Thursday, April 30, 2009

Walpurgisnacht

Berlin is heating up in anticipation of Labour Day tomorrow (May 1st) when streets will be turned into riot-zones with cars burnt, shop windows smashed up, and all sorts of missiles being flung at police.
It's a public holiday so everyone is off work, leading me to wonder why it's called Labour Day at all. Surely it should be called No-Labour Day.

Organised protests and demonstrations are a handy excuse for carnage, and every year the police set up barricades which are charged before the obligatory riots begin. Whatever your poison, there's probably a group for you to join. Anti-capitalists, anti-globalisation, anti-police, anti-everything...
Far right neo-nazis will demonstrate for their "rights". Anti-nazis will demonstrate against them and stoop to their level by fighting them too. After kicking the shit out of each other they will probably join forces and fight the police. It perhaps ironic on Labour Day that most of those protestors neither have nor want jobs.

Leave them off. I'm not complaining. The holiday means I've a day off college, and I'll be enjoying a few evening beers in the park tonight with some German buddies for what I just found out this morning is Walpurgisnacht (Walpurgis Night). This is the night witches roam the earth apparently, and huge bonfires are lit (either to attract them or keep them away). It's also the anniversary of Hitler's suicide, leading to some occult initiations, whatever the hell they are.
Anyway, Mauerpark is the place to go for beer drinking, music and bonfires apparently, although I just see now that this is where the "traditional leftist Mayday riots usually start". Hmmm, it promises to be an interesting night...

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Rufus does Shakespeare

Tonight I went to the theatre. To see Shakespeare. Believe your incredulous eyes, it’s true!
Shakespeare’s Sonnets to be precise. The great Rufus Wainwright was doing the music so off I went to the Berliner Ensemble. And it was great!

I didn’t arrive in style. Everyone else did. Hoo-haws in fancy dresses, earrings and high heels, stinking of perfume, accompanied by monkey suits. Sipping from champagne flutes as they waited in the evening sunshine on the lawn. Ja Ja! (Without the Dublin 4 accents.)

I arrived on my bike meanwhile, sweating like a hot pig. Jeans and conspicuous bright yellow Mexican wresting t-shirt. I had been wearing it as a token of solidarity with my Lucha Libre buddies. (If one of them sneezed near me however I’d run a mile.)
Actually, pigs all over Germany were trembling in their trotters today, their curly tails quivering at the news the dreaded swine flu reached the country. Three cases, two in Bayern (Bavaria) and the other in Hamburg. A Hamburger with pork flu. Now that’s ironic.

But back to the show. I ignored the stares and took my seat in time for the opening. Then the singing started... in German. I couldn’t believe it! I figured Shakespeare and Rufus would have to be in English, but no...
As it turned out it was a blessing in disguise. I - like most people forced to study Shakespeare in school - hate the fucker and his incomprehensible language. “Wherefore art thou?” and all that. Who talks like that? Unnecessary Es thrown around everywhere. Look at the end of his name for God’s sake! Maybe he just couldn’t spell, but whatever – being forced to decipher him killed any possible admiration I may have felt for him.

Ironically though, it may be through German that I may have found appreciation for him. Not that I had anymore of an idea of what was going on, but at least I felt I was learning something.
The music, dancing, costumes, lighting and effects more than made up for my language insufficiencies. Weird and wonderful characters pranced their way hypnotically around the stage, while the theatre was brought to over-sized life by Rufus’ magical musical scores.

A fish was once named after Rufus in Ireland, and I sometimes think of poor Rufus and his tank-mate, Jaws 2. I think Rufus the Fish has since gone to the great goldfish bowl in the sky, but I got a message from Noddy lately to tell me Jaws 2 was doing well:
"I forgot to tell you bud, jaws is alive and doing well and big as fuck. I scooped him up from the pond in wicklow over xmas, he lived in a bowl for bout two weeks then i used him to set up my new tropical tank but inevitably he had to go cause the temp wouldn't suit him so now he is residing in Jim Howlins pond in Ballinteskin with a whole bunch of playmates."

I haven’t been to a concert or show in Germany where I haven’t been asked to stop doing something. Usually I’m asked to stop talking at concerts. Sure there’s nowhere better to chat!
This time an outraged woman asked me to stop taking photographs. (In fairness, the camera did seem to be clicking extra loudly tonight.) The pictures weren’t great in any case, so I put it away briefly and concentrated on the show.

“Are you richer now than you were before?” one of the characters asked, before he answered himself: “Nein.”
“Damn right,” I thought, remembering the €5 I had callously sacrificed to get in.
The sense of loss didn’t last long however. Financially poorer now I may be, but I’m richer inside.

I did figure out the Sonnets were about Life, Love and Death, and I decided to myself that these are the only things that matter anyway.
“My lease is almost up,” the hero said (I think) at the end, referring, presumably, to his life.

The final applause was tremendous; everyone clapping like flat-mickeyed seals for 10 minutes or more. It actually became uniform towards the end with everyone clapping at the same time.
Still, it was deserved. Maybe that Shakespeare fella wasn’t so bad after all.
Thanks Rufus!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Frühlingsgefühl

Frühlingsgefühl is well and truly among us. The first I'd head of this wonderful word was two weeks ago, but I've been experiencing it ever since. It's everywhere!
Jenny told me the word describes the feeling people have after a long cold winter, when the land is awakening. The sun is shining, birds are chirping, trees and flowers blossoming. People are happy, walking or cycling around with smiles on their faces, sometimes even going so far as to say hello to each other as they pass (very un-German behaviour).
The enlightened mood leads to amorous overtures too. People are generally friskier at this time of year apparently, and it's much easier to score, or, should I say, meet people of the opposite sex. (She denied using the word "horny" but then this is Germany, where the liberal mindset will take advantage of Frühlingsgefühl at every available opportunity).

I don't know whether it's Frühlingsgefühl or whether I'm just more perceptive to this sort of thing lately, but I have actually noticed an increase in the level of flirty attention I've been getting in recent weeks. Getting a coffee in Balzac, buying groceries in Plus, or even last week at the Hertha Berlin game, there were definite signals being sent there!
Even today, I had a long interesting chat with a delightful creature from Stralsund who kept batting her eye-lashes at me. After telling me all about Amnesty International however, she lost interest when she heard I'd a girlfriend and no German bank account.

There's no such thing as Frühlingsgefühl in Ireland, where the weather is the same pretty much all year round. Girls do get prettier as the weather gets marginally warmer, but that's probably just because they wear less clothes. Some should put them back on.
In Germany, friskiness may be dictated by the seasons, but the weather is too unreliable for that in Ireland where it's supplied through beer and liquor. It's no coincidence whiskey rhymes with frisky. And people wonder why the Irish drink so much!

Here we have the best of both worlds. Now, all that talk of Frühlingsgefühl is making me thirsty...

Friday, April 24, 2009

Freudian farewell

Eoghan came visit me last week. After four days of sightseeing, absorbing history, drinking, absorbing alcohol, philosophical discussion and enlightened breakthroughs, (in no particular order of importance or relevance), it was quite emotional on Tuesday morning.
Seeing him off with strict instructions on how to get to the airport, I bid him adieu on the platform of the U-Bahn station.
"Fuck knows when we'll see each other again," I said as we hugged in a manly manner.
"Yeah," he agreed wistfully. "Hopefully not too soon."

Quickly realising his Freudian slip, he backpedalled like mad. "I meant the opposite! The opposite!!"
But it was too late - the damage was done. The doors slid shut and the U-Bahn whisked him away before he could dig himself into any further holes.

Still, it was funny, and it summed up the weekend perfectly. Just the day before, we'd managed to get up early (11am) despite Berlin's best efforts to entice us out all night the night before. We had a mission - to make it to the top of the iconic Fernsehturm, Berlin's landmark 368m TV tower, apparently the fourth largest structure in Europe.
Not a cloud in the sky threatened to ruin what promised to be spectacular views of Berlin. We got there and found there wasn't even the usual long queue of tourists to endure. "Happy days!" we thought as we strolled up to the door. We weren't celebrating for long. A helpful note in three languages explained why there were no tourists. "Due to maintenance work ... closed Monday, 20th of April 2009." Probably the only day of the year it was closed. Bastards. We could feel them looking down on us from their lofty perch, pissing themselves with Schadenfreude.

The day before we made our way to the Olympiastadion as guests of Hertha Berlin. We were to pick up our press passes from the main office. We were already late (due to circumstances which may or may not have been under our control), when we learned the office was a good 15 minute walk away from the stadium. Never mind. We walked down the wide boulevard, listening to the roars of a match underway behind us. We eventually picked up our tickets, and made our way back to the stadium. Poor Eoghan was quite distressed at the thought of missing a moment of action. Like a dog straining at the leash, he pushed forward. We eventually found the press entrance. Eog showed his ticket and went in. I, meanwhile, kept rooting around in my pockets. First one, then another. Rooting, rooting. A feeling of dread came over me. Then realisation hit.
"Eog, you're not going to believe this - I've lost my ticket!"
I went back to look for it, retracing my steps along the 15-minute trek back towards the press office. Miraculously, I found the envelope with my name on it by the side of the path. "Happy days!" I thought. Celebrations were short lived again however - it was empty. Some fucker had grabbed the ticket and wristband and discarded the rest. I went back to the press entrance, but whoever it had been hadn't even the wherewithal to try using it. Ah well!
Eoghan later told me they'd lovely rolls and sandwiches laid on for the reporters, and beer too! On tap!! Simply help yourself. What a country! I'll certainly be going to see Hertha play the next time they're home.

We did manage to see the Reichstag on Saturday, when we learned it was the most visited parliament in Europe, or in the world, maybe even the universe. Whichever, it was quite impressive, and one can see why people queue up as if they were Russian.

Also impressive was the cigarette machine we found in Kaffee Burger one of the nights. This thing was from the future! Sleek and black, with just one screen from top to floor, and groovy red dot lights to its right. If Knight Rider was to ever get a cigarette machine, this would be it. The screen showed packs of cigarettes as if on a turntable, and the turntable could be turned (as the name would imply), and cigarettes selected, simply by touching or dragging a finger along the screen (a touch screen as you may have deduced).
Myself, Mark and Eoghan must have stood there for an hour looking at it, captivated. Poor Eog, the only smoker among us, had to buy three packs of cigarettes, just to make the lights flash. Jesus, I nearly bought cigarettes myself! But of course I didn't on account of their evilness.

Speaking of which, we found Hitler's bunker, or what's left of it, on Monday. Just a parking lot now, with flats around it, the site is marked only by a simple plaque which details the network of tunnels and rooms in which the mad fella and his missus ultimately took their own lives almost exactly 64 years ago, as Russian troops battled their way into Berlin. (Their anniversary is next Thursday, in case anyone wants to mourn the abrupt ruination of the formerly popular name Adolf.)

It turns out the Russians were as fond of propaganda as their foes. That iconic picture of the soldiers raising the flag over the Reichstag by Yevgeny Khaldei was actually staged and then doctored. The plumes of smoke were added for increased effect, as were the two soldiers on the right, while the soldiers were given watches, a huge status symbol for soldiers at the time. Even the flag was altered to make it look more dramatic.

It just proves you can't believe anything you read or see. Those damn journalists!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Hope for pigeons

Bin zufrieden! Heute um 9.30 Uhr, endlich, fangt mein nächste Deutsch Kurs an...

I'm a happy bunny! My next German course begins today - finally - at 9.30 am. About time too. Those pigeons were losing patience with my level of German. They wouldn't tell me directly - they're too polite for that - but you could tell.
Everything was coo, coo, coo in the beginning. (I was beginning to think they were American pigeons, such was their enthusiasm for everything.) But lately they've taken to flying away when they see me approach, apparently no longer willing to suffer my attempts at Pidgin.

So today I begin Deutsch C1.1. It's pretty advanced German, probably too advanced for me, and I suspect it will be like last year when I optimistically skipped Deutsch A and proceeded directly to Deutsch B1+ and B2. I hadn't a clue what was going on in the beginning - not a clue - but somehow I managed to absorb enough of the language to be able to continue. I'm hoping I can do the same now.
Wir sehen uns. Daumen gedrückt!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Spreepark

The best thing about living in the former GDR is the sheer number of abandoned buildings left lying around, begging for attention, calling out for exploration, their dereliction a seductive lure for inquisitive souls.
Usually the authorities do all they can to stop these said souls meandering into places they shouldn’t. Big chains, heavy iron doors, metal bars, concrete walls, broken glass etc.

“Betreten verboten!” is often painted in big angry letters. (Entry forbidden.) Verboten is a word one sees quite a lot of in Germany.
Still, forbidden fruit is always tastier. The authorities’ efforts just make trespassing all that much more fun. Especially when it’s dark, and when the object of trespass is remote, tall and looming, and surrounded by trees – preferably inhabited by animals specialising in eerie noises.

And so we made our way to Spreepark, an abandoned amusement park on the edge of Plänterwald in Berlin. In its hey-day (or wahey-day I should say), the park attracted some 1.7 million visitors a year. After the wall came down however, its demise began, presumably because East Germans suddenly had other avenues for excitement.

Now the site lies idle and neglected, (including its ferris wheel!), fenced off and abandoned, attractions boarded up and verboten. Spreepark is home now only to the ghosts of clowns and the spirits of their victims: innocents who came for fun but left in terror. Or not at all. Who knows how many victim’s spirits now roam the site along with the clowns’?
Of course we had to go, to confront the clowns, avenge their victims. Or join them.

A dark night of course, but that didn’t perturb us. We had to go through forest to get there, the moon peering meekly down, almost as if afraid to look. Soon enough we found it. The heavy wire fence confirmed so. The river Spree flowed to our left. Silent. Afraid to speak, but quietly willing us not to go in. Don’t do it!
Inside, dark shadows flittered around among the trees. Long tapering branches reached to sky, trembling. Rustling noises. A scream. What the fuck was that?! Then silence once more. Did we really hear that? Shit. Let’s walk on. Look for another way in.

Through the fence we could see the old attractions, upturned, overgrown, and not so attractive anymore. Carts, trains, slides and twirly things. These once proud contraptions used to bring crowds from far away. How the mighty had fallen!
They urged us to climb the fence and join them, willing us to help them recapture the fun and excitement of their glory days. There was no sound of laughter however. No cries of excitement. The usual frivolous noises of an amusement park were gone. All gone. Long vanished – much like our bravery had in the last few minutes.
We looked for more ways in, waiting for our courage to return. The bravery was gone for good however, and so we left, turning our backs on the dark attractions, clowns’ cackles ringing mockingly in our ears.
Facing back towards the warm bright lights of Berlin, the Fernsehturm stood like a friendly beacon across the river. Komm zu mir ihr Lieben! Alles wird besser sein!
The clowns may have won the first round. But we’ll be back...

Monday, April 13, 2009

Easter

Easter is mad. Madder than the March Hares which seem to abound here despite the fact it is March no more. Which just proves their madness.
They’re everywhere! Predominantly made of chocolate, but sometimes other materials and taking other forms. It seems rabbits and chocolate are sacred here at Easter, as are coloured eggs which are hung in trees and worshiped over the holiday season.

Yesterday, I was lucky enough to be invited to spend Easter with a bona fide German family. I accepted their hospitable invitation and a chocolate hunt quickly ensued with everyone searching under every rock, looking in every flower pot, and peering into every dark hole in the hope of finding some brightly-wrapped chocolate rabbits or sacred eggs. Those rabbits are sneaky fuckers, sometimes burrowing like their flesh and blood cousins into places so hard to find you’d wonder how they are found at all. Germans however, seem to have a nose for chocolate, and I’m pretty sure none but the sneakiest chocolate rabbits managed to escape.

A large table crammed with Kuchen (cakes) and Sekt (sparkling wine) offered respite after the excitement of the hunt, and for a brief period in the day the rabbits were forgotten. With more tarts than Club 92 on a Saturday, there was barely time to talk, as one delicious cream, strawberry or almond slice of cake followed another.
The adults were then left to talk, as the “children” went for a walk, each group secretly delighted with the freedom temporarily granted by the parting.
Food always brings people back together however, and the group was 15 once more as mountains of food were served from the barbeque, each steak accompanied by its equivalent in salad, baked potato or vegetables.

It was the first barbeque of the year, (on April 12th!) and with it came the promise of many more. Spring may have arrived less than two weeks ago, but already it seems like summer. Nude sunbathing is just around the corner. In fact, Friday was my first sighting of a nude sunbather, although the startling sight of his skinny, wrinkly arse made me pine briefly for the return of winter. It’s strange, but the people who shouldn’t bare all are always the first to do so.

After dinner I learned why the rabbits were so eager to hide. Those with the double misfortune of being made of chocolate and not being sneaky enough were consumed without ceremony. Even the ones who disguised themselves as Toblerone bars or Kinder Schokolade couldn’t escape. Just too delicious for their own good.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Efficiency v Bureaucracy

German efficiency is strangled time and time again by its burgeoning bureaucracy, as I’m only now beginning to learn. The myth is being exposed in the fall-out from having my wallet and phone stolen.

Four weeks later, I’m still waiting for my replacement sim card, a damning indictment of the country's supposed efficiency. Initial problems paying for it were succeeded by others too tedious and pedantic to bother even putting into words.
Suffice to say no one else's credit card would do, nor would my own replacement credit card on account of it being foreign, (despite their using my previous card, also Irish, without problems). Eventually I asked Jenny to do a bank transfer. That went through yesterday, but now the Easter break means it will be Tuesday at the earliest before it arrives. If it arrives at all.

Wednesday I posted my application for a replacement press card (that too was stolen). The same envelope made its way back to me like a faithful carrier pigeon yesterday, along with a big yellow sticker from Deutsche Post saying I owed them another €2.35 because the envelope was 10mm too big. They also marked the stamps, rendering them useless and ensuring that I'd even have to buy those again too. The fuckers. Anyone else would have just posted the damn thing.

In fact, the only efficient people I've encountered in this whole sorry debacle have been the thieves themselves. Their efficiency has betrayed the inefficiencies of the subsequent German services I've had to deal with.
Conversely, the Irish services (banks etc.) were actually very quick to sort things out, even posting my bank cards to Berlin, albeit without accepting responsibility if they got lost en route. The Germans would never have done that.
For me that's the difference. The Germans are much slower, with ten times more work involved than necessary, ticking all the boxes and crossing all the Ts, before eventually getting a result.
The Irish just do everything half-arsedly, in the quickest and most painless manner possible, usually leaving an almighty mess to sort out later on. But at least they get things done.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Drink Freitag

It's the busiest night of the year for Irish off-licences (liquor stores). Tomorrow is Good Friday, the biggest piss-up of them all!
The pubs are shut for the whole day - the whole day! - so queues of people are now buying every scrap of booze they can carry, tongues hanging out, panic-stricken at the thought of having to go dry for a whole day. A whole fucking day!

Crate-loads of liquor are being bought at a ferocious pace. Beer, wine, spirits; there can never be enough. Whatever you can carry. Never mind that all that alcohol would kill a horse - it has to last until the pubs open again on Saturday.

The ironically-named Good Friday is one of only two days in Ireland the sacred pub must close (Christmas Day the other) so of course the only way to get through this inhumane drought is by having a party stuffed to the gills with crates of booze. It's probably the only day of the year people unite in camaraderie against the common enemy - sobriety.

Parties everywhere will be rocking to the Good Friday beat, with revellers guzzling down alcoholic liquids until they can guzzle no more, determined to defy the forced abstention. A 24 hour prohibition obliterated with a week's worth of booze.

Thankfully in Germany the pubs are still open, and there's no need to resort to such drastic measures. I can't remember what I did for the occasion last year (probably too drunk), but tomorrow the only thing I need fear is a lack of comedic theatre performances and events. Apparently these are illegal on the day, as are public dancing events.

Good Friday is certainly a misnomer. Good for who? Certainly not for Jesús who was nailed to a cross. Feckin' Romans. Today's authorities are no better: also trying to make it a miserable Friday. No drink in Ireland; no comedy in Germany (ahem).
Arse to them. Let's drink, laugh, dance and be merry - make sure it's a Great Friday!

Monday, April 06, 2009

Smoking out the ban

Berlin must be one of the last places in Europe where pubs and clubs are filled with great big clouds of dirty smoke. This city's smokers are so intent on destroying their own health they're willing to destroy others’ as well, and the situation is now worse than ever before.

The smoking ban had been introduced in January last year, only it was left up to bar owners to allow customers “get used” to the enforcement. Thus some places allowed smokers puff away as before until July, when the overall ban was due to come in.

Smokers of course were mightily put out by all this talk of bans, and so took the streets in protest. (As Berliners do. They like nothing better than a good ol’ protest march. They’d march against the weather if they had to. If they had nothing to protest about, they’d march against that.)

Anyway, legal challenges were made leading to a spectacular government U-turn, the likes of which is normally only seen from the Irish government. Small pubs which specialised in “drink-based small gastronomy” (getrankegepraegte Kleingastronomie) were excluded from the ban.

It’s a fucking joke. Most pubs in Berlin are small cafés anyway, and their owners have done all they can to ensure they qualify for exclusion from the ban. (Smaller than 75 sq. metres; no food; no adjoining room.)

Now it seems there is no ban at all. It’s as if smokers, terrified at the prospect of a ban being successful the next time it’s introduced, are choking as many cigarettes into themselves as possible.
In these small unventilated venues, there’s nowhere for the smoke to go but into passive smokers’ lungs. Clothes and hair stink, and hangovers are amplified thanks to the fumes.

I had tolerated smokers and their habits because I was once one of them. Now however, I tolerate no more.

Last week was the final straw. Myself and Jenny went to the cinema at White Trash Fast Food to watch a film with Serge Gainsbourg, himself of course a notorious smoker. (He didn't come with us; he was in the film.) During the screening, wafts of tobacco smoke kept making their way towards us. At first I put it down to the skills of the director and the magic of French cinema - you really feel part of the action.
It was no illusion however. People were really smoking. Smoking! In a cinema! Casually sparking up and puffing away, not one shit given for other cinema goers.

On the way out, the snotty cashier unapologetically informed us it was the “Smoking Cinema”. Not a metaphor. A cinema the self-endangered smokers could gather to watch a good film in clouds of their own smoke. I don’t know how that fits in with the “ban” but fuck it, they can keep it.

Ironically, this isn’t the first smoking ban to take effect (or not as the case may be) in Berlin. Smoking was banned here in 1723 until the ban was repealed in the revolutions of 1848. The Nazis also had some sort of ban, but then again, there weren’t a very liberal bunch and they banned a lot of things.

Ireland, of course, was the first country to introduce a comprehensive smoking ban on March 29th 2004. One thing the government can claim credit for. It’s so incompetent however, I can’t believe it was intentional. U-turn on the U-turn perhaps.
I don’t know anyone who would bring back smoking in pubs there. Not even smokers, who now enjoy the social opportunities presented over a shared cigarette outside. Many a romance has started with the immortal words: “You got a light love?”
The percentage of smokers has actually increased in Ireland since the ban, but this probably says more about the Irish psyche rather than anything else.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Frühling für Kapitalismus

Recession? Financial crisis? Global downturn? Not in Berlin. One thousand shoppers queued to get into the new Saturn electronics store on Alexanderplatz last week, before running up the escalators to snatch whatever home entertainment systems their fat arms could carry. Special security was put in place to deal with the crowd which gathered outside for the midnight opening. Midnight! All queueing with their chubby faces pressed against the shiny new glass doors, salivating at the thought of spending money.

It's capitalism gone mad Ted. Honecker's worst nightmare has come to pass. And in Alexanderplatz - the centrepiece of the East German socialist model! He must be turning in his grave. Well, he would if he wasn't cremated...

There's the prospect of more salivating shoppers beating doors down tomorrow. A new Karstadt department store opens in Steglitz, and I met a giant mammoth today who told me the new Mammut "flagship store" opens its doors near Alexanderplatz at 10am.

Building meanwhile, continues at a frightening pace - apartment blocks, supermarkets, cafés and restaurants are popping up like mushrooms after the rain. A forest of cranes around the corner betray the location of the huge new "secret service" complex. (I know, not very secret if everyone knows about it.)
Anyway, everyone seems to be lashing money around like it's going out of fashion. Although out-of-fashion is usually in fashion in Germamy. Everyone's spending money, that is, except me. Having my wallet stolen and no bank cards for three weeks put paid (ha!) to that.

However, my new credit card arrived on Monday, so I went a bit mad myself, buying a new jacket to replace the one stolen in Mexico.
I'm glad I bought it, for as soon as one buys a jacket, it's no longer needed...

Spring arrived on Tuesday! At 11.17am. Or possibly a minute later. It climbed to 16°C and I haven't seen a cloud since! Tables and chairs outside cafés were crammed with yuppies drinking frappuccinos and caramel macchiatos. Eyes shielded from the sun's devastating rays by trendy sunglasses. I even saw one eager not-yet-hatched-chicken-counting lunatic wearing shorts, t-shirt and flip-flops! What a difference a week makes. We're supposed to see temps of 21°C tomorrow! At this rate it won't be long before we're skinny-dipping in the Spree again! But enough about the weather...

Today I emailed 39 editors and sub-editors from 37 of the world's newspapers with quite possibly the most informative, engaging, eloquent, and well-written travel article ever written. Ever written. So far however, only The Irish Times has shown an interest; based no doubt on the spike in sales last Saturday following the publication of the Stasi prison article.
The rest remain ominously quiet. Most had already replied to earlier pitches with doom and gloom, bleating about lay offs, wages being slashed, a freeze on buying articles and staff all running away to join the circus.
One more article. That's all I'm doing. If there are no bites then I'll have to get a job in a pub.