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.

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!

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


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