Saturday, July 13, 2013

The same procedure as every year, James

James: The same procedure as last year, Miss Sophie?
Miss Sophie: The same procedure as every year, James!
„Dinner for One“ 

If you have been unfortunate enough not to have seen „Dinner for One“, I recommend investing 18 minutes into watching this wonderful West German movie from 1963 (dialogue is in beautiful British English, at least on Miss Sophie's part; drunken English is hardly beautiful, however, as I learnt in Bonn Hauptbahnhof just before midnight some time ago). In Estonia (and I believe the same applies to Germany), we watch the movie every year on New Year’s Eve. The same procedure as every year. 

Time for a German lesson:
Ich verstehe nur Bahnhof.

A very useful sentence for non-German speakers meaning „I only understand the word ’train station’“. My German teacher taught us this sentence a few years ago and regretted the decision bitterly, because for the next few months that was the only response she could get out of most of the class. Hauptbahnhof means central station, as announced in English in all buses and trains in any city big enough to have one. The female voice announcing this in Bonn sounds extremely creepy and thus, I like to pretend I speak no English whenever I take a bus downtown. 

Speaking German in Germany is amazing. Speaking German is pretty good most of the time and being in Germany as well, but the combination of those two is still by far the best. I am more likely to have problems with language in general than with German, last night, for example, I was offered a bottle of something instead of a glass of Sekt (German sparkling wine, a.k.a. what I think of when somebody orders sparkling on the plane) because I did not speak loudly enough; I also accidentally repeated the order of the wrong person. Now that would have been a surprise dinner. 

Not speaking loud enough is a problem for me here more often than in most other countries I guess, so a few weeks ago when I was spending my Sunday in the Wuppertal Zoo (which might well be the prettiest zoo in Europe as claimed), I met an older German couple while walking into the tapir house. The man opened the door for me and apparently did not hear my thanks, so he decided to give me a very quick but embarrasing lecture on manners by repeating what I should have said (and did!) very loudly. I learnt that day that it is important to speak up, especially when your audience might not have the best hearing anymore. For some reason, I managed to make many little mistakes making me feel I was the rudest person in town. Most of the time, this is actually not true, as Germans are not ridiculously polite. I personally think they have way too many rights. For example, differently from Boston where number 1 bus runs whenever it feels like it, German buses and trains are almost always punctual (the system has its downsides and last Sunday, for the first time in Germany, I missed my train by 3 metres and 15 seconds; the same they I also encountered a bus nearly ten minutes late on my way back to Siegen). Also, all state transport is free for the student population. 

Now I finally get back to the reason I quoted the wonderful sketch in the first place. Namely, I have been meaning to blog forever. I have even figured out what I want to say, word to word. The problem here lies in the fact that now writing all this stuff down is not going to be particularly exciting for me anymore. Also, I have almost a month to catch up on and a lot has happened. As accomplishing everything is not available, the perfect perfectionist in me chooses nothing. The same procedure as every year, James.

However, I do currently have over 30 minutes before the news and an episode of "Hercule Poirot" afterwards (another movie/TV show suggestion). Also, I am sick, in pain and drinking my second cup of tea in a third set of three cups today. I am very unhappy. The otherwise wonderful German summer has its downsides as well. The weather is devilishly sneaky. Looks sunny, but the occasional wind is cold … I strongly believe summer is made for wearing T-shirts and I insist on executing that policy. I don’t even have a jacket here, I think the last few weeks in Cambridge made me forget what summer actually is. Speaking of the weater of Cambridge, though, my mentor who had a conference in Cambridge, UK last week told me how the trains over there warn against unexpectedly hot weather, advising to bring a water bottle with. Apparently, it was 22°C. Anyway, I have a caught a cold and am currently running a biological experiment on how long can a person go without swallowing. 

Apparently at least one of my hypotheses is true and I only blog when things are bad and I need to complain. Apart from the cold, though, I am very happy in Germany. I only have two weeks of work left and I cannot tell you how sad this makes me. After that I will head north to Bremen, Hamburg and Lübeck where I will meet my family and take the ferry from Lübeck to Ventspils, one of my favourite towns in the world (and in Latvia). I cannot wait for the luxury of the Baltics where people can jump into any body of water to go swimming. The concept of public pools does not exist. But of course, the Baltic Sea is still the best. 
Some of the highlights:

- Do you have any dance theatre shows tonight?
- No, unfortunately not.
- But what do you have then?
- „Don Quixote“, an opera.
- Oh, one student ticket for that then. 

And that’s how I ended up watching an opera in French in Wuppertal. Does anybody know what’s the rule about pronouncing the stuff at the end of the word that is usually not pronounced in French in operas/other music/poems? 

After spending the day in the zoo, watching pretty little green tree python babies, I had an interesting conversation in the ladies’ room with a five-year-old girl. 

- Is there a snake here?
- Yes. 

The snake, of course, refers to the queue. 

I am now getting too tired to write. I can proudly say, though, that in my 6 weeks here I have finished four books, one of them in German. Reading is great (and I do not mean the town/football club, mainly just because I’ve never been there). I am also out of tea. And Andy Murray won Wimbledon! 77 years of waiting has finally paid off. If I don't blog again until the end of August, blame the tennis Grand Slam tournaments' schedule. 

Instructions on how to wash hands. This is not the reason I'm sick. 
The first finding site of Homo sapiens neanderthalensis. And I don't just mean that they're dead and gone to heaven, Gernabs are good miners.
Düsseldorf in progress.
I also went to see a play in Düsseldorf.
All directions. Finding the way in Aachen is so easy. 

The first time I have taken a train where there were people to manually close the door, wooden benches and somebody shouting the next stop. 

A festival in Zollverein
Kaks means two in Estonian
A game of chess/where kids go swimming in Germany.

Freudenberg old town

I went to three towns in one weekend. Essen, Wissen and Siegen (which translate as eating, knowing and winning - sort of like Veni, vidi, vici). I had just thought that I had never exited Nordrhein-Westfalen while in Germany this time. Then I found myself in Wissen, which, to my great surprise, I discovered is in Rheinland-Pfalz. Oops. (My bus/train ticket is not supposed to be valid out-of-state).

I am too sick to write the things I should write about. However, I have given my best to keep Laura happy. Although after the last announcement it seems she's perfectly capable of that herself.

PS. I had always thought that tohuvabohu was actually an Estonian word through and through. Apparently, it is der Tohuwabohu in German (the dictionary translates it as hullabaloo, ruckus or tohobohu. I now have no doubts about the origin of the last one).

edit: I still had no clue until Noah pointed this out to me: the Wikipedia article; apparently the word is of Hebrew origin. Both German and Estonian are, however, mentioned in the article. Wikipedia is amazing. 


  1. Feel better soon Lotta!
    Please continue eating, knowing, and winning.
    With regard to French word endings in opera, my observations indicate that you start pronouncing extra stuff wherever an extra syllable or rhyme is needed... hrmmm

    Anyway, all your great pictures make up for the lack of any extra paragraphs :D

  2. "I cannot wait for the luxury of the Baltics where people can jump into any body of water to go swimming."

    Stop making me super jealous!! Here I cannot find a swimmable lake within a hundred kilometer radius!! That was a very enjoyable blog, I am glad you are having so much fun going to plays and Operas and having plenty of time to discover different cities. Oh, and reading is awesome! Were those books in German? :D Also, get better!!

  3. Thanks, Erin! That's actually the same observation I made. I was still confused, though, why did they translate vous from French to 2nd person plural, while it was mostly referring to one person (the polite form), but that's perhaps a German issue.

    One out of the four was in German, I'm currently reading a new German book, which I bought yesterday at the train station. Also, Sasha, that only proves that you should come to Estonia and we could all go swimming together with my dog (when he was a "kid", he was afraid of water, now whenever he sees water he sprints). The 100 km radius is true here as well.

  4. ahhh I remember that movie from high school German. so glad you're having fun. :D