Friday, 30 June 2006

First Look At Poland

Now we've caught (ish) up on the back log of posts (below) and we have access to the outside world with broadband internet at our new place of dossing (Villa Ada in Oliwa- most excellent), some initial impressions and stuff:

Left Hamburg Sunday, 25th June and drove via Berlin onto Oliwa, our next destination in Poland.

Oliwa is located equidistantly between Gdansk, Gdynia and Sopot (Sopot as most of you will know is twinned with Sarfend, Essex and was on the list of places to visit “just because”).

The trip was about 1000 km which we broke up by staying overnight in Ryman, not only to take a break and grab some food, but also to watch the England game against Ecuador. Why did we bother? Whilst the team is making progress it’s as painful as putting chilli in your eye and just as much fun to watch. Still, you’ll probably jam your way into the semis and then who knows? It’s about time you had another song as the last one’s getting a bit thread bare…

The motel we stayed at was good value (about thirty quid for a 3 star) and the food was cheap but watch out for the final bill. Everything you ask for is charged, even the garnish I suspect, and the meat/fish is priced by weight so it does add up. It even costs extra to heat the veggies; luke warm at best but this is Poland, right?

The final 350 km we cleared off the next morning but the motorway we thought would be plain sailing was a different kettle of fish. At best we had two lanes on smooth tarmac but on the whole it was single track (with overtaking at your peril) and the terrain was akin to me the morning after a night on the Vodka- rough is just the start of it. It took us almost as long to drive the 350 km across Poland as it did from Hamburg to our first stop (~650 km) but then again we had Deutshe Autobahns and cruising at 200 kph really does rack up the mileage!

However, first look at Poland is good and we’re very much looking forward to our stay here, with fuller reports to come.

Stay tuned folks.

Thursday, 29 June 2006

Auf Wiedersehen, Deutschland

So, not good bye but most definitely “until we meet again”.

We left the UK on 1st April 2006 for Germany and now we leave Germany on 25th June 2006 for Poland, the next leg of our jaunt. That makes it a little under three months (86 days to be precise) in this wonderful country which is in fact quite similar to England after all. Even though we play better football.

We’ve met lots of lovely people, seen some fascinating sights and had such a marvellous time that it has been a major feat for wifey to get me away from here. Without question, when we decide to stop travelling this is the country (so far!) that I’ll feel comfortable to move to permanently.

Good people, better weather, great food/drink (and they sure have made inroads into vegetarian cuisine in the last decade or so) and of course lots of tolerance, which through our various ramblings you may now begin to see.

However, my most lasting memory will be the generosity of our family and friends who have looked after us so well and guaranteed that we had such a brilliant time. So thank you all, to my aunts (and uncle) in Bielefeld and Berlin, to my cousins (and their husbands) in Berlin and especially to our dear friends in Hamburg- you have truly demonstrated the true spirit of the Deutscher Volk and we shall never forget it.

Until the next time, “Moin” Germany, it’s been a blast.

Hamburg Sights

On the left we have Hamburg's famous "Water Carrier"

and above we have Poppenbuttel's not so famous (but which we really liked) walrus. It's actually a fountain and it spits out water as you go past. Neat, eh?

After The Game

We had just beaten Ecuador 3-0 and the fans kept streaming down towards the Reeperbahn.

We got their first and watched all the celebrations. :-)

Wednesday, 28 June 2006

Shaken, Not Stirred...

The names's Bond, James Bond.

Dan, dan, dan, dan, dan danner, etc, etc, fade to finish...

The Closest I Got

To seeing St Pauli. Arse.

Heiligengeistfeld BIG Screen

The cameras picked us out of the crowd too.


The World Cup in Hamburg

I’ve deliberately not posted on this subject this far as I wanted to

(a) See how the German National Team were playing
(b) Experience the atmosphere first hand
(c) Get some photographs

Having now achieved the above points I can report that it has been by far the most exciting occurrence I have witnessed thus far on our travels.

(a) The Germans, whilst having a young and relatively inexperienced team have played extremely well getting stronger as the games have progressed. They have a dodgy defence and I’m not Lehman’s greatest fan (dirty Gooner) but they are playing exciting football, have scored goals (lots) and best of all we’ve managed to avoid England in the next round. Also, I am very happy for Jurgen, our German, who took a right pasting in the press “for his new training and tactical ideas” (take not Erikson, it’s good to bring something new into a team), as an ex Spurs player, it’s always grand to see a local lad done good!

Anyway, I am extremely happy about avoiding the Old Enemy (exactly how many “enemies” do England need by the way? Germany, Argentina, France, Scotland; the list is endless. Is there anyone you actually enjoy playing against?) Had we met England they would have done for us as that game would have been their “Cup Final”. By the law of averages alone they would have won and who knows, maybe even on penalties…? However, we’ve both managed to get past the first knockout stages without too much difficulty (although having scored three against Ecuador and you only managing one, we are obviously three times better…) and best of all we’ve been part of it at Hamburg’s “Heiligengeistfeld”, which leads me onto…

(b) Heiligengeistfeld is situated in St Pauli (where else?) and is 80 000 square metres in size, which is about the area of eleven football pitches. It actually means “Field of the Holy Ghost” and was once part of a hospital grounds (in 1264) before becoming a spot for all manner of entertainment spectacles, including a free, noon to midnight football fest for the WM 2006.

We went there to watch the all important (to me!) Germany versus Ecuador match, where the winner of the game would win the group and thereby avoid meeting England in the next round. Drawing for the Germans would not be enough as we had a poorer goal difference so we had to win and it seems the game was a tad popular, as thousands of fans flocked to the arena.

Safe capacity for the ground, was 50 000 fans and we found out later that over 65 000 had turned up, with people queuing to get in as we were leaving. It was mobbed but despite all of this no sign of any aggro and everyone was having a ball.

OK, so winning 3-0 helped and as both sides went through to the next round everyone was extremely happy, but I have to say I have not witnessed any violence (apart from wifey getting a bit stressed at waiting to get served…) in the slightest. Quite a lot of English fans were here too (they were showing the England v Sweden game afterwards) and they were very much into the spirit of the atmosphere.

Not only that, but all food and drinks were being sold at reasonable prices - with a pint of good quality (and not watered down) beer at £2.50 a pint- try getting that at Wembley. Oh no, you can’t- it’s not been built yet.

So there we have it, we’ve been in Germany for the biggest World Cup ever, and we’ve had so much fun and enjoyment from not just the football but also the fans, the atmosphere and even the weather.

(c) To follow…

Top Brass

Widely accepted as a fair and reasonable form of earning money in Germany, prostitution is famously found in Hamburg’s “Reeperbahn”**.

However, the Reeperbahn is not just famous for its liberal attitude to sex; it’s simply an amazing place to hang out for a night on the town. Pubs, clubs, bars, restaurants- they’re all here by the bucket full and they’re swinging right round the clock.

Bratwurst at 1.00 am? Would Sir like mustard with that?
Beer from a glass bottle (and not some plastic container as if you’re some kind of child)? No problem.
Coffee and croissant in a club at 3.30 am? Here’s the real deal (not instant) and you don’t have to mortgage the house to pay.
Need to get home in the early hours of the morning? Well, just get on the bus Gus, or the tube. Or the “S” Bahn. As mentioned previously, they run all night (although be careful, your one day ticket is only valid until 6.00 am following day of purchase... Oh, of course; you’re not used to that are you- it’s midnight in Blighty so the Government knows you’re all in bed safe and sound….)

But for the fascinated tourist who is unused to open-minded, free-thinking and indeed a laissez-faire attitude towards adult entertainment, it’s the ladies of the night that really liven the place up. So a brief history lesson of the Reeperbahn then:

Prostitution was made legal in St Pauli (the area of Hamburg containing the Reeperbahn and where I nearly saw the football) in 1428 to primarily help the town swell its coffers.

However, in 1732 it decided it was not a good idea and prostitution was again outlawed. Bummer.

But then again in 1847 it was decided it was a good idea after all (hoorah) and Hamburg passed a law to ensure brothels were responsible for the safe upkeep of their prostitutes. Around this time, Hamburg had 20 brothels and about 150 registered prostitutes.

Even the Nazis continued to allow the practice and to prevent the innocent passers-by from being shocked, screens were erected in the infamous Herbertstrasse** which still stand today.

In fact, our guides for the night (thanks to both V & H) took me up this tiny street, past the screens (strictly over 18s only and no girlies allowed) and I was able to observe the goings on first hand- all in the quest for accurate reporting to you, Dear Reader.

Blimey- there were some right fit burds on show, behind full length glass windows and as soon as you walked passed, they opened the windows and offered themselves to “Big Boy”. Hhhhmmm, just how did they know?

Not one minger amongst them, unlike some I’d seen around on the open streets. Anyhoo, it was merely window shopping (sic) and so no further details to report and you’ll just have to use your imaginations.

However, a few notes on the etiquette if you desire to enjoy the Reeperbahn to the max:

Politeness, respect and hygiene open all doors
Alcohol represses not only inhibitions but also performance- less is more
Prior arrangements and prices are binding
No means no if certain practices are undesired
If you suspect violence or coercion, don’t get involved see the “Koofra” or “Freiersein”
There is no money back guarantee if you are unsatisfied
Cash only- no credit cards
Always use a condom

Cheers to the “Fanguide Hamburg”, produced by the fans of St Pauli and HSV {Hamburger Sportverein} who didn’t beat the tar out of each other during the making of this invaluable, entertaining and thoroughly useful guide to the WM and Hamburg city for the above rules and regs.

** See picture below

Ladies Not Allowed

See Reeperbahn post above.

Links Oder Rechts?

Here's where the fun starts...

Teeth Whitening Toothpaste

Lying bastards.


Here’s something to chew on. Banks cannot process cheques or transfers over weekends and quote “working days”. So they can hang onto our money.

Since when have computers ever had weekends off?

If that is not bad enough, how come we don’t get our mortgage interest charged to us for a five day week then?

And what is this shite “for your security you may only withdraw £XXX from our cash point”? Excuse me, if I’m lucky to have more than that in my account I want to decide for myself exactly how much wedge I want to draw.

They can’t have it both ways. Oh, but they do…

Tuesday, 27 June 2006

Poland, The Next Phase

We've landed and it looks brill. We've loads of posts/pictures to upload but we haven't got proper access to the internet as yet so this is a brief message to reassure all our loyal readers that our heroes are safe and sound in the land of the Poles.

Loads more to follow, once we get understood. :-D

Friday, 16 June 2006

Hamburg's Rathaus

I had to wear jeans in case Klinsmann thought I was part of his squad.

Loads of people wanted my autograph...

In Memory Of...

A reminder that both sides lost many brave people.

Thursday, 15 June 2006

Language Please!

The overwhelming impression I take from Germany is the enduring similarity. We share the same climate, culture, customs and of course a love of beer. The major difference being the language. How on earth do you play Scrabble in a country where the average word has 20 characters?

There are of course exceptions. Some words are indeed very familiar. Especially if you are a Geordie, albeit a plastic one.

For example, Junge (pronounced Yunge) in Deutsch is boy and Young'n in Durham is brother or sibling.

Knacker in Deutsch is Euro 1.20 as illustrated above and Kunst is Art!

This can result in unfortunate complications when having a converstion with the locals after a few beers when you automatically lapse into the language of your birthplace.

Word of the week - Kunterbunte which actually means higgedly-piggedly or hotchpotch.

Love to all. Terri.

Hamburg, A Fine City

Speeding on the road will incur a huge on-the-spot fine

Getting caught dodging fares and it’s a 40 Euro fine.

Fall asleep in the park on the bench or on the grass after 10.00 pm? Upwards of a 40 Euro fine for illegal camping!

Pissing in the street? 20 Euros please.

Crossing the road on a red pedestrian light? That’ll be 5 Euro.

Ah yes, Hamburg. A Fine city indeed…

PS: Had we been busted we reckon we’ve accumulated at least 395 Euros in fines and I’ve only pissed behind the trees/bushes 7 times…

My Mate, Tony BLiar

Every Christmas, Birthday, Wedding and Bar mitzvah, our “Government” decides to target the heinous criminal, the Drink Driver.

OK, not a bad idea as drink driving is extremely bad and needs to be eradicated (so why have an ambiguous legal limit and just not ban it full stop?) so what do our brilliant politicians do? They cut back on traffic Plod and bung in “safety” cameras. These are the cameras that are sited in accident “hotspots” and are not designed to generate income as yet another stealth tax *

These are the scameras that are designed to not trigger below the legal speed limit and yet allow safe passage through the trap that if you are so far off your face you can push your car through, whistling “I Fought the Law, and the Law Won” whilst completely starkers.

Anyway, this is not the place for a tirade against speed scameras, we’ll leave that for another time. This is all about 24 hour drinking. The thing the Government thought we, the people, were unable to do without their supervision and intervention.

Finally England joins the European ranks and gets all day/night drinking and lo and behold, the Earth continues to rotate, night follows day and England will still never win the World Cup (topical gag lobbed in at no extra charge!)

Great, have a beer as and when you choose, drink a glass of wine at 4 o’clock in the morning –good luck to you and your life. BUT, don’t drive home because it’s verboten to drink and drive. No, just jump on the train, tube or bus and pay a reasonable price to get home responsibly and without endangering other human life.

Hhhhhmmm, I see a problem Houston.

Yes, all of that was simply to praise the Hamburg public transport system, which runs all day and night, not just on the weekends and doesn’t require selling a kidney on the black market to pay for it.

* Yeah, sure. And I’m going to vote for BLiar next election…

Cats and Dogs

Germany is a country full of dog lovers. You see them everywhere and they’re allowed in everywhere too. Classy departmental store and poochie gets to have a good nose around. Fancy a pint? (sorry, half litre) Fido is more than welcome. We’ve seen dogs all over the country and in all types places and not only are they well controlled and obedient, there is a complete absence of dog turds on the pavements too. Nice one, Germany.

As for cats, we haven’t seen a single one since we’ve been here, which is excellent as I hate the little fuckers…:-D

Right, Right Right o' Way

Think of a white square, with a yellow square inside it giving a white border around the white square. Now rotate this through 45 degrees and mount it on a pole and stick it on a main road. With me so far?

This means you have right of way. Obviously, you’re on the bleedin’ main road, innit?

Now take the sign and put some black signs on it and put it back on the main road.

This now means that any traffic approaching from the right side onto the main road that you’re already on gets right of way! Seriously.

Neat way to get a new wing for your banger from an unsuspecting tourist, eh?

Monday, 12 June 2006

The World Cup

Some tournament here, apparently...

Three Wheels on my Wagon

And we're not rolling along...

We've had the car shored up during our visit to Berlin and on getting back to Hamburg we tried to start it. On re-connecting the battery it started first time and all the tyre pressures were bang on so thankfully my immense mechanical skills weren't required, which is just as well as the only other thing I can manage is to chuck petrol in from time to time.

Feeling dead chuffed we headed off into town and later in the evening as we were returning we passed the car and wifey noticed a flat tyre. Closer inpsection showed a 1.5 cm gash in the side wall of the tyre and buggered if we can suss how it "accidentally" got there.

Surely being an English car (French actually, but who's picky?) in Germany during the World Cup wouldn't make it a target, would it? Especially after the shite England called football was seen in their opening game? (And I so know I'm going to live to regret that comment with Germany's dodgy defence!)

Anyhoo, my mechanical skills have since been severely tried as I've had to find the "jack" thingy, fit it (minor trauma as first attempt was on the wrong side- why don't these things come with clear instructions?) inflate the bloody thing in 30 degrees heat and lift the duff tyre/wheel combi off the car.

I am now lying in traction, dictating this post to wifey...

Tuesday, 6 June 2006

This One Is Just For Matthew

Spot the elephant...

Berlin Zoo

Always Hated Physics

The subject was simply too big for me...

Berlin Hauptbahnhof

The world's largest and most modern railway station, just opened last month. Awesome building.

Berliner Dom

With the television tower at Alexander Platz in the background.

The Brandenburg Gate

Still one of the most famous landmarks in Berlin.

Saturday, 3 June 2006

Bye, Bye Berlin

Sadly, we have to leave Berlin having spent a wonderful fortnight in our cousin's luxurious flat. We've had peace and quiet, privacy and all amenities one could want- if only the accommodation will be as good in Poland (or as cheap...)

We've made friends with our local pub (even got our own Stammtisch) and even better friends in our local pub and all in all it's been a great stay.

Now we're back off to Hamburg to see the qualifying Germany games and then into Poland where it all starts to get a bit real and scary.

What, not speak the language? Excuse me, pay for our room? Oi, where's me bratwurst...

Still, they say adventure is the spice of life (poetic licence at work if you don't mind) so here's to a few more weeks of being spoilt before we venture into the unknown.

Next post will be from Hamburg and at some point we'll even get some pictures up.

PS: Berlin rawks- cheers to J & J for everything :-D

Thursday, 1 June 2006

Hidden Charges

As I may have mentioned previously, the cost of living here in Germany is about a third cheaper than in England.

However, what I may not have said is that they'll try and get the last third out of you in a number of sneaky ways.

Scrape together your cents to buy a bottle of Coke and you get it bang on. Get to the checkout and your facing a bill of 25 cents more. They call it "Pfand" which is a returnable deposit and is intended to encourage recycling. So there goes another €10 note and yet more useless change in your pocket...

Also, going to the toilet costs at least 30-50 cents a pop (20-35p) even in departmental stores, restaurants and some pubs!

Get a portion of chips but you'll need extra for the mayo...

It's so frustrating but at least you'll always have a pocket full of change to pay the hidden "extras"!

And I nearly forgot- the "Pfand" business on the bottles. Up until last month you could only get your deposit back from the shop you bought the bottle/can from. Really useful if you fancy a drink at a train station and then take it on the train with you.

Also, Coke has introduced a world cup special on its cans- 15 in the series of national players (essentially a picture of all the stars on the tin) to collect and keep. But yes, you've guessed it- you still pay the 25 cents per tin. So much for the "free" collection.

It's a crazy world all right.

Squeeze Me??


Has it shrunk with all this rain?

I remember when it used to be a proper size. Nowadays a peach is the size of an apricot. More worrying is that they taste the same too. Why has our fruit been downsized and now tastes of little more than water?

So you turn to fruit juice. Just as good, tastes better and it is convenient. But not according to our dentists; too much fruit juice is bad for your teeth- it's the citric acid that attacks the tooth and thus increasing decay.

You're better off with Coke but again it's got far too much sugar in it so that's bad for you too. Well if that is the case, why is 100 ml of Coke the same calorific value as 100 ml of any fruit juice? (Check it out if you don't believe me, it's true.)

We never used to have this problem- eat and drink what you want without the scare mongering and be happy. OK, so you died early but ignorance is bliss, right??