The Abbsolute Deutscher

Posted on April 19th, 2012 by

I know what you're thinking. I can't believe they misspelled "tiny" either.

And this is the flour starter kit

As Abbey and I arrive back in Berlin from our Italian excursion, all I want to do is sleep. Unfortunately, that’s not happening due to the exam I have in the morning… to make matters worse (or better depending on your perspective), Kansas is playing in the National Championship at 3 in the morning here. Being a diehard Jayhawk fan, I can’t justify missing out on this (I should have missed out on it). KU played like donkey and got unequivocally rocked. After another couple of hours of shuteye post-beatdown, I went to my test. It’s on a few months’ worth of material yet is only 25 multiple choice questions. Not ideal, but I’m hoping it went alright.  Mal sehen (we’ll see). From there, I meet up with Abbey and we head to Potsdam, a quaint little town southwest of Berlin. It’s most famous for its castle, Schloss Sansoucci. After heading down an awesome street with tons of small, random shops, we head to the park that surrounds the Sansoucci. We walk to the castle, look at it for a couple minutes, and then getting our priorities straight, go to find a place to take a nap (simply couldn’t do it anymore). In the end, we just find an empty field and collapse in the grass. Eventually, we get up, grab some food, and head back home. Guess what’s next on the docket? Nap time Nummer zwei. Once we arise from our slumber this time around, we’re feeling rejuvenated enough to go search for ingredients for chocolate chip cookies (we decide to make them in celebration of my French roommate getting published in a journal; sadly I don’t know how to say, “Brush ya shouldas off,” in German). This proves to be much harder than expected. We find, at most, only half of the required ingredients in their correct fashion. For starters, Germany has brown sugar, but it just looks like white sugar with some brown food coloring. The vanilla is clear (smelled like vanilla at least). Then, there are at least 65 options when it comes to flour, so we have no idea what’s best for cookies (when you need a PhD to determine the correct flour, you know there’s a problem). God knows where one finds baking soda. Chocolate chips don’t exist, but we instead took the glorious European chocolate Milka and cut it into chunks. So essentially the only things I can say with confidence that we have correct are sugar, butter, eggs, and salt (this is definitely going to be a baking success). From here, we went and got some sushi. I’m no sushi connoisseur, but not bad considering we’re in Germany (and that’s saying something considering my extremely high standards growing up in the sushi capital of the world, Fargo).

He could've found baking soda

But now, on to the main event. Actually making these cookies. And by making, I mean throwing random amounts of each ingredient into a bowl. For example, how do you measure two sticks of butter when all you have is a block? For you perfectionists out there who say it’s a cup and I should measure it, a “cup” does not exist here. Germans are definite perfectionists and don’t believe in vague things like a cup. They’d probably say it’s something like 240.843mL. After mixing all our ingredients together, it actually doesn’t look half bad. But then, it’s oven time. I now know why recipes call for baking soda. The heat turns these cookies into puddles of sugar and “flour.” Each one kind of flows into the next, and they come out in all kinds of shapes (there was even one perfect baseball diamond). One piece of consistency though. They sure were flat. The taste test wasn’t as bad as I expected either. Certainly not export quality, but people seemed to enjoy them all the same. Anyway, some fine folks end up coming over to celebrate, and Cecile, being French, makes ratatouille which is wonderful (sadly, she doesn’t have a furry friend that helps her cook). In the end, the gathering was a success.

They're back, alright

The next day after finishing class, Abbey and I walk by the East Side Gallery, a mile stretch of the Berlin Wall decorated with random (and I mean random) paintings, on our way to Kreuzberg, another section of Berlin with cool shops, restaurants, and a much younger crowd. We decide to walk through a park at one point, and it’s sketch to say the least (there are so many drugs round those parts it probably grows naturally by now). After a bit more exploring, we decide to run home and make some pesto. I love pesto. Eventually, we make our way to a club known as the Alte Cantine (the old canteen). It’s 90s night, so there’s a bit of a line. As we get closer, we realize that they’re ID-ing people. This is a bit surprising because Germans could care less how old you are to drink, but then I realize it’s because they want to keep the clientele at the club above a certain age. In order to avoid losing things, Abbs hasn’t brought any sort of identification… luckily, she uses that silver tongue of hers to convince the doorman that we’re old enough (which we are even if I look all of twelve). From there, we are welcomed in by some kind of Backstreet Boys mix tape (something all cultures can appreciate). I could even deal with the German 90s as long as they mixed it up with a couple English songs in the middle, but as the night went on, it just became more and more eclectic German 90s favorites. The people around us were going crazy, but we had no idea what was happening. Mixing this with the desire to get a good night’s rest, we headed back home somewhat early.

She didn't make it and she even looks German

The next day we go to Volkspark Friedrichshain which, as I’ve said before, is one place where I go bouldering. This park is massive, so there are certain areas I have never actually explored. One of these is the Märchenbrunnen which is the Fairytale Fountain. As the name suggests, it’s a fountain flanked by various sculptures depicting German fairytales. We do our best to identify the characters but fail quite miserably (apparently Mulan isn’t classic German). Another highlight is walking past the dog park. As we’re on the outskirts of the park, a big, shaggy black dog comes loping off the street right past us. He seems to be on a mission, so Abbs and I look at each other wondering where he’s off to (especially because he has no kind of owner anywhere in sight). Then he abruptly stops, gets on his hind quarters, paws open a side door to the dog park which I didn’t even know existed, and then bounds on into the place like that’s totally normal (he’s probably smarter than the average human child). I’m assuming somebody just says, “Winston, go get yourself some fresh air,” and he leaves the apartment to frolic at the dog park for a bit before returning home. He probably even uses the pay toilets when he needs to urinate. German dogs are so klug (smart). From there, we start walking home and notice a guy trying to take a picture of a building. In order to get a better shot, he starts backpedaling so much so that he is now in the street. We try to warn him, but he just waves us on. He is literally blocking an entire lane of traffic as people are flying by giving him dirty looks. But does he care? Hell no. He’s taking a picture.

Dora, you haven't made it until Kraft M&C immortalizes you

That night we go to a fantastic South German restaurant called Schwarzwaldstuben. The food is absolutely incredible. I have something known as käsespätzle which is something like the German equivalent of Mac and Cheese except that it’s super labor intensive, actually quite classy, and does not come in the shape of your favorite Rugrats characters. Abbs has something I’ve never seen before that seemed to be dumplings stuffed with pesto. Both are ridiculously good. I’m pretty sure it’s the best German food I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating. Also, we’ve taken to pilfering coasters wherever we eat, so we grab a few of those on the way out. From there, we meet up with about ten or so of my friends from class at a bar and then hit up a club. The name of this place is Bassy, and they only play music from 1969 or early. Apparently, no music since this point has been worthwhile (sorry MJ, but you can moonwalk your way outta here). I’m not even sure how to describe the music. It is one part blues, one part rock, one part swing, and one part craziness. There’s a live band when we arrive, and they look sweet and oldschool-like (it’s still the 1950s as far as they’re concerned). After a lot of dancing and other shenanigans, we head home in the wee hours of the morning, but why would the adventure stop there? As we get to the u-bahn, there’s an Indian guy talking to an information pole (I always thought these were mainly meant for reporting crimes and such, but apparently you can also ask for the most effective way home) in English with a thick accent. The German on the other end probably doesn’t speak the best English to begin with, so this begins a long, entertaining banter full of frustration for both participants. Hilarious. Eventually though, they work everything out. After this, our train comes, and Abbey gets a bit too into saying her goodbyes so that I have to actually pull her onto the train as the doors are closing. From there, we’re journeying with two other friends, and this genuinely crazy man starts going off in German telling us about how there has been a water explosion. One of the friends who is actually German starts talking to him all calm and rationally, and eventually he settles down a bit (the awkward part is after this when he wants to come with us…). Well, we now have to switch trains but there’s a ten minute wait, so we do what all rational people do when they’ve got a bit of time to kill. What is it, you ask? Go take passport pictures of course. I mean, I need one of these for my international driver’s license, so why not at three in the morning in the s-bahn station? We take and print them all without missing our train home.

We don't mess around when it comes to chocolate

The next day is brutal. I want to show Abbey a castle on the western side of Berlin called Schloss Charlottenberg, so we head over that direction just after lunch. As we get out of the u-bahn station, it starts to SLEET. Come on Berlin, it’s springtime. Abbey and I then look at each other and decide that we’ll pass up the sightseeing. But before getting home, we hit up a couple of random places. One is a market which sells all kinds of old antiquey things (for example: whole lotta doorknobs). After this, we went to the Ritter Sport store. Disregard the name, because it’s a chocolate store (interestingly, the Sport part of the name is because the bars are square to fit better in a sports jacket pocket and keep from breaking). They must have like 72,000 flavors and they’re all glorious. In the front section, you can even make your own bars of chocolate (I walked past some girl throwing marshmallows and gummy bears into hers; yum?). We stocked up on all kinds of chocolate for Abbs to take home and then had one final stop at Hackescher Markt, Abbey’s favorite place in Berlin. While there, Abbs had her first Currywurst. This is a special bratwurst with almost-ketchup and curry powder on top of it. Berlin is fairly famous for these although I can’t understand the allure for the life of me. Once we’re feeling back up to food, we go to finish Abbey’s trip the way it started. With a döner kebab from Mustafa’s Gemüse Döner. By this time, it’s snowing, yet even so, we stand in line outside for an HOUR for these things (this is longer than the wait at most restaurants but definitely worth it). As we’re heading home, we witness one of those moments in life where a person does something just really cool (ex: knocking a cup off the table but catching it with your foot). Well, typically as the doors to the train are about to close, a red light starts flashing. This happens like usual and all of a sudden, this guy guns it in on his bike and whips the tail around to stop just before hitting the other side all while the doors are closing around him. I should have applauded. Even left a perfect black rubber semicircle on the floor of the train.

Kind of like this, but not at all

Well, Abbey’s trip has now come to an end, so I take her to the airport around 8am. But luckily, before she leaves Germany, she gets to see something truly beautiful. The train ride of shame. It’s kind of like the walk of shame, but with longer distances requiring the use of public transport. This girl looks disheveled in the outfit she obviously went out in last night and can’t be more embarrassed. The sad part is that here in Berlin she can just play it off like she’s finally going home from the club as the sun comes up, but no, everything about her says, “Walk of shame.” Happens to the best of us (MJ). Anyway, Abbs makes her flight with plenty of time to spare, and now it’s back to a fairly normal life for a week. Then my parents come. This is an overload of stimulus especially when I have a ton of schoolwork I should be doing (hence the irregularity of the blogs which will probably continue for a while). But, I’ll make it through. It’s definitely worth it getting to show those you care about the city, culture, and language you’ve come to know and love. Bis nächste mal (until next time).

Hugs and hand pounds,
Hassie (the man whose nasty stache and sideburns you can’t help but be attracted to)


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