This weekend, adventures have been thin on the ground, but even though I’m sure you’re all thoroughly fed up of hearing about my solitary escapades in Ilmenau, I have yet to start work and my flatmates are still AWOL at weekends, so my solitary, fairly low key, possibly not that interesting escapades in Ilmenau are still the order of the day. As a warning, despite the lack of adventures, this post is fairly long. Sorry, I got distracted by the elections and how Germans can’t say my name.
Friday and Saturday
On Friday, I managed to actually successfully obtain the washing machine room key. The way it works here is that you book a day and a floor on which you wish to use the washing machine, and then you go early on that day, pay and take the key. It turns out that 8 is not early enough, so instead of being able to use the machine on my floor, I now have the key to the fifth floor washing machine room. But it’s all good. Washing is washing, no matter what floor it’s on. The washing room is fairly Spartan, with a washing machine and almost enough washing lines to make me want to pretend to be a master thief and try and sneak from one side of the room to the other without disturbing the lasers… I mean, the washing lines.
I’ve also discovered that using Facebook uses up very little internet data (At least, only using the chat does) so my internet presence will probably be increasing. Happily, I discovered this in time to talk to the awesome people I’d met on the training course. It’s nice to talk to people and not have to remember there’s a time difference. Concurrent to this, I now have credit on my German sim card, so I’ve switched over to that now. Really ought to find out how much it is to text England… I know they do special deals on texting Turkey, but as I know no-one in Turkey this doesn’t help me at all.
Changing the subject entirely, Germany has a general election on Sunday. Since I’ve been here, there have been election posters everywhere. Most of them are photographs of the politicians – the guy from SPD looks fairly trustworthy – but some of them have slogans. My favourite is ‘Teilen macht Spaß – Millionär Steuer’ which means ‘Sharing is fun – taxes for millionaires’. There are quite a few parties here in Germany but the main ones campaigning in Ilmenau are the SPD, Die Linke, and the CDU. However, there are a couple of posters of the NPD, which is basically the BNP of Germany. (For any readers not from the UK, it’s the racist party who want to send everyone back to where they came from. Don’t know if that includes those of us with Viking, Roman or Norman blood in us.) And I am delighted to inform you that the only election posters that have been graffitied on are those of the NPD. You go Ilmenau, four for you. There’s also the Piratenpartei (the Pirate party), who, as far as I can work out, are pro privacy on the Internet. They also seem to be exclusively targeting young voters, which makes sense, seeing as their main policies regard the internet and traditionally older citizens care less about the internet. Whilst still on the subject of elections, our flat got a free copy of Das Bild today, all about the elections. I’m fairly dubious about reading Das Bild, seeing as it’s a tabloid in the vein of The Sun and the Daily Mail, but a) it was free b) it’s about the elections which I’d like to know about, and c) the language is really easy. The first article is all about why you should vote, which is actually pretty decent, and there’s also an article about how people in the GDR marched for free votes, which is highly relevant, seeing as I’m living in what used to be part of the GDR. However, one of the main articles is famous ish people putting questions to Angela Merkel (the current chancellor) and Peer Steinbrück (who I believe is the leader of the SPD). These include such excellent, politically informed questions like ‘would you rather be a cowboy or an Indian?’, ‘when you’re hungry, what food do you think of?’ and ‘if you could go to any planet, which would it be?’ The last of these has my favourite answer, representing Herr Steinbrück running out of patience with the inane questions, which is ‘I am not Captain Kirk, but rather I want to become chancellor!’
A couple of posts ago I said I was watching a TV series auf deutsch which is called Echte Menschen, and I’m still working my way through it, but three episodes in, I got fed up of the subtitles being different to the speech. So I’ve been watching it without subtitles. This is weird, ‘cause I normally put the subtitles on even when watching English speaking DVDs. It’s definitely helping with my listening, because it means that even when I’m by myself, I’m still hearing German for some of the time. Also, it’s a good TV series, which always helps.
Saturday evening I went to a bar by myself. It was one of the most depressing evenings of my life, and those of you who know me in real life will know that that’s a hotly contested title. (I feel like I should point out that I am exaggerating, before I get panicky texts from my family.) But yeah, spending an hour by myself in a pub wasn’t the most fun I’ve ever had. It was a music café and bar, but it wasn’t anything like I was expecting. For those lucky enough to know Nottingham, I was basically expecting The Malt Cross. For those not so blessed, I was pretty much expecting a decently sized bar, fairly family friendly, and prettiness. In reality it was a tiny tiny bar with coloured lighted panels, selling double spirits as standard. I mean, I liked it, it was good. I felt like I fitted in more there than at the Malt Cross. Would probably be better if I went with people though. There’s also a bar with a robot bartender somewhere in this town, which I have a desperate need to find soon, because it sounds fantastic.
Sunday and Monday
Sunday has been a red letter day. Firstly, someone smiled at me in the street. This, although it sounds like a weird thing to be excited about, is huge, because up until now, I’ve basically been ignored every time I’ve offered a smile to a stranger. I also finally saw someone in my building who doesn’t live in my flat AND they said hi. Considering Sundays are normally fairly slow what with everything being shut and my flatmates being not here, two people acknowledging my existence is pretty awesome.
On a slight downer, I am officially getting a cold. I thought maybe I’d held it back with lots and lots of tea and Vita Cola (“cola with a citrus kick” – coke and orange juice basically, and yes, it tastes as bad as you’d expect), but no, a cold is definitely making an appearance. Happily, a) I have enough cold and flu medication to knock out a whole field of horses, b) I now know where I can go to drown my sorrows, and c) I’ve discovered Rosinenzopf – sweet bread with raisins and almonds – which is delicious and takes my mind off the cold.
The other thing I did today was start to make a list of places I want to visit this year. Thus far I have Leipzig, Dresden, Munich, Weimar and Nuremburg. Also Prague and Warsaw. Please send any other suggestions on the back of a postcard please. Or in the comments. You know, whichever’s easiest.
First thing I did on Monday was register with the local authorities. Finally. I’d been waiting on a letter from my uni that proved I went there, because last time I went to the town hall they said I needed one. This time, however, it wasn’t even asked for. I thought German bureaucracy was meant to be efficient. Unless it’s just that the Germans meant to be bureaucratic and efficient, with no overlap between the two.
My plan for the rest of the day was initially to go to Erfurt, but what with it being an hour journey I decided to potter around Ilmenau for the umpteenth time. I visited pretty much all of the clothes shops and I’m here to tell you that turquoise and mustard are in this season. Though not together, obviously. The shops are nice though they do fall into two camps. 1) So cheap you know anything bought from there is going to fall apart within two weeks, and 2) just expensive enough that I can’t justify buying anything.
I ended up in what’s becoming my favourite café, surrounded by old people giving me judging looks. I think I may have accidentally crashed an unofficial 75 years and upwards coffee morning. But it’s my favourite café, what you gonna do? Course, it is only my favourite café because it has free wifi… Ah well, it appears to make me like your café you must only have free internet, and to get me to go in your shop have something sparkly in the window. Unless you’re the library. The library here is small and looks unloved by the council, but I have now joined. There’s an English section, which is mainly aimed at teenagers, so most of the books are Young Adult Fiction that I didn’t want to read in England. I did get weird looks when I went into the kids section, but let’s be honest – my brain can only cope with the German novels we read at university because there are about twenty other people with whom I can discuss what’s going on in the plot. The librarians were lovely though, even when I had to get them to repeat how long I could take books out for, because my brain blanked on what Woche means. (It means week. I’m so good at this foreign language business.) They even asked if I went by my first or middle name, which has never happened to me before, and they pronounced my name correctly, which is some kind of miracle. Though most of you know me as Kat, my full name is, in fact, Kathryn. The ‘th’ represents somewhat of a challenge to the Germans, as the sound doesn’t exist in the German language. Maybe I should just employ my younger cousins’ tactics of replacing the ‘th’ with a ‘f’. Least that way I won’t get blank looks when I introduce myself.
Anyway, I did end up giggling to myself in one shop because they were selling Yazy, the game, and having never played it, Yazy is forever linked in my brain to this Humon comic: http://satwcomic.com/not-a-yahtzee (For those of you unaware, Humon sometimes makes comics of countries interacting, and they’re often hilarious.) Possibly looked a little weird laughing over a game, but never mind. Me and my friends look pretty weird playing Uno in a pub at home, and we still do that. Talking of weird, there were some English speaking tourists in town, and I felt myself gravitating towards them, trying to convey my Englishness by how I walked and fiddled with my phone. I think what today has proved is that starting work cannot come too soon. By happy coincidence, I begin tomorrow. I have to be at the school for 7.30am in order to meet the teachers, though every day after that I don’t have to be in till 8am. I still don’t want to think about when I’m going to have to get up to be in on time. So wish me luck, let’s hope the weird levels go down as soon as I have something to do, and fingers crossed that I manage to wake up on time.