Bildungsroman

So… I’m moving to Berlin. I regard this coming year as the introduction to a more long-term emigration. Despite being my Erasmus year in a 4 year course of German and Music at Liverpool, I have few doubts that I’ll be back on a permanent basis after I graduate.
This year I’ll be working at an Übersetzerin in the city centre and living in Kreuzberg (contract pending.) Lena and I (my Austrian flatmate and dear friend) visited Berlin last week to secure a roof for August – but that’s a story for another day.
After a few more shifts hopefully I’ll have enough to put down my deposit without borrowing from mum. That said I don’t own a single piece of office wear…
Welcome to the real world Connie! 💸

I have two long term goals this year: to improve my German and become a Glanz.

Hopefully and nervously yours,
Connie

Advertisements

Nordrhein West-fallin’ in love with Germany again

This weekend, Lena and I booked a get-away to Bonn and Cologne.

We left the house on Saturday at 4am, catching a very early plane to Cologne. By 9 we were eating breakfast in front of the Beethoven memorial statue.

After some wandering around the old town and visiting a great modern history museum where I bought a copy of the Gruffalo in Kölsch (Cologne and Bonn dialect), we dropped our bags at our hotel, the Hilton (fancy), and went out to buy face masks and wine for later.

We also visited the Haribo shop and stocked up on sugar, kick-starting the cheatiness of the whole weekend.

We dumped all our goodies and headed out, AGAIN, to Schloss Drachenburg (Castle Dragon Mountain). We took the shuttle bus to the very top where a ruin sits above the whole of Bonn, providing us with stunning views in 30 degree heat.

A short walk down the hill and you’re greeted by a Disney castle. Totally restored, well kept and a real reccomend to anyone visiting Bonn or Cologne. And we had ice lollies.

After a long day, we headed back for a swim and pizza room service before passing out in front of the football.

10 hours later we stirred from our beds. We packed up, almost leaving Lena’s ring behind, and stopped by the Beethoven house before catching the 20 minute train to Cologne.

Stepping out the train station, basic bitch giant coffees in hand, the cathedral blocks the sun almost completely, casting Gothic shaddows over the seas of tourists flocking from the Hauptbahnhof.

We walked around a but and made our way to a nice looking pub with a German politics theme beer garden on the riverside and sat drinking bear and eating schnitzel whilst the last of the Cologne marathon runners jogged past.

Next was the chocolate museum where we watched Lindt chocolate being made and had an educational insight into the history and science of chocolate. Full of sugar and hot, we headed to the old town for another beer and watched a bit of football.

After that we headed for the airport and flew home after a delay, meaning we got home pretty late. It was such a wonderful weekend and I haven’t felt so 100% in a really long time.

Cologne is for sure much bigger than Bonn, although I’m happy we visited in the order we did because Cologne was buzzing on Sunday, which is very rare for Germany.

Bonn is worth a day trip out of the city but I’m sure there were many corners of both beautiful cities we didn’t get to see. We did however do a hell of a lot of walking and I think we really made the best of the time we had! Even if it did leave us exhausted by Sunday.

-TRIGGER WARNING – UNI BRAGGING-

This was of course all topped off today after finding out that I got a first on my Bowie essay. That’s 10% of my final grade I’m very happy with. Was it worth the months of stress? Probably not. But in hindsight I’m glad I worked as hard as I did.

Till next time ✌️

My Regulars

Here follows a list of my regulars, what they drink and their stories, be they real or imaginary…

  • Paul and Barry Chuckle, Aka. Doppio man and Tilly – Paul drinks 2 double espressos every day and is fond of a Laugendreieck. Barry drinks Fritz Cola and tags along from time to time. This funny duo seem to sell cars as a double act. They get tabs together and spend lunch breaks together. Very cute.
  • Latte Ladies – These two come in together every morning with matching To-Go mugs and get two lattes to go. I always get a bit of good office gossip from these two each morning. “Nicole did what?… Well I never!”
  • Fabulous Wig Gentleman – Black coffee in a cup. This elderly gentleman wears a wig and it looks fabulous. Clearly nobody had the heart to tell him it’s a woman’s wig. He pulls off the perm though, I must say. Very fabulous.
  • Voldermort – Earl Grey tea. This mountain of a man has an Eastern European accent, speaks limited German and drinks tea. He is balled and has folds behind his head that look like a face sometimes. Hence the name.
  • Mini Man – Cappuccino in his Mini mug. This man is at 110% every day. Super happy, super energetic, super chatty.
  • Al Capone – Espresso and still water. He orders with me in English and looks very shady. He’s Italian and has dark eyes and hair. Sometimes he brings his elderly girlfriend in with him but she doesn’t eat or drink anything. Defo Ex-Mafia.
  • Hollywood – Cappuccino. Must be in a mug. I always get a visit from Hollywood at around 6pm. He used to work in movies and is keen to remind me of that fact every time we talk. He also enjoys talking about his daughter, his wild travels and drugs. Always wears sunglasses.
  • Decaf Lady – Decaf Chino and some cake. She comes in every evening and always greets me. Very kind and warm lady. She also tips well. One of my favourites for sure.
  • Lactose Free – Latte lactose free milk. She’s a nice lady. She’s petite and hates Mondays. Always asks if I can get her Wimbledon tickets.
  • Espresso Snob – Espresso. I’m pretty sure this guy is a big boss in BMW. He likes his espresso strong and only in a china cup. This became a problem when the dishwasher broke.
  • Spoony Mc Spoon Face – Cap with lots of chocolate on top. This man shouted at me because I wouldn’t give him a spoon when the dishwasher was broken. Total wanker.
  • Do you have a job? Machiatto Men – Espresso Machiatto. These men spend every day, most of the day, in my cafe. How do they afford it? Where do they get their money? Do they have jobs?
  • Sexy Accent Guy – Water and Franzbrötchen. This guy is very nice. He’s friendly and chats at me, very quickly, with a strong accent, and I’m good with that because he’s stun. Sexy, sexy man. Plays clash of clans after work some days while he drinks his sparkling water.
  • Clean Wizz Boyz – Americanos. So named because of their blue Clean Wizz uniforms (in charge of washing cars). Also have accents and like mumbling at me. They then get angry when I don’t understand. Not fond of this band.
  • Scooter Business Man – Latte to go. Arrives to work on a shitty scooter every morning, wearing a helmet. He is a fully grown business man… on a scooter.
  • OAP on a Bike – Caffe Crema. Struggles to walk but seems to cycle to BMW every day. Wears yellow lycra. Grumpy but harmless.
  • My Ami Men – Small Americanos with hot water on top. Just a pair of nice guys who enjoy chatting with me at the midday slump.
  • Italian Soy Lady – 2 soy lattes to go with a chocolate for the way. We struggled to communicate at first, but we now have a mutual respect and understanding for eachother. Always takes a cup holder, despite note needing one.
  • Aunty Sandra & Company – Doppio Machiatto and Cappuccino with pistachio chocolates. One of these ladies looks exactly like my Aunty Sandra and I’m pretty sure she works with asylum seekers. Her friend seems nice too.

My Journey to Munich

So this weekend I was invited along to my work party at head office in Munich. I would like to start this post by saying that I think it’s amazing that a CAFE looks after it’s staff the way we were looked after this weekend. Flights, hotel, food, travel… Everything was paid for and offered to every employee and it was great to go and meet old friends from Hamburg and make news ones from other corners of Germany.

Anyway, on with the story.

We started the weekend early, but as baristas, hours like 5am are nothing new for us. After a late gym session I met my colleagues in Tegel and we flew to Munich. The flight was good but the plane was small.

Upon arrival we took a very slow S Bahn to the hotel where we left our bags before heading to head office. The hotel was a motel one again, a brand of which I am already a great fan. We were scared we’d have to share rooms but of course we didn’t.

A short train to the new head office and we were great with, of course, coffee and lots of food. I was very well behaved and only had one sandwich and an apple!

Team Berlin

There were activities at head office, like silly little games people could play like ‘guess what kind of milk this is’ and I had a long talk with the company architect about what goes into planning our cafes.

After finding the Hamburg girls we were carted off to the roastary. There we learnt all about the different beans we sell and use, did some cool laté art and had a tour of the warehouse and roastary room. The sun was out this weekend and it made the idyllic mountain backdrop all the better.

After returning to the hotel for a well deserved nap and a glow up we walked to the party. We had a private beer garden with a summer house dance floor rented for us and of course an amazing BBQ (the Germans understand salad like no other country) and open bar *gefährlich*!

I had some great chats with locals and people from far afield and learnt that the beer garden we were in was famous for founding the laws about South German beer gardens (like people being allowed to bring their own food). I also had an in-depth conversation about weiß wurst.

Prizes were awarded to bars and employees who had performed well throughout the year and sprits were high (although the gin and tonics were not up to scratch!)

We drank, danced and chatted until 1am where most of the team leaders headed for a club, but we headed back to the hotel for a cheeky bottle of wine.

In bed at 4am I realised that I left my favourite cardigan at the party and despite going back for it early the next morning, I didn’t get it back. I like to think that I’ve left a special part of me in Munich as a thank you.

Here is a picture of the €6.20 orange juice I drank at the airport. It was too expensive not to have a mention. It was good though!

With 4 hours sleeps we ate breakfast and hopped on the plane home. And now I’m back and in need of a nap.

What surprised me the most is how truly passionate everyone there was. We spent half an hour talking about sandwiches on the train. People sampled espresso like fine wine. There were genuine discussions about customer requests and training and a Zusammengehörigkeitsgefühl that you just would never get in the UK. If you put a load of spoons employees in a brewery, they would run a muck. If you sent Greggs employees to a bakery I can’t imagine them being as enthused as everyone this weekend was. I was just really impressed and I’m happy to be a part of it, even if it is just a Cafe job.

Another mental weekend

Today being a Feiertag, I thought I’d take the time to do a quick post about what a crazy time I’ve had this weekend (this finally being posted weeks later but I will continue the illusion that I’m organised enough to write up a week that quickly).

Friday night after getting back from Hamburg, I met Lena at the station because we had tickets to the You Better Werk Tour and for lack of a better word it was magical. I bought a Shangela t-shirt, because she MC’ed the whole night and I admire her personally as a queen and Lena got a stunning Kim Chi pin. My favourite act was probably Violet Chachki but the Sailor Moon Kim Chi number broke Lena’s concept of reality so deserved an honorable mention.

Saturday was of course the royal wedding, so Lena, Richie, Maude and I packed a BBQ and headed for Tempelhofer Feld. We ate loads and drank more.

We also played some fun little games like ‘getting to the church on time relay race’ and making wedding dresses out of toilet paper.

Came home and crashed out by 7pm. The next day, feeling well rested and sunburnt, we took to the streets around our flat to celebrate the Berlin festival of culture with Kilian.

After following the 4hr parade for a while we headed for an open-air rave in East and danced until we were too tried to carry on.

Sunday was indeed the day of rest. We might have even gone our on Friday ya know? I can’t for the life of me remember but it was a great weekend.

Got a haircut in Germany!

I took advantage of having a hotel on a business estate and hunted out a well reviewed, cheap hairdressers. At 25€ this haircut cost just over half of what it would have in Berlin and at home for that matter.

The woman was lovely and I got an appointment the day I came in. The haircut was very quick and looks great.

I am a happy lady 💇

Did I lose my best friend to a cult?

We were close friends from a very young age. We made scrapbooks together, went into London together, had sleepovers and stayed in contact when she left for private school. In middle school we were reunited and were part of a large friendship group, but always maintained a closer connection. We took the same subjects and, despite the odd fall out, as best friends do, we stayed close companions until she left for university.

I retook my final year of A-Levels and was left behind in our little hometown, while all my girlfriends were off having the freshers of a lifetime. It was a difficult year for me, being home alone, but I really tried not to take it personally when she cancelled a visit we had been planning. After all, she must be really busy with exams and all her new friends. In retrospect, that was the first sign that something was wrong.

When she came back for the summer I was eager to meet up and hear about all her adventures. I asked if we could meet for coffee and she agreed. Excited, I dressed to impress, makeup on. Needless to say it didn’t stay on for long, despite my waterproof mascara. I walked to her house and met her at the door. As we left the house she asked if she could read me something she’d prepared. Unsure, but thinking she might be coming out to me, I happily agreed. We sat down on a bench at the end of her road and she started reading, what was essentially, a breakup letter.

In short, she told me that she had never liked me. She said that I was controlling, manipulative and callous. She said that she felt compared to me throughout her childhood and resented me for it. She brought up arguments we’d had years prior, which she had never forgiven me for, and dubbed me a bad person for being the way I am and making her life a misery. I cried until her last line, when she asked me to apologise, and said that if I was willing to change, we might be able to salvage a relationship. I had no words.

I was so shocked and upset that I couldn’t string a sentence together. Balling my eyes out I asked why I should apologise for ‘years of cruelty’ when I didn’t believe that I had ever been cruel. I also failed to understand why she had never brought these feelings up before. I felt like I had been lied to my whole life and had been dumped by the one person I thought I could always count on. I went home and never called her again.

A year later she called me, saying that her therapist (the person who was also apparently responsible for encouraging her to write this letter to me) had told her to call people who had hurt her and ask if they wanted to apologise. Once again, I said no and wished her a nice weekend. Despite being totally heartbroken I promised myself that I would always forgive her if she just wanted to start afresh but I’m still waiting for that phone call. After all, she was going through a difficult chapter in her life and I felt somewhere deep in my heart that she didn’t mean the things she said. At least I hoped so.

Recently, looking back on conversations I’d had with her however, I started to suspect an organisation called the Landmark Forum. Accused by some journalists of being a cult and employing brainwashing techniques to extort participants, the self-help organisation promises to “bring about positive, permanent shifts in the quality of your life—in just three days.” After reading online that friends and family members of participants have previously received distressed phone calls in the early hours to bring up old arguments, I couldn’t help but be reminded of what I had experienced.

Articles and posts on the organisation vary from hugely supportive to total condemnation. And while a close relative’s personal experience of their programme was minimal, he too found it pretty uncomfortable. Attending a large meeting in London, where the attendees were encouraged to admit their worthlessness, essentially breaking down the course participants, he decided to leave and was met by bouncers at the locked doors, who hesitantly let him out, after the OK from the main speaker. Not only was he unwilling to participate, to be ‘coached’ as the Guardian journalist Amelia Hill puts it, he was outraged by the door staff’s hesitation to allow him to leave.

I recently got back in touch with my friend. I approached her about her method of delivery, asking who had encouraged her to communicate feelings that she had been holding inside for so long in such a devastating, and for me, damaging way. After some back and forth, my suspicions about the phone call were confirmed (a Landmark Forum exercise in ‘healing’) and the idea behind the letter was, according to her, entirely her own. No psychiatrist.

I can’t help but wonder if, in some confused way, she was trying to help me? Perhaps she was trying to break me down, so she could re-model me into the friend I should have been to her. I often think about our friendship and about our break-up. I can’t say I was a perfect friend, but the real and deep love I once felt for her has only grown clearer to me over time. How horrible could I have really been if it still hurts me to think about how I lost her? Getting back in touch with her to explain how she made me feel and try to find some answers was therapeutic for me.

Can I be certain that Landmark Forum caused me to lose my best friend? Maybe not. But I still maintain strong suspicions that they had an influence.

Bielefeld and back again

After a long week in Hamburg (and another one to come next week), I took the Flixbus to Bielefeld to visit Tom in his final month in Germany.

The bus journey wasn’t that bad. Aside from the usual characters (the man who sniffs the whole way there and the girl who takes her shoes off next to you) the bus was fine. I did some reading and watched some movies.

Upon arriving we went to Tom’s flat, situated on the edge of a big Platz which is just fab for people watching.

We made dinner and had plans to go to the pub, but as soon as Tom pulled his sofa bed out, I was out for the count.

Saturday we went to visit the Hermannsdenkmal and the Externsteine. The first is a giant statue, from which you have a great view of the town and the forest. The second is a set of large stones that you can climb up. Here we encountered Hare Krischnes, hippies, far right (Nazi) protesters and thereafter the police.

For dinner we went to an all you can eat sushi restaurant outside Tom’s house and almost exploded!

In the evening we did a small bar crawl before retreating home.

Bielefeld was much much cooler than I was expecting. Well connected, friendly, cheap, interesting. Is it a national hotspot? No. But it’s a lovely little corner of Germany for sure.

Moin Hamburg

This week I was sent away by work to take a shot at working in one of their Hamburg cafes.

I set off from Berlin at 9, arriving in Hamburg, the Hafen city, at 11. Work began at 12 so I had just enough time to take one wrong U-Bahn and wander around the docks a bit before work.

The cafe itself is alright. I prefer Berlin for several reasons. I find it a bit more minimalistic and brighter, so it’s easier to clean at the end of the day. Just feels a bit more hectic than back home I suppose. My coworkers were lovely, welcoming, supportive and kind.

After work I took a trip to find my great-gran’s house, where she was born. There I was thinking it was MY grans (oops).

I went back to the hotel, ordered a large wine (apparently large here means 0.4L!) and went for a walk to find good. Largely due to the wine I lost my card in the first 10 minutes of being out of my room, but the hotel staff were very understanding, if a little amused.

The next day I woke up early to get some sights under my belt before work at 11. I went to the docks again, saw Hamburg’s answer to Liverpools bombed out church, Mahnmal St. Nikolai, and the St. Pauli Elbtunnel, grabbing breakfast on the way.

After a long day at work I got changed and headed for the Phil and took a walk around the Plaza, which has a great view of the city.

I could hardly come to Hamburg without seeing the Reeperbahn, it’s red light district. Being alone, I arrived and left rather early, getting back to the hotel before 10 but I got a feel for the place. Sun baked ladies of the house loitering outside the more serious brothels and young girls in off the shoulder with off the shoulder tight t-shirts outside the table dance bars. I was happy to be going home though and get some well earned rest.

Hamburg smells great. Even the dirty places are clean. Compared to Berlin, which I can no longer really smell but have been reminded of the constant wiff of sewage in the summer, it’s spotless. There’s not a lot of rubbish around and even the dirtier bus stops and under ground stations still smell really clean. I’m aware that that’s a strange thing to take away from a city but it really struck me!

Tomorrow I’ll be going home but might be returning next week? Who knows. It’s pretty up in the air. Bielefeld this weekend to see Tom and two concerts lined up for this month already! Busy busy busy.

1. Mai: Bürokratie trifft Anarchie

Nursing a particularly appalling hangover from the routine night out in Chalet the night prior, Lena and I took to the streets to discover what the first of May meant to Berlin – and the answer? Pure chaos.

The U1 was out of order for the bank holiday celebrations, not that it remains open for them anyway and I can see why. We walked the 20 minutes to Oranienstrasse and were greeted by police road blocks and hoards of people holding Wegbiers (beers you drink on the way to somewhere).

The streets were packed with people out for a good time. There was live music on ever corner and every normal flat and restaurant had stalls along the street selling drinks and food. People were walking around selling shots of dubious mixes of tomato juice and tequila. It’s was total anarchy.

We walked through Kotti and headed for Schlessi to see if we could get into one of the many free open air festivals on, but we’d started pretty late so there was no chance. The guards refusing entry at the gates didn’t stop a large number of party goers who scaled the walls of the parks. I guess walls will never hold Berliners back.

Bands and DJs were just setting up along every street we walked down. That was before the liscence man (officially dressed in a gawdy hawian shirt) told them that without a liscence they couldn’t set up. After flashing some documents he continued down the street to enjoy the unlisenced alcohol sellers and food stands. The irony was baffling and beautiful all at once. I feel like it sums up Berlin pretty well to be honest.

Tired, we walked home along the river and crashed. It was a fabulous day and a great way to walk off a Kater.

Mind your manners

A quick post.

Today 3 people didn’t say please when ordering.

My boss didn’t apologise for throwing coffee on me.

Yesterday an order was barked at me from across the room and I was pointed to instead of addressed when being asked for sugar (proceeded to also point at the sugar without saying a word.)

I encounter about 73854 people a day who order whilst on the phone.

I understand that my British sensitivity is somewhat heightened in such a fast pace environment, but…

Is it just me, or can people be really fucking rude sometimes?