Sunday, September 24, 2006

Fests of Germany

The one thing that I totally miss about Germany.. is the Fests. Within a short period of 7 months that I was there, I have seen at least 5 - 6 fests on all levels.. City level, state level, country level..and why even within our own hostel! Well, in Germany you just dont know if they celebrate to drink Beer or they drink Beer to celebrate.. Anyhow, the festive air and mood is one; - never to be missed!!!

Schlossgraben Fest (25.05.06 - 27.05.06)

This was the first fest of its kind that I managed to catch.. It took place during Spring.. Perfect weather for hanging out..

From Wednesday of that week I had noticed people constructing tents and temporary stages outside my university, TUD and in the city centre. Though several of my friends had told me that there would be music all evening and many stalls selling food and drinks, I could not imagine how interesting that could get! This always happens in Singapore when they set up some temporary tent to perform the Chinese Wayang..Was it going to be like that? Usually for such events only the older generation attend.. :p ..Why a fest for something like this?

With a thousand questions in mind, I eagerly awaited that evening. My friends and I took Bus H which was diverted.. It stopped near the Schloss. As soon as we got down, the air hit me and the enthusiasm of the atmosphere got to me..!! There was so much music, so many people..The whole of Darmstadt was lit in coloured lights. As we walked towards my university.. I could hardly recognise it!! It was beautifully lit and the whole area was littered with shops and broken beer bottles .. Mann!

When I neared the rock stage I was overwhelmed (ofcourse there were many other stages for other kinds of music like classical, etc.. But your guess.. Rock was the all time favourite among youngsters) !! It was like being in a real concert.. The colourful lights and the professional bands! The music got to us and we started dancing.. The whole of Darmstadt looked like a huge Disco! There were so many shops selling alcohol (duh!) .. It was drizzling a bit.. But that was something anyone was the least worried about..

This three day event.. of good music and drink all night was one unforgettable experience for me indeed! And ofcourse the most amazing thing about all german fests is that .. the very next day life returns to more more broken beer more stages.. Like a dream.........

HeinerFest (30.06.06 - 02.07.06)

Heinerfest was equally awesome .. especially because the first day of the fest was the day Germany unexpectedly won against Argentina..! My friend and I had gone to watch the match at a Biergarten (for more info check out my blog on Weltmeister) ... after a toiling Mikrocontroller lab.. When Germany had won unexpectedly, we found reason enough to celebrate and joined in the Heinerfest Gala.. Everyone was not just in the festive soirit but also in the height of patriotism.. The mix of the two excitements caught me offguard and I loosened up to enjoy the fun.. An old man was going around painting the German flag on faces of people whom he passed by..and lucky us! We had the flag stamped on both sides of our faces and we proceeded to take part in the games..

That day was the day the kid in me broke loose.. It felt so good feeling that way after such a long time.. heehehe.. Awesome summer weather..and toy shops..(and of course the usual drink shops..goes without saying) ..Biergartens in the middle of the road!! And not to mention the equally playful policemen! :)

See the photo above..My first time sitting in something as exciting at that! I swear i will never forget that ride.. I was only screaming the whole 5 minutes away. And u know what is the best part of all this?? There was a silent 8 year old right next to me... :(.. Really cool but mind boggling rides at Heiner fest!!!

Karlshof Fest (22.07.06)

The last fest I experienced in Darmstadt :) .. Karlshof fest as the name suggests was a fest that our hostel held. During this fest, anyone who wished to put up a stall selling foodstuffs could do so.. All the indians in our hostel teamed up to sell indian food..

Ofcourse, as usual our planning stage was longer than the fest itself. Several ideas generated and several ideas cancelled... Our plans changed till the last minute. On Friday night, we finally decided on our menu and started shopping for it.

A group of us were in charge of buying things and marketing, etc and the other was for the main cooking.. Of course people like me (effectively the 'extras') were helping anywhere and everywhere unskilled help was required.. :p.. On Saturday morning, I found myself cutting a dozen onions to bits and some other common vegetables..

The cooking started full swing.. At 4 O'clock, the 'non cooking' group started setting up the tent and tables.. Unfortunately, the weather turned against us and heavy rain started pouring.. As in any usual scene.. excitement added to our lives as we wondered when the rain would stop.. The tents were destroyed and when the rain finally ceased.. tents had to be set up again..

Disappointments soon turned into enthusiasm as all stall owners decorated their stalls.. The Brazilians, Africans, Pakistanis.. Excitement ballooned as we rushed to keep up with the pace of the other stall owners.. All set and ready, customers started pouring in.. Awesome weather was finally of help to us.. Summer kept the sun going till 10:30 at night..

Lemon rice, chicken curry, Sambhar and Gulab Jamun for dessert.. Mango Lassi..Yummmm...That night there was striptese and belly dancing too at our hostel pub.. Took a photo of the dancer and her hmm.. husband i think..

Sales went really good..and most of all we had real good fun cooking together.. A nice time to bond! :) .. That night we were totally exhausted but excited..

Shaade ! Germany.. I miss you... :( and your fests of course.. :)

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Beautiful Tulips..Legalised drugs ..?!?!

Today I was reading an article on BBC News website about this Man who was brought to court after being found with 3 million pounds worth of Drugs at Essex!

Sure wouldnt have been a problem if the country he had imported the drugs to was Holland! In Holland, drugs are legal.. so is prostitution!

My trip to Amsterdam was in the second weekend of May this year. My friend and I took an evening train from Darmstadt. We had to ofcourse change 5 trains to get there. Real chore and had to run from one train to the next within a matter of minutes. And worse still, our second train got delayed and we had to wait in the train station for long till we got the next one. We reached about an hour later than we should have.

Another friend of ours had reached there earlier and found a place for us to stay. We reached at about 9pm and took a walk to our youth hostel, 'Kabul' to leave our luggage. As i walked through the narrow streets with multitude of shops on both sides, the liveliness in the air induced excitement in me! 'Kabul' hostel was friendly and it was the first youth hostel i had been to. The room we were allocated to had around 20 beds and several lockers.

That night we went to the famous stand up comedy show, Boom Chicago. It was held in a small stage attached to a pub like area. The comedy show was simply amazing. They played several games involving the audience and everything was impromptu!! For instance, they would create a funny story with random sentences given by different people in the audience.."The apple is yellow.." and " I am late for work" .. for instance... And a whole lot of imaginative ideas added in between to connect the two sentences!! My first ever visit to a live stand up comedy show!

The next morning we had breakfast at our youth hostel which was by the river. One thing about Amsterdam: There is seriously no scarcity of water anywhere. There is just water, water and more water. This is the scenery that one would see facing out of Kabul Hostel:

That day we were going to "Keukenhof".. The place famous for its Tulip flowers. We had to take a one hour trian to Leiden Centraal and then a bus to "Keukenhof" ..

Mann! It was the most beautiful place ever ! I have never seen so many flowers of so many different colours in one place.. It is a huge garden. Indians: If you would have seen the movie "Anniyan" , one of the songs was shot here. I have no words to describe the beauty of Keukenhof.. Check it out yourself in the following shots! :

At the park i met a woman clad in the tradional dress of Netherlands:

That evening we returned to Amsterdam and took a relaxing ride on a ferry around the city. There are innumerable canals! So much so that it is called the Venice of the North! Even with the enormous amount of 12,000 bridges and 160 canals, the city has no problems with water prone diseases, floods, pollution, etc! The next best thing about the waters is the houseboats! Buying a plot on the water is more expensive than buying one on land in Amsterdam!!

As we were cruising..we also realised that buildings in Amsterdam were tilted. Apparently, this is because of the nature of the soil which is generally soft due to the presence of abundant water.

Before retiring to bed that night, we saw a very interesting place :- The red light district!! (A place probably more dangerous to men than women!) Prostitution is legal in Holland. The red light district is really huge and almost located right in the city centre!

I can afford to say that it came as a culture shock to me! Nowhere else on earth are the women so straightforwardly on display,(just like we have clothes on display in any of our shops) sitting sparingly attired on stools behind windows. Nowhere else except in the other main Dutch cities, because this conspicuous window prostitution is distinct to the Netherlands, as distinct as the habit that many of its residents have for living their lives behind open curtained windows.

As u can see in the above picture, the red curtains are drawn, this indicates that the XXX activity is taking place. When it is not, the curtains are open, and the women stand behind those glass doors displaying themselves..

After a good rest that night,, we went to the Heineken brewery. As you would probably know, Heineken beer comes from Holland.
It was very informative as we learnt the process of making beer. At the end of the tour we even got to try pouring the beer into a beer glass. I never knew it was such a tough thing to do. The lesser the foam the better!

The last but the most exciting of the whole trip was Mike's bike tour! Basically, we went around the whole of Amsterdam and to the outskirts of Amsterdam with a tour guide and entirely on bicycle! It was real cool.

As he took us around he explained various things about Amsterdam. The easy availability of drugs, even in Cafes was one thing i was shocked to learn about! We visited the windmills and the cheese factory!

Overall, the Amsterdam trip was a wonderful one and I would recommend it to anyone who would consider a Europe tour!

Friday, August 18, 2006

My experiences with the Weltmeister..aka Worldcup

woohoo! Glad to be back in Singapore.. clean roads.. 2000000 dustbins.. automatic doors.. my old life..and most importantly.. my dahlin friends!!!! So glad to be back with u guys!

Been meeting up with my friends.. one grp a day for the past few days.. and they generally have two reactions when they see me..

(1) " You have not changed one bit.. u look the same!!!!!" .. Compliment or insult? I know not
(2) " You were there during the world cup!!!" .. Indeed something that i should feel lucky about!

The Weltmeister, 2006 is indeed an event that has captured a permanent place in my mind. Though I ofcourse did not manage to watch any of the matches at the stadium, being part of the fever..was something I would never ever forget..

We watched one of the first few matches.. England vs Paraguay at the floating screen in Frankfurt.. It was simply amazng..
Ya, so ttz the floating screen.. We were allowed to watch the match on either side of the river.. Casually sit by the river side..with a nice drink..and enjoy the fever and the cheering! ;) ..All matches were played live on this screen.

Well, the rest of the matches, i watched it in Darmstadt itself. There were plenty screens all over.. Every shop had a tv and there was a crowd watching.. There were flags everywhere.. Also, Karlshof had residents from nearly every country in Europe..and no matter who won or lost.. there would be celebrations and partys going on the whole night..
The one match that is etched in my mind.. is Germany vs Argentina. A friend of mine and I had gone to watch it at a place, Lichtwiese which had a Biergarten (an open air place to drink beer) where they had erected a huge screen. Most of us were nearly sure that Germany was going to lose against the very strong Argentenien team. But unexpectedly during the penality shot Germany won!! The nervous and anxious atmosphere broke into a joyous and excited one!! My friend and I proceeded to the City centre to celebrate. The mood was simply superb! Many were cheerin "Berlin, Berlin, wir fahren nach Berlin"..this meant.. that the german team would make it to Berlin where the finals were going to be held.

We painted our faces..and were in the city the whole night cheering away! It was an amazing experience!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Beauty in Imperfection

I sit here in the morning at 4.30, 2 days before i leave this lovely country.. reflecting.. Just as a very naughty child who looks so naive and innocent during his sleep, my normally bustling and noisy hostel is so silent and beautiful in the early morning, that i cant but appreciate the immense beauty and meaning it holds to me... I am gonna miss Karlshof (my hostel)..

How do i describe it? Highly untidy.. There is no wall with no graffity on it..

The lifts .. in some of them, even the buttons are invisible because some people have even found some stuff to draw ON the buttons.. And every friday and Saturday nights, the whole Karlshof stinks of alcohol, and u see broken alcohol bottles all over the floor..

My building is block 10C. The first building you see when you walk from the bus stop to Karlshof. In between the busstop and 10C, there is a small 'forest' of various trees Summer, with flowers..

Just on the other side of this 'forest' and somewhat behind my block is a punkhouse. This is where many punks in Darmstadt(the city where i live) are housed. Harmless and imperfect as they are, i find many punks unique in their own ways. Colourful and attention seeking in the way they dress, and quiet and mysterious in the way they are.. They certainly stun me in many ways..

On the other side of my block and between 10C and 10A is the famous Exil...the discothek of Karlshof..happening and wild..:) .. A place i would never forget..

My darling WG (Wohn Gemeinschaft..).. Well, here in germany, there is a concept of apartment sort of thing with 4 rooms and a common kitchen and bathroom. This apartment is called the WG.

My WG is very special to me.. When i was alotted to it, I was told that it was the untidiest WG in Karlshof, and that I was going to have the toughest time because they were all guys and tidiness was probably the last thing i could expect from them.. But when I moved in, and settled down..there couldnt have been something more that I could have asked for.. Lovliest and most caring neighbours.. providing me with day to day entertainment..Dirty as the WG was, it is really dear to me..

Imperfection... has its own beauty...

Monday, April 10, 2006

Adventures in Germany... Part 2

First and foremost, I have to apologise from the bottom of my heart for updating my blog so irregularly. I was not having internet access at home till last week and was unable to do all this in my office due to firewall. From now on, I will religiously update my blog..and this is a promise!!

And so, we left off with me in Stuttgart, being taken care of by my friend. Well, the very next day I left Stuttgart after having lunch at a Chinese restaurant(where of course the food had so much European touch that it dint taste chinese at all!!!!).

The next day was new year. I had never felt worse in my life. There was not one person on the streets, no sweet, excited voices of young children clad in new clothes.. no anything.. It was just so different for me. I went to the phone booth and called my parents to wish them. It was a really short call though I yearned to speak more. I had also called my dance friends who had all assembled at one person's house to celebrate. I could hardly talk, just had tears in my eyes. Why on earth was I here? Miles away from home? Yearning to be happy but finding no means to.. Everything was a barrier.. the weather, the language, the people.. There was no friendliness..there was no happiness..

I did not want to go back to the huge house and stare at the ceiling the whole of new year. I had a laptop, but no internet and no adaptor for the battery. All plugpoints in germany were 2 pin. I decided to just walk around the estate. There was pin drop silence. No evidence of life..No birds chirping.. no life absolute. Everything looked so white and eerie.. Snow everywhere. I should have been excited to see snow for the first time, but I wasnt.

My cousin had given me the number of his friend who stayed in Schwardz Wald (Black forest). I had tried calling the number several times, but in vain. Everything was just so dull. I walked my way back home and right outside my house, two small sweet girls were playing with fire crackers. It took me just a while to realise they were the grand children of my house owner. Not being able to resist my temptation in taking part in their fun, I joined them and in a while they were my first friends in Germany, Yara and Leya. Sweet and adorable.

Oma, on seeing me with the kids invited me home for lunch. I had lunch with Oma, Opa, their daughter, son in law and their two children. Nice, family lunch where there was constant chit chatter and laughter and happiness. For once, I felt that Germany was after all not devoid of love!! And for the first time after reaching I was happy. We spent the whole day together and I only went down to my part of the house to sleep!! The next day, my internship was to begin....

.................To be continued............

Monday, February 27, 2006

Adventures in germany .. Part 1

It has been really so long since I have written a blog entry! Yes here in Germany and surviving finally. So where do I begin?

8 weeks back…. 29th of December, I left India, my homeland. My mom, brother and cousin were at the airport and I bid them farewell.. Part of me was filled in fear..and the other part was filled with excitement.. So many qns filled my mind and I knew not whom to turn to for ans. I dint know a single soul in Germany! I weighed my baggage and it was 2 Kg over the limit (that was 2 Kg of rice that my mom gave me thinking that there would be no rice in the alien west).. I looked pleadingly into the eyes of the officer and he said.. “ Ok,ok.. not next time though”..

After a super long journey, first of this sort in my life.. I landed here in Germany on thirtieth of December. After checking out, I stepped out of the airport .. The first feelings of extreme fear.. first whoosh of extremely cold air.. is etched in my mind till today. I had the adderess written in my pink notebook..the notebook presented to me by Shiela and Ray on my 21st birthday.. It said,
13, Im Grossen Garten
I just kept staring at it and wondered what on earth it meant and exactly where on hell or heavens this place could be. How was I going to get there. I was given some directions by some far away relative who stayed down South and I had no idea what that meant either except that it involved me taking some two busses.. I was left alone with 32 Kgs of Baggage..How was I going to travel by bus on my own?? Man! I had never felt more forsaken than that in my life.

Ok, then I decided, I should take a cab. And looked around for one. And there was none in sight! Where were those black cars with yellow tops or blue comfort cars.. ?? “Oops..this is not Singapore babes.. Taxis around the world don’t look the same for goodness sake.. What are u thinking? Ok…so problem no. 1 is I don’t know how to get home. Problem no. 2.. I dint know how taxis looked like??!!” ..God! I walked up to this woman who was nearest to me and I asked her in a trembling voice.. (coz of cold).. hmm “Wo ist Taxi?” .. in broken german it meant..Where is taxi.. She pointed in some general direction. When I walked in that direction I saw several white Benz cars and collected that these could be taxis.

Finally got on to the taxi and showed the driver my add.. Then I saw an instrument I had never before seen ! The navigator. I was so awed by that in the beginning..U just gotta enter ur destination and it tells u when to turn right and left till u reached! When I reached my home, my mouth fell open. Here was one of the most beautiful structures I had ever seen! It had a chimney and I looked like the chocolate cake house in the Hansel and Gratel story!

There was snow everywhere and I had never seen anything more beautiful or angelic in my life.. An old lady(whom I now call Oma – meaning grandma in German) opened the door when she saw me and was extremely hospitable.. Atleast 3 times my age she was a whole lot stronger than me and carried my baggage with 3 times less difficulty than me down the staircase. She showed me my part of the house which was in the cellar.,,i.e the basement. Oma’s daughter came along and she could speak English. She offered to take me around in her car to show me the places around.

Well, that night I had horrible diarrhoea.. and I wanted to run away from Germany. My place in the basement was haunted for sure.. All I heard was silence.. There were no signs of cars or people anywhere on the road..and it was dark at four o clock. I looked at my watch every one min and noticed just how slowly time passed. How were six months going to pass? Impossible!!!!

The next morning, I left my home and got down at the last stop of the only bus from my home. It was called Schloss and after walking around a bit I landed at luisen platz. I was so overwhelmed because there were too many busses and trams on the road at the same time and I just dint know where to stand!! I went into the famous Luisen Centre. After wandering around a bit I found the telephone and made a call to Brindha.. someone I got to know thru my far away relative. She was the only contact I had. I was totally lost and needed to run into some English speaking soul who understood my position. I called her and told her I wanted to get to her place immly! I had no idea where Stuttgart was(where she stayed).. I thought Stuttgart was some place like City hall from Serangoon North.. And to my shock when I went to the counter, I realised it was 2hrs away !!! I got a train ticket and rushed to her place. That was the start of a slightly better life for me as I got medicines for my diarrhoea, got a phone line and got some real good Indian food…

………To be continued…………