great hostel. Tonight we were too knackered to do anything, so we watched Ocean's Eleven on DVD and were given popcorn... so nice. Almost uncomfortable-making nice actually, given how poor this country is compared to it's rich neighbours like Germany.

We went to the very luxurious city spas today, which, when the tour guide asked us to guess what the building was I guessed a palace, look not unlike a Hapsburg royal residence. They had baths ranging from thirty-eight to twenty degrees, in various sizes, some outside and some inside, most from thermal springs. All of Budapest was there, fat old ladies and men, young wolf-whistling Italians and many, many school groups of various European nationalities. It was absolute decadence, and made our swimming pools look kind of lame.

Today I also met my grandmother's second cousin which was nice and awkward and also a bit sad. Not because of her, she was full of life even thought she is pushing eighty five, and she was correcting my German, but because of the wars that marred her life and killed all the people close to her. And everyone else too. On the tour we went on yesterday we had a fabulous feisty young Hungarian woman who said "I love my country but it's a shit country". Apparently next week there are elections, and she and the pub crawl guide were wearing orange to support the democratic party and oust the "corrupt arselicking ex-Soveit party members". They have only had a democracy for under twenty years and even that has been in name only. Agnes, the pub tour guide, was smiling alot with her mouth but not with her eyes as she told us how only those who had never experienced freedom knew its value. As I meet more and more young Aussies and Americans I begin to believe it.

On the tour last night there were four young American girls- one of whom was a Valley girl "I just can't deal with backpacking- I mean, sharing with other people, ew."- and three young Australian guys, one of whom told me he was going to Turkey and when I asked why he looked at me and said in serious tones, "for Anzac Day". Oh right, yeah. I thought he was going to ask me if I really was Aussie when I then asked when exactly that was. Needless to say the two groups weren't going to result in any romances. And does this mark the second time that I was scared- really scared- to discuss Anzac Day with a young Australian bloke? I have the feeling this is a trend likely to continue. Neither group really seemed to understand freedom, unless it was the freedom to be a fucking moron.

Monday, April 03, 2006

The idiot from Australia

Getting from Hamburg to Budapest should have been easy- it's a two hour flight and we were travelling with Air Berlin who are not so budget they have their terminal in a little village somewhere like Ryan Air or German Wings. It should have been pain free. But it wasn't, mainly because I left my passport in my check in luggage and only realised half an hour before take off.

My excuse isn't so great either- I left my swiss army knife in my toiletries bag, which I then decided at the last minute to put in my backpack, which meant I had to re-check it in, which meant I had to take my valuables out and I forgot to take out my passport.

So then it got exciting. While I sweated like a drug smuggler the Air Berlin check in guy called eight different numbers while an increasingly annoyed queue of travellers waited behind me. Then I sprinted down to the arrivals and waited and waited for my bag to appear. No-one down there had any idea what I was talking about and I was beginning to think I would be trapped in Kiel and never see the sun again when my bag arrived. I pretty much threw the knife at the guards and sprinted to the departure gate- thank god Hamburg airport is so small. We made the plane with about four minutes to spare. As we touched down it was an incredible twenty degrees and it all seemed worth it, although I do kind of feel like if I ever see another check-in counter it will be too soon.