June 26, 2005

Brandenburger Concerto à la Laura

Iím now on my own in a little room in Berlin. The room is located in the top floor of a massive ugly post-war concrete house, which is colonized by a bunch of 50-year-old balding men. The course of events which has lead to this peculiar situation is the following:

Over the last few years it has come really popular among Finns to buy a car in Germany. The prices are considerably much lower and german cars are respected and well-built. So, since I was going to travel in Germany anyway, my brother Verkku decided he has to come over and buy a great german car. Verkku just passed the driving test about 32 days ago and was extremely excited about the task.
Katrinís family generously helped us and accommodated my brother. They put us in touch with the previous owner of the car and helped with the daunting german law regulations involved in the international car registration. Without their help it would not have been possible to the car business sorted.

On Wednesday night 22.6 at 1.19

My brother Verkku arrived at Nuremberg railway station having flown first to Riga, Latvia and then to Munich. Me and Katrin were really knackered after a few active days and late nights and still went to Nuremberg already 2 hours earlier. It was a struggle to stay awake till my brother came. When we eventually found him and set off to go back to Katrinís, we realized we donít know the way. We spent about one hour zigzagging on the dual carriage way leading to Krottensee thinking that weíve gone wrong somewhere. The lack of road signs is a serious problem in Germany because we were all the time on the right road but the road signs were so confusing that we thought we should go elsewhere. But we got back in the end, after 3 oíclock.

In the Thurday morning 23.6

we got up late Ė lovely Ė and had early lunch at Katrinís grandmaís. Katarina is so sweet, I told her that my grandma in Finland died recently and she said she is now my grandma in Germany. When I went to greet her a few days before(thatís 3 years since I had last seen her) she had the biggest smile on her face and she said ďMeine Enkelin ist zurŁckgekommen!Ē (My granddaughter has returned!) ďMeine deutsche OmaĒ made us a beautiful lunch with the vegetables from her own garden. We had vegetable soup with Kohlrabe, then lamb and KnŲdels and salad. We were extremely full after the meal and headed to Schwimmbad, a outdoor-swimming pool as it was really hot once again. At around 4 we went to have a look at the car my brother wanted to buy. That was actually Katrinís cousinís car, a 10-year-old BMW which is still in a nice condition. He did a test drive, was happy with the car and decided he wants to buy it. Then we started a battle with horrible German laws concerning the car registration etc. We made so many phone calls and were really stressed on Thursday night, thinking that we are not even able to get the car to Finland. The biggest problem was the hectic timetable as Verkku had to be in Finland by Monday morning and had already booked the ferry tickets from Rostock for the Saturday night. The registration offices are only open till 12.30 on Fridays. In the Friday morning me, Katrin, Verkku and another grandmother drove to Eschenbach with the registration plates of the car, and amazingly managed to get all the paper work sorted by the time the office closed. My brother was really the happiest person on the Earth when he was given the keys of the car and it was confirmed that he can take the car back home.
It was also an experience to do business with Katrinís cousinís family. They live in a farm house in a tiny village called Zirkendorf in Bavaria. Just picture a perfect country-side image: lots of cows, the cow smell, dogs running around, women with scarves in their heads. The also spoke with a strong Bavarian accent and knew only a few words in English which made things very interesting. Even better is that my brother doesnít speak much German either. So my brother was speaking English to them and the replied in German. Occasionally they got stuck and I interpreted the best I could. It was really interesting as my german vocabulary regarding cars is not extensive. Amazingly, it all worked out really well.

Then on Friday 24.6

Katrin had her college-graduation at school and me and Verkku wandered around Pegnitz, ate some beautiful ice cream and bought ďa ufo lampĒ for Katrinís brother David as a birthday present. We canít thank their family enough as it was such a major effort from them and we would not have been able to buy the car without their help.
We had a fantastic time on Friday night, everyone was pleased the car business worked out well and we grilled at their patio which overlooks their garden and lovely fields. We also tried playing a little bit of music, I did the keyboard, and we also had 2 guitars and the drums. David and Philip are really talented and I felt a bit stupid for making so many mistakes when playing the keyboard. The main thing was anyway that it was good fun. We had the gorgeous food: grill steaks and chicken breasts with Chakalaka sauce and then we had ďEiszšppchensalatĒ, a salad made of this white, carrot-shape vegetable which grows underground (I donít think we get it in England or Finland). We had Weissbier and cocktails and talked for hours and hours. They are so great people we did not want to leave them at all!
Everyone else went to bed then and me and Katrin stayed at the patio talking. Suddenly we heard a shriek and then some loud music. Then Katrin remembered that there is a big midsummer celebration in Neuhaus that night with Johannisfeuer, a big bonfire. This is similar to Finnish Juhannus, which we also celebrate in the end of June with the bonfires. Since we felt it was such a shame to go to bed, we decided to walk to the party. It was interesting because we left the house at half past midnight and had no idea where the party was Ė we were just trying to follow the music. Eventually the party was maybe 3 kilometers away but the area is so quiet that we could hear it clearly at the patio. We were really tired when we got there and people were already packing away all the stuff so we only stayed for 10 mins and then walked back.

Today, on Saturday 25.6

got up around seven, packed our stuff, said goodbye to the family and sang David a bday song in Finnish. Then we had to leave to Berlin by my brotherís new BMW. I canít wait to see the Gradls again as they are just fantastic!
The trip went really quick until we reached the ring road, Berliner Ring. The road signs were rubbish once again and we ended up somewhere outside Berlin. We had to go back and then ended up in east-Berlin we hadnít been trying to go.
However, it was a funny experience and we were completely lost and Berlin is so huge that the city map we had didnít even cover the area where we were. Then saw a cool ancient Trabant, which was smoking so much that it definitely would not pass its M.O.T because of the environment damage. I didnít know that there are still those classic DDR cars around because I think their manufacturing was stopped maybe 30 years ago. Most cars on German roads are brand new or a few years old, so this amusing little vehicle really stood out.
Having driven all around Berlin for 90 minutes we eventually found the house where Iíll be living the next 5 weeks. The house vaguely reminds me from my trip to Belarus since itís extremely ugly from the outside. My room is really nice though, and I have a little balcony, 2 warderobes and a shower. Toilets are Öinteresting. I just had a look and the paint is peeling off the walls and there is no toilet paper. The kitchen is also interesting, and pretty filthy. I think Iíll be eating a lot of take-away when Iím here.
Food is really cheap, me and Verkku had original DŲner Kebap as soon as we got here. And indeed, Kebap is very good in Berlin. Now I can also finally understand why thereís constantly a debate about the Turks in Germany. There arve hardly any Turks in Bavaria, but Berlin is different and e.g. where I live it feels maybe half the people on the street were Turks. But that also means that you can buy really tasty kebap in Berlin.
It is very strange to be on my own again after having such a great and social time with a lot of people over the last 2 weeks. I seem to have some interesting neighbours, mainly they are old men, but Iíve already seen a woman as well and one younger asian guy.
Also some dude just came to my door and was just like ďOh cool, there is someone living in this room now. Iím living upstairs. Bye!Ē How random is that!


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