August 14, 2005

From Berlin to Helsinki

I know havenít updated my blog for about half a century and people probably think Iím either dead or have been abducted by the aliens…
Tons of things have happened to me. Thereís a ďlittleĒ summary(more of a novel) of my last 4 weeks in Berlin written already at the time I was there. Unfortunately I never came round to putting it on my blog, but better late than not at all.

Sunday 24.07.05

Right, itís 2:44 am and I just got back from Soda-salsa club from Prenzlauer Berg.
I must be insane since Iím writing blog diary instead of falling asleep in my cozy bed. Itís probably thanks to Crazy-Carlos at the internship and Swiss-Thomas behind my wall that I discovered this fun latino music and my enthusiasm is so overwhelming that my little report cannot wait till tomorrow.
A half-Japanese, half-German student called Taro mentioned they organize salsa classes always before the parties. So we decided to go together today. And besides, I desperately needed some tuition as have never danced salsa before and am all over the place with my big feet. Considering that Iím usually destroying my dance-partnersí feet if they dare to come anywhere close we thought itís probably safer to take some classes first. So I went with Taro tonight and Thomas, Carla and Corinna joined us later.
Salsaís really fun and the basic steps are actually not all that difficult. Merengue is also good as I donít have to know any steps and men lead the dance anyway. I danced some salsa with Tora and then merengue with Thomas. After 6 hours of dancing I was absolutely knackered and realized that Iíve just missed my last underground back to Tiergarten where I live. Conveniently the night buses are real sight-seeing trips and circle around and about in central Berlin before finding their way to Zoologischer Garten. Luckily Tora offered to give me a lift and we went to get the car.
It was cool to walk around the dark streets of Prenzlauer Berg and visit an old Berliner building. Apparently all the buildings in the area are built by the same pattern. I imagine itís a bit like all those student houses in Coventry in Earlsdon which look exactly identical to each other. The ceilings are really high and on the street-side thereís a huge lobby. We went through tall doors with decorative windows and all the colours and shapes in the lobby were really pretty. Then typically comes Innenhof, a gap surrounded by walls of the house on every side. These Berlin houses are really tall so the lowest floors in this type of houses are very dark. The flats sometimes have windows only on the Innenhof-side so living in such a flat must be as depressing as November in Finland.The flats are also weird, can you imagine originally there was no shower. In Taroís flat the shower was randomly built later at the corner of the corridor next to the kitchen. Strange! And very picturesque, when exiting the building I spotted 2 holes made by a bullet in these decorative windows. So thatís what the ex-DDR houses are like.
I never can get used to the fact that Berlin was divided. We were driving along Gleimstrasse, where this house was located. The house was initially on the east-Berlin side and after driving under a bridge we were suddenly on the west-side of Berlin without even turning off the road.
Siegmundís Hof is random. I got back and couldnít get out of the lift as the door-way was taped up with cellotape. There was a piece of bread taped to my door as well without any sensible reason! This house is full of freaks but at least they are nice ones.
It was such a beautiful day today. We sat on the balcony in the sunshine. I made pancakes Finnish style, with strawberry jam and whipped cream on the top and we ate water melon. We dragged our dear sofa to the balcony and I, Philip(Poland), Afroditi(Greece) and Christian(Cameroon) squeezed on the sofa and started singing Beatles as loud as possible. Philip even had some notes with him so we could read the words even if we didnít know the melodies for all of them. Itís a strange feeling as all the people are leaving in a week or so and traveling back to their home countries. I might not see these people ever again. However, the moment at the balcony today was so gorgeous that any description doesnít make it justice.

On Saturday we had a big party in our floor to celebrate the end of exams. Indeed, the poor German students still have to take exams at the end of July! When getting ready for the party, we headed to Aldi, the cheapest shop around. The 5 of us carried a massive load of drink and food back to Siegmundís Hof. We suffered some losses though when we had a little break and I set my crate on the window sill for a bit. Of course it had to kip and consequently there was a bottle of wine on the ground. Laa-la-laa-la, it wasnít meÖ
Unfortunately that wasnít the end for my destruction derby. At the start of the party Enrico brought a football to our common room and showed us so cool tricks. I wanted to have a go as well and smashed the glass of boiling hot Raki Afroditi had just poured for me and hit the bowl of peanuts. So we had pretty Raki decorations on the wall and the ruins of the glass in the floor which was now covered with peanuts. Enrico thought Iím a walking disaster, which is not too far from the truth. So still surprised I wanted to take some salsa classes before dancing?! Just out of respect to my dance-partnerís feet.

Our halls are very international. In fact, I believe there is one single German person living in this house and there are 140 rooms. And thereíre no guarantees for the state of the mental health of this particular person. I found some real Berliners in the Bierkeller on the Saturday night and was absolutely excited. In the end, Iíve come to Berlin to see some German culture and practice the language etc. and I had met just 1 Berliner before. So I invited the real Berliners to our party.

The only German people I had met here before that were Warwick students. There are so many of us in Berlin now that thereís no need to found the debated Asian campus. We already have an exchange campus here.

The fact how small Berlin is kept amazing me throughout my stay. On one these boiling-hot days, I traveled to Schlachtensee for a swim. As soon as I got into water a friendly familiar face was greeting me. Filip, my neighbour was there as well.
Another day I was standing at the Leopoldplatz underground station eating cherries. In Berlin, and in Wedding in particular, there are lots of little stands where fresh fruit and vegetable are being sold. Standing at the station lost in thought I noticed someone had put his hand in my bag! It was the crazy Carlos trying to steal the cherries.
In the city of 4 million people you would think you never randomly bump into people you know. I love the fact that such a massive city can be so friendly and feel so small.

Katrin visited me in Berlin for a weekend. That was a nice weekend of sight-seeing and chilling. And partying of course. My British neighbour Nik and the Italian Alesso offered to take us out as they know the Berlin night clubs way better than me and Katrin. However we ended up in this dreadful club called Q-Dorf absolutely packed with wasted and sweaty people. The only way to handle this disaster was to drink some tequila. After that the bar seemed ok actually and we were dancing till 6 in the morning. We saw a pretty sunrise at the broken tower of Gedšchtniskirche as we walked back to Siegmunds Hof.

Xian, my Finnish-Chinese friend, came to visit me in Berlin as well. She is a hard-core tourist. We saw more castles than Iíve seen in the last 10 years altogether. And she even had energy to visit museums, which I didnít manage. We found a really nice Singapore restaurant after about an hourís search. This was thanks to Xianís obsession with Chanterelle-mushrooms(Chantharellus cibarius). It was Chanterelle season in Germany and these mushrooms have not only a beautiful taste but a distinctive pretty yellow color. We didnít find a restaurant with Chantarelle dishes so went to this Asian fusion restaurant in the end.

I visited Sachsenhausen concentration camp north from Berlin. Thatís a scary place and made me feel very anxious and uncomfortable. Itís unbelievable that these horrors took place only a few decades ago. Concentration camps are a proof of the stupidity of the mankind. No other animal species treats the individuals of their community with such cruelty and insanity. I was walking around the camp for 4 hours, listening from the audio guide to the stories of people who had survived it.

In my last week in Berlin I had to move out and I was living with Erika for a few days. That was really fun and we spent our days doing the internships and the nights going out. We saw all our dear friends in the last week: Mahmout, Warwick-people, Taro, who made sushi for us(yummy!) I was constantly so knackered that kept passing out at inappropriate times and situations. Me, Erika and Taro were trying to watch a film and I saw 5 minutes into it before nodding off. And it seemed like a good film.
I got into a habit of taking my pillow with me and sleeping on the underground on the way to work and when coming back at night.

I returned to Finland on Friday the 6th of August and after getting pick up by my brother and his BMW we headed straight to Joutsa to our holiday house. On the Saturday we traveled all the way to North Karelia to my cousinís wedding which was one of the best Iíve ever been to(this really telling something considering I have more than 20 cousins)
The groom is Austrian and half of his family was there as well. I think the Austrianís were both amazed and confused with some Finnish traditions such as rubber boot throwing competition accompanied by sahti, Finnish home-brewed beer kind of thing. There was karaoke as well, and a brilliant afterparty at the cabin where the Austrians stayed. My cousin Riikka had particularly said sheíd like to have SingStar Playstation2-game for wedding present and that was definitely a great choice. We were singing it in the afterparty so much that I could barely speak on the following day. The ďhighlightĒ of the day was probably when coming back from the church and getting on the car I heard a tiny ďcratcshĒ. I discovered it was my short dress breaking down and getting even shorter every time I moved! We had to drive to the centre of Joensuu to buy a needle and thread so I could sew my dress, otherwise the backside of it wouldíve been open all the way to my waist! No joke and not funny at the time!
Brand clothes are a hoax anyway. This dress was probably the first one Iíve ever bought in Benetton instead of H&M or similar. At least I save money and thoughts when I can keep buying cheap, cheerful and long-lasting clothes in my favourite Swedish cloth shop.
I didnít return to Helsinki until Wednesday and found my e-mail inbox full of Juliaís panicky letters trying to ask if Iím coming to pick her up on Friday. Poor Julia, I hadnít said Iím spending a few days out of civilization and without the Internet. I guess, the fact that I hadnít updated the blog for ages didnít helpÖ
Oh well, she got here in the end after two delays with terrible KLM flights and we visited Suomenlinna the see-fortress yesterday. It was a bit of an adventure because of the track-and-field World Championships which currently take place in Helsinki. Consequently all accommodation in Helsinki and the surrounding areas is fully booked. As a result I had 4 Austrians, my cousin Riikka and Julia all staying in our house at the same time. We had a struggle to find the ferry to Suomenlinna as the sport organizers had decided to put the marathon track in the middle of the centre and the marketplace and our multicultural Finnish-English-Austrian group was neatly stuck on the wrong side as the athletes ran by. Great! This is gonna make me hate sports even more!
We had a wet sauna as there was something wrong with the settings, went out and only returned after 2 oíclock.


- 2 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. Sigh . . . in Berlin, yet you didn't visit me? It's only a few hours' drive . . .

    I jest. I'm looking forward to seeing you when term starts, and I'm glad you seem to be having a great time.

    16 Aug 2005, 22:18

  2. Sauna is my new best friend :)

    09 Sep 2005, 13:32


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