Train Etiquette

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Before I leave Berlin I HAVE to rant about the train etiquette.

First off, let me start by saying that I love the public transportation system in Berlin. It is soooooo accessible and easy to use. It is one thing I will really miss when I go back to the States.

One thing I will NOT miss? Train etiquette.

It’s not just the staring -although that is very awkward – as I’ve already ranted about that. It’s everything about how people act on the Strassenbahn. It depends on the time of day, but it’s usually very crowded. Not just a lot of people but a ton of people – like sardines packed in a can. That wouldn’t be so bad if people didn’t act as if it wasn’t crowded. When the doors open at a new stop people cram into each car until you are breathing down a stranger’s neck as someone else breathes down yours. You can’t even fall if it’s bumpy because people are packed in too tight. 

People turn around without a second thought, whacking you with their over-sized backpack. They listen to their music unbelievably loud. The crazies – who reek of booze and/or marijuana – shout profanities at you or push their cup in front of your face until you give them whatever coins you have in your pocket. There are moms who take up 4-peoples worth of space with their stupid baby carriages (they drive me really insane!). There are the construction workers who have a beer open at 1o am – because public drinking is allowed in Germany. There are the yuppies who chatter constantly into their cell phones and the people who bring their hot lunches with them so that the whole car smells like curry. There are people that think they can save seats – which is completely against the unspoken rules of public transportation. Last, but not least, you have the tourists who have absolutely no idea where they are going or what they are doing.

I don’t get it. People lose their senses the second they step onto the train. It’s like Costco cart etiquette – I can’t start talking about that now, but just know that I hate Costco for many reasons…one of which is the lack of cart etiquette.  I don’t understand how people can be so un-self-aware.

So yes, I love the public transportation but I will definitely NOT miss public transportation behavior.

,,Mind the gap between platform and train!”

That is all.

 

Brunching Abroad

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This past Sunday was the first Advent day (Adventzeit).

In honor of this a couple of friends and I went to brunch. Normally at home I eat brunch every Saturday and Sunday because I wake up too late for breakfast and too early for lunch. European brunch is different.

I met a couple of friends at 10am at some really cute restaurant, of which I cannot remember the name. We sat down and my friend Bonnie asked if I was ready for 4 hours of eating. I was surprised – I guess because I was just thinking that it would be like any other brunch. An hour and a half of eating, talking, and enjoying the morning-afternoon. It wasn’t.

Brunching in Germany is like a sport. You have to pace yourself. It’s not a marathon not a race. You get one plate, eat it and digest. Repeat as needed from 10am to 3pm.

It was so much fun. I was eating with a couple of friends from my program as well as one of their “sprach partners” and some other german friends. It was a morning full of denglish and story telling and laughter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Our Daily Bread

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There is nothing quite so versatile – and delicious! – as bread. And Germany has a lot of good bread. I emphasize the word “good” because bread here is not just something you eat to stay alive. Bread in Germany is something you daydream about. 

I did some research on German bread and this is what I learned from Wikipedia:

Germany prides itself on having the largest variety of breads worldwide. More than 300 basic kinds of bread are produced with more than 1,000 types of small bread-rolls and pastries. It has been estimated that the basic kinds of bread are so widely varied by more than 16,000 local bakeries that more than 1,000 different breads have been presented at a 2005 Cologne bread show. Germans are worldwide the biggest consumers (per capita) of bread, followed by Chile.

This I can believe. On my way to school every morning I pass at least 6 bakeries all of which smell unbelievably delicious. A warm,yeast-y breeze leaking out of the doors into the cool morning air.

There’s none of that soft, airy, white bread here. My favorite so far is poppy seed, pumpkin seed, and other kernel breads. The dark multigrain kind. Utterly drool-worthy.

If only they had such bakeries in the States. Although it’s probably a good thing. If there these bakeries at DU I would be as big as a house.

She's a brick hoooooouuuuse.

Hahaha!

Staring contest!

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Germans stare. A lot.

I had noticed this last year while back-packing through Germany with my roommate. I can remember towards the end of the trip after one loooooong 6 hour train ride I was ready to punch the next person who stared at me in the throat.

It’s the same feeling you get when you’re having a conversation with someone and they keep staring at your teeth or your chin and all of a sudden you start picturing your hideous face covered in all kinds of crap.

It gets annoying real fast.

The fear of being stared at is called Scopophobia. While I don’t think I have this phobia, I am quite fed up with the staring. Every time I get on the train – don’t even get me started on train etiquette – or walk into a restaurant everyone stares at me. It gets worse when I’m with someone else and we are speaking English. Even the ones who weren’t staring to begin with, look over the second we start talking.

And it’s not like if you make eye contact with them they just look away embarrassed. No. I make awkward eye contact and they just keep looking. It’s not necessarily hostile, with which staring is usually associated, it’s more like interested-condesention. As if they are judging your clothes, how you act, and your general attitude towards the world. I wonder at what point I learned that staring was socially unacceptable and why and how Germans do not learn this.

Recently, I have taken to staring right back. When I see that old lady out of the corner of my eye gettin’ her stare on, I look her square in the eye. After a couple of seconds she usually looks away, but sometimes it doesn’t even phase them and it’s I find myself in some sort of extreme (awkward) staring battle. It’s all I can do to keep from screaming.

I can just see the headline now:

Crazy American Strangles Innocent Bystander on Train, Pleads Insanity on Account of Staring.

Pray for me!

Thanksgiving Döner

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Happy Thanksgiving everybody (yesterday…)!

I hope that everyone had a wonderful holiday filled with family, friends, and great food!

Unfortunately I was in school. I can’t complain though. My program threw us a Thanksgiving-like dinner the day before. There was no turkey, stuffing, or cranberry sauce but still plateful after plateful of delicious food. Everyone at my table -all Americans of course – went around and said what they were thankful for. You could tell that our teachers and program coordinators were trying hard to make it special. It was really sweet but  gave me the feeling that previous students did not handle being away from home so well.

I, of course, missed my family (hi mom!), but it wasn’t the first Thanksgiving I have missed. And we used to go on vacation during Thanksgiving a lot when I was little. I did get to skype with the fam yesterday and I was great seeing everybody. I was, however, a little jealous seeing everyone crowded around the table having just eaten a delicious meal cooked by my aunt (hi leelee!).

So yesterday, instead of trying to recreate our own Thanksgiving which I’m sure would have been a complete disaster, a couple of friends and I went to get a döner from Mustafa’s. A döner is basically the german equivalent of what we would call a gyro. Except here they are made by authentic turkish/greek restaurants. There are döner stands around every corner.

Yuuuuuuummmmm!

Mustafa’s is the best döner you can get in Berlin. They have just the right amount of spices on their meat, they use fresh veggies, lots of onion, and they are the only ones I’ve seen that use feta cheese. Delicious! Just thinking about it makes me hungry. It’s a lot of food but I always finish it because it’s just too good not to. I do miss being able to get a big juicy cheeseburger wherever I go, but there is no doubt I will go through döner-withdrawls when I get back to the states.

So Thanksgiving abroad was not a total loss. I had delicious food with some really great friends.

Things I am thankful for:

  • a wonderful, loving family
  • being able to study abroad in a cool country
  • the friends I have made – old and new
  • a loving God who has given me everything I could ever want
  • that I have the ability to learn a new language 
  • Döner!

I’m going to start protesting protests.

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More specifically, stupid protests.

Don’t get me wrong, I love that we have the ability/right to assemble and voice our opinions (peacefully of course), but people are starting to get crazy. There seems to be a different protest every week here in Berlin.

They all seem the same to me. A crowd of people slowly making their way up and down Friedrichstrasse (one of the main streets in downtown Berlin) with people who I assume are the organizers for the whole thing shouting indecipherable words into a megaphone. Policemen skirting the crowd, blocking traffic, making sure no one gets too rowdy. And it messes up all the transportation in Berlin. Trains, trams, busses, cars. They all get caught up in the chaos….I guess technically a protest is supposed to cause a stir and get attention.

I’m sure that their concerns are legitimate and some of the crowd members actually know why they are there, but when I see anarchy flags and signs flying high in a crowd that supposedly stands for education rights, I have to roll my eyes. Most of the people in this particular protest looked dazed and confused like they had no idea what they were doing there. Unfortunately I couldn’t get a picture of it, but believe me, it was dumb.

Maybe it’s cynical of me, but every time I see those huge banners and crowds of people all I can think is “Dang it. this is going to mess up my train.”