Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Honduras

Grüße von Honduras!
After three days in Guatemala, it was time to move on, but we'll be back. Raúl, our ridiculously kind hostel owner in Antigua, told us not to travel anywhere on any kind of transport on either New Year's Eve or New Year's Day. It's just not safe.
Apparently the locals go bananas. They all get rip-roaringly drunk, jump into their cars and trucks, and drive around in a state of elation at the prospect of ending another shitty year. The prospect of everything being much better in the coming year helps them celebrate even more. A fresh beginning to be welcomed with open mouths. Hopefully they won't use their guns too.
"But it's always the same," laughed Raúl. "They think everything will be different but every year is the same as before. Nothing changes."
Raúl is very likable fellow. Nothing is a problem, and everything is done for the benefit and well-being of his guests. He got up before 4 a.m. this morning to see us off on our collectivo to Copán, Honduras.
The journey itself was no more eventful than I expected. I was expecting the driver to be a complete lunatic; he turned out to be a relatively sane lunatic. We only came near close contact with lorries twice - once only avoiding being rear-ended by a fast-approaching truck by a distance of less than a metre, and then later when the driver had to abort an overtaking manoeuvre mid-way due to an approaching brute of a machine. That truck seemed to speed up towards us once he realised there might be the possibility of a head on collision.
But we made it, and I'm sitting beside a cobbled street with all my limbs intact to write about the tale.

As you may noticed, there are no pictures to accompany my words. I never brought the connecting camera cable to enable such a wonder of science, but I will of course upload said pictures once I get back to the sanctuary of Berlin in February.
Thankfully that's a long way away now. A lot more adventures await. We'll spend three days here in Copán Ruinas, the site of some impressive Mayan ruins, before making our way to Bay Islands in the Caribbean. The Caribbean!

Meanwhile, from the jungle-clad hills and mountains of Honduras, I wish you all feliz Navidad y un feliz año 2009!!!

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Volcano

Molten rock flowed a few feet from my eyes as I balanced precariously on a rock above, and I survived! A river of lava literally streamed out of a hole near the top of Volcán de Pacaya, gurgling and bubbling with intense menace, as it made its devastating path down the side of the volcano.
Naturally, we had climbed the other side - that itself no small feet - as it took two hours' hiking to get to the natural spectacle. First a heart-pumping hike up, following by a much slower-paced hands and legs climb up the steepest hill I've ever climbed. And I've been to Frisco!
Black gravel and volcanic rock slid downhill as we attempted to make our way uphill, as if the volcano itself was warning us not to come any closer. Daylight was failing as if to heighten the suspense. Near the top, the temperature started rising, and then suddenly we noticed - red hot cinders under the rocks on which we were balanced. "Shit, there's fucking lava under these rocks!" It's what we had climbed to see, but it was a shock none the less.
Of course, the mind being what it is, we quickly wanted to see more lava. And we weren't disappointed. Flames burst out of a rock just a few feet away, and suddenly we didn't feel very safe. It was dark at this stage. I climbed on a high rock and was greeted by the sight of the lava river flowing downhill. Despite the danger I felt drawn closer. Must get a good picture! Closer and closer. Just a meter away. Take a picture Jenny! Stand there Jenny!
Then the heat got too much. Suddenly it was fucking unbearable. I thought the soles on my feet were melting. Then the rock on which I was standing started rocking. (Now I know why they're called rocks.) I beat a hasty retreat. At least as hasty as possible without falling onto more rocks below. Or worse. Molten rocks.
Quite a few tourists have been injured up here, and safety procedures were definitely not on menu. The so-called guides were calling us to begin our descent. "Barko, Barko!! Vamos! Vamos!"
Like closing time in Ireland however, we delayed the inevitable.
"Uno moment," we called back, as we savoured the experience as long as possible.
"Vamos!" they insisted, as flashlights could be seen disappearing in the darkness below us.
The lava, heat and general danger helped us relent however. But like any good Irishman (and a German girl) we were last to leave.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Antigua

So it's 26 hours 43 minutes from Whitechurch, New Ross, Co. Wexford to Antigua, Guatemala. Not too bad considering the world of difference between the two. This place is amazing!

Antigua's an old colonial town, nestled precariously between volcanoes and their less-threatening mountain brethren. One particularly ominous volcano looms menacingly over the town. Last night it was sending plumes of smoke towards the stars.

The inhabitants take no notice beneath, bustling around day and night and doing their utmost to create as much noise as humanly possible. Old American school buses serve now as "chicken buses", so called because of the chickens in cages over passengers' heads, while the passengers themselves are forced to share a bench between at least three, sometimes more.
Between the honking of the horns, the Latino music pumping from cars/bars/shops, and the cries of "Guate, Guate, Guate!!!" announcing the destination from the buses (Guatemala City), there's an almighty din, not to mention the traffic of the cobbled streets, with tuk-tuks (motorbike taxis) nipping around at passengers' will, as well as the market women hawking their wares, and the general noise from inhabitants who want to be heard. As I type there's an oul' fella hanging out of the doorway, gesturing at me with his wizened hand held out, rasping "amigo, amigo..." I guess he's looking for money. Hopefully he'll go away.

So far, despite the madness around me, the highlight has been the arrival in Guatemala City. Jenny was supposed to meet me at the airport, but after standing around at our pre-arranged meeting place, with no Jenny to be seen, I was thinking to myself "feckin typical, she survives a month without getting murdered, shot, attacked, or worse, she finally gets held up by banditos on her way to pick me up". After spending the previous month fearing the worst, I suppose it was apt that there would be another fright.
Finally, an hour late, she showed up. The relief! We embraced and all the worries of the previous month disappeared in an instant. Her collectivo to the airport took a scenic route, with a million unscheduled stops and drop-offs en route, but it didn't matter. Nothing mattered. I barely noticed the roses she gave me. We kissed and hugged and held each other and all was right with the world again. We huddled together all the way back to Antigua. Happy, happy, happy. The perfect way to start an an adventure.

In an hour or so we're going to Volcán de Pacaya, the active volcano, to climb to the top and see what all the fuss is about. There's a bit of a hike apparently, but that's not the main concern; nor is it the streams of lava which have to be negotiated once there; it's the bandits who have made a habit down through the years of holding up vulnerable gringos, robbing them, shooting them etc... Apparently, there's an armed guard to escort us. Once he's over 14 I'll be happy enough.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Tree

Well, the tree is finally up. About time - it's Christmas Eve, but everything is always left to the last minute with my family...
It's actually up earlier than last year's, which was cut down under cover of darkness in the early hours of Christmas morning, with the assistance of Noddy and Ritchie, and an obliging moon. For the record, it wasn't actually taken from the national park, but from a cluster of trees conveniently nearby. Stray trees.
We still had to keep an eye out for nosy guards, park rangers etc., but speeding off with the prize in the back of Ritchie's van captured for me the spirit of Christmas at the time.
Unfortunately there's no such spirit this year. It's the first time we've ever had a tree-shaped tree, but that's only because it's a plastic one. For the first time. They mightn't have been tree-shaped trees in previous years, but at least they were real trees, or on occasion bushes if you want to be pedantic. In previous years I always vehemently opposed any idea of using a fake tree but this year I don't care anymore.
My dad wasn't happy that the stray tree we brought home last year shed its pines all over the carpet within a few days of being rescued, and there was a concerted campaign to erect the plastic thing which stayed in its box last year.
So I relented and put the damn thing up. I consoled myself with thought that it would be more eco-friendly than killing another tree, but I know the CFCs and toxins produced while making it probably stripped a forest bare in Scandinavia.

I leave Wexford for Guatemala shortly after Christmas Day draws its last breath. In a little over 24 hours. Not a moment too soon.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Berlin, San Fran und Irland

Grüße von Irland eigentlich!

This is really only a Berlin update in that I have spent the majority of my time since the last update in Berlin, but I could just as well call it a San Francisco update, or a 12,000m above Earth update.

I just got back today but I'm not as happy as I should be to be honest.

The trouble started as soon as I arrived. After waiting yonks for the damn bus to arrive at the airport, and spending twice as many yonks wandering around Connolly Station before emerging at a platform from which trains have been known to depart, I finally boarded and settled into my seat and tried not to think about how long it would take back to Bray.
At the next stop however, as soon as I let my guard down, I was confronted by a PRICK who demanded I remove my luggage, (I was loaded with Christmas booty from the Vaterland), so he could sit down.
The expensively-suited fucker, probably around 60, chose to ignore the vacant seats around me and insisted that I remove and hold my luggage.
I took the largest rucksack off the seat and put it on the table in front of me, but he wanted a clear table.
"I'll have you put off the train," he informed me. "I don't care where you put it."
He then proceeded to push the rucksack from the table on top of me.
I resisted his efforts to push the damn thing, and told him I was entitled to have luggage, and that there were plenty of other seats in the carriage where he could read in acres of space.
I then noticed I had the support of some fellow passengers, who proceeded to argue with the dick on my behalf.
A rough-looking character piped up: "Herre, meester, he waz der befoar yeh."
A dodgier-looking fellow sitting behind me lied on my behalf, suggesting I had already attempted to place my luggage overhead without success on two occasions.
(I later heard him chatting with an equally disadvantaged looking pal of his. He was explaining how difficult it is to break the train seats. He underlined his point by repeatedly kicking the seat in front of him. (Mine, unfortunately). Thankfully, he was right. They are hard to break.)
Anyway, the bespectacled-fuckbag in front of me eventually settled down with my rucksack in front of him once he had enough room to do his crossword. Four letter word comes to mind.
I thanked my seat-destroying friends with a wink on the way off the train. The return wink made the ordeal worthwhile.
Just as I was about to depart the carriage, his royal fuckness called me back and offered his hand. "Happy Christmas," he offered. I accepted of course - probably because I had already told myself he would die a very bitter man.

Anyway, that's literally the latest update from my life. A fine welcome "home" that was. There is not one word of exaggeration.

Since the Theresas Mütter's famous victory a little over a month ago, quite a lot has happened. Unfortunately, this didn't include any further victories. (We lost the next match 9-0 - back to normal - although the snow, ice and minus temperatures were certainly a novelty - pictures available here: http://picasaweb.google.com/faheyc/SchneeFuBall#).

Thankfully, there's plenty of Glühwein in Berlin to help thaw a frozen Irishman, and a week in San Francisco also helped me survive until I reached under the clouds of this sodden island some people like to call home.
Literal and metaphorical clouds now seem to switch dominance at will. The latter I guess are here for the long-haul after the death of blind optimism, and the bursting of the bullshit bubble presided over by incompetents.
I'm in danger of ranting again. Must stop. Can't. Help. It. TheCountry'sFucked-ThereI'veSaidIt.

Away from the politics. Away, away. Back to the usual staple of sex, drugs, and techno.

San Francisco seems to me to be an American version of Berlin. Both very liberal cities, where weirdness is pursued to see how far weirdness can go. Walking around Union Square with my gracious hosts, Fats (so named because he's not) and Tanya, we encountered an aging female hippie plastered in make-up with a face full of teeth, who was stroking her pet rat which was resting on a pillow. Quite a fancy pillow it was too. The unlikely couple had a sign requesting money for living expenses. Not necessarily just money either - this is America - they probably would have accepted Visa.
The weren't the only beggars on the streets. Another cheeky fucker had a sign declaring that he was collecting money for alcohol research, while another, who either stole the idea or had it stolen from him, declared his willingness for marijuana research.

As a brief aside on a related/slightly askew matter - a bit like this update - I discovered at the weekend they are selling a marijuana-based drink in the cafeteria at the Stasi Prison in Berlin. Now that's ironic! Although mind-alteration is nothing new to the Stasi (East German Secret Police). Did you know more people worked for them than ever worked for the Gestapo? 91,000 employees and 300,000 informants apparently by the time the DDR collapsed in 1989.

My aunt, uncle and Helen, my cousin, visited the former prison last Friday, (Happy Birthday Helen!), when we had to escape a German-speaking tour guide to wander around on our own. Strictly forbidden. It must have been the first time anyone ever broke into the prison. We survived undetected for half an hour or so, ducking into cells, interrogation rooms, spies' writing rooms, and Stasi officers' quarters, before we were caught and "reprimanded". Luckily, we were caught by an English-speaking tour guide who allowed us to join her merry band to learn more about the dark side of East German history. Mad shit altogether.

It was, as the San Franians would exclaim, "Off the freakin' hook, man!" Of course, they had their own version of hell behind bars in Alcatraz, although I have to say the East Germans would make "The Rock" look like Trabolgan Holiday Camp in Cork.

San Francisco's lack of people with flowers in their hair, sitting in the grass, strumming guitars and generally enjoying happiness was a bit of a disappointment for me. It seems the hippies are no more. Now there are just old washed-up bums, wasters and lazy fuckers who have no intention of working. Hmmm. I'll move swiftly on...

I did get to hold a gun for the first time. No, I didn't shoot anyone, despite the ever-lengthening list of potential targets. Apparently there's quite a lot of gun crime in SF, so to combat this, every household must have at least one gun. American logic, but I'd agree with it if they gave me a gun. I wonder if the same approach would work in the fight against prostitution or drugs. More prostitutes! More drugs!
Tanya's gun was very impressive. Heavy and black. (Like Oprah.) And I presume it shot bullets too. What more could a gun-toting fella ask for?

I've been accused by a good friend of mine of "having a gay old time. One homo bar after another". Apparently he's reading what he wants from my updates. This is Kaner, living in Sydney, the gayest city of the world. He's right about San Fran though - gaiety is definitely high on the agenda.
Hundreds of rainbow flags adorn the Castro, the city's outrageously gay district, soon to be made famous by the film Milk, which opened in the States while I was there. Sean Penn plays Harvey Milk, the first openly gay politician to be elected to public office in the US. It's actually an excellent film, and it gives a great insight into how minority groups can group together under strong leadership to fight for their rights.

I mentioned before that San Fran and Berlin are both liberal cities, although I get the feeling it's more controlled in the former. After all, the pubs actually close there. The madness seems more defined and structured there, whereas maybe Berlin hasn't reached that stage yet.

It was with horror that I read yesterday that there are proposals to ban public drinking in Mitte (where I live) due to the unruly behaviour of drunken teenagers. What next? The return of the Stasi?! There would be uproar if those proposals gained momentum, and I, for one, will march with beer in hand to protest this monstrous bastardisation of civil liberties.

Never mind Harvey Milk, equal rights and all that jazz, the powers that be will really know about civil rights if they mess with our beer!!!

Pictures from the San Francisco trip can be seen here: http://picasaweb.google.com/faheyc/SanFrancisco#

This will be my last update before I head for Central America on St. Stephen's Day. (Now officially just nine days away!) The plan is to meet Jenny in Guatemala that night (she's been there the last three weeks already), head towards the Pacific coast to surf and work on a turtle farm or something, then head up to Mexico for a gander at the sombrero-wearing feckers there, (I'll actually be a Steenking Grinngo!!), before coming back down through Mayan ruins in Guatemala, jungle lodges and stuff, and then heading for the cheapest diving on the Caribbean at Honduras.
I'll have to leave Wexford pretty much just after midnight Christmas Day to make sure I catch my flight on time from Dublin, so it'll be a dry Christmas Day for me!

I don't think I'll be writing long rambling emails like this while I'm away, (girly-length emails according to Fats), but if I find any beach or jungle-hut internet cafés, I'll jot down a few lines from Mesoamérica as I go on this blog: http://irishberliner.blogspot.com/

Yeah, yeah, I know, a Blog! Woohoo and all that. But it's what all the young people are doing now, and I sure as hell won't be joining Facebollox or anything like that

Ich wünsche euch ein besinnliches Weihnachtfest und ein gesundes neues Jahr 2009!

Der Ire

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Wonders never cease

A quick emergency update because I have some wonderful news...

Last Saturday, November 15th, 2008, we won a football match for the first time. We actually won!!! I'm only passing on this information now because I've been celebrating since.

My team, Theresas Mütter, actually beat another bona fide team in a proper game of football. 5-3 was the final score. Yours truly was responsible for two assists, despite being half-drunk from the party which ended just four hours previously. Jesus, I think I might still be drunk!

I won't deny we were hanging on at the end, and the second half seemed to last a week, but when the referee finally blew the whistle - Oh my God!!! Total unbridled joy!! Goose bumps and near tears - I write with no hint of exaggeration. My eyes actually watered.

The team had lost each of the previous 26 games ever played. Our first game of the season was a 12-1 loss so you can understand why there might have been a hint of an inferiority complex in the side.

(Despite the noble ethos of all-inclusiveness and "the result not being as important as taking part", to be brutally honest, I was getting a little tired of losing...)

But now we have our first win and our first points!!!

Yes, we played a real team, and no they weren't a team of blind grannies as someone has already suggested, but a team of 11 men. And our all inclusive team fielded two women and a Yank!!! And so on Saturday night we celebrated as if we won the World Cup. Woohoo!!!

The attached link has a couple of photos from the celebration party on Saturday night. Needless to say, the merriment went on long into the morning.
http://picasaweb.google.de/faheyc/FuBallCelebrations#

Up Theresas Mütter!!!

Der Ire

Monday, November 10, 2008

October/November update

Time for the latest installment. It's over a month since the last one. They seem to be getting further apart but I have to do it this way to maintain my image of endless parties, orgies, debauchery and general merriment/divilment.

My updates may also be getting further apart due to a decreasing news-value impact in the stuff I see around me.
Even mad shit seems normal after a while, especially when surrounded by it all the time.

To launch into an example, I was out with three Irish fellas a couple of weeks ago, and we ended up in a bar which had them looking nervously over their shoulders when one of them returned from the toilet to proclaim "this is a gay bar". He had seen pictures of naked men on the wall. To me the bar seemed normal - a pretty quiet café-type place, complete with women and all. I told them just because there were pictures of naked men didn't necessarily mean it was a gay bar. "This is Berlin. They like that kind of stuff," I told them.
I went to investigate, and found the controversial pictures to be more artful than explicit, black and white, taken in the 1960s or sometime when clothes were frowned upon here, and featuring naked women too.
I reassured the lads, but poor ol' Jim was shaken. He had seen a picture of oral activities apparently.
I still wasn't convinced, but the line had been crossed for the lads who told me I'd been living too long in Berlin if I didn't think a bar with pornographic images in the toilet was a gay bar.
No matter. We had just received our drinks, and we agreed that even if the place was full of rampant homosexuals, they weren't going violate us unless invited to do so.
In the end we had to leave before we were asked to do so, after a heated discussion broke out between Jim and Mark over the sovereignty of Norway or something.

The Irish definitely have a different take on stuff over here - my own viewpoints are a constant source of amazement and amusement for my new German pals - but even I can notice subtleties in thinking which are just not found among the local populace.
Barry, a friend of mine despite being a Kilkennyman, came over for a few days recently. We turned into vampires towards the end of the week as is liable to happen in Berlin - getting up when it's dark and going to bed when it's bright - it was 11.30 going to bed one of the mornings.
We found ourselves in a couple of dodgy places to say the least, one of which, Barry told me, had two fellas "at it" in the toilets. Thankfully I didn't need to visit the gents at that time. (I'm not sure that was a gay bar either.)
But my original point centred on the differences in thinking between the Irish and the Germans. We went for a couple of kebabs one night and he ordered a "large" orange, not realising a "large" orange is actually a one litre bottle. After barely making a dent in it, he decided he'd have to get pissed that night so he'd be dehydrated in the morning to enable him drink the bottle of orange. Irish logic for you. Anyone else would have just left the bottle there, or better yet, just taken the "small" orange.

In a previous transmission I complained about the shite tea in Germany. I think it only fair now that I revise my position. I have since discovered that it is only their "normal" black tea which is shite - the stuff imported from England. In fact, hardly anyone here drinks that slop. There are instead a million varieties of other exotic teas, which have even diverted my attention from my beloved Barry's Tea. (Nothing to do with the above.) Yes, there is a world of tea beyond Barry's. I want to stress that in no way is this meant as a slight on Barry's Tea, but I now understand why the crap black tea they have here isn't a front page issue.
As I write, I'm sipping "Inca Tea" - apparently a herbal infusion with Lapacho orange spice. Listed among the ingredients are pimento, fennel, cardamom, coriander, cloves, cinnamon and Lapacho bark (48%), some exotic tree I presume. It's lovely, even if it didn't do the poor ol' Incas any good.
Anyway, that's all I'll be writing on the subject of tea for the moment.

I've decided to sacrifice personal vanity in order to see better. Last week I went to an opticians and bought glasses. It's been a slow process. It was last January when I actually get my eyes tested and your man told me I could do with glasses. My eyesight hasn't improved in the meantime, so shortly I'll be known by the moniker Furniture Face Fahey. It has a certain ring to it, but even still, I'm not enamoured with this development.

I've spent the last month or so trying to get a job, and I am happy to report that I've finally been successful. The down side is that it's not in journalism, but the flip side is that, as a result, the money is good (for Berlin). I'll be earning at least ten times what I've to pay in rent every month.
I'm going back into sales, selling export marketability to customers in the Americas and Asia. The crowd I'll be working for are pretty cool. http://www.exportpages.de/ I even told them I'd be heading off for Christmas and then for a month to Central America, so they're happy for me to start on February 2nd! They made a big point of telling me that they pay Munich-based wages even though we're in Berlin, because staff-welfare and morale is very important to them. The interview lasted an hour and a half and it was all in German, so I'm happy, for the moment, with how the language is going, even if it doesn't seem to be progressing much lately. Apparently, once in a working environment, the language will come on in leaps and bounds. We'll see. I thought it would come on in leaps and bounds once I moved to the damn country but I'm still only at Pidgin German stage.

There were a couple of options for me to stay in journalism but the money on offer was insulting in both cases. The first was with Bild, Germany's thrashiest tabloid "newspaper" but one with a circulation of four million people a day. I would have taken the job even if it was working from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday as a "Praktikant" for €400 a month, but thankfully they found someone else with both fluent German and English instead. Apparently, they're going to give me a call in December with a view to me starting in January.

The other option was with Deutsche Welle, but after travelling to Bonn (598 fucking kilometres away), and doing a current affairs test, radio test and translation test, your wan tells me there is work for me, but only if I move to Bonn. Why she couldn't have told me that before I booked flights and overnight accommodation in Bonn I don't know.
Anyway, Bonn is shit, and there are too many reasons for me to stay in Berlin, so I politely declined her miserable offer. Maybe the whole experience will serve me well, but I can't help but feel it was an avoidable waste of time and expense.

Anyway, to celebrate getting a new job, I booked myself flights to San Francisco in a couple of weeks. Just for a week - can't go too mad. I think I need a holiday after the summer I had, and the idea of putting a flower in my hair seems like an ideal tonic to the stresses of looking for work. I also have to get used to the idea of starting work every morning at 8 a.m. That's EIGHT in the morning. Crazy Germanians.

It feels I'm on the last leg of my Sabbatical. I'm not sure I made the most of it, but I aim to make up for that between now and February. Tomorrow I fly back to Ireland for a couple of days (strictly business), then it's straight back here into a couple of parties on Friday and Saturday. I'd like to think they'll be quiet affairs, but I have I feeling they'll be fucking crazy - too many things are coming to the end for too many people for them not to be.

Thankfully, the football league is back up and running. We had our first game last week. We lost. 12-1. However, we celebrated the goal we did score as if we had won the World Cup. We ran around screaming and shouting, hugging each other and jumping up and down for about five minutes. The other crowd, 8-1 up at this stage, must have thought we were mad. They promptly scored another goal once the celebrations died down.

There's loads of shit I could and would like to write, but I'm conscious this email is already probably too long. A lot of people have been at me to join Facebook for some time now but I steadfastly refuse. Instead I'm going to look into starting a blog - seems the "in thing" to do now among the young people. Then I can just ramble on and people can read what they want to. I'll also be able to throw up pictures and stuff like that. Once I figure it out how it's done and it's up and running I'll let you know.

Meanwhile I will, of course, respond to personal correspondence and queries on the meaning of life, love and Norweigen sovereignty.

Mit freundlichen Grüßen,
Ciarán

Saturday, October 04, 2008

September update

Yes, I know it's October, and that this September Update is therefore already out of date. This, unfortunately, is what happens when living life away from the stresses and strains of timetables, clocks, appointments and generally having things to do - I can't even meet my own deadlines anymore.

I'm sorry to say that this will probably develop into a slightly subdued update, on account of still-lingering post-All-Ireland final thrashing syndrome, a lack of orgies and naked swimming parties over the last month, shitty weather and generally a much quieter September than previous months - probably because I spent most of it away from Berlin.

The original plan was to drive back to Ireland to sell the car, but after driving to and around Paris, Versailles etc. on the way, I re-bonded with her and couldn't find it in myself to sell her like some unscrupulous pimp. So now she's sitting in my parents' back garden in Bray, probably rusting and getting covered in brambles. I'm not sure that's a better life for my beloved vehicle but at least I'm not a pimp.
Now that we're separated however, my feelings of loyalty for Derval are receding again. I'll sell her at Christmas - feelings or no feelings. The money will help me cope with the grief.

My weekend in Ireland was spent getting a ticket for the All-Ireland final. I'm sorry to say I was successful - just proves you should always be careful what you wish for. "Don't stop believing" was the slogan for the Waterford lads but nobody expected them to stop hurling. Copper Face Jacks was an interesting experience afterwards though. Hundreds of GAA jerseys and bad teeth in a state of constant motion. Drunken hurling atoms. Those trying to remember what they were trying to forget, others trying to forget what they were trying to remember, and others trying to get served at the bar. I eventually got a pint, and had it promptly sloshed all over my jersey. They should come with detachable bibs and a mini-trough to catch spillages.

Yes, it was good to be back, if only to confirm I was right to get the hell out while I could. When I heard this week that Bertie was getting €68,000 in severance payments after his resignation I nearly puked. Talk about insult to injury! It's time to send a few pikemen to demand the money back from all those parasitic leeches/leeching parasites. A few carefully inserted pikes in the right orifices...

After Ireland, I took my beer-soaked carcass to Madrid to dry out for a week. I had finally made it! Nothing particularly out of the ordinary happened there - A Real Madrid match, La Noche en Blanco (all-night cultural extravaganza with giant plastic ducks in fountains and other cultural stuff), a trip to Don Quijote country (Castilla La Mancha) and other tourist stuff. I also caught up with the parents who are still trying to understand what I'm doing in Berlin instead of Madrid.

Nowhere's perfect, I realise that, but in two and a half weeks I was able to compare four countries and their capital cities. I've come up with the following conclusions:
  • Ireland has more than it's fair share of knackers. (Not the travelling variety - the scumbag variety. The travelling type are, strangely enough, travelling, and endearing Ireland to the Continental Europeans. Half the passengers on the Irish Ferries boats to and from Cherbourg were knackers. I'd say if there was ever a proposal to build a bridge from Ireland to the continent, the rest of Europe would vote it down.)
  • Paris shopkeepers are rude as fuck. (I realise this not exactly new, but I went into a shop, said "Bonjour"to the auld wan behind the counter and she just looked at me! Didn't even answer! You wouldn't mind as much if they didn't try and rob you then with their prices. I promptly left (without saying goodbye) and brought my business to a friendlier establishment.
  • Madrid is loud and rude. Jesus Christ, people fucking ROAR at each other! They must be all deaf. People must get used to it after a while. And the old women there are unbelievable for storming onto the metro to get the seats. Even if there are just two of you waiting for the damn thing, and an empty train rolls into the station, yer wan will probably shove you out of the way so she can sprint into the carriage.
I haven't quite figured out where Berlin fits on this rudeness chart. Most people I've met are ridiculously friendly, but there are others, like the French hag, who won't reply when you say hello to them. The security guard from the company across from my house, standing there looking at me as I locked my bike, remained mute when I issued a friendly, yet I stress, a not too-forceful, hello. Jesus! What's wrong with these people? He had nothing else to do!!! It would probably have been the highlight of his night.

Berlin does strange things to a man. I was given a rose for my birthday. The biggest rose I've ever seen. I actually thought it was great. Imagine that – liking a flower!!! It's still in the vase in my room, albeit slightly mouldy and not as impressive as before.

I also have a plant in my room, which, I'm unashamed to say, is flourishing under my care. Yesterday however, one of the leaves broke, causing me to ask questions of myself. Did I do all that I could to prevent this calamity? Am I a bad plant-parent? What do I do now? Rip off the remainder of the leaf or make some sort of splint to help it recover? Some might say I'm taking leaf of my senses. Jesus, imagine having a kid or a dog...

So life has its pressures, even in Berlin. Despite ever lengthening breakfasts (brewing fresh coffee, boiling eggs and reading the paper seems to take longer and longer each day), monetary concerns are threatening to spoil the mood. Yes, I now need to get a job. Unfortunately however, it might not be as simple as first assumed. Apparently, within a week or having a permanent address, you're supposed to register yourself at the local Bürgeramt. To do that you need proof of your address and a whole other pile of shit. After the rigmarole of registering as a resident, one must register for a work permit, even as an EU citizen, but to do that you need health insurance which is compulsory in Germany. To me health insurance has always been a contradictory notion – one can only get its full benefit you're sick. It's only slightly better than death assurance which of course is a complete waste of time.

Anyway, I went to Bürgeramt yesterday and was confronted by chaos. Despite the surprising lack of fast food, the place was crammed . I managed to get the form I needed but I've been so discouraged by the line of hoops I'm gonna have to jump through, that I'm seriously just thinking of becoming a hitman. No women no kids. Unless they're snotty-nosed fuckers, but there's a surprising lack of snotty-nosed women in Germany anyway. Contrary to popular belief in Ireland, German women take hygiene seriously and snot is definitely not tolerated.

Anyway, we'll see what happens. Maybe tomorrow I'll have a look at the form. One step at a time. I'm gonna have to get some money from somewhere though - I'm hitting Central America for a month after Christmas so I'm gonna have to start saving for that.

I'm afraid my beer-drinking TV job didn't work out. They wanted to fly me to Munich, put me up in a hotel and pay me €100 a day to drink beer for a TV programme to determine the "world's best beer". It sounded too good to be true and it was. They wanted British beer drinkers for their three-man "jury". The stereotypical lager louts and idiots I suppose. There was no way I could pretend to be British. Imagine that on my gravestone. I sympathetically offered to take the part if they said it was a British and Irish jury, but apparently well-refined beer connoisseurs didn't fit into their plans for lowest common denominator television.

This week I took steps to further progress my German. I genuinely thought I'd be fluent by now, but I've a helluva long way to go. Anyway, last Wednesday was the first day of my Deutsch Krimi Lesen class - Criminal novel reading. ("Krimi" is short for Kriminalroman. German is great like that - you can take any word you want, chop the end off, and stick an "I" its place. Thus Americaner becomes Ami, Laptop is Lappi etc. It doesn't work with every word however - my surname doesn't really benefit from this linguistic marvel, although I became Kiri for a while in my last German class.)
I'm getting off the point here slightly. The Krimi is called "Der rote Hahn" (The Red Chicken) so it promises to be real edge of the seat stuff. It's only once a week, so I'm going to have to try my best not to peek and read ahead for the rest of the week.
I've also enrolled in a proper class so that should actually help. That kicks off next Thursday, but it starts at 8.30 every morning. 8.30!!! Crazy Germans. I don't know how I'm going to get up for that five days a week. I might bring a sleeping bag and just kip outside the door every night.

It's a bit cold for that however. It's been fucking freezing!!! I had to invest in a jacket today. I'm quite happy with it. It's got a picture of an elk on the back. Hopefully it's warm too and it'll will fit, but whatever happens I'll look cool this winter - either way.

Okay. Time to go. Once the topic turns to weather a welcome has been overstayed. Once it's pissing rain in Ireland I don't care. If someone starts a pikeman crusade and they're looking for volunteers, please let me know. I'd even forsake one Krimi reading class for the privilege.

Pass gut auf Dich auf, aber sei glücklich - kein Tag kommt wieder!
Liebste Grüße,
Der Sloper

Friday, August 15, 2008

August update

Another update from the life of a wandering reporter looking for something interesting to report on. A quick update this time as I've been getting complaints from some quarters suggesting that my updates to date have been too long. Thankfully, I'm an optimist, and I'm going to assume that these busy and/or lazy people are in a minority. Nevertheless, I take all my correspondence seriously, so this is only a very brief update. I realise, of course, that my intro is already in danger of contradicting its main point so I'll move swiftly on...

The main happenings since my last update have been the realisation that money only lasts as long as one doesn't spend it - in fact this is probably the main or crucial happening - the rest are mere garnishings which either take my mind off money or help me spend it.
Said happenings include: a week's holiday in Italy (complete with missed flights home - extra €400); the completion of my German course (until October); Radiohead concert; beach volleyball afternoons; rowing with Turks (not water rowing - the other kind); and swimming naked in the Spree (Berlin's Liffey) at a theologians' party.

These theologians are mad. Into God and religion and stuff, but as far as I can see it gives them a licence to go crazy at weekends. Actually, they drink like they want to be brought closer to the next life. Probably the connection.
This particular night, to escape the Polizei who kept calling to the party because some neighbour was giving out about the noise, somebody decided it would be a good idea
to jump in the river for a swim. Everybody else agreed. The only problem now is that there is photographic evidence. I have to track down "Russian Tanya" to get the pictures from her before my housemate does. He plans on sharing these pictures with the world.
Anyway, don't worry, I haven't become a theologian or discovered God or anything like that - I just enjoy their parties.

The week's holiday in Italy was great, but the Italians are fucking crazy, and their public transport makes Ireland's look organised. Having said that, while it is impossible to figure out when or from where buses are supposed to go, they actually have various buses going places. They also have trains, but I will never forget getting a train from Napoli only to arrive back in Napoli two hours later. The damn thing must have gone around in a circle. This happened after we were nearly arrested for not having a ticket for the bus from the airport to the train station. All part of life I suppose...

The replacement bike (the third I've bought since I got here) is still going strong. The English haven't stolen it yet. Actually, it's insured, so I'm kinda hoping now it gets stolen so I can get a new/better one. I haven't bought any train tickets for this month so I'm literally cycling everywhere I have to go. The Napoli train incident scared me off trains for a while.

In Berlin, if you're going to a concert, the cost of the ticket includes public transport to get to and from the venue in the city. (Obviously it wouldn't include price of airline ticket back to Ireland if you came over for a weekend.) It's a pretty good system though - encourages people to leave their cars at home and drink their heads off. Drinking on public transport is practically encouraged here.

It's amazing how busy one can be despite not having a job or anything to do. Last week I had a temporal house mate (from Madrid funnily enough). He rented the room from one of the girls (Wiebke, the theology student) while she was in north Germany to see her parents.
Naturally I had to bring Alfredo out to various night haunts in the city. It would have been rude to let him out on his own.
Last Wednesday we found what must be the worst nightclub in East Germany, never mind Berlin. Kids everywhere (maybe I am getting old) jumping up and down to ear-offending pop shite. The beer was two for €3 so we stayed for three before our escape. Shortly afterwards we found ourselves at a Lesbiparty. It was just in a warehouse or something I happened to hear something from as I was passing. Now that was more like it! Mad stuff altogether. The people were interesting to say the least. All types of mad shit hanging from the ceiling and the bar never closed - it was open as long as we wanted. We stayed 'til it got bright, then a bit longer, then a bit longer again, before it was time to go for pizza. Luckily after eating we were too drunk to find another place. God knows what time I would have woken up otherwise. It was 17.30 as it was.

I am getting up early every day though. That was just a one off. Today for example I was up at 11. I've an interview/casting this evening for a film company looking for beer connoisseurs to travel to Munich, Prague or Brussels for three days of filming to find the world's best beer. They pay for flights and accommodation and they'd even pay €100 a day for me to drink beer! They're looking for Irish or English who have been living in Germany a while. You couldn't make it up.

It would be my first time working since February. Speaking of which, I see the Russians are bombing the shit out of Gori. How long did I wait for something exciting to happen in Gorey? Four years! Someone up there is having a laugh at my expense...

The only problem I can foresee with the beer-drinking job is that I've already booked flights to go to Sweden next weekend, and then I'm driving back to Ireland via a few days in France. So I'll be back on the Oul' Sod for a few days in early September. I've to sell the car because I don't really need it here at all. (Anyone interested in a beautiful red VW Golf can get in touch on the numbers below). After that I'll be flying to Madrid for a week or so, before returning to Berlin to start college again and thinking of getting a job.

My German isn't good enough for a career in journalist circles just yet, but I'm sure I'll be able to turn my hand to something worthwhile. Maybe, if my beer-drinking film career gets off to a good start, I could start dreaming of the silver screen...

I'll leave it on that note of insanity. What would be really crazy would be really crazy would be really crazy (ha!) would be Waterford actually getting to the final. Go on Na Déise!

Liebe Grüße,
Ciarán

Monday, June 23, 2008

June update

I wrote another snapshot of life as a Berliner yesterday, so I may as well send it on to you so I don't feel like I just wasted valuable drinking time. (I actually wrote the email yesterday about life in Berlin in general, not just life in Berlin yesterday). Basically, for those of you too lazy to read the rest - life is good and all is well. Pics are attached somewhere near the end...

Since last month the one thing I've noticed changing is my perception of everything around me. I guess the holiday feeling is wearing off. It actually feels I'm living here now and no longer like I'm on a permanent holiday - I feel I can be more critical of stuff around me, and not just their shite tea. Actually, further to my last email, I found proof that the tea here is shite. There's a Tee Salon on Invalidienstraße just around the corner from where I live and when I went in for a look I found they had a whole press stuffed to the gills with Barry's Tea! All blends in boxes all shapes and sizes. Your wan in there said it was extremely popular, that they get orders from all over Germany for the stuff. So I guess even the Germans can appreciate a dacent cup of tea. It was €7 something for 80 bags though, so I'm not sure it's worth all that.

Anyway, that's not the reason the holiday buzz has worn off. It was kinda shot off by the fact some fuckers stole my new bike. To cut a long story short, I bought a crappy cheap bike for €100, but it was so crappy and cheap it was wrecking my head. (The pedal fell off, and then a stick got caught between the chain and the wheel and the chain got fucked up and a multitude of other mini-disasters). So I brought the damn thing back to the shop and explained that I wanted a good bike instead. After explaining everything a million times to a load of different people (in German - good practice) they took it back, and I splashed out on a fancy expensive bike.

I only had the damn thing for a week. I went back to Ireland for the weekend to see Radiohead, and I came back to Berlin to find my lock in despair on the ground where my bike had been. It had a neat cut across the very metal flex which was supposed to deter bike thieves. Fuckbags. I blame the English. Who else could it be?
I was advised just to get a crappy, second hand bike as a replacement, but then I'd be pissed off everytime I used it, and surely, as the Americans would say, that would be giving in the terrorism? Or at least in my case bike theftism. So last Thursday I went mad and bought the same bike again. This time however I have two locks and I carry it up the stairs everytime I go home. I also plan on getting insurance. The sooner the better. I live on the fourth floor of a building with high ceilings, so as soon as it's insured I think I'll be leaving it downstairs again.
Apparently more than 23,000 bicycles are reported stolen every year in Berlin. I don't know if the English can be blamed for all the thefts, but I sure as hell won't be buying another one. If the new bike gets stolen I think I'll just invest in a strong metal-cutter instead...

I've noticed also that the trains aren't as punctual as I had originally thought. Yesterday I had to wait an extra four minutes for an S-Bahn, and a couple of weeks ago I had to wait almost 25 minutes, although I think that was because some inconsiderate depressive jumped out in front of the previous one, so I guess we can't really blame Deutsche Bahn for that.

The only other bad thing that's happened is that I got a letter of complaint from my downstairs neighbour. We had a party in the apartment about three weeks ago, and apparently that wasn't a problem. Noddy and Sully (friends) were over at the time however, and apparently the noise from two raucous Wexford lads in the early hours over the following three nights was not to the liking of Herr Matzke below. I, of course, was quiet as a mouse wearing slippers. The letter though, was ridiculously friendly and polite. Herr Matzke was practically apologising to me for complaining in the first place. Crazy country. He even signed off with "Mit freundlichen Grüßen" (with friendly greetings). Maybe he was still shaking from his ordeal and was terrified in case the lads came back.

Actually, Noddy is due back on Tuesday, albeit with two women this time. Maybe they'll be a bit quieter. We're going to Fusion on Thursday or Friday. It's a festival for hippies or something. I think it's the opposite of Oxegen. Loads of bands no one has heard off, but catering for people with no money, so the beer and food is dirt cheap, and all profits go to the environment or helping Africa or something. You can even work there for free food or beer if you like. It goes on for five days so maybe it will be good to work to take a break from the drinking.

I guess my studies will suffer as a result. I missed eight days last month and really noticed it. College will finish up on July 17 so I really should postpone all fun until after then. Although it would be rude to my guests if I studied while they were here...

The other thing I've noticed comes from watching Germany in action in the Euros. (EM2008 as it's called here). I watched the game against Portugal with my football buddies last Thursday and most of the Germans were shouting for Portugal! Talking to them, they explained that they felt Germans aren't ready to be nationalistic yet, because of the history etc., and that it would be better if Germany were knocked out. Some felt that others were doing their best to forget the sins of the past, and that pride in being a German could only come while forgetting all the bad shit that happened before. Half the pub I was in remained mute when "Schweini" scored. I guess national pride has taken a battering which will take a few generations to restore.

Maybe the situation will change on Wednesday. I realise there's a difference between a few generations and just three days, but Germany play Turkey in the semi-final on Wednesday, and Berlin is home to more Turks than any other city outside Turkey. (Apparently the doner kebabs here are better even than the kebabs in Turkey). I would say there are even more Turkish flags on display around the city than German ones, but I'm sure by Wednesday the sight of the crescent and star everywhere will rouse even the Berliners into cheering on Schweini, Poldi et al.

[I just found out the origin of the Turkish flag comes because of the reflection of the crescent moon and a star in a pool of blood from slain Turkish soldiers after some battle. Now there's a flag which will instill national pride!]

I promised the last time that I would some pictures for ye to have a gawp at. Obviously I couldn't just allow unrestricted access to all of my snaps, so I've made a careful selection of those pictures which are least likely to shock, horrify, cause offence or incite hatred. This is just a selection from the last three months which some of you may find interesting. Feel free to add comments etc.
http://picasaweb.google.com/faheyc/BerlinForPublicConsumption

That's all for now. The sun's shining and it's a beautiful hot evening. My fahrrad is calling me to go for adventures! Also, Spain are playing. Time to go shout for another country with identity issues...

Bis dem nächsten mal,
Mit freundlichen Grüßen!
Ciarán

PS - Woohoo!!! God bless San Iker!
PSS - I now have four parking tickets hanging from my door!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

May update

Last Saturday marked two months of life as a Berliner. I was going to mark the 17th of every month by having a pint in one of the Irish pubs but Munster are playing this Saturday so I'll kill two birds with one stone then.

Anyway, I still have no complaints about living here. In fact, every day I wake up and think - "Jaysus, I should have moved here years ago". It's impossible to know what kind of crazy shit will happen from one end of the day to the next.

For example, today, (Sunday), I slept until 2pm (before you wonder what's different - it was my first lie-in in about two weeks, and one which was sorely needed). After Frühstück, I spent the afternoon in the park, listening to a band who decided to hold a concert there. There were hippies everywhere and everyone was just sitting around, chilling out, some with beer, most not, but everyone chilled out all the same. Meanwhile, someone had lit a large bonfire nearby (although nobody was near that), and there was another group a bit further away just banging away on bongo drums. Close to them was a group of pensioners playing boules, being watched by another group of tattooed and pierced onlookers.

There was one oul' fella there listening the band I was watching, and he must have been more than 70, with long white hair in a pony-tail, a long busy beard, and bad teeth (very unusual for Germans - they're obsessed with teeth). Anyway, he was dancing like a lunatic, waving his hands in the air and hopping up and down on one foot or the other. Once he got tired of that, he started blowing bubbles from a pre-planned mixture of washing-up liquid and water he must have prepared earlier. Of course, he decided then to start talking to me about whatever it was he was talking about. It was in German obviously, so I haven't yet hit the levels needed for translating the ramblings of an old happy hippy. An old happy hoppy hippy at that.

Having said that the course is going well enough. I'm on my second course now - Deutsch B2. There aren't as many people on this one as the last one, but there's still an interesting diverse crowd there. I'm one of only four to have survived from the earlier one, but there are a couple of notable additions - including a very excitable Brazilian girl (not the typical looks one would expect when one says "Brazilian girl"), an eight foot tall Polish guy, and a girl from California (not sure if in the US of Mexico) who makes the Brazilian girl look more like a Brazilian girl should. Seriously, she looks like something from The Munsters. I know that's a terrible thing to say. I'm sure she's lovely - I just haven't plucked up the courage to speak with her yet.

The course itself is still pretty hard. I've given up on German grammar. It's a fucking nightmare. Every noun is male, female or neutral (der, die and das) and they all have to be learned by heart. I've decided just to go with whatever comes into my head and hope for the best. Then there are four cases - nominativ, accusativ, genativ and dativ... Okay, I'm gonna stop, my head's wrecked already...

I joined a football team last week. We're called Theresas Mütter, and we're as charitable as the name would suggest. My first game was yesterday and we lost 4-0. I blame the early start, 10.30am (hence the need for a lie-in this morning), but apparently we have the worst record for goals conceded in the league. It's a college league or something - I'm not really sure yet - but the facilities are great - proper changing rooms and showers, and our own team's kit and all. Very fetching it is too - orange with a few trendy black stripes strategically over one shoulder, and "Theresas Mütter" written on the back.

The league is mixed too, so there are a few girls playing an the team. Needless to say, they're shite. (Only joking, they're better than most of the boys). I was curious to see what would happen shower-wise after the match, but they just threw on their clothes, presumably to shower in the privacy of their own homes, while the fellas made use of the facilities on site.

They're all pretty sound. There's a few South Americans on the team who are as handy as you would expect. Again, I seem to have made friends especially quickly with a Colombian guy. I'm not sure why the Irish get on so well with Colombians. I also met José, a Barcelona fan from Madrid. I didn't think such a thing was possible, but I guess in Berlin one should expect the unexpected. He's cool anyway, even if he is a Barcelona fan.

Speaking of all that, I've discovered the local Real Madrid fanclub in a Spanish restaurant. It's a small group as one would expect in Berlin, but they've taken me to their hearts. I went to watch a match and was invited back to watch the Madrid/Barcelona match for which one of them had reserved a table. I got a great welcome when I arrived, was shown my seat and invited to help myself to a beer from a bucket which had been placed in front of me. A fucking bucket! Not wanting to be rude to my new friends, I continued to help myself over the course of the match, and from the subsequent buckets which kept appearing until 3am or so. I decided to leave at that stage as I had college the next day, but I might as well have stayed, as I missed my last S-Bahn home, and got a tram in the wrong direction. I didn't make it to college, but still, it was worth it!

The only criticism I have of Berlin so far is the tea - it's shite. Apart from all the fruit and herb teas (some of which are actually alright), the only normal tea which can be got here is the English stuff which not even a pig would drink. There was almost a mini emergency here a few weeks ago when the box of Barry's tea I brought with me ran out. Panic set in at the thought of life without a dacent cup of tea. Thankfully Noddy (friend - don't think you know him) sent over a couple of packs (and a couple of bars of chocolate - nice touch). Then Niamh, my sister, brought over 480 bags, and Simone (another friend) brought me over some more too so now I've more than enough I reckon to get me through the summer. I've a little stockpile built. Maybe it's just as well - it's proving particularly popular with the locals. Sure the poor feckers haven't had a dacent cup of tea all their lives.

Right, I suppose I'd better wrap up here. The only other news is that I bought a bike. Just as well because the car won't start anymore. I haven't been using it at all because of the bike and the fact public transport is so good. (My monthly ticket is even cheaper now - just €57, and I've been told the way I'm getting it might even be legal.) Anyway the car has been idle the last couple of weeks, and it wouldn't start last night when I needed it too. I've already got a parking "warning", (no fine! crazy country), for parking it where it is, so now that I can't move it anymore, I guess I should expect a few more parking tickets. The two I have so far are hanging proudly on my door.

Speaking of hanging, I also have a Tibetan flag hanging from my window. There's a load of Chinese working in the company opposite so they might make a few phone calls to the powers that be at home.
The Dalai Lama was in town today, Monday, (this email has gone on a bit longer than anticipated). I took a spin on the bike down to the Brandenburg Gate to see him in the flesh. How could I not? Sound fella. He got a great reception. I can see why he's so popular - he even laughed at his own jokes. I reckon he'd do well in politics if it didn't clash with his ethics.

I'd really better go now. There's a load of other stuff I can write, but please feel free to send any questions, suggestions or problems.

I hope to upload a few pictures onto the oul' interweb over the next week. The problem is just trying to sort out the safe ones from the others, but once they're up and ready for consumption I'll send you the link.

Tschüß for now!
Ciarán

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

April update

I thought I'd be writing a lot sooner, but the past couple of weeks have been pretty hectic. Tomorrow I celebrate my first month as a Berliner, and I don't have any complaints so far, although I'm not stupid enough to start counting chickens or currywursts just yet.

I moved into a new gaff last Wednesday, living with a guy and two girls - David, Gaby and Wiebke. They're all very nice. It seems to be a sort of family vibe - any time anyone cooks they offer to include you in the pot, and one of the girls baked a cake last night as well, so it's a real homey type of place.

The location is great. Smack in the centre of the city, the east of course, and you can walk anywhere you need to. Although two tram lines start from just outside the house, and the U-bahn goes right by as well so there's no need to walk anywhere really.
The address if you want to send any postcards or teabags or anything (don't worry, I'm not holding my breath), is (removed, for safety reasons. The internet's big and bad. Who knows what freaks are reading this - send me an email if you want the address to send a postcard).

It's just €175 per month including all bills (water, bins, electricity, gas, and damn fast internet). No deposit needed either, and no, the place isn't a dump. Two bathrooms, a kitchen and my room's about 20 square metres. The only problem is the stairs. It's on the fourth floor, and all the ceilings are mad high, so you're fucked by the time you get to the top.

I started learning German in college a couple of weeks ago. €110 for a five week course, three and a half hours a day, with a shitload of homework then afterwards. I also started at B+ level, which I quickly realised was too advanced for me. All the others in the class are living here at least 18 months, although I understood more last week compared to the first week, when I hadn't a clue what was going on.
You'd wanna see the other crowd in the class. It's like the United Nations in there. There's a Colombian guy who seems to have a healthy respect for the Irish due to a certain organisation... Apart from him, there are girls from Guatemala, Poland, two from Russia (one from Siberia), Japan, Mongolia and China, and a few fellas from Yemen, Ukraine, Nigeria and Spain. I'm the only English speaking person which is great.

Anyway, to cut to the chase, Berlin is feckin' great. As soon as I arrived I felt at home. I realise that sounds strange, but it's true. The atmos is pretty relaxed. You can drink on the streets or in the trains on the way to the pub, and nobody bats an eyelid. Most people seem to do it, and yet I haven't seen any sign of agro, or anyone falling around the way you'd expect.
There are no posers anywhere and nobody seems to give a shit what you look like or sound like. People are surprisingly friendly too - more friendly I'd say than people in Dublin - but I've heard Berlin is nothing like the rest of Germany. The rest of Germany thinks Berlin is full of wasters.

One of the places I looked at to live probably best sums up the whole place. There was graffitti all the way up the stairs, and the room had broken windows. It was pretty cool. I would have taken it only there was no shower or proper washing facilities. The other guy was a former squatter until they tightened up on the whole squatting thing a few years after the wall came down. Anyway, he used to wash his hair in the kitchen sink. I asked him what he "did" (the way you do), and he told me he was a wind-surfer. He jumps off mountains and things and goes surfing the wind. Apparently he doesn't have a job and didn't consider the notion of getting one. Fair fucks I say.

The bread is worth moving here for alone. My favourite so far is the Kürbiskernbrot. Jaysus it's lovely! Made from pumpkin seeds and some other shit. The beer is damn nice too. You can get five litres of Fransiskaner in the supermarket for €7.

I've actually been pretty good though - haven't been going mad on the beer or anything like that. Been too busy sorting everything out and trying to get organised with the oul' German. The sooner I get the language the better, and the sooner I can relax.

I had my first spot of public nudity within the first couple of weeks - jumping into an open air hot tub at a medieval fair. The number of women outnumbered the men, so it was ok. I had had a few drinks too to help me get over the initial heeby jeebies, but once I was in the water it was actually pretty good. There were some medieval people there giving massages at the same time. Germany's great!

Stuff is pretty cheap too. My monthy ticket for the transport network is just €70. That covers everything, trains, buses etc. and when the U-bahn stops at 3.30 am the night-time service kicks in. It's seems to me to be the same as the normal service, but then I presume there's a reason the powers that be differentiate between the two...

I got my first parking ticket yesterday, so I reckon that's something to be proud of! Makes me feel like a real Berliner!

Right, that's enough for now. There's plenty more I could write but I know from previous experience that there's only so much shite a reader can consume in one go...

Bis später!
Ciarán