Wednesday 10 October 2012

0049-8: Al Pacino Kama Sutra

Well, hello again. Haven't seen you for a while (I imagine - I don't really know who reads this, so I may have seen you yesterday and I wouldn't know. The curse of internet anonymity). How are you? I'm well, thank you for asking.

Right, let's get cracking. I met up with Rachel and Beth (another language assistant living near Oldenburg - the entourage is growing!) on the tuesday night, and quite obviously went to my favourite restaurant in the quarter kilometre circumference covering a certain part of town, "New York New York". I'm not sure if I've mentioned it before, and it's quite late here, so I'm just going to possibly repeat myself when I say it truly is a brilliantly unique restaurant. I would liken it to a kiwi (the fruit not the nationality): a little grotty and hairy on the outside, but perseverance pays off when you get inside and experience the juicy goodness on offer. As you may be able to tell from the name, the place is modelled on italian-american cooking, and the walls are plastered (sometimes literally) with photos of celebrities past and present, with bright lights accompanying pretty glass installations. A really cheerful atmosphere that makes you feel as if you're in the middle of the Big Apple. Also owned by a mafioso-style family of italians, and some sicilians along for the ride. Going to try and make it a regular place to eat, or at least have a "cohwafee" (My attempt at the New York pronunciation of coffee. Sorry.)

Also couldn't resist this. Sorry.

Having eaten to the point of hating ourselves, and sharing some tender moments with the endearingly creepy sicilian waiter, we moved onto the Grand Cafe (again), as it was cocktail happy hour. As we sat at the bar, cocktails in hand, I was transported back to the jazz age, the years of conspicuous consumption. That is until I noticed two things:

1) The price of the cocktails was still heinously inflated
2) The soundtrack to the scene was, in fact, Genie in a Bottle by Christina Aguilera

Still, the hour spent there was very enjoyable. It's difficult not to enjoy yourself in the Grand Cafe with friends.

Beth and me at the classy bar

We hadn't planned on it, but we decided to take a short trip to the yearly Kramermarkt, Oldenburg's version of Oktoberfest, before heading on to another bar. Arrived at the Markt to be greeted by the smells of food and beer I associate so readily with Germany. First stop was, obviously, at the Erotikangeln stall. Yes, that's right, erotic fishing. Not trying to catch fish in a skimpy thong, but trying to hook a bag of rude goodies. I was voted as the (un)lucky fisherman by the group, and at first won a prize that doesn't even bear thinking about. The vendor kindly let me have another go, so instead I won a notebook with cartoon drawings of the Kama Sutra included on its pages and a large green fuzzy novelty penis. Fun for all the family.

 My first prize. (Interestingly, when I found this image on google, its title was "gadaffi-dead-front-page". Who says internet image searches aren't always interesting?)

Rambled around the Markt for another hour or so, taking in all the sights, smells and sounds that we would enjoy at greater length the next day. Also saw a fairground ride called "Breakdance" which looked less like breakdancing and more like my personal vision of hell. I didn't go on it. If I had, I would have Chai Powered all over the Kramermarkt (that's right, Chai Power is now also a verb. Get with the programme).

Made our contented way from the Kramermarkt to Polyester Club on the outskirts of the Innenstadt, and came face to face with living proof of the old "don't judge a book by its cover" moniker. It looks from the outside- and I say this with love- a shambles of a place. However, I would say Polyester is another Kiwi: the dinginess continues inside somewhat, but the 1960s eastern bloc style really does grow on you. Added to that the jaunty benches, various random seats, Electro Swing Jazz in the background, and board games on offer, Polyester is certainly a place to go for a good time. Lovely student-friendly atmosphere as well. Will definitely be visiting many times, especially as they have a table tennis night every thursday! We then said our goodbyes, all looking forward to the Kramermarkt the next morning.

Deliberately blurred edgy photo taken by Rachel

Part Two coming soon...

Monday 1 October 2012

0049-7: Chai Power

Back to school! The first time I have ever been relatively enthusiastic about those words in my life. I really didn't want to let the school down, so I put on my best non-ill face and started teaching. I was very glad to have made that decision after the interview/ interrogation conducted by Hauptschule 10 Class, which included such usual questions as "What's your favourite colour", "Have you seen the Queen" and "Do you know Jamie Oliver". Then, a student put his hand up (again) and I assumed, as he was the best english speaker, that it would be yet another understandable, sensible question. What he actually asked in the most matter-of-fact voice I have ever heard was the lovely mid-morning thought provoker "Do you believe in God?" I did the sensible thing of skirting around the question and promoting tolerance. And also spoke really quickly so they didn't understand most of what I was saying. Normality was resumed (so to speak) when the next student asked, in the style of an observational comedian, "So, what about this economic crisis?" It felt like a slightly stilted version of Mock the Week.

The impromptu theological discussion woke me up somewhat, so I had enough energy to meet Rachel again at another cafe. I promise that one day I'll make a list of all the nice cafes and write them down in one big journalistic whimsical mental jaunt through Oldenburg. Unfortunately, today is not that day. Today I speak to you about the horror that is Chai Power.

I tried for a long time to find a picture to adequately describe Chai Power. Instead, I am showing you a picture of a cheerful baby, as protection for you and therapy for me.

Chai Power jokingly describes itself as tea. I should have seen the danger signs. The suspiciously low price. The warning the waitress gave ("You know it's bio, right?") as a look of sheer terror slowly enveloped her caring face. The colour of the thing. But no, the British Council told us to say YES to everything, so why not try this?

Because it is terrible.

I can only equate the sensation of drinking Chai Power to that of trying to chew through a foot of freshly laid tarmac whilst being bombarded with dust from a vacuum cleaner that hasn't been emptied for five years. For this reason, if you ever hear me describe something as Chai Power, you now know my opinion on said thing. Still, two euros isn't bad.

Having recovered from the Chai Power Experience, I was really happy to see Rosie and show her the new sights of Oldenburg that I had discovered. I therefore immediately took her to the Baldini Grand Cafe, and was not disappointed with her reaction. By coincidence, we met Rachel there again, and Rosie and I tried the Flammkuchen, which was as delicious as the surroundings.

Here is an actual real-life picture of the upper floor:

Don't say I never treat you

A quick weekend trip to Hannover followed, during which I met Rosie's new flatmates. Lovely people, and a warm, comfortable new flat to live in. We were treated to Kohlroulade, which was succulent minced meat wrapped in cabbage and lathered in a creamy curried sauce. I loved it so much, I asked for seconds, and with what was intended as a compliment, compared it to haggis. Unfortunately, not everyone has actually tried haggis, so they believed I was calling their meal Chai Power. I was certainly not. We all drank beers. Rosie nursed/ took on the role as full-time carer to her non-alcoholic one for three hours.

Went to the Hannover Oktoberfest with Rosie, Dan, Millie and Kat. Was a bit commercial, but they still had the large beers, so I was content, and by that I don't mean drunk.

Dan is the silent hero taking the picture

This is Dan! Prost!

Dan, Millie and I went down a slide on some carpet for a couple of euros, which was nice.

All in all, an enjoyable (if a little sickly) week. I also realised earlier today that it has been a month since I left the balmy isles of Britain to go on this journey. I have to admit the time has passed by pretty rapidly. Still, 8/9 of my time here left to go! Off to school tomorrow and then going out to a club called Polyester Oldenburg for its Jazz night. Should be interesting, and I still have some faith left in the "always say yes" mantra. I will, of course, keep you updated. Bye for now!

0049-6: Dogs and Gatsby

Hello! This is the first part of a double bill blog! However, it's beginning to look like I'll write an official weekly post, with additions where I see fit. I won't have an official time when I post, so you'll have to keep on your toes (all two of you - hi mum and dad!)

Anyway, on to my post!

The weekend was spent traveling to and from Hannover to visit Rosie and see more of the city. Unfortunately I'd booked the train ticket before I became horrendously ill (thanks, kids) so I had to suck it up and travel for the sake of adventure. Slash I'm tight with money, so I didn't want to waste it. Luckily, Rosie was very caring, so we didn't do that much apart from visit the Herbstfestival in the Herrenhäuser Gärten. Overall, a very relaxed, happy event, periodically interrupted by thirty dogs attacking each other/ trying to make love to people's legs.

After a couple of days slowly succumbing to what I now fully believed was bubonic plague, I had to leave Rosie, the modern day Florence Nightingale, and travel back to Oldenburg. I managed to find a seat on the train with plenty of space, so you would forgive me for hoping that this would be an easy restful trip back to my home. Oh, how very wrong I was, I imagine the twelve large Bavarians surrounding me were thinking as they simultaneously plonked themselves down onto their seats and poured rum into hefty plastic cups. I obviously therefore spent half of my time trying to sleep and the other half pretending to play stick cricket and listening to their tipsy conversations.

As a result of my plague, I had both monday and tuesday off, to recuperate and sob quietly in a ball on my bed. However, on tuesday I had begun to show signs of early onset cabin fever, and so decided to meet with Rachel to have a cup of something warm at a local cafe. We met in the Baldini Grand Cafe in the Lappan area of Oldenburg, a beautiful cafe/bar lost somewhere in Jay Gatsby's 1920s. I ordered the 'White Angel' in my best German accent, and received a gorgeous white hot chocolate. I would definitely recommend a visit, as although pricey, the decor is worth it alone.

Gatsby had just seen the price of the Apfelschorle

We were then off to that Schloss again, this time to visit the museum. Comprehensive place detailing the history of Oldenburg (including the shavings from the beard of Peter I. Friedrich Ludwig von Oldenburg's corpse. Family viewing), and the 3€ ticket lets you in to two other museums for the day as well. Bargain! I didn't take them up on the offer however, as it had begun to pour it down, and so my logical decision was not to wait it out but pedal home as quickly as I could on a wet slippery bike through thunder and lightening (it was, in fact, very very frightening). As you can imagine, this did not help my health, but I was determined to go back to school the next day.

Me leaving the Schloss

Part Two coming soon. As in probably later on tonight. I have nothing else to do. Yay!