Thursday, December 30, 2010

End of 2010

End of 2010

Yesterday afternoon I travelled to Eberswalde Strasse in Prenzlauer Berg. It is a 'trendy' area in the north of Berlin in what was the east part of the city. There I met Petra and Klaus. They are both from one of my most successful classes at the Institute in 2004.

I helped both to pass an exam and get new jobs. Two of the others in the group found work in England. One is an architect in London. The other is a dentist in a practice in Eastbourne on the south-east coast.

Klaus went to Shanghai to help with the development of wind power turbines. He visits Germany at least once a year to see his children/grandchildren. Petra keeps tracks of each/all in the group, and so organised a meeting yesterday when Klaus was in town.

We had a really nice time and Klaus only wanted to speak English with me/us. His English has certainly improved as a result of using the language each day with Chinese co-workers.

We agreed to meet in early June 2011, when he is in Berlin again to celebrate his 57th birthday. I look forward to another meeting of a remarkable 'gang'.

From this meeting, I weathered the weather, and the problems of the S-Bahn system, and finally arrived in Ahrensfelde. It is the last stop on the S-Bahn in the north east of the city. I used to live one stop south.

I went to see Herr und Frau Fox. She is my German teacher. I think I posted about this in May this year....didn't I? They invited me an evening with them. We talked ...and ate..... and talked. I had a really nice time - without grammar books!

Getting home was a nightmare for the system is not reliable at the moment and I had to wait for nearly 40 minutes to get a train. Normally I have to wait 10 minutes! Even so, I really had a memorable evening and one I shall remember for a long time.

Tomorrow I am going to Terasa's flat to eat and drink - again! Just catching up with news for she was recently in the USA to see family and friends. She had also decided to cook. That can only be a bonus! Not a bad way to end one year and start another.

Whatever you are doing and wherever you are......have a great time and Happy New Year !

Deep Snow

Very deep snow

I have never seen so much snow in Berlin during December. The Profi-Forecasters say there will be much more in a long and hard winter. Some pundits on the radio put it all down to a weakening of the Gulf Stream as a result of Global Warming.

They reason that the Gulf Stream is not carrying the warm water/weather to the west of Europe to counter the winter blasts coming down from the north pole, over Scandinavia, and the western parts of Russia.

I would love to travel around Russia, and see cities like Moscow and Leningrad/St. Petersburg - but not in the middle of winter. Mid-summer sounds like a better idea! I wonder if they would accept me as a tourist given that I do not like vodka?!

I took some photos to show you what it is like at the moment. Last night we had -17°C in my part of Berlin. Fortunately my heating system is working okay. I also bought a new thick woolly hat,  and gloves, yesterday. I look like 'A Thing' peering out through glasses, but they are just  right for this weather.

Two days ago I visited Mathias and Sylvana. It is one street behind the one where Jan's mother lives. I took a photo to prove I was there. Actually, that was not the reason. I just wanted to have other photos of this winter in Berlin.

I had a great time seeing them and I got a present of a ticket to a concert in February. Beethoven and Bruckner are on the programme. Two of my favourite composers. They will also be with me in the concert. Thanks both and good luck Mathias on the 7th January. I shall keep my fingers crossed!

Post Christmas

P(r)ost Christmas!

 On Monday 27 December. I got my missing post. Most were from the UK and one was from the USA. The delay must have been due to the bad weather. Not to worry, better late than never!

I enjoyed reading them. Nice to get your news Shirley, Pauline, Jefferson and Leanne.

Jan came to visit on the 26th. The Brits call it Boxing Day. I needed his Dipl.-Ingenieur-MSc.  brain, and muscle, to get my TV off the wall.

He also took off the top of my writing desk in 3 seconds. I had spent an hour looking at the instructions and trying to work it all out. Oh, to be a Dipl.-Ingenieur-MSc.!

I also re-organised my bedroom, by moving furniture around, and started the process of throwing things away that were too small, old, or had not been used in the last 12 months.

You feel wonderful after. I started earlier than usual, but plan to finish the sorting and throwing out next

Here is a photo of the new/late cards, the bedroom in the first phase of sorting out, and the holes in the wall after taking down the TV.

 I need it lower - for my neck/eyes.

 I wonder why we put it so high? Must have seemed like a good idea at the time!

One of my students is a Dr.-Ingenieur (Rtd.) so when he comes for a lesson I shall get his profi advice about the best way/material to fill up the holes. Perhaps he'll do it for me. An even better idea!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Presents

Christmas Presents

I am always delighted to get Christmas cards from family and friends. I am extra pleased to receive Christmas presents. I had less cards than in the last few years but at least as many presents as in the last two or three years. I wonder how one can interpret that?

I am not a Twitter or Facebook person, I prefer to talk to people, so that my explain the drop in cards. Or maybe some people have forgotten how to write! No matter for I was pleased to see the collection grow on my cabinet.

Today I took some photos, then of the presents and noted the interesting breakdown. I think this must reflect how my friends see me = bottles of whiskey (thanks liebe Andres!) red wine, sherry and sekt, followed by chocolate/sweets and two things to read.

One is a calender of the most stupid quotes which reflects my interest in the English language and one (thanks Mathias and Sylvana also for the concert ticket) with the interesting question, "Where do nudists keep their hankies?". I asked Marga this afternoon and she said. "In their mouths!". Not many other options are there!! Any other ideas?

I took a photo of the area in front of my flat and one of the garden at the back around 11.00 am so you could see that we really do have snow here. Earlier I got a call from the Batesons of Cas. Great to hear from them.

I was also able to talk to Daniel, who is over from Australia, and his sister Lee, who was staying in the family house with her daughters.

I shall be helping Lee to get round Berlin in May when she arrives to play in some concerts with her group. More of this later in the year.

A very nice day indeed. In twenty minutes I have guests arriving. I updated this blog as I waited for them but now I must sign off. There was a change of plan and they are coming to see me. Enjoy the rest of the day.

Christmas Dinner

Christmas Dinner

And so after a rest from the splendid breakfast at Gerald and Jütta's, I braved the snow and -6°C weather and finally got to my station and was pleasantly surprised to see that the regional train arrived on time.

I wondered if this was a gift from Santa Claus for we have had irregular services for the last two weeks which is, by coincidence, when we started to get the heavy snow falls. While on this subject, I have never experienced so much snow and minus temperatures in December in Berlin as this year. The locals I talk too tell me the same.

I duly arrived at Marga's very tastefully furnished flat in Charlottenberg to be met by her usual warm welcome. Like me she is an atheist and has no good memories of 'family and Christmas'. We celebrate mid-winter just as Europeans did before the arrival of Christianity and the takeover of the mid-winter festival. This has now been honed to a speciality of consumption aided by the 'marketing boys' of large companies.

Like me, she spent the happiest years of her life not living in Europe, so she likes to cook different kinds of regional foods. She specialises in Thai food. Mmmm, delicious but we didn't have that this year. We started the evening with a glass of chilled Champers, then another one as we relaxed and caught up on our news.

I took a few photos mainly for liebe Andrea for I always think of her comment that when she reads my blog I am usually eating or drinking....or both! So, just for you liebe Andrea here are a few photos of me with food and drink and my very charming hostess, Marga.  She had even got mince pies, made in  England, for desert. Amazing!

I nearly forgot: For my non-German readers, the 24th December is the traditional day for family, giving and receiving presents, and eating a meal in the evening. In the UK this is on the 25th December.

Christmas breakfast

Christmas Breakfast

Yesterday I went to Gerald and Jütta's for a relaxing Christmas breakfast. Among their circle of friends they are now famous for their breakfasts. Not piles of food but an interesting range of choices. Three other friends were also there.

Lots of jokes, smiles and anecdotes in addition to good food. Yes, food again! We caught up on what each had been doing since our last breakfast in late summer, and of course we talked about plans for the future.

We all exchanged presents. and they asked me to open one of mine. They wanted to see my reaction. Jütta caught it very well on camera, as you can see on the following photos.

What is it? A Christmas Toilet Roll!!  Well, what else do we need with all the eating and drinking that takes place. When I posed with it on my head Gerald reminded me, with a big smile, that I should use it on the other end of the body! Na klar :-)

I then came home to relax before going to Marga's drink and meal!!

Eating Drinking

Eating and Drinking

Actually this post should be called ' OVER Eating 'n Drinking' for that seems to be the main activity at Christmas.

I got a link to some photos a couple of days ago and selected the following to warn us about OVER eating and drinking.

I should have posted them before Christmas as a timely warning NOT to over eat and drink. But I didn't have time for I had to go out to buy some food and drink.

Then I went to visit friends and ........ drink :-))) 

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Andrea Flat

Andrea's new flat

Last Sunday afternoon I braved the minus 11°C temperature, snow and wind, and struggling public transport system. I overcame all and so finally arrived at Andrea's new flat. I rang the bell, climbed up four flights of steps and ran the bell.

A nice big warm hug and a kiss greeted me. Her flat was also warm and welcoming. I liked it immediately and told her I could happily live there. She just smiled! We sipped warm 'Chai' and nibbled slices of Stollen. It is the German answer to English Christmas Cake.

We quickly toured the flat and I took some photographs. No surprise there! But, the one in the bedroom failed because of empty batteries so I only have ones of the kitchen and living room. I was surprised by how quickly she had organised everything following the move and the range of furniture she had.

Remember that she did all this while doing the finals for her B.A., getting work experience at the Parliament in Budapest and starting a new job with the government at the start of December. Phew - what a list and then finding the flat and organising the move. Wonder if there is a gold medal for doing such things?

We chatted about all kinds of things as we later drank a glass of sekt - or three! I really enjoyed my visit and it was well worth braving the bad weather to get there.  Many thanks liebe Andrea!

Goodbye Gabi

Goodbye Gabrielle,

Last Thursday was my final lessen with Gabi and her gang. They are all low level learners and she was a real example to all. She came every day to the institute and listened and learnt in the listening rooms and came to every lesson.

I shared this group with another teacher and had them only each Wednesday. She was the only German in the group. The others came from Turkey, Poland, Macedonia and Czech Republic.

They took their course exam yesterday. Gabi motivated the others and helped the weaker. What a pity I don't have a Gabi in each class! I bought her a little bottle of sekt as a thank you.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas things

Christmas Dinner
 It's -11°C on my balcony at the moment. Here it is relatively warm for in other parts of Berlin it is now -16°C. I have never associated snow with Christmas. I can only remember a few white Christmases. It was usually gray, raining and cold.

Last Friday I walked through a snow storm to my first Christmas Dinner. It was at my favourite Oldie centre. Most of my Photoshop Gang were already there. We had one of the traditional meals of goose (leg), red cabbage cooked with spices and apple, and cooked potato dumpling.

This is called der Kartoffelkloß in north Germany and der Kartoffelknödel in the south and Austria. I was given a glass of dry red wine to drink with it and told it is not eaten with white wine, but you can eat it with a glass of beer. The things you learn here!

I quickly relaxed into the pleasant and happy atmosphere around the table and later sipped coffee, with homemade biscuits, as I waited for our final lesson of the year. Stefan had prepared a number of background images and some from which we could cut out figures.

I ended up with Helga and Mrs Schröder taking photographs in a fantasy world. You can see the result for yourself. As Stefan and I waited for our U-Bahn, we talked about working on the image further. For example, using a special tool to turn and twist both the statue and the photographer. Perhaps I'll find time over Christmas if I am snowed in!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

New Car

New Car?

'Hello John, gotta new mo'a, 'ave yer?' To be said in a south London or Brighton accent!

Many years ago when at uni near Brighton there was a popular song by Ian Drury and The Blockheads (I think that was the name of the band) with those words, so I was reminded of them on Friday in the Photoshop session.

We had a photo of Marcus' (Stefan's assistant) family car and we had to put part of a photo of me, taken at the famous Schröder Garden Party, into the driving seat. I had to sit behind the window with its natural reflection. How did I do it Jan?  

Actually I made a mess of the transfer three times and Stefan had to help. We are going to repeat it next week, for I was not the only one with problems.

Next Friday is the last lesson this year. Before the lesson I shall start with a nice traditional Christmas meal. I'll take a photo for I am sure Fran and Barbara are interested to see what appears on the plate!

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Early visit

Early Christmas visit

I posted earlier that Jan and Arancha were coming to visit me yesterday. He told me for 'Kaffee und Kuchen' which in Germany means about 3:30 or 4:00 pm. I bought lots of cakes and set the table, and waited.....and waited.....and waited.

Then I got a call to say they were going to a Christmas Market in the centre. Okay, so I played around on the computer and even updated this blog. Then I waited again. While waiting I opened a bottle of red wine and realised I was losing my taste. It was the first in two months. I really losing my taste for wine? Perhaps I have a taste for more expensive wines!

And finally they arrived. But without liebe Andrea.......but with liebe Mutti! Eleonora was playing the role of driver. It was our first meeting in years and the first time she had been in my flat. She approached rather hesitantly but I greeted her warmly and she relaxed.

We caught up on news over food and drinks and it was a very pleasant time. Jan and Arancha looked very well and healthy. Oh, to be 26 and 27 again! We talked about lots of things and towards the end I asked Arancha for help with the old laptop.

It is the ex-Jan,Daniel,Micha plus countless students learning laptop. I had returned it to Windows XP after a period of learning Ubuntu, but had a problem to get it onto my WLAN. It only took Arancha a short time to realise I needed to download a driver. That was all! Nice to be a computer expert like her!

Here are a few photos I took. I think they show how well and happy they were. Jan is coming back to Berlin for Christmas and I have booked him to help me with a few things I need to change in my flat. Well, he is a qualified and experienced Baumeister!

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Grilled Heads

Grilled Heads

It is really cold here. Now -6°C and lots of snow. It was worse yesterday and the public transport system almost stopped working. It took me twice as long to get to my Photoshop course. Helga celebrated her birthday. She made a pasta dish so it was nice to be greeted with a plate of hot food when I finally arrived.

We chatted away and then Stefan showed us a picture he had created and he wanted us to do the same next week, but with additions. It is the grill at Family Schröder's garden house where we met up at the end of summer. If you look closely you can see what is being grilled :-))

Stefan had updated the computers to the latest version of Google earth with the street view version. We had to learn how to use it and find different things including where we lived, and/or where we used to live. I tried Hapur at first but street view is not yet there.

I quickly found where I live then I drove along the streets and looked at Marita's nice house before landing in the street where I used to live. I took an image shot and reduced it for this page. It hasn't changed much since I left, but I noticed all the images of the suburb where I live were taken last summer. Everything looks nice in summer in Berlin - even me!
        ----------------  II  ----------------

I'm waiting for Jan, Arancha and Andrea to arrive. They are now at a Christmas Market in the centre and will call in to de-freeze in an hour or so. Decided to update my blog while waiting for them and also to listen to the debate between Christopher Hitchens and Tony Blair about ' Is religion a power for good - or not?'. It took place in Toronto last weekend and was covered a lot in the press. I want to hear it for myself.

The audience voted 2:1 that religion is not a force for good. What a clever audience! Anyone he knows anything about human history knows the appalling catalogue of horrors inflicted in the name of religion. I support the proposal that all religious people should go to a large island and kill each other and so leave the rest of us  finally in peace. I'll drink to that!

Monday, November 29, 2010

December 2010

December and things

Nearly into the last month of this year. It is now really cold in Berlin and forecast to reach -7°C on Wednesday. Brrrrrr! Just think of warm summer days, John. Okay, I will!

November was generally a good month for me. I made some important changes at the start of the month and can look back and say I made the right decision(s). My left leg got worse over the month and I may have to consult my quack sometime over winter. I have put it off so far for I think he might send me back to hospital for checkups.

Andrea got back to Berlin last weekend after an interesting work experience period in Budapest. As well as  learning the work of Parliament, she spent some time with senior politicians including talks and dinner with the Hungarian President. Wow, Andrea but there is nothing so grand waiting for you in Berlin.

She sent regular reports to friends and photos but she embedded all in PDF format. I couldn't access them to get at her photos and post them to this blog. At least I saw them and can confirm that they showed her having a very interesting time. I want to take her out for a welcome back meal when she has time. Soon I hope. As you can see above, I have my knife and fork at the ready!!

It snowed here a couple of days ago. I took a photo from my balcony of the big tree in my back garden. I rather like it and the contrast of colours from my surviving flowers on my balcony. Forecasters say we are going to have a cold and long winter, on a level with last winter. Any of you thinking of visiting should wait until Spring. Berlin looks at its best then.

Who has a birthday in December?  Micheal N. hits 47 on 5 December here in Berlin, Stefan our Photoshop Guru will be 50 on 7 December. My brother-in-law Geoff has his birthday on the 13th. Jordis celebrates her 31st with Mathias on the 19th. Julie B celebrates 36 with her family in Yorkshire on the 20th. Ian the Banker ends the month with his 49th on the 30th of December. Happy birthday to each and all!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Fontane Correction

Fontane Correction

On 20 November in the heading 'Kirchhofstahnsdorf' (see below) I wrote that Fontane was one of the famous people buried there.

Stefan of Computer and Photoshop fame, and who is the only follower of my blog (Thanks Stefan:-)) sent me a correction in the 'Comment' section which you can find under each post I write. I have left it open so anyone can write a comment. Try it!

Stefan quite rightly said that THE Theodor Fontane from Neuruppin is not buried there. Here are his words. " Theodor Fontane liegt in Friedhof II der Französisch-Reformierten Gemeinde in der Liesenstraße in Berlin Mitte."  Correct!

So who is the Fontane in Kirchhofstahnsdorf? It is his second son also called Theodor Fontane. His claim to fame is that he collected, published and promoted his father's works.

 In case you read this and are not German, Theodor Fontane is a very famous writer, particularly for his collections in which he recorded his travels through and around Mark Brandenburg.

Here is a photo of me at the memorial to 'Papa' Fontane near the centre of Neuruppin.

Mauer Walk

Sunday Mauer Walk

 So what did you do yesterday?

Yesterday I joined a gang of Oldies at S-Bahn Lichterfelde Süd to a walk along part of the Mauer/Berlin Wall that ran from there to S-Bahn Wannsee.

This was planned about a week ago and the weather forecast was for a fine day with mist in the morning leading to sun and blue sky in the afternoon. And so it was.

I  think that was the reason why so many Oldies moved themselves and got onto the public transport system to arrive at the meeting point for 10:30.

 I have never seem so many in a group - even more than Frau Backmann's trip to Rostock last summer. A gentleman called Wolfgang introduced himself and said he would be leading the group that day.

I liked his next comment of, 'We are not here to race along but walk and enjoy the views. There will be two coffee breaks and a room has been booked in a restaurant at the end.' Now that is what I call organisation and just the right approach. I smiled!

I took a number of photos as we walked along the Treptow Canal and I really liked one of the mist hanging over the water and a branch in the foreground with drops of water collected from the mist. I also took one of the sun starting to shine through the trees as noon approached and the mist cleared.

The group stopped at a memorial for the second coffee break. I also took a photo. The rusty metal one is to four young men who were shot trying to cross to the west. The stone one was added later to remember all those who died trying to cross from east to west. If you walk along the 'Mauer Weg', which is signposted, you will see a number of such memorials.

Just before our final stop we crossed the main Berliner Ring Autobahn and I took a photo of a Cafe/Restaurant/Filling Station with a large parking area at the side. This was the border crossing before 1990.

The travellers from the West had to stop here for checks by the DDR Customs and Police. It all seemed like a distant world to me but for most of the Oldies it was something they had experienced and was a real part of their lives.

And so to the restaurant newly opened at S-Bahn Wannsee. It is run by a Russian family and we found the service and food to be excellent. I can certainly recommend a stop there to anyone travelling in the area.

 The day ended as the sun went down. We all slowly moved to our different trains to take us to our homes in different parts of the city.