I’m currently sitting in the airport lounge at Munich airport as I write this. You will be reading this long after I have touched back down in the Land of Tea and Crumpets.
Today, I had my last day in the Bavarian Beer Monster – last day of work, last day living in my lovely nest of a flat with the most wonderful flatmate I could possibly have wished for, the last day for a while with a few important individuals.
I’m very much aware that this will sound like an obituary. It’s not. I know it’s not. But it certainly feels that way at the moment.
I don’t like the whole saying goodbye. I’ve said this at the beginning of the year abroad when I moved out, but somehow this is different. I suppose part of me always knew that I would return to my parents and see them again. But non-family members are different. Some people move on, some find it too painful and simply distance themselves, and others you simply drift away from.
Which is sad. Yes, there were times when I seriously asked myself what the hell I was doing. I certainly doubted my sanity at several points throughout the entire year; not just the beginning, and there were times when I had regrets.
But I can also happily count a large number of firsts and amazingly good times, too. First time I was entirely responsible for myself; first time on a massive rollercoaster (thanks, Ben.), and first proper concert, among other things.
Not bad, really.
And now I’m coming back. Sadly my relationship with Munich has been a little rocky, and after several attempts to save it, we’ve decided to separate due to irreconcilable differences.
It’s been a blast, Munich, it really has. I’ve learnt a hell of a lot in a such a short time, and I’m certain that I will look back on my time here as an adventure.
And whilst I may not have allowed the people I left behind see my tears, it was certainly a different story once they’d gone.
On the other hand, there’s always Oktoberfest:
Also, macht’s gut, München, und danke für den Fisch.
Apologies for the radio silence – and for the fact that I will probably end up posting a series of posts of various episodes from Roo’s adventures abroad (I’ve just made that name up, but it already sounds far more interesting than Year Abroad) and then may well end up with another dry spell – I will try to avoid it, but I do need a break from being witty from time to time…
The first blindingly obvious observation I would like to make is how sodding cold it’s gotten. During the day here in the rather bemusing Bavarian Beer Monster, it’s around -15 degrees at the minute. At night it drops between -20-25 degrees. Friday night dropped down to -27, apparently.
It’s enough to give you goosebumps on your goosebumps.
As a result, I now resemble an onion in terms of the number of layers I’m wearing; I’ve had to break out my Matrix coat (it’s woollen, floor-length and black) and I’ve been knitting all kinds of weird and wonderful things for my wardrobe.
So far, I’ve made neckwarmers, scarves and wristwarmers. My current project is a pair of thigh-high legwarmers.
Now there’s a mental image for you.
Pictures will follow.
(Of the finished products, of course – not random pictures of my thighs. That would just be weird. Anyway, on to saner ground…)
My other recent habit is baking. Now, this happened when I was feeling a bit blue and was in one of my moods where I just wanted to go home and curl up on the sofa with the cat. Now, seeing as that wasn’t possible, and I don’t have a cat, I decided that some comfort food was in order.
But what? I already have huge quantities of teabags stashed in my room (I kid you not, my current total is around 5 kilos of the stuff) and I have marmite for my usual marmite on toast pick-me-up. But for some reason, it just wasn’t enough. No amount of B vitamins and caffine were going to pick me up out of this particular rut.
The much-needed solution?
Up until now, I have never made them. 2 minutes of googling revealed that they’re suprisingly quick and (theoretically) easy to make.
Explaing to my flatmate what a scone is, however, proved to be rather more challenging. Needless to say, there is no German equivalent for scones. The dialogue resembled something like this:
(rough English translation of the actual German conversation)
Becca: I’m going to bake scones.
Cathrin: Scones? What are scones?
B: *looks shocked* What do you mean, “what are scones”?
C: *blank look*
B: *with a look of disbelief* You’ve never eaten scones before?
C: *shakes head*
B: *somewhat agitated* B-but, you’ve not lived!
C: *bewildered and somewhat frightened look*
B: Okay, um, they’re about this big *gestures with hands*, and can be eaten sweet or savoury. Traditionally, you eat them with *upper class accent* “Afternoon Tea” and you generally make them with sultanas.
C: *look of utter disgust*
B: …or not. The sultanas are optional.
C: *look of relief* How do you make them?
B: Well, you kind of make a dough-
C: So they’re cakes, then?
B: Well, not exactly…
C: Ah, so more like bread then?
B: Umm, more of a cross between the two.
C: I get it – like Brioche.
B: No, no – nearly the opposite of Brioche. Scones are heavier and denser.
C: So they’re cakes then.
B: *noise of protest swiftly followed by resignation* N-yes, I guess you could say they’re like cakes.
C: So, what do you eat them with?
B: Traditionally, clotted cream and jam.
C: What’s clotted cream?
B: …you don’t have clotted cream here?
C: …I don’t think so.
B: ah. Think of double cream but thicker.
C: Double cream? You mean Schlagsahne?
B: *head in hands* …probably, yes.
C: So, you only eat them in the afternoon?
B: Traditionally, yes. But I some people who munch them for breakfast too.
C: *absolute bewilderment* You people eat cake for breakfast?
B: No, I didn’t say that, they’re not really cak-
C: You eat cake for breakfast. God you English are weird.
So, in a bid to demonstrate to my flatmate that 1) they are not cakes and 2) us English aren’t that weird, I had a go.
My first attempt looked like this:
Whilst being far from perfect, it’ll do. For those interested, the recipe is as follows:
1 egg beaten with a little milk added
55g of cold butter
(a generous) 150ml cold milk
225g (2 cups) self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
50g (1/4 cup) sultanas
Because you can’t seem to buy SR flour here in Munich, I used the following substitute (and didn’t add any extra salt as stated above): for each cup of flour, I added 1/4tsp of salt, 1tsp of baking powder and 1/4tsp of baking soda (Natron auf Deutsch).
On a important note, it’s best to have the ingredients as cold as possible – and it’s also better to have cold hands; you want to avoid melting the butter.
The first thing is to sieve the flour into the mixing bowl – you will need a big one for this. If you’ve not had to recreate your own SR flour, then add the salt and baking powder now. Then add the cold butter.
Come to think of it, this recipe can get rather messy, so maybe implementing the use of little people here would be a good idea.
You need to stick your hands in and combine the butter and the flour so that its consistency resembles that of breadcrumbs.
Yes, it will stick to your hands and get under your nails. The things we do for food, eh?
Once you have a lovely floury buttery mess, it’s time for perhaps my favourite part. You know when you have bangers and mash as a kid and you used to make a well in the potato and then pour gravy into it and create your own mashed potato and gravy volcano?
That’s exactly what you do here. Create a well in the flour and pour in the milk, brave the sludgy feeling and stick your hands in to combine it all into a smooth dough.
DO NOT overwork the dough.
Or they won’t rise :(
Once you’ve combined everything, roll the dough out on a floured surface so that it’s around 2cm thick, and then cut them out. I don’t have a rolling pin so have to use my hands and I don’t have any cutters, so I use a glass tumbler.
Then place your beautious creations on to a greased baking tray, glaze them with the egg/milk mixture and bung in a hot oven (preferably near the top) at around 180 degrees C for 5-10 minutes.
It will depend on your oven, but Holger (our oven) seems to enjoy burning things to a cinder.
Et voilà! You have scones. Eat with with jam etc and enjoy.
Except don’t be surprised, if, like me, you decide to snaffle several for breakfast/afternoon snack/out of boredom and then discover that your trousers no longer fit.
I was on the tube on Thursday mulling over various unhinged thoughts in my little head when something insanely obvious jumped out and smacked me right in the face with a wet fish. Hard.
I have been misplaced.
By misplaced, I mean when you’re about 9 (or in my case, 20) and you can’t find a particular (and often very important) document/possession. Naturally, you go to mum/dad/the nearest responsible adult and bemoan the fact that you’ve lost said item, only to receive the following unhelpful response, which is usually accompanied by a sigh:
“Are you sure you haven’t misplaced it?”
At which point you indignantly reply that no, you certainly have not misplaced it and then give them a reproachful look in an attempt to make them feel bad for making such a ludicrous and hurtful allegation, only for them to go and find said missing item in the first place they look.
Anyway, back to me being misplaced.
At first, I thought I was homesick. Wednesday was another howler of a day and so I decided to speak with family back home. It consisted of The Leggings Incident, The Mosquito War and an unfortunate trip to the supermarket.
Firstly, The Leggings Incident:
On Tuesday, I decided to go and buy a cardigan after work, except that failed miserably and I ended up buying legwarmers and leggings which were in a sale. I then decided to wear the red pair – yes, I actually have something colourful in my wardrobe – to work yesterday. Now, I’m incredibly lazy when it comes to my appearance, (as my father will confirm) and so I decided to wear a long sleeve t-shirt instead of a tunic – the length of this particular item is key. If you pull it down far enough, it comes just short of half-way down my thigh.
So, yesterday morning I got up (in the dark) and got dressed (in the dark – because I’m lazy thinking of the environment and saving energy) and went to work. I did get a few odd looks on the tube, but this isn’t particularly unusual, so I didn’t pay any attention.
I then spent the morning working and attending various meetings with colleagues as usual. At lunchtime, I went to the loo and discovered – much to my absolute horror – that my leggings were opaque on my lower legs, but the higher up my leg, the more transparent they became.
The looks on the tube this morning were because you could clearly see my underwear through my leggings. Mortified, my face promptly turned the colour of said offending item of clothing.
Cue walking around for the rest of the day trying to pull my top down far enough to cover the tattered remains of my dignity:
I then had to go to the supermarket on the way home and in true keeping with the day, I got to the till and realised I had no money on me. I had to run home, grab my wallet and then run back.
When I got home, I then had the Mosquito War. For the past few days, I’ve been waking up each morning with insect bites, which is rather confusing given the time of year – but not when you realise that the weather has been uncharacteristically warm as of late. The thing is, back home in England, the mosquitos/bitey insects there were typically British and we had an understanding: you don’t touch me, I won’t kill you.
I’d just gotten out of the shower and was getting dressed in my room when I noticed the little bastard hanging upside-down from my ceiling:
What happened next can only be described as an epic battle of titans.
My eventual victory, however, was short-lived.
Whilst I had remembered to shut my bedroom door, I hadn’t shut the curtain to my balcony. Being on the 4th floor, this wouldn’t normally be a problem. But because I was obviously having such an underwear-orientated day, it would just so happen that we currently have builders working on scaffolding directly opposite and they’d seen the entire debacle of me half-dressed, seemingly dismantling my bedroom single-handedly, all the while waving an old newspaper around.
Needless to say, I was disctinctly unamused.
I then decided to ring home and whinge/laugh/cry about the utter rubbishness of it all. After an hour or so of singing to/with my Grandmother and catching up on all of the adventures and happenings back home, I felt…weird.
Which is where my original statement about being misplaced comes into play (if you can remember that far back). Living here in Munich is interesting. I don’t know any other country which can have an international stereotype of being so straight-laced, (and here in Bayern) religious, and yet is still perhaps the only place in Europe where an annual beer festival can take place for 3 weeks without people rioting and the whole place being burnt down to the ground. The public transport is generally on time (I hope you’re reading this, TfL), clean – at least, by British standards – and efficient.
In short, it’s clean, orderly and I swear that it even occasionally has that “new car” smell to it. The streets are built in the rather American grid-like layout, so should you miss a street, then you can easily turn down the next one and the buildings still have something of their original colour to them.
In other words, I currently feel like the child who has forcibly been made to relinquish their favourite, much-loved and lived-in slobby jumper for a brand-new, smart looking suit that itches and is bloody uncomfortable.
Or you could compare it to being the messy person who’s just been invited in to the living room of their OCD colleague/friend and then feels horribly uncomfortable and out of place.
I don’t belong here in the orderly and the clean; I belong in the mess, the chaos and the dog-eared.
Don’t get me wrong – London is far from perfect. I have slowly been learning that there is no such thing as absolute perfection. (Which, as a perfectionist, has been exceptionally hard to grasp) London is grimy and sooty; the transport system is an absolute shambles and everything is mind-bogglingly expensive. Yet it has a certain dog-eared quality to it that your favourite teddy has. I bet your favourite teddy isn’t looking anywhere near as clean as he did the day you first got him.
I like the chaotic layout of the streets, too. It makes getting lost interesting and you also never quite know what you’re going to find on account of the vast mix of cultures we have. I like it when the weather’s cloudy, drizzly and a little nippy – it’s what London’s known for. But most of all, it’s the character that the city has – the intricate gothic architecture, the historical sites and the quirky little things like the Jewish cemetery in the middle of my university campus.
I moved to London about 2 years ago to start my degree, and I guess the reason I miss the place so much is because I associate it with feeling like I truly belong somewhere for the first time in my life.
I enjoy what I do and I have met some of the most amazing, genuine, intelligent and inspiring people there.
In other words, it’s home.
So, my course of action? Why, sulk, of course.
That, and maybe some slightly inebriated singing along to Adele’s Hometown Glory in my room this evening. And maybe tomorrow, too.
Or just all week.
Because the problem isn’t just that I’m misplaced.
Last night was one of the best nights I’ve had since moving to Germany. Shame Doriane has decided to leave this morning, really. It started off with a roast dinner – I think the first one I’ve cooked since first year – and was swiftly followed by gin and the phrase “Wo ist der Gin hin?”
We then had a somewhat surreal call and response singing session with a flat in one of the neighbouring blocks. Things started to go decidely downhill when we rang out of songs and decided to sing the Breadfish song at them.
Over breakfast this morning, my long-suffering flatmate decided to try and explain to me the different expressions I should use when applying something to bread. I say apply, because the English word “spread” simply does not cover the various different expressions.
So, the rules are as follows:
Items such as Nutella, Ovalmaltine, and jam are called “Aufstrich”, so naturally I assumed it would be logical to use “aufstreichen”. However I was then told that you can’t say “I streiche my bread auf”. (Well you can, but you’ll sound weird) You say, more bizarrely, “I schmiere my bread”. Schmieren also has the meanings “to grease or lubricate”.
So this morning I learnt what the Germans do with their bread: lubricate it.
For the record, if you use anstreichen, you’re painting a wall. Not your bread.
But you must be careful, because you can also schmier a person in the sense of “to bribe”.
So make sure you only schmier your bread.
And then I found the word “beschmieren”, which apparently means the same thing, but whilst you can beschmier a wall, you can’t simply schmier it. But only use beschmieren when it’s verunstaltet or ugly.
Oh, and then there are certain salads which you can also schmier on your bread, even though you have to use a spoon.
For what is thought to be such a logical language, German really isn’t making much sense right now.
Anyway, back to breakfast. Sliced meats are then referred to as Aufschnitt. This is unschmierbar unless it is Leberwurst oder Teewurst, in which case it’s streichbar. For Aufschnitt you don’t really have a verb. Spoilsports.
Then there’s Schmierkäse, which is the same as fresh cheese. Which I’ve just been told can also be eaten with jam. Jam. Schmelzkäse also exists, as does Rotschmierkäse, which translates as the delightful “red smear cheese”.
Then there’s bread. Here in Bayern, everything is a Semmel.
Go north and say that and you’ll immediately stand out. Brötchen is probably the best one to go for.
During the past 2 days I’ve made several discoveries which more than make up for the horrific week I’ve had.
1) I don’t need to get the tv in my room working in order to gammeln with my flatmate on a Sunday and watch Tatort – we can simply stream it online. (Yes, for someone who can be technologically-minded at times, this has taken a while to occur to me)
For those of you who don’t know, Tatort is one of Germany’s longest running crime series, (it started in 1970) with each Bundesland having it’s own characters and plotlines. From what I’ve understood, it’s a proper “sit down with the family on a Sunday evening and watch it together” affair. It kind of seems like the German version of Eastenders, in that it seems to popular with the masses. In which case that says a lot about British society and the vast contrast between the 2 countries, but I don’t think I’m going to go there in this post…
2) Amazon.de is surprisingly efficient. Jokes about the German national stereotype aside, I was genuinely impressed with the fact that I ordered my 1Tb external harddrive yesterday at 3:30pm (work is always so busy on Fridays) and it arrived this morning via grouchy courrier. Cue strange crooning noises and me referring to it as my child. Doriane has now decided to call me “Beek”. (Becca + geek)
3) Said external harddrive is called a “passport” because it’s reported to be the same size. They weren’t kidding:
4) When coming back at stupid o’clock from the pub with Doriane and Cathrin, making “shussshhhh” noises followed by a Gollum impression is not the way to avoid waking our sleeping flatmate.
5)Never, EVER let Herr Ben le Magnifique persuade me to do anything on the basis that it counts towards “personal development”. I do not call being strapped in to a small heap of metal and whizzing around upside down and all over the place at high speeds and heights “personal development”. Even if it did give me an excuse to hurl abuse at Ben for the entire duration.
6) But what has really made my week, is the discovery today of somewhere in Munich which SELLS BOMBAY SAPPHIRE. Yes, it requires bold font and capitals. You have no idea how long I have been searching for this stuff. None of this Gordon’s Gin business, thank you very much. I’m not a heavy drinker. In fact, I seldom enjoy drinking alcohol, so I am completely baffled by the sudden improvement in my mood. Not that I’m complaining, mind.
Life seems somewhat better than it did at the beginning of the week: Monday is Feiertag (Bank holiday), I now have Bombay Sapphire in the kitchen, tomorrow I’m cooking a roast and I can finally start learning the Yiddish I need for this Fortsetzungskurs.
Oh, and I don’t have to get up at 6am for the next 2 days either.
Yesterday was the beginning of Oktoberfest, or Wiesn, if you speak Bavarian. I got home on Friday, absolutely shattered to find that Ben and co. had plans to get to the beer tents for 7 the next morning.
I had been looking forward to a lie-in all week.
As it turns out, I simply wasn’t up to it and ended up staying in bed to a slightly more human hour. I later met up with Alice, who has recently moved out and we ended up spending a stupid amount on clothes shopping.
(I would like to add that this was the first time in I don’t know how long that I actually felt vaguely feminine.)
This evening has resulted in another language howler. Except seeing as we were all so hideously over-tired, we ended up crying with laughter.
I was writing a shopping list, and wanted to say “bake”, as in “pasta bake”, which is “Auflauf” in German. Unfortunately there is also the word “Ablauf” in German, meaning “sequence” or “flow”. I ended up saying the latter word, at which point my flatmate corrected me and I proceeded to whinge about how unhelpful the German language is with all these silly prepositions that you can stick on the front of the word to change the meaning. I then proceeded to list out what I thought were random, fictional words; one of which was the word “Einlauf”.
Upon hearing this word, my Mitbewohnerin burst out laughing and asked if I knew what it meant and then wouldn’t (or couldn’t because she was laughing so hard) tell me what it was.
Thank goodness I typed it into an online dictionary and not Google.
SO. We went to the zoo on Saturday and I spent the best part of the day (okay, the entire time) running around like the over-excited, hyperactive 5 year-old loon on E-numbers that I (not-so) secretly am.
If you had any illusion that I am in any way mature, intelligent or sophisticated, prepare to have said image shattered. Brutally.
If, however, you wish to retain said normal-if-slightly-eccentric image, then please look away now and skip this post.
First stop: PELICANS.
I cannot get over how “bah-humbug” these birds look. In a comical, if not slightly loveable kinda way:
Then we saw the bears, white mountain goats that looked really furry and cuddly (with the exception of the massive horns) and elk.
Then we wandered on a bit further and saw rhinos, sloths, and birds that looked suspiciously like fat white flamingos.
Then we met Dave:
Except Dave was being a tad boring. I didn’t go all that way to watch penguins playing musical statues. Though his mate Fred seemed to have more of an idea of things:
What we did go all that way for, was to watch this:
By which point I was being laughed at by the people I was with (who eventually got bored of my penguin soundtrack and buggered off) and I received strange looks from other people visiting – probably because I was more excited about the whole penguin thing than most of the children there.
There is also a second video of madness, and it would have continued, had Doriane not pointed out that the others were so bored that they’d moved on to a different section.
Honestly. How can you be bored with penguins?
The best bit? I was talking with a colleague today who told about something even better. In winter, if the weather reaches below -10 degrees Centigrade, the penguins are allowed out of their enclosure and you can go for a walk with them.
Edit: it would seem that I’ve been misinformed. The penguins used to go for walks, but have since moved in with each other and have decided by an overwhelming majority not to leave their enclosure anymore. Disappointed is an understatement.
Apologies for the lack of whitterings, but things have been a little crazy and I’ve been a little under the weather.
Middle of last week I met Doriane at the station, who’s currently over looking for somewhere to live in Munich while she’s studying for the winter semester at LMU, and then (after being sent home with low blood pressure) I met Matt at the airport on Friday.
Saturday was spent at the zoo with Herr Ben and my colleague C, who very kindly agreed to come along and was most bemused with my antics at the penguin enclosure. I will write a longer post with video footage (oh yes, there are videos) and photos, otherwise it won’t do justice to the penguin enclosure zoo.
Sunday morning was spent watching Herr Ben playing football and being given a yellow card part way through. Tsk, tsk.
Oh, and I ended up making an absolute howler yesterday on the language front – so bad I can only sit here and laugh about it to myself. I had a phonecall yesterday from one of the heads of department who wanted to speak with my boss and asked for (rather quickly and in a heavy Bavarian accent) what sounded like her “Durchfall”.
He actually said “Durchwahl”, meaning direct number, not her diahorrea, which was a relief.
I went go-carting yesterday and woke up this morning with bruises up my spine and the following witty little ditty posted on my facebook wall from the rather full of himself Herr Ben:
“Becca Bourne, born to win?
Given the results, she might think it’s a sin.
She had shown promise and time to adapt,
But yet again by Ben she got lapped.
Credit though where credit’s due,
She mixed it with the boys and overtook a few.
Maybe next time round she’ll chance her arm,
What’s that old saying? Third time’s a charm.”
So whilst trying to laugh quietly enough so as not to wake my Mitbewohnern, it reminded me to write up yesterday’s results.
The most encouraging part of this is the huge improvement I made, so I’m now just a couple of seconds behind Herr Ben. So given how I have once again proven to be a quick learner, I reckon next time he’ll have to make sure he doesn’t get too complacent…
When we eventually got onto the track, it turns out that I was a) the youngest person on the track and b) the only girl/woman in the group starting off. We were driving for 15 minutes all in all, and the glorious times are as follows:
Go-carting Results Rounds 1 & 2
Lap Ben1 Becca1 Ben2 Becca2
1 1:16.11 1:23.62 1:01.81 1:16.20
2 1:06.79 1:35.17 1:01.27 1:05.73
3 1:05.92 1:15.73 1:00.27 1:03.30
4 1:05.23 1:13.17 1:00.65 1:03.60
5 1:04.31 1:10.70 59.40 1:04.29
6 1:08.09 1:07.69 59.31 1:03.49
7 1:05.63 1:17.35 1:02.46 1:02.70
8 1:13.18 1:10.49 1:00.28 1:01.87
9 1:06.09 59.80 1:03.06
10 1:00.60 1:03.52
11 59.75 1:02.81
12 59.91 1:04.20
13 1:01.08 1:06.3
14 1:04.85 1:06.3
(The last 2 entries for each column of the second round are exactly the same because the times on the print out are 2 laps amalgamated – therefore I’ve simply halved them.)
I would write these out in a table, but everytime I type out the html code, wordpress seems to cut everything out from the first opening tag. So you’re going to have to make do with this dodgy spacing, I’m afraid.
For the record, yes, Ben overtook me, but just before we went into the pits at the end of the 15 minutes, which is a huge improvement. The best bit? I overtook several people myself, some of them on the chicane, which I thought was quite an achievement.
The most amusing thing was the look on the other driver’s faces when I overtook them – one guy obviously couldn’t believe it and gave me what I can only describe as a “death stare” as I went past – at which I naturally grinned and waved. Bear in mind, I was the only girl, wearing wrist splints on both wrists and being rather scrawny, not looking like I’d be able to do much.