Category Archives: Germany

Fouling the Food

In order to save money while I do much of my eating with food from grocery stores. It’s much cheaper than going out to eat and it’s nice to have so much more variety. Most of the time I have zero problems, but occasionally I make a mistake. So to celebrate I’ve made a list of some of my more memorable mix ups.

I bought the cheaper orangeade instead of orange juice or my sick friend. The worst part was it was my idea to get her OJ while she was in bed.

My friend send me out to buy some butter. I ran down to the local shop and found the butter section. Again to save money I picked the cheapest one up because butter is butter. Except when it’s pure fat to be melted on top of pierogies.

Topping that, a couple of friends of mine went out for ice cream in Armenia.  When you buy ice cream there it often comes in wrapped up blocks.  Well everyone got theirs and were heading out.  This was before we spoke enough Armenian to know what the shopkeepers were saying. One of my friends opens the ice cream and finds out it’s a stick of butter.  In order to save face he took a solid bit out of it as the shopkeeper watched on.  Like it was what he wanted the whole time.

I went out shopping while my friend was at work. I visited the butcher and got some chicken and as I was paying I noticed a pile of ribs for dirt cheap.  Like less than a dollar a kilo cheap. I’m a sucker for ribs. So I picked up about a kilogram and made them to go with the chicken. There wasn’t a whole lot of meat on them, but I figured that’s why they were so cheap. I served the food and my friend’s roommate informed me the meat was so cheap because it was meant to be served to pets, not people. Still tasted good.

At the shop there was a can of beer I hadn’t tried before. I picked it up and popped it open when I got back. Turns out it was an awful, awful ginger flavored beer. To top it off there wasn’t even any alcohol in it.

Another time I mixed up some lemonade tasting beer with real beer. It also was disgusting. But at least it can get you drunk.

I wanted to buy some mustard so I ran to the local store. They didn’t have any regular condiments. So I had to settle for this garlic sauce that was like three times more expensive than ketchup or mustard would have been. That was a downer.

I once mistook mustard for toothpaste. Did you know you can buy mustard in squeeze tubes in Germany? Real cheap too.

But my absolute favorite happened in Warsaw. I went to a meat shop to buy some chicken. I pointed it out in my non-existent Polish and had it wrapped up at the counter. I paid for it, picked it up, and left. A few hours later when it was time to prepare dinner, I unwrapped it and I was shocked and amazed to see a pile of sliced ham. I guess I just picked up some other person’s package. I still wonder if they noticed it before they tried to prepare their lunch or dinner.


German Inefficiency

Germany’s a country of engineers according to the stereotype. Everyone works hard and makes it a point to get things done well and on time. Nice and orderly. Of all the national stereotypes to have, Germany has a pretty good one these days. Too bad real life gets in the way.

I had just spent more than a month tramping through Uganda with few problems. Everything wasn’t perfect, but it for the most part no major issues. I was still excited to get to Germany. The thing I looked forward to the most was the idea that things would just work. I’m an easily excitable person.

I landed in Frankfurt because it was cheap, and the next day I had a bus to take me to Berlin where I was visiting a friend. Pro tip, don’t go to Frankfurt. It sucks. The bus was going to be a five hour ride and I would arrive in Berlin in the evening after she got off work.

But what’s travel without a few hiccups right? About half way through the drive, the bus broke down. Long story short we were stuck on the side of the road for six hours. First the driver and conductor tried to fix the problem. That took an hour. Then they called the ADAC folk, they took about two hours to show up. They messed around for an hour and fixed nothing. Finally the company sent a new bus to pick us up. After six hours in the beating sun we were on our way.

Now if that was the end of the story it would be pretty boring, but I’m just getting started.

I was in contact with the friend I was staying with in Berlin over Facebook. I had her phone number stored in my messages on my iPhone that the Facebook app automatically saves. Except for the first and only time since, the app decided to delete all the messages on my phone. Strike one against Facebook. I don’t know why, but that mean I had no phone number to contact my friend and tell her I’d be late.

I’m stuck in a strange country with no means of communication with my only contact, no way to start looking for a hostel, and I’m going to arrive at my destination after 11 PM. Not the most conducive time to figuring things out.

After we finally got moving I found myself sitting next to a cute German girl a Lonely Planet about Eastern Europe. Having a little experience in the region I struck up a conversation and we chatted most of the ride. I told her my problem with Facebook and she told me it shouldn’t be too hard to find wifi in Berlin to re-download all my messages. That relieved me some.

We finally got to Berlin around midnight and the bus parked in some way out of the way metro stop so there was no internet available. The cute German girl had a brilliant idea. Why don’t I just call her friend she was staying with, she can log in as me, check my messages, and get the number. Then we call my friend. Awesome, this should work. We call her friend and I give my log in information, but then Facebook’s security scheme made her identify pictures of my friends. Impossible of course. Strike two against Facebook.

Now I’m kind of frustrated, especially because Germany is supposed to be organized. So far it was a much bigger hassle than Africa was. The cute German girl invited me to her friend’s house so I could get on Facebook and dig up my messages.

Eventually I got on Facebook and was able to call my host. She met me at the metro stop near her house seven hours after I told her I would be in town. We got a couple of falafels and beer and spent another hour in her apartment catching up before conking off to sleep. I was relieved to finally arrived but pretty unhappy with my first few days in Germany.

13 Hours in Germany

First, if you’re ever in Europe, don’t take the trains. A complete waste of money. Buses are the way to go these days. It might take a little longer but you’ll pay about a third of the price. That being said, I was in Germany and I decided I had to do the train thing once because ‘Hey I’m in Europe.’

I wanted to go from Berlin to Munich. My first plan was to take a bus, but the bus company I knew wasn’t running Berlin to Munich for another two days, so I’d have to find a hostel for two nights. I looked up some info on the train using the ticket machines in the train station and it wanted 120 Euro! Real greedy SOBs right?

I was almost resigned to paying out the nose but I figured it wouldn’t hurt to mess around a little bit with the times. Maybe it would be cheaper if I left at a less reasonable hour. So I started my search around 8 PM and it was still pricey, just over night sleeper cars.

But then I saw something that caught my eye. SPECIAL. 40 Euro. Nice. The price was right. I checked it out. And it was 40 Euro, no hidden fees. The problem was the route sucked. It left at 11 PM and to go the 500 kilometers the route was going to take 13 hours. Instead of an intercity express train, it hooked me up with a string of regional trains.

I would ride a train for an hour and hop off at some station. I’d wait there for another hour for a train. Then two hours on the train, another couple hours in a new station, all night long. There was one station where I sat outside near the tracks for two hours because nothing was open. That was kind of expected since it was 4 AM.

Eventually I did make it to Munich a bit after noon. I checked into my hostel, took a cold shower to wake up, grabbed a cup of coffee and started my time in the city.

On one hand it was pretty nice getting such a good deal on the tickets. And I saved money on a hostel. But it wasn’t an easy trip. The constant transfers made it impossible to doze off because if I missed the right station it could have made things difficult for me. Part of me was so amped when I got to Munich that I wasn’t really tired. Kind of a big ‘F you’ to Deustche Bahn because I beat the system.

I’d probably do it again given the chance.