Part 9 – Gay Pride, Berlin & Homer Simpson

Since my last entry I’ve travelled to 5 more cities in Germany: Bonn, Köln (Cologne), Düsseldorf, Frankfurt and, most recently, Berlin.

I’ve noticed recently a large improvement in my German and this was exhibited in Berlin. While in Berlin it was the annual gay pride march and I found it fun to translate all the slogans. Ended up covered in stickers of these too, when Jeff (an American from Rhode Island that I was with) and I had to cross the street through the parade.

Fick? – Want a fuck?

Nimm mich! – Take me!

Du willst es doch auch – You want it really

Rauchst du nach dem Sex? – Do you smoke after sex?

So if you need advice on how to chat up men in German, it seems I have acquired sufficient expertise.

What I found interesting was that it passed by the old Nazi headquarters. 70 years after Hitler’s regime murdered homosexuals there’s a parade in his capital, his “World Capital Germania”, filled with gay men and the slogan “DildoKing.de” on the side of the bus. What a fantastic image, Hitler turning in his grave* at the mere thought of that. Shows just how much Germany has changed since then.

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*I’ve since been corrected, through the medium of a meme (welcome to the 21st century), that Hitler doesn’t have a grave, by my friend Alex.

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Above is a picture of the memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe, Berlin.

The problem with designing something for such a grisly event in history would be that a grand, gaudily artistic monument would be just be wrong. Conversely it still needs to  be powerful, to do justice the suffering of the subject. And this monument is perfect. A sober, but effective, design with very little abject symbolism, leaving it up to the visitor to decide. I loved how all the blocks are all different shapes and sizes but have no discernible markings. Leaving them to just be an anonymous number. I took this to be showing how people of all ages, sizes and paths of life suffered and how the people lost their humanity by just being a number. When numbers become big they lose their impact, because our understanding wanes as numbers rise above our everyday experience and comprehension.

6 million dead people. It’s unimaginable. Literally.

It’s the same reason economies will always fail and these financial machinations will never be understand properly. When numbers enter cohorts of billions we cannot comprehend what we’re dealing with. And for the same reason we’ll never be able to understand the scale of the universe. When 100 countries in the world seem like a large number, when our holiday flights of a few thousand miles seem gargantuan, monolithic, how can we really understand the scale of a universe in light-years? We are limited by what it is to be human, a cage of proportion.

In the accompanying museum the following display truly touched me. It is a letter from a child, in the concentration camps, to his father explaining that he will soon be dead. The candid nature of the letter is what I found powerful. When I was a child the closest I came to death is when my PokeMon fainted on my GameBoy. Yet here, a child, someone so young, has already their fate. A departure from life through the mechanism of brutality.

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 “Dear Dad! Before I die I want to say farewell to you. We would really like to live, nevertheless they won’t let us, we will be killed. I’m so worried about this death, the small children are thrown into the pit while they’re still alive. Goodbye forever. I kiss you tenderly.”

Now here’s just a miscellaneous mix of photos

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The Reichstag

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Brandenburger Tor

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Checkpoint Charlie, note how German is the last language shown.

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I enjoyed this poster. It refers to the Germany Greece game in ongoing European Football Championship, which Germany won 4-2

Back to Karlsruhe. I’ve almost managed to fuck up a couple of experiments so far at work. A cultural German note of seemingly insignificant interest: Germans use commas for decimal points in numbers, not full stops. Yes, this is incredibly inconsequential for 99,9% of applications in life… Until you try to programme flowrates for a reactor…using full stops…hence 5.00 l/min turns, not so inconsequentially, into 500l/min…woops. Yep, this is the guy who wants to, potentially, work with nuclear energy later in my calamitous life. My parents reaction when I told them that?

This was it

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Apologies to all those who won’t sleep soundly tonight…

[DAS ENDE]

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Part 8 – Satan, Voodoo & Ladybirds

Reunited.

Once more I have risen from the ashes of cyber ignorance into a phoenix of electronically connected knowledge and opportunity.

Or, in less poncy words: I have internet once more.

It’s frankly shocking how difficult it has been without, especially somewhere where everything is new from the language to the transport system to the ever so strange love of salad here… This is of course because in the last few years Google has become our technological overlord. The instantly accessible content of almost the whole spectrum of existence has meant we have come to rely on it. For example, if I typed into Google:

Q: How far is it to Timbuktu?

And Google replied:

A: KILL YOUR FAMILY IN SACRIFICE TO GLORIOUS SATAN. CLEANSE WITH FIRE.

I would probably do it, because Google is always right. Always. You think you can challenge the colossus of wisdom that is Google? Think again. There is a good reason that to Google has entered the English lexicon under the linguistic species of a verb. How many times have you said “ go Google that for me” to a friend when that slippery quantum of information escapes the huntsman of your memory?

One thing that amuses me about Germany is it shows the uniformity of humanity. The people may speak a different language but the people are so similar. Waitresses are still impatient of delays in ordering above the nanosecond timescale, news anchors still wear that irksome, smirking facial cloak of “I know the news before you do” and there is still a sizeable cohort of old Babushkas, who think that because they are more likely to be prone to the Grim Reaper’s affections that they can barge past you in any situation.

Conversely, this can also be pleasant sometimes. It’s amazing how an infinitesimally insignificant and inconsequential detail can bring you back to home. On my way into town from my flat in Germany is a honeysuckle plant. The other day I recognised the smell and it brought my mind straight to home and my mum’s one, like a car crash of stimulus and long buried memory. And it felt wonderful.

Time for a couple of photos now.

Above is an image from a bar I ended up at at 3am on Saturday with a random assortment of nationalities from Germany, Croatia and Turkey (basically all countries with a better football team than Scotland). Those objects you can see above the bar are naked Barbie and Ken dolls. I was informed that the reason for this is to show that bar was “gay friendly”. Personally I found the effect to be closer to declaring an allegiance to the dark arts of witchcraft and voodoo rather than acting as a homosexual welcome mat.

This is Tequila The Turtle, so named after Graham, Justice and I’s ceremonial beverage of choice. I’ve decided to take pictures of him in every country I go. If you’ve seen the film Amelie you’ll understand the motivation. Here he is at a BBQ with a couple of friends before the Germany’s first game in der Europamasterschaft (European Championship) which they won 1-0 against Portugal.

This is a picture from a walk I went on with Maike. In the distance you can see France, showing how close to France I am. Strasbourg is in line for a visit soon. Afterwards we went with her friends to the cinema to see Snow White & The Huntsman. Being in German this was something of challenge for me. What made me laugh was how the film was dubbed. German sentences tend to be a lot longer, leading to the dubbing being quite out of sync, meaning the end of sentences where the lips have stopped moving from the English part looking like a partial ventriloquist act. Like in the old martial arts films dubbed into English from Chinese.

I’ve already enunciated the point of small stimuli provoking old memories so here is one more. I remember when I was ickle trying to capture ladybirds in summer, where the amount of ladybirds captured was usually proportional to the quality of the summer. Hence I’ve always associated them with warm summer memories. Seeing this tiny splash of vibrant red provoked the reemergence of these remembrances. Strange, the effect that a tiny insect can have on your day.

[DAS ENDE]

 

Part 7 – Socialism, Van Gogh & Dildos

After my last blog my (now ex) flatmates Graham and Justice were disappointed that I didn’t write about my ear infection. Yes, I don’t understand either why the world would want to hear about the bacterial invasion and phagotic battle in my hearing orifices, but according to them it was “the funniest thing that happened to you (me) all week”.

What a pair of bastards.

Their initial hilarity stemmed from the fact that I had to wear a bandage strapped around my head so I looked like “a shit Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle” in their words.

I repeat; what a pair of bastards

Then I had to have my ear so that I looked like some pathetic hipster attempt at home jewellery.

Finally I have been given what looks like a minature dildo constructed out of Blu-Tac to wear in my ear.

I think the Van Gogh Solution will be the best method if this continues…

More positively, my eventual exodus meant that several folks had outpourings of unusual sentimentality including some lovely pictures from Joseph and a bottle of malt whisky from Greg. Graham also insisted on cooking me a final breakfast before I went to the airport despite being violently hungover. Many thanks to you all.

Any this was written from the most evil place in the world.

The airport.

Airports seem to be factories for stress, misfortune and the meticulous evil of bureaucracy. The last time my Dad took us on holiday he vowed;

“Never again”

That was 2005 and until today he has kept his word.

As a general rule and correlation, the more stressful your airport experience is is proportional to how good your holiday actually is. It’s basically the closest you can get to purgatory on earth. This trial, this test, the turmoil you must surmount to win your right to enjoy yourself, to relaxation and to sunburn complete with ensuing skin cancer.

Time for some pictures from my first couple of days, since this requires a level of creativity tending to zero.

"Welcome to KIT"

Karlsruher Institüt für Technologie

Das Institüt für Mikroverfahrenstechnik – The Institute for Micro Process Technology

This is where I’m currently working

One German stereotype experienced

Above is a picture from a birthday party I was at. The people I was there with have just finished their Abitur, their version of A Levels, Advanced Highers, so this is the ceremonial burning of one of their course textbooks

Today I also got my flat…

The view from my room – Der Blick aus meinem Zimmer

My room – Mein Zimmer

Artwork - Kunst

More drawings - Mehr Zeichnungen

I thought this was a cool car – Ich dachte, dass dies Auto toll war

The first few days have been very tough language-wise. I’m getting better at speaking it. Partly because I managed to get completely lost in Karlsruhe and spent a lot of time asking in broken German for directions! On the brightside I found a place that does good German beer in a half litre bottle for 1.30 euros. Ausgezeichnet. Despite my recent improvements in the spoken department I have managed to confess to being a socialist instead of being social. That gave Maike’s family a laugh. I’ve also answered a very interesting question: does Yoda from Star Wars speak in normal sentence structure? Speaking German is really weird at first because the structure resembles how Yoda speaks. However, apparently in German, Yoda weird to them too, he speaks closer to English in structure!
Listening is still almost impossible. My brain just works too slow still to process the words and it’s really, really frustrating.

Explosions Counter

Number of days in Germany: 3

Number of explosions caused: 0

Excellent progress.

(DAS ENDE)