Well, it’s Wednesday night and our time in Germany is almost up. We fly back to Singapore at 7:00am Sunday morning and between now and then we are extremely busy, so I thought I’d write this today. When we were leaving Pondicherry I wrote a post about the things I would and wouldn’t miss after we had left India as well as after a month in Bonn.
This time I’m going to write a similar post about Germany, beginning with the things we won’t miss and then, again, to finish on a positive note, the things we will miss. So, first I bring you the things we won’t miss. Like last time, some of these are extremely petty and are in no particular order;
Things we won’t miss about Germany:
Shops not opening on Sundays – You can’t even buy groceries! Supermarkets in country towns in Australia still open on Sunday. Even some fast food places here close on Sunday.
- Trying to get a taxi on a Sunday, too
- The weather – We’re a month into Summer and yesterday was about 15°C (60°F). We did have one day last week where it got to 30°C (85°F), but generally the temperature is in the mid-high teens / low 20’s.
- The bed in our apartment – It is SO SMALL!
- Double beds having two single doonas/comforters/duvets – This is all over Europe, but it is frustrating when you’re a restless sleeper like myself, everything ends up on the floor and then you wake up at 5:00am, freezing.
- TV – A lot of European countries have English channels, but Germany just has CNN and BBC News. I haven’t watched TV in months.
- Tagging – There are historic buildings, ruins and monuments that are centuries old all over the country and pubescent dumbasses feel the need to spray-paint their names on them. Sure, tagging happens everywhere, but there must come a point where a person thinks, “That’s pretty cool, I’ll let that be and just spray my tag at the train station, just like everyone else”.
- The alcoholics out the front of the train station – They are some really dodgy dudes and they all have teeth that look like a pan of burnt chips.
- I still struggle to find my size shoes here – I wear a US size 12 (Euro 45), but most stores only stock up to a US 11 (Euro 44) and then they will inexplicably have a bunch of size US 15 (Euro 48), so everything I find is either one size too small or three sizes too big!
- Trying my hardest to speak to someone in my insanely basic, broken and butchered German, only to have them reply in one of the most grammatically perfect and eloquent sentences you’ll ever hear. It is kind of humiliating…
- My epilepsy medication being labeled “Retardtabletten” – “Retard tablets” (in actual fact, I found that hilarious).
German fashion – I am by no means a fashionista; When I was going to Canberra at the beginning of the year for my good friend Shane Worthington’s wedding, I had never met his fiancée before. He said to her that I’d be easy to pick; I’d be the tall guy in shorts, a Black Flag t-shirt and a pair of Vans slip-ons. Two out of three ain’t bad, I was wearing a different t-shirt. But, holy shit, in Germany I’m on the cutting edge! German fashion can be put into several categories:
- People who never realised the ’90s ended: Same hair and clothes as when I was in high school, or looking like early-’90s boy band members.
- Goths: They are generally just fat outcasts who wear lots of black lace and pale makeup. And that’s just the guys!
- Hiking gear: People wear that stuff everywhere and there is no way you can not look daggy in it.
- Socks with sandals: Enough said.
- The experimental stuff (left).
- Unreliable public transport – There is this stereotype that exists that the Germans are efficient, but it certainly doesn’t apply to their transport, especially trains. We have caught a lot of trains in the last three months and I’d guess that at least three-quarters of them were delayed or affected by strikes. Planes aren’t much better, either.
- Frankfurt – That place is just awful.
- Still using 1¢ and 2¢ coins – It’s really frustrating to have to pretend to look in your pockets for these when you know that the only ones you have are behind the cushions on your couch.
- It’s almost impossible to meet people – Besides Anna’s colleagues, we haven’t really met anyone in Germany. Even on drunken nights out, talking to strangers is considered a social faux pas here. Everywhere else in Europe we met people, usually within minutes of entering a bar, but people just tend to stick to themselves in Deutschland.
- Daylight hours – It’s still light here after 10:00pm!
Things we will miss about Germany:
Beer! – Anyone who knows me knows that I love a beer or 12 and this place is like heaven! It’s perfectly acceptable to have beer at any time of day, morning, noon or night. Before I came here I set myself the goal of having 200 different beers and ciders in the 11 weeks we were here and I am currently at 216. I have taken a photo of every different beer and you can can see the pictures here. Beer here is also extraordinarily cheap with a six-pack setting you back about €1.50 (approx US$1.70) and it’s actually good stuff. Not bad compared to Singapore, where a pint in a bar usually sets you back at least US$10.00 minimum.
- Gummi-Beers – Just like gummy-bears, but beer (right).
- Cheap and easy international travel – Thanks to the German train system, despite the delays and strikes, we were able to visit France, Belgium, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands on three separate occasions. Imagine how much better it would’ve been if the transport system was reliable!
- The food – This one surprised us the most, I didn’t expect the variety that’s available. Of course, the stories are true, there is a lot of pork, but there are plenty of other options. Even if you’re after halal or kosher food, you should be fine. There is a large Turkish population here and they seem to be doing okay, as are their thousands of kebab shops. Vegetarians and vegans might struggle, though.
Dogs – A lot of people here have really cool dogs that are well-trained and extremely well-behaved, therefore they are allowed everywhere; in shops, public transport, even a lot of restaurants and they don’t even cause any trouble. Many of them don’t even need to be on leashes.
- The scenery – I’ve posted plenty of pictures of castles, ruins, cathedrals, old buildings, beer halls, mountains, rivers, do I really need to get into this again?
- The art scene – Particularly in Berlin, as I have previously mentioned, there are some amazing artists and musicians. There is great street art everywhere there, too, especially on the Berlin Wall (although we only got to see it from a cab).
- People still engage in face-to-face interaction – One of my biggest pet hates is when you are hanging out with someone and they spend the entire time texting someone else. If you’d rather be chatting with someone else, then piss off and join them, don’t waste my time. This, however, isn’t an issue in Germany, as it doesn’t happen here, people actually focus their attention on the person in their immediate vicinity.
- There are still a lot of book shops, because people here still actually read books – There are also these public glass cases where you can take books for free and leave the ones you have finished, kind of a free book exchange of sorts.
- Berlin – Such a great city, I wish we just had more time to see more of it.
- Flea Markets – We love flea markets and we’ve found some bizarre stuff in the ones in Germany. Some examples:
- McRib – A permanent feature on the McDonald’s menu.
- Concerts – Great bands actually tour here, I forgot what that was like since I’ve been living in Singapore. We’re going to go and see Primus on Saturday night before we leave.
- Spargelsaison – There is a three-month season where everyone goes apeshit over my favourite vegetable, asparagus, and we just happened to be here for the entire duration of it.
- Weird Magazines – I don’t know who does their market research, but they cover some pretty niche markets. Again, some examples:
As you can see, the pros of being here definitely outweigh the cons. If you are considering coming to Germany, do it, you won’t regret it.
Lastly, we’d like to thank some people who played a big part in making this trip possible:
Silke and Klaus Kinzig for their wonderful hospitality
Professor Frank Holz, Monika and Steffen Schmitz-Valckenberg, Boris and Tisha Stanzel and all of the staff at Universitäts-Augenklinik, Bonn for the opportunity you have given us both, but especially for the great learning opportunity you have given Anna.
I know I’m a little late, I intended to add this yesterday, but congratulations to the Golden State Warriors, a truly great team with no egos. One of my favourite basketball players growing up was Manute Bol (RIP), he spent a substantial part of his career with the Warriors and if he were around today he would be celebrating, too. For those who don’t know Manute, check out this video, a truly great human being: