Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Surfing the Net in German

A glossary of German words you might come across when surfing German websites.

General internet terms:
der Webbrowser  - the web browser
im Internet surfen - to surf the Internet
die Website - the website
die Web-Seite - the web page
die Web-Adresse - the web page address
404 nicht gefunden - 404 Not Found (nb all the error codes are the same as for English)
der Domain-Name - the domain name
der Inhalt einer Webseite - the web content
der Webmaster, oder die Webmasterin - the webmaster m/f (nb I've never come across 'Webmeister' on a German site; I'm beginning to think that it is an English-speaking affectation by people who drink too much Jägermeister).
die Webgestaltung - the web design
der Webdesigner, oder die Webdesignerin - the web designer m/f
etwas ins Netz stellen - to post something on the Internet
über das Internetvia the Internet
das (auch der) Blog, oder das Internet-Tagebuch - the blog
das Forum - the bulletin board

Common menu items:
das Menü  -the menu
das Hauptmenü - the main menu
die Hauptseite - homepage
der Hypertext-Link - the hyperlink
suchen - to search
suche - search
(and you might get '
Die Suche nach etwas lieferte keine Treffer' - the search for (something) didn't come up with any results. Otherwise you will get die Ergebnisse - the results)
ausdrucken - to print out
der Kontakt - the contact details
die Hilfe - help
über uns - about us
über diese Website - about this website
das Impressum - the  (website) credits

Signing on and Registering:
Anmelden - to sign on
Der Benutzername - the username
registrieren - to register
bitte nur Buchstaben, Zahlen, Binde- und Unterstriche - only letters, numbers, dashes and underscores please
Benutzername verfügbar - username available
Schon vergeben. Bitte wähle einen anderen - already allocated. Please choose another
Das Passwort (auch das Kennwort) - the password
Schutz mit Passwort (auch das Kennwort) - password protected
zu kurz - too short
mindestens 5 Zeichen - at least five characters
wiederholung - repeat (password)
Angemeldet bleiben - remember login details
Passwort vergessen? - forget password?
geändert - changed
das E-mail - the email address (or more specifically die E-Mail-Adresse)
die Stadt - the town/city
die Postleitzahl - post code
männlich - male
weiblich - female
Ich habe die AGB gelesen und bin damit einverstanden -I have read and agree with the terms and conditions.
Die AGB müssen akzeptiert werden - the terms and conditions must be agreed to
schicken - to send (a form)
abmelden - to sign out

e-mail terms:
die/das E-Mail - the e-mail
etwas per E-Mail senden - to send something by email
etwas mailen - to e-mail something (informal)
jemand etwas mailen - to e-mail somebody something (informal)
I have
also seen jemand etwas e-mailen - to e-mail somebody something (informal)
Von: - from
An: - to
Gesendet: - sent
Betreff: - subject
die angehängte Datei - the e-mail attachment. Also der Attachment.
unerwünschte Werbe-E-Mail - unsolicited commercial email, i.e. der Spam
virenfrei - virus free
NB when saying e-mail addresses, it is acceptable to say @ as 'at'. Otherwise,
der Kringle (= squiggle, curl, kink, loop, ring) could be used.

On-line shopping terms:
kaufen - to shop
das Angebot - offer
das Sonderangebot - special (bargain) offer
der Einkaufswagen - shopping cart
in den Einkaufswagen - add to shopping cart
zum Einkaufswagen - go to shopping cart
die Menge - quantity
die Größe - the size
weiter einkaufen - carry on shopping
zur Kasse gehen - go to the checkout
der Sicherheitsserver - secure server
bezahlen - to pay
das Konto - the account

Navigation terms:
weiter - forward, next
mehr - more
zurück - back
hier klicken - click here
öffnet im neuen Fenster - opens in new window
Fenster schließen - close window
das Überlagerungsfenster oder das Dialogfenster - pop-up window
das Aufklappmenü oder das Pop-up-Menü - pop-up menu
der Cursor auch die Schreibmarke - the cursor

Some hardware terms:

die Computer - the computer
die Maus - the mouse
der Bildschirm, der Monitor - the screen
die Tastatur - the keyboard
die Wagenrücklauftaste - the carriage return (enter) key
der Drucker - the printer
das (auch der) Modem - the modem
der Router - the router
die (auch der) Firewall - the firewall
or if that's too obvious, also
das Zugangsschutzsystem
der Anschluss - the telephone line, connection, interface, data-link
der Computeranschluss - specifically the computer connection
das Breitband - broadband
das drahtloses lokales Netz - wireless local area network

And hopefully you'll do it all without encountering der Absturz - systems crash!

Monday, 17 December 2007

Frohe Weihnachten!

Yes, I've brought this one out again. But it took me ages to do :¬)
The source image before I got Photoshop onto it came from Kerrang! magazine by the way.

p.s. That's the German rock group Rammstein in case you didn't know (and why should you?).

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Stenciling 101

EDIT: I have noticed a lot of people coming to this page from google, perhaps hoping for genuine advice on stencilling. If this is you, do not read any further!

I have an olive-green ex-German army shirt. It only cost a fiver and has natty schwarz-rot-geil! epaulettes, but it could do with jazzing up. What easier way, I thought, than adding a Rammstein logo onto one of the breast pockets? That's assuming Das Management, Pilgrim GmbH, don't sue the (army) shirt off my back for copyright infringement (ps logo on the right used without permission, but if Emu sends me a solicitor's letter I am totally and utterly prepared to back down immediately and take myself off-line indefinitely).

So I bought some black fabric paint, gave my shirt a good wash, and set about creating a stencil (in fact, the one above).

First thought; print it out on paper and cut out the spaces between the lines with a craft knife.
But the 80g paper in our printer proved too absorbent for the fabric paint, and a splodgy mess looked the likely result.

Okay, so try gluing the printed paper to cardboard and then cutting out the areas between the lines.
But cutting through the thickness of the cardboard was quite hard work and resulted in untidy edges.
I gave up long before tackling all those lines.

Therefore, how about painting the design on free-hand? Well, it looks a simple design, but you've got to get the measurements right to preserve the cross symmetry, and I wasn't sure my (shaky) hand/eye co-ordination was up to it. So, here's an idea that has been used by people transferring designs onto parchment and cloth since the time of the Book of Kells;
prick through the design, printed on paper, at key points;
paint over the design onto the shirt, letting the dye go through the pin-holes; then with a paint-brush just join the dots by hand.

Well, it nearly worked. The weft of the cloth dragged the paint on the brush, and the cotton absorbed it unevenly. But - and I think that this is at least partial justification for a couple of hours craft-work - if you see the result from a distance of over ten metres, in poor light, you'd be hard-pressed to tell the difference from official Rammstein merchandise. If you weren't wearing your glasses.

And the moral of the story is, save your self a lot of effort and just buy a patch from the Rammstein on-line store.

At least then you can sleep at night without being fearful of Rammstein's lawyers shutting down your shirt.

I wonder though if potato-prints would work?

p.s. Great respect goes out to the graffiti artist Banksy. I can't even do a simple R+ logo stencil in the comfort of my own living room, and you've brought stencil art and satire to the streets of the world whilst forever looking over your shoulder for the rozzers. Du bist der Hammer!
Link to Banksy's website.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Stille Nacht

'Tis the season etc. etc.

Music: Franz Xaver Gruber, 1818
Words: Joseph Mohr, 1816/1818

Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht,
Alles schläft; einsam wacht
Nur das traute hochheilige Paar.
Holder Knabe im lockigen Haar,
Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!
Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!

Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht,
Hirten erst kundgemacht
Durch der Engel Halleluja,
Tönt es laut von fern und nah:
Christ, der Retter ist da!
Christ, der Retter ist da!

Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht,
Gottes Sohn, o wie lacht
Lieb' aus deinem göttlichen Mund,
Da uns schlägt die rettende Stund'.

Christ, in deiner Geburt!
Christ, in deiner Geburt!

Listen to it here on Youtube

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Wie buchstabiert man das? How do you spell that?

Das Alphabet The Alphabet

The German alphabet, with approximate pronounciations, and the phonetic code from the Buchstabiertafel 
(used to avoid confusion on a bad phoneline):

- ah (!) - wie Anton - AHN-tone
- bay - wie Berta - BARE-tuh
- tsay - wie Cäsar - SAY-zar
- day - wie Dora - DORE-uh
- ay (!) - wie Emil - ay-MEAL
- eff - wie Friedrich - FREED-reech
- gay - wie Gustav - GOOS-tahf

- hah - wie Heinrich - HINE-reech
- ee (!) - wie Ida - EED-uh
- yot (!) - wie Julius - YUL-ee-oos
- kah - wie Kaufmann - KOWF-mann
- ell - wie Ludwig - LOOD-vig
- emm - wie Martha - MAR-tuh
- enn - wie Nordpol - NORT-pole
- oh - wie Otto - AHT-toe
- pay - wie Paula - POW-luh

- koo - wie Quelle - KVEL-uh
- air - wie Richard - REE-shart
- es - wie Siegfried - SEEG-freed
- tay - wie Theodor - TAY-oh-dore
- ooh - wie Ulrich - OOL-reech
- fow (!) - wie Viktor - VICK-tor
w - vay (!) - wie Wilhelm - VIL-helm

x - icks - wie Xanthippe - KSAN-tipp-uh
y - ipsilon (!) - wie Ypsilon - IPP-see-lohn
z - tset - wie Zeppelin - TSEP-puh-leen

ä - eh - wie Ärger - AIR-gehr
äu - oy
ö - er - wie Ökonom - UEH-ko-nome
ü - euh - wie Übermut - UEH-ber-moot

ß - ess = s tset or scharfes s

Ones to be careful of are marked with a !, as these sound like different letters in English, or vary greatly. The ordering and divisions in the un-accented letters are there to reflect the pauses in a well known spelling rhyme. In a dictionary, ä would come after a, ö after o, ü after u, and ß wouldn't have its own entry as there are no words that beign with it. (Note for trivia fans; there is no ß in a German Scrabble game, as all the letters on the tiles are upper case and ß is always lower case).

Note that 'umlaut' is a word invented by phoneticists to describe the letters with dots above them and is not used in common conversation; so if you are spelling out a word with an umlauted letter, you'd say e.g. for ä,  'eh'  not 'ah umlaut'.

The way to type the extra letters on a non-German keyboard is to hold down the 'alt' key and tap three digits on the number-pad according to the following table:

ß = ALT+225
Ä = ALT+142
ä = ALT+132
Ö = ALT+153
ö = ALT+148
Ü = ALT+154
ü = ALT+129

NB 'Num Lock' must be 'ON'.

I've created a pictorial alphabet on THIS (click here!) webpage

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Frankfurt Christmas Market - in Brum!

This evening we went to what is billed 'the largest authentic market outside of Germany and Austria' and is to be found this month until the 23rd in the centre of Birmingham. It's not so bizarre as you might first think - after all, Birmingham is twinned with Frankfurt am Maine - but it is slightly incongruous when you first hear Bratwurst being ordered in a brummie accent.

The market has over ninety open-air stalls, selling everything from wooden toys to lacework, candles to glassware. And of course warming Glühwein or frothing Weizenbier to wash down the Pretzels mit Käse and garlic bread (Knobibrot - served from inside a giant make-shift garlic bulb!).

The market was busy, despite the weather, and the stalls spilled their coloured lights into the rainy night whilst people enthusiastically tried new foods, or inspected traditional German craftwork. The wintertide smells of roasting chestnuts, freshly backed gingerbread, and sacks of cinnamony spices mingled with the fairground odours of candyfloss and waffles. Catched snippets of the stall-holders speaking German mingled with the chatter of excited Brummie children gazing wide-eyed at stalls laden with chocolate. I bought a large stollen cake, which looked like it had about 10,000 calories in it, and we had a couple of cups of scalding hot Glühwein and Kirschwein.

Perhaps the market wasn't exactly the same as a traditional German Weihnachtsmarkt, but with your eyes half-closed and a sprinkling of wishful thinking, you could almost think you were in Köln or Berlin (vielleicht!).

Just, with a nasal Black Country accent.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Happy First Birthday Knut!

Still as cute as ever!

And you can sing along to his song as well.

Knut, der ist ein Kuschelbär
Doch hat keine Mama mehr
Trotzdem ist er frech und froh
Und der Star im Zoo

Kleiner Racker ganz in weiß
Und vier Pfoten, kuschelweich
Alle haben den Knut so lieb
Schön das es dich gibt

Knut, Knut
Kleiner Eisbär aus dem Zoo
Knut, Knut
dir geht’s richtig gut

Knut du bist ein Kuschelbär
Du wirst immer putziger
Laufen kannst du auch schon gut
Weiter so, nur Mut
Nuckelfläschchen in den Mund
Trinke fein, das ist gesund
Danach musst du schlafen gehen
Kleiner Knut schlaf schön

Knut, Knut
Kleiner Eisbär aus dem Zoo
Knut, Knut
Geht’s jetzt richtig gut.

Knut du süßer Kuschelbär
Dich zu mögen ist nicht schwer
Streichelt man dich auf dem Bauch
Dann freust du dich auch

Deine Zähnchen sind noch klein
Kräftig beißen das muss sein
Dann wirst du bald groß und stark
Ja das ist doch klar

Knut, Knut
Kleiner Eisbär aus dem Zoo
Knut, Knut
Dir geht’s richtig gut.

Knut, Knut
Kleiner Eisbär aus dem Zoo
Knut, Knut
Dir geht’s richtig gut.

(c)Kitty Und Knut

And if you can't get enough of sweet songs about cuddly Knut, I think this is supposed to be the official Berlin Zoo song: Knut der kleine Kuschelbär - Knut geht's gut

(the lyrics are on this site)

Herzlichen Glückwunsch zum Geburtstag, Knut!

Karlheinz Stockhausen (August 22, 1928 – December 5, 2007)

The electro-acoustic pioneer and influential avant-garde guru (he makes an appearance on the Sgt Pepper's cover) Karlheinz Stockhausen died today in Kürten, North Rhine-Westphalia, aged 79.

In tribute, here is a snippet from a performance of his work Helikopter-Streichquartett (helicopter string quartet).

Anybody who can even come up with the idea of a performance where each of the quartet are in their own helicopter flying over the concert hall, let alone putting it into action, immediately gets my respect. Though perhaps not if I've got my Greenpeace hat on.

Without Stockhausen, would there have been the likes of Kraftwerk, electro-rave, or Flake Lorenz? His work may be somewhat hard to 'get', but enough musicians 'got' it to help them push their own creative boundaries.

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Sie kommt! Sie kommt! Sie kommt!

One of my favorite arias is 'O zittre nicht', given by die Königin der Nacht (Queen of the Night) in Mozart's opera Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute).

I tried finding a translation for it on the net, but couldn't find an exact one. So, as an exercise in German to English translation (and in using a dictionary) I thought I'd give it a go.

I took the libretto from Wikipedia here. As I said, it's just for fun, so don't come suing me if you are laughed off the stage at the New York Met if I've got it wrong.

O zittre nicht, mein lieber Sohn!
Premiered Vienna, 30 th September 1791
Music by Mozart
Words by Emanuel Schikaneder
Poorly translated by Andie Gilmour

O zittre nicht, mein lieber Sohn! - O tremble not, my beloved son!
Du bist unschuldig, weise, fromm; - you are innocent, wise, devout;
Ein Jüngling so wie du - a lad such as you
vermag am besten
Dies tiefgebeugte
Mutterherz zu trösten. - is the best thing capable of consoling this deeply saddened mother's heart.
Zum Leiden bin ich auserkoren, - I have been doomed to suffer
Denn meine Tochter fehlet mir; - for my daughter has left me
Durch sie ging all mein Glück verloren, - through her all my happiness has dissapeared
Ein Bösewicht entfloh mit ihr. - a villain has fled with her.
Noch seh' ich sie zittern - still I see her trembling
Mit bangem Erschüttern, - with fearful shaking
Ihr ängstliches Beben, - her anxious quaking,
Ihr schüchternes Streben. - her timid striving.
Ich musste sie mir rauben sehen, - I had to see her stolen from me.
Ach, helft! ach helft! war alles, was sie sprach. - Oh help me! Oh help me! was all she said.
Allein vergebens war ihr Flehen, - her pleading was for nothing and she was on her own
Denn meine Hilfe war zu schwach. - for my help was too feeble.
Du, du, du wirst sie zu befreien gehen, - you, you, you will go to liberate her,
Du wirst der Tochter Retter sein. - you will be (my) daughter's rescuer.
Und werd' ich dich als Sieger sehen, - and should I see you as a winner,
So sei sie dann auf ewig dein. - so shall she be eternally yours.
There's a good performance of this by Natalie Dessay on YouTube (follow this link) where you can have it in French too!

Next time, Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen! ('Hell's vengeance boils in my heart')

Monday, 12 November 2007

We have an Offer on the House!

Tentative celebrations, but yes, we have an offer on the house!

Many a slip twixt cup and lip and all that, but the couple who are putting in the offer really seemed to click with the house, the way we did when we first saw it all those years ago.

Let's hope it all goes smoothly, and we'll be soon in Berlin. Realistically, probably not in time for Sylvester 2008 as planned, but surely not much later.

A cautionary tale: A colleague at work was emigrating with her family to a new life in New Zealand last week. So I was surprised to have an email from her yesterday, still at work. I asked her what had gone wrong, and she said that they had moved out of their house on Thursday as planned, ready for the buyers to occupy on Saturday, and for her and her family to fly to the antipodes. But disaster! The buyers pulled out of the contract on Friday, just like that. And with our wonderful English Land and Property laws, there was nothing my friend could do. Well, her husband and eldest son have flown to New Zealand, leaving her here with her youngest son and a house to sell again.

That, of course WILL NOT happen to us!

Thursday, 1 November 2007

Back to Basics

Having completed the advanced German Open University course Auftakt, the obvious follow-on is . . . to go back and do the beginners' course Rundblick, natürlich.

And that's not just because I still don't know what 'Auftakt' actually means ('anacrusis', apparantly: 'One or more unstressed syllables at the beginning of a line of verse, before the reckoning of the normal meter begins.' Damn these arty types running the OU!).

I am taking it:
  • to keep in practice and to finally get my head around the accusative and the dative and
  • to try for the OU Certificate in German, which will be something to add to my CV (Lebenslauf) and show potential German employers. Never mind that they'll then ask me a question in German and I'll go, errr, wie bitte?
What would be really embarrassing would be if I went on to fail this Beginners' course. Not that I know if I've passed the advanced course yet; hopefully the results will be revealed on 14th December. It seems a bit daft that I have to get the Certificate in German by going back and completing the easier part of the course, but those are the rules.

In preparation for the first tutorial (14th Nov), or for a job interview, I shall revise these following phrases (with alternatives);

Guten Tag! Ich heiße Herr Gilmour.
Der Name ist Gilmour, Andie Gilmour. Mit der Lizenz zum Töten, oder wenigstens Neugestaltung Ihrer Website.
Ich wohne in Tansley, das ist ein kleines Dorf in Derbyshire, England.
Ich langweilen mich zu Tode auf der Rückseite der Welt! Hilf mir raus hier!
Ich arbeite für den Rat, als der Verantwortlicher für die Website.
Ich bin ein Web-Sklave!
Ich bin nicht verheiratet, aber ich habe eine Partnerin von vielen Jahren.
Ich bin nicht auf den gesamten religiösen, wirtschaftlichen, feudalen System gehören.
Wir haben vier schöne Katzen.
Kinder sind immer laut ärgerlich Bälger. Katzen sind süß und flauschig.
And finally, a few phrases gut zu wissen:
  • Ich weiß es nicht - I don't know.
  • Ich verstehe das nicht - I don't understand.
  • Wie bitte? - eh?
  • Wiederholen Sie bitte? - come again?
  • Ich kann nicht ein Wort verstehen - I can't understand a word.
  • Nein, ich habe nicht alle - no, I didn't quite get all of that.
  • Es tut mir leid, ich bin Ahnungslos - I'm sorry, I haven't a clue.
  • Was zum Teufel hast du sagen? - What the heck did you say?!
  • Letzten Endes, das ist mir ganz egal - at the end of the day, I couldn't really care less.
  • Ich kann seine Sprache nicht vertragen - I can't bear this language.
  • egal welche - whatever.
  • Es ist mir scheißegal - I couldn't give a sh*t!
  • Schon in Ordnung, immer mit der Ruhe! - Alright already, don't get yourself worked up!
  • Sprechen Sie Englisch? - Do you speak normal?

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Der schnelle braune Fuchs - The Quick Brown Fox

Sorry to bore, but I'm going to revise adjective endings.

The first rule is that adjectives not in front of a noun do not have additional endings. Hurrah!

Sie sind hoch. - They are tall.
Die Katze ist flaumig. - The cat is fluffy.
Ich möchte fröhlich sein. - I'd like to be happy.
Das Wetter war schrecklich. - The weather was ghastly.
Du bist tot. - You are dead.
Mein Pferd ist Kastaniebraun. - My horse is chestnut brown.
Der Pfeffer ist scharf. - The pepper is spicy hot.
Ich mag einen Hund, der freundlich ist. - I like a dog that's friendly.
Ihr Gesicht war ganz rot. - Her face was completely red.

Do you see what they all have in common? They all take forms of the verb sein. Other verbs that you could use are bleiben and werden. As in:
Sein Bruder wurde sehr reich. - His brother became very rich.
Das Wetter bleibt schön. - The weather remains good.

You can do a lot with adjectives following the noun, but to be more creative you're going to have to buckle down and learn some endings. These don't only differ by case, gender and number, but whether they are preceded by the definite article (e.g. der), or the indefinite article (e.g. eine). Or indeed, by none at all.

Let's start with the definite article (also alle, dieser, jeder, jener, welcher).
In the nominative case they are all quite simple; you just add e to the end of the adjective for all genders, or en if there are more than one of the noun.

Der scharfe pfeffer brennt meine Zunge.
Die flaumige Katze schnurrt.
Das braune Pferd läuft.

Die Toten Hosen.
Die verlegenen roten Gesichter schauen unten.

In the accusative case with the definite article, the only change from the nominative is that adjectives preceding a maculine noun add en instead. Why? I have no idea, but here goes:

Meine Zunge leckte den roten, scharfen Paprikapfeffer.
( and don't forget: Ich liebe diesen freundlichen Hund.)
Ich streichele die flaumige Katze. (same as the nominative)
Die Frau reitet das braune Pferd. (ditto)
Ich küsse die verlegenen roten Gesichter. (ditto)
(and of course: Ich liebe alle flaumigen Katzen.)

The dative and genetive endings are easy-peasy again; adjectives following a definite article all end in en.
Ich koche mit dem scharfen Pfeffer.
Ich gebe der flaumigen Katze einen Fisch.
Ich sprach mit dem braunen Pferd.
Außer den verlegenen roten Gesichtern war jeder glücklich.

Der Geschmack des scharfen Pfeffers war ausgezeichnet.
Der Pelz der flaumigen Katze ist weich.
Trotz des braunen Pferds ging ich an.
Die Verlegenheit der roten Gesichter.

Hey, that wasn't so hard!

Hang on though, there's the indefinite article (also kein and the possessive adjectives) to tackle yet.
The nominative case adds er to adjectives before masculine nouns with the indefinite article, e to feminine, es to neuter, and en to plurals.
Ein scharfer pfeffer brennt meine Zunge.
Eine flaumige Katze schnurrt.
Ein braunes Pferd läuft.
Keine roten Gesichter aufsehen.

The accusative case is the same as the nominative but, guess what?, like for the definite article adjectives describing masculine nouns end in en.
Meine Zunge leckt einen scharfen Pfeffer.
Ich streichele eine flaumige Katze. (same as the nominative)
Die Frau reitet ein braune Pferd. (ditto)
Ich mag nicht keine roten Gesichter. (ditto)

The dative and genitive cases for the indefinite article are the same as for the definite article, i.e. everything ends in en. Hurrah again!

But, we're not out of the woods yet (Wir sind noch nicht über den Berg). What about if the adjective is before the noun, but there isn't any kind of article or defining word to be seen? You might rightly say, WTF! Just don't write sentences like that!
Unfortunately they are unavoidable; how else would I say 'I like green tea' (Ich mag grünen Tee)? Or ask 'do you like fast cars?' (Mögen Sie schnelle Autos?).
Which would be all well and good, but the endings for this class of adjectives are all over the place! The reason for this, I am told, is because without a definite or indefinite article the poor old adjective is having to do the work of indicating the case and gender of the noun. Why bother at all? We seem to get by in English without adding endings at all, and we seem to communicate ideas pretty effectively. Ah, but this is German, and as Mark Twain reported of an American student at Heidelburg, he would rather "decline two drinks than one German adjective."

In the nominative case the endings to add for masc, fem, neut, plural are -er, -e, -es -e.
Scharfer Pfeffer schmeckt nett.
Eine kluge Frau ist so gut wie zehn blöde Männer.
Fettes Essen macht dick.
Zwei rote Pferde laufen.
And for letter-writing, start with something like Lieber Freund! Liebe Freundin!

In the accusative, the endings to add for masc, fem, neut, plural are -en, -e, -es, -e.
Ich mag scharfen Pfeffer.
Ich hasse kalte Suppe.
Rotes Fleisch nicht essen.
In Cumbria gibt es schöne Seen.

In the dative, the endings are all over the place (remember they were all the same with the definite and indefinite articles?); m, f, n, p = -em, -er, -em, -en.
Ich mischte Creme mit scharfem Pfeffer.
Brot mit heißer Suppe ist besser.
Ich trage immer einen Regenschirm außer schönem Wetter.
Cumbria wird mit schönen Bergen bedeckt.

And the genitive is just as mixed up; m, f, n, p, = -en, -er, -en, -er.
No examples this time; make your own up!

Of course, Germans don't wander around with tables of the 48 possible permutations of adjectival endings, not even figuratively in their head. After you get a feel for the language, it just sounds right and comes automatically.

With that in mind, look over the following simple sentences and correct the mistakes:

1) Der gross Mann gab dem kleine Mädchen einen roten Apfel.
2) Ich mag heißer Apfelstrudel mit gelbem Vanillepudding.
3) Die schwarze Katze spielt mit einer kleine graue Maus.
4) Gestern sah ich einen ausgezeichneten Film.
5) Der dunkler Mann steht gegen die hoher kaltes Mauer.
6) Keine hohe Berge fassen Deutschland im weiten Westen ein.
7) Es gibt rote, gelbe, lila und orangen Blumen in meinem grosse Blumenstrauß.
8) Sie waren freundlichen, und uns gekocht eine herzliche Mahlzeit.
9) Die industrielle Stadt von Berlin hat, trotz der reiche Firmen, viele grüne Plätze.
10) Unter dem tiefen See schwimmt der glücklichen Fisch.

If some of those adjectives just don't look right to you, then you're getting there. If they all look wrong then go and have a lie down. Indeed, one of the sentences, at least, is all correct.

I'm giving the answers below in low contrast (you'll see it better if you highlight the text):

1) Der grosse Mann ... kleinen Mädchen
2) heißen Apfelstrudel
3) kleinen grauen
4) all correct
5) dunkle Mann ... hohe kalte
6) hohen Berge
7) orange Blumen ... grossen Blumenstrauß
8) Sie waren freundlich
9) reichen Firmen
10) glückliche Fische

Were you thrown by the lila Blumen? Foreign adjectives absorbed into the German language are not declined. Lila is one, rosa another, and also prima. German speakers are a bit un-nerved by this, so they might add -farben to a colour and decline it like any other adjective, thus: ein lilafarbenes Kleid - a purple-coloured dress.
A final note comes from Mark Twain again: "As for the adjective, when in doubt, leave it out." That's good advice for anyone writing in English too, if you want to avoid 'purple prose', or even lilafarbenen Prosa.

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Sie denken, daß es ist zu Ende. Es ist jetzt!

Last night I sat the final exam in my Open University German course (L130).

It was an online oral exam where we were to be given one of four initiatives for changes to events/exhibitions in Türbingen, for which you would then have to give a two-minute presentation as if you were asking for funding from the Town Council. We knew what the four proposals were in advance (to do with Türbinger Kinder-Uni, Türbinger Bücherfest, Kunst in Tübingen, and - very unexpected this - the Türbingen Viva AfroBrasil open air festival), but not which one we'd get.

Then, in groups of four, we were led into the virtual exam room. I was given AfroBrasil to do my presentation about. As this was the fourth in the list, it was the one I'd least prepared for. But, if there are marks for colourful language and enthusiasm, this was the one that gave me more scope for standing out. (The photo here is from the AfroBrasil website, and is of Bateria Da Mangueira. But you knew that, right?)

I don't think I disgraced myself too badly. My only fear is that as I had to use a dictionary a lot to look up unusual words and work out the pronounciation, I might have said something unintentionally surreal ('The AfroBrasil festival is mongoose-inducing banana-split with much fiery wash-stand!'). Indeed, I did detect a slight chuckle in the examiner's voice when she thanked me for my talk. The other problem is that unless the others had similarly scoured their Collins', they wouldn't have a clue what I was talking about.

Oh, and I had tried to sneak in a Rammstein title-track to each presentation. I'd managed it with the other three, but the only R+ I could think of for AfroBrasil was 'Te quiero puta!', which is a phrase rather hard to smuggle in under the radar.

There then followed an eight minute group discussion where we had to address the merits or not of each initiative, and to come to some kind of agreement. This was a bit strange because of course you can't see each other (it's all done through headsets), so the only way you could tell if someone wanted to speak was if they 'virtually' raised their hand with a screen icon. So, the flow was a bit disjointed, with sometimes people talking over one another. Sometimes I'd click to raise my hand, then start speaking without holding down the 'sprache' button. So nobody could hear me.

I think we were heading towards voting for the AfroBrasil project. But it caused angst because it involved flying Brazilian performers over from Brazil, which would be rather costly to the Council and to the environment. I suggested we could have a 'satellitenfunk' with Brazil, by which I meant a satellite link-up, but it was a word that just came to me so goodness knows what I really said!

Anyway, that's it. No more learning German with the OU. No more electronic essays to send in. No more listening to disembodied voices over the ether. No more Tübingen, Leipzig or Graz. A bit sad in a way, as I have enjoyed the course and have learned a great deal.

But, soon (soon! Soon!) we will have sold our house and started our journey to moving to Germany, where I'll have lots of opportunity to learn as much German as I can!

Thursday, 20 September 2007

Friday, 7 September 2007

Bonjour Paris!

Paris Metro by Andie Gilmour
In Paris for a few days. God, how I love this city! I am supposed to be revising for my Open University exam, but the natives aren't so keen when you try and speak German at them; I can't imagine why.

Quick joke: Two German ex-Panzer Division Officers, twenty years after the war, arrange to meet up together in a Paris bar where they used to frequent during the occupation. They don't think being openly German would go down very well, so they decide to pretend to be English.
Well, they meet up outside the bar and warmly embrace after all this time. They go up to the bar and one says, 'Pip-pip garcon, what oh?" (his grasp of 'Englishness' is rather stereotypical), "Martinis for me and my old mate, if you'd be so kind."
The bar-tender enquires 'Dry Martinis?' to which the answer is, "Nein! Zwei!"

Okay, I'll get my coat . . .

Friday, 31 August 2007

Monkey Forest!

Today we went to Monkey Forest with my Mum, Julie, and Julie's Mum and Partner Roy. It is an enclosed 60 acre woodland area with about 140 free-roaming Barbary macaques, on Trentham Estate near Stoke-on-Trent.

It wasn't a particularly nice day, but we enjoyed ourselves greatly. Seeing apes behave so naturally and so close up, with all the forest to play in, was very stimulating. If there is such a word as Rousseauian, that's the feeling of seeing our primate cousins behaving in a natural state which we seemed to have lost on the evolutionary path to enchained 'civilisation'. Or maybe not; just in the hour or so that we were observing them, you could clearly make out 'human' behaviour such as maternal care (see my photo), social hierarchy, playfulness, puzzle-solving, territory marking, bonding, and anger.

The purpose of Monkey Forest is not just as a good and reasonably-priced day out (it is), it also does serious conservation work, scientific study, and consciousness awareness. Sadly, Barbary macaques are an endangered species, with an estimated total wild population in their indigenous homes of Morocco and Algeria of only 10,000. Monkey Forest and its sister parks in France and Germany have successfully re-introduced six hundred Barbary macaques back into the wild.

Oh yes, there had to be a Germany connection didn't there? Well here's a link to Affenberg Salem, a sister park in Germany!

Thursday, 23 August 2007


Do you remember 'Heroes' by David Bowie?

Okay, so you're probably about my age then! Never mind, at least we had some good music when we were growing up, not like the kids of today. Arctic Bloody Monkeys, I don't know :grabs pipe and slippers and sucks on a Werthers Old Original:

Anyway, Till Lindemann (vocalist of Rammstein, German industrial flame-thrower band) has teamed up with Apocalyptica (Finnish heavy cello band) to do the vocals on a German language version of Bowie's 'Heroes' for Apocalyptica's forthcoming album 'Worlds Collide'.

And actually, it is pretty damn good. It was on YouTube until the record company had it taken off. A bit of searching might still find you it somewhere :¬)

or download it as mp3 from RapidShare at http://rapidshare.com/files/50088394/Helden.mp3.html

(or email me)

It's certainly much better than when Bowie recorded it in German

Below is a rough and ready transposition of the lyrics as best as I could make them out, with my translation (which I wouldn't take as gospel if I was you!).

HeldenTransposition and Translation A.Gilmour
Du - Könntest du schwimmen
You -You could be swimming
Wie Delphine - Delphine es tun
Like dolphins - Dolphins can do
Niemand, gibt uns eine Chance
Nobody, gives us a chance
Doch können wir siegen, für immer und immer
But we are able to triumph, for ever and ever
Und wir sind dann Helden, für einen Tag
And we will be heroes, for a single day
Ich - Ich bin dann König
I - I will be king
Und Du - Du Königin
And you - you queen
Obwohl sie, so Unschlagbar scheinen
Though they seem so unbeatable
Werden wir Helden, für einen Tag
We could be heroes, for a single day
Dann sind wir Helden, für einen Tag
Then we are heroes, for a single day
Ich - Ich glaub' das zu träumen
I - I believe in dreaming
die Mauer, im Rücken war kalt
The wall, cold against the back
Die Schüsse reissen die Luft
The shots rip the air
Doch wir küssen, als ob nichts geschieht
But we kiss, as if nothing happens
Und die Scham fiel auf ihre Seite
And the shame fell on their side
Oh, wir können sie schlagen, für zu alle Zeiten
Oh we can beat them, until the end of time
Dann sind wir Helden, nur diesen Tag
Then we are heroes, just for this day
Dann sind wir Helden
Dann sind wir Helden
Dann sind wir Helden
Nur diesen Tag
Dann sind wir Helden
Nur diesen Tag
You get the gist by now!

By way of contrast, here's a link to Apocalyptica covering a Rammstein song, 'Seeman', with vocals from Nina Hagen.
This is SO wrong, on SO many levels! Peter Grimes = Peter Burns?

p.s. Nina Hagen shouldn't be confused with '99 Luftballons' Nena, who, confusingly, was born in Hagen, North Rhine-Westphalia (according to Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nena).

Sunday, 1 July 2007


Who says the German's don't have a sense of humour?
Well, most people actually. Especially if they've watched any home-produced German TV (yes, the first time the guy in lederhose fell over with a stein of bier and spilled it on the maiden in a dirndl to the sound of an oom-pa tuba was slap-stickly funny, maybe. But by the twelfth time . . . ).

However, like most stereotypes they usually prove false. I, for example, do not wear a bowler hat, sip tea with my pinky pointing out, tut mildly if the person in front of me in the queue decides to hold the Bank up, or eat rostbeef. But then I'm Scottish, so you wouldn't expect me to.

And talking about stereotypes, German's are particularly good at the Blonde Airhead joke, like these below.

(I am allowed to retell blonde airhead jokes, because I am one!)

Frage: Wenn eine Blondine und eine Brünette vom Balkon stürzen, wer kommt zuerst unten an?
Antwort: Die Brünette, da die Blondine unterwegs nach der Richtung fragen muss.

Blondine beim Arzt:

Arzt: "Nun schalten Sie doch endlich mal den Walkman aus und nehmen Sie die Kopfhörer ab! "
Blondine: "Geht nicht, die sind lebensnotwendig!"

Dem Arzt wird es zu bunt und nimmt der Blondine die Kopfhörer ab. Die Blondine fängt an, wie ein Fisch nach Luft zu schnappen und blau anzulaufen.

Dem Arzt wird es mulmig. Er setzt sich den Kopfhörer auf und hört:"..., einatmen, ausatmen, einatmen, ausatmen..."

F: Was haben die Beatles und die Beine einer Blondine gemeinsam?
A: Beide waren seit '70 nicht mehr zusammen.

F: Wie viele Blondinen braucht man, um einen Schoko-Kuchen zu backen?
A: Eine, um den Teig zu rühren und neun, um die Smarties zu pellen.

Drei Frauen sind an einer einsamen Insel gestrandet: eine Brünette, eine Rothaarige und eine Blondine.

Die Brünette schaute über zum Festland und meinte, es seien nur 20 Kilometer - sprach's und schwamm los. Nach 5 Kilometern wurde sie müde, nach 10 Kilometern konnte sie nicht mehr und ertrank.

Die Rothaarige schwamm hinterher. Sie hatte viel mehr Kondition als die Brünette, so dass sie erst nach 10 Kilometer müde wurde. Nach 15 Kilometern konnte auch sie nicht mehr und ertrank.

Die Blondine schließlich war optimistisch und schwamm ebenfalls hinterher. Die schwamm 5 Kilometer, 10, 15, 19 Kilometer. Der Strand war bereits in Sicht, aber sie sagte "ich bin doch zu müde" und schwamm zurück.

Eine Brünette und eine Blondine gehen im Park spazieren.
Plötzlich sagt die Brünette: "Oh sieh nur, das tote Vögelchen".
Die Blonde bleibt stehen, guckt in die Luft und fragt: "Wo, wo denn?"

F:Wie sterben Hirnzellen einer Blondine?
A: Alleine.


Ein Mann gräbt gerade seinen Vorgarten um, als seine Nachbarin, auffallend hübsch, aber auch auffallend blond, zu ihrem Briefkasten gerannt kommt, diesen öffnet und anschliessend laut wieder zuknallt.

Der Mann denkt sich nichts Böses und schuftet weiter, bis Sekunden später die Blondine erneut erscheint, wieder den Briefkasten öffnet und ihn ein weiteres mal laut zuknallt.

Der Mann ist leicht irritiert, arbeitet jedoch weiter. Als dann aber die Blondine ein drittes mal zur Tür herauskommt, den Briefkasten öffnet und lauter und wütender als je zuvor zuknallt, kann der Nachbar seine Neugierde nicht mehr weiter zügeln und fragt:
"Gnädigste, haben Sie ein Problem?"
"Das will ich meinen", ruft die Blondine voller Wut, "mein Computer behauptet felsenfest, ich hätte Post!"

Das ist alles.

And a house/Brownie-point if you can work out why there's a picture of a non-blonde bloke against this post.

Friday, 1 June 2007

Wichtig Zu Wissen when looking around a house to buy

I like this living room.
Ich mag dieses Wohnzimmer.

The decoration is very 70's retro.
Die Dekoration ist sehr Siebziger retro.

I think I saw something like it at the DDR museum.
Ich denke, daß ich etwas wie es am DDR Museum sah.

Your garden is very beautiful.
Dein Garten ist sehr schön.

Are the garden gnomes included in the asking price?
Sind die Gartenzwerg in der Preisvorstellung einbegriffen?

In which case, can I have a reduction?
In diesem Fall, kann ich eine Preisverkleinerung haben?

How often do the flights to Schönefeld airport fly overhead?
Wie oft fliegen die Flüge zum Schönefeld Flughafen obenliegend?


Is this a beer cellar?
Ist dieses ein Bierkeller?

Hmm, so it's an old Stasi radio listening post?
Ah so, es ist ein alter Stasi hörender Radiopfosten?

No, I don't want to see the dossier on your neighbour.
Nein, möchte ich nicht das Dossier auf deinem Nachbar sehen.

Are the light-fittings included?
Sind die Lichtbefestigungen einbegriffen?

OK, so is the ceiling included?
OK, so ist die Decke einbegriffen?

The walls then?
Die Wände, dann?

(NB: Don't mention The Wall. I did once but I think I got away with it)
(Notiz: Die Wand nicht erwähnen. Ich einmal, aber ich mich zu denken erhielt weg mit es.)

The advertised living area seems rather larger than it looks here.
Die annoncierte Wohnfläche scheint ziemlich größer, als er hier schaut.

Right, so you say it includes the underground tunnels into the West.
Richtig, also sie sagen daß es die unterirdischen Tunnels in den Westen miteinschließt.

And the nuclear bunker also.
Und der Kernbunker auch.

Are the neighbours friendly?
Sind die Nachbarn freundlich?

The one with the skinhead and the german shepherd dog is not so friendly to foreigners.
Der mit dem Skinhead und dem Schäferhund ist nicht zu den Ausländern so freundlich.

And on the other side?
Und auf der anderen Seite?

No, I am not Turkish or muslim. Why?
Na ja, Ich bin nicht Türkisch oder muslimisch. Warum?

Is there a supermarket nearby?
Gibt es ein Supermarkt hier in der Nähe?

In England, Aldi wouldn't be called a particularly classy supermarket.
In England würde Aldi nicht einen erstklassigen Supermarkt genannt.

Nor would Netto.
Noch wurde Netto.

The nearness of the forest is pleasent.
Die Nähe des Waldes gefällt mir.

No, I don't think the cats would like wild boar in the garden.
Nein, denke ich nicht, daß die Katzen wilder Keiler im Garten möchten.

How far is the nearest railway stop?
Wie weit ist das nächste S-Bahn Haltestelle?

I didn't know there was a zone D.
Ich wußte nicht, daß es eine Zone D gab.

I like the prospect from the windows.
Die Aussicht von den Fenstern gefällt mir.

Are the neighbours into naturism then?
Mögen die Nachbarn naturismus, dann?

Is this a private sale or though an estate agent?
Ist dieses ein privater Verkauf oder durch einen Immobilienmakler?

I thought 20% to the estate agent rather high.
Ich dachte 20% zum Immobilienmakler eher stark.

No, I didn't know the Mafia operated here and yes, I would like to keep my knee-caps.
Nein, wußte ich nicht, daß die Mafia die hier, und ja ich bearbeitet wird meine Kniescheiben halten möchten.

Location, location, location!
Lage, Lage, Lage!

Saturday, 26 May 2007

Shopping in Berlin and Hunting for the Tiergarten Biergarten

This Monday is, like in England, Whit Monday Bank Holiday and all the shops will be closed. Tomorrow is Sunday and German shops are always closed. Yup, unlike England even the DIY and garden centres. I don't think they even have car-boot sales.

So, today was going to be shopping day. Julie wanted to get a DVD of the 2004 film Vinzent, for the simple reason that Till Lindemann (front-man of Rammstein if you didn't gather) plays an animal-rights activist in it. Unfortunately we didn't track it down in Saturn or Dussmann book and music shop.

We head back to the Zoo area because we drastically need some clean underwear and tee-shirts; it has been hot beyond our predictions and we are rapidly either going to run out of fresh clothes, or stink the S-Bahn out. Where better than KaDeWe, variously claimed to be the largest departmental store on continental Europe? Because, and let me not put too strong an emphasis on this, Saturday at KaDeWe is the earthly manifestation of Dante Alighieri's most tortured nightmares about the extreme limits of what torment is physically possible to inflict on humankind. Though I add that (in case the management of KaDeWe are as litigious as our own Harrod's department store proprietor Mohammed al-Fayed) this is totally my personal opinion and I am sure that thousands (though it appeared like millions) of happy shoppers regularly enjoy the shopping experience there without a scratch on their eternal souls. I also foolishly didn't think to exchange fifty pounds into Euro just so I could buy a pair of knickers. Thank goodness for H&M at the Potsdamer Platz Arcade for something within my budget, but I might add that I had to queue to pay for an interminable time because whilst Brits are indoctrinated in the art of standing in turn from birth, Germans just don't seem to get it (and I'm too polite / socially inept to assert my prior claim to being served).

Ok. Right. Rant over. Just let's say it was a nightmare trying to shop for pants.

We then made our way into the Tiergarten for lunch. We had discovered a Biergarten hidden away by a lake in the park on a previous visit, and wished to revisit it. Well, actually the Tiergarten is pretty big. And unlike, say, Hyde Park in London, it is rather enclosed by trees and flower borders so you can't see very far at any one time. So an hour or so later, we didn't find the Biergarten and we were getting rather hungry, thirsty, and foot-weary. We found our way to the top of the Tiergarten, by the Brandenburg Gate, where there was a large video screen, spectator stands, and lots of people milling around dressed in football colours. We gathered that today was the German-cup Finales 2007 between Stuttgart and Nuremburg in berlin at the Olympic Stadium.

... I'm going to get round to finishing this someday, honest!

[edit: still haven't done it, and now I haven't a clue what I did!]

Friday, 25 May 2007

Köpenick, Rahnsdorf, and Aldershof

(Not one of my photos but by German Wikipedia contributorAndreas Steinhoff. It is of the Köpenick Rathaus.)

Today we learned a new word; Ersatzverkehr, or replacement transport.

We started the morning in Alt Köpenick, me with a delicious 'Becher' of walnuts and ice-cream. Today we had two properties to view with estate agents, but first we wanted to check out this South Eastern area of Berlin on the opposite banks of the river Spree. The Altstadt has the charm of a sleepy seaside port, whereas Köpenick itself is a busy bustling town. What we should have paid attention to were the roadworks along the tram-lines, because our plan was to take our time going from Köpenick, up North and East alongside the Müggelsee, to our first viewing appointment at mid-day in Rahnsdorf. Normally, that wouldn't be a problem, but today the roadworks were causing disruption to the transport system big-time, and we didn't know where to catch the correct Ersatzverkehr laid on to replace the tram service.

Miraculously we made the appointment only a few minutes late (though a few minutes late to a German is important!). Neither the estate agent or the owner spoke anything more than a few words of English, and our German is pretty poor, so it was rather a pantomime of trying to explain ourselves in sign language and pointing at things. But they were both utterly charming, and they showed us around their beautiful, but small, house. The owner said (I think!) that he'd lived there for sixty eight years, which to put it in an historical persepctive, meant he'd witnessed the devastation of Berlin towards the end of WWII, and lived most of his life under Communist DDR.

The house in Rahnsdorf is in a great location, with forest and lakes around. And it has a beautiful garden with a pond well-stocked with giant koi that the cats would have liked, but ultimately it was too small. Perhaps it would be fine for just the two of us, but the layout and size wasn't conducive to having family and friends stay over, of which we expect a lot of.

The next house to see was in the south of the city, towards Alt-Glienicke and near to Schönefeld airport. We figured that this would at least be handy for people visiting us. We made our way down by S-Bahn to Adlershof and caught the airport bus service, which should have taken us right by this house. Well, Ersatzverkehr would have been welcome, because the bus got stuck in an almighty Verkehrstau (traffic jam). Not fun at the best of times, but with the heat sweltering on the bus, and an appointment to keep, we despaired as the bus inched forward.

We eventually made it, and only a few minutes late, but we were getting rather frazzled. Again the owner and the estate agent couldn't speak English, but we managed to muddle through. Actually, the house sold itself. It is very well laid out over three floors, with exceptional build quality and amenities. The owner told us he is Elektriker von Beruf, and it showed with the impressive lighting and sockets in every room.

What let this house down though is that it is rather too close to the main road. Apart from the noise when sitting outside on the otherwise very nice terrace, we wouldn't trust the cats not to try and cross the road; the same road that was snarled up with traffic trying to get to the airport. Also, a larger garden would have been more appealing.

Anyway, after the tour of the house and a chat in the garden we tried to get back into Berlin centre. We waited for the airport bus service, but after half an hour it was obvious it had got bogged down in the Stau. Either that or it had been withdrawn on health & safety grounds after one too many passengers had collapsed with heat exhaustion. So, Ersatzverkehr, we walked to Altglienike S-Bahn. On the way, we took in the local neighbourhood, and if the house we had seen had just been set a few tens of metres back from the road it would have been almost perfect.

That evening we went to an excellent Italian restaurant we know of in Prenzlauer Berg near the Kulturbrauerei (Culture Brewery - only in Germany!), and one we'll happily take you to when we have moved to Berlin for good. After that we did some window-shopping on the trendy Schönhauser Allee, then caught what we thought would be an S-Bahn to Alexanderplatz to finish up with cocktails. After going backwards and forwards to the next stop on the U2 in the opposite direction from Alexanderplatz, we realised that the announcement on the train was saying 'alles umsteigen' (everybody off!) and that dreaded word again, Ersatzverkehr. Yes, there had been work on the S-Bahn's as well today, and the S-Bahn service into the centre had been replaced with a bus. Well, stuff trying to find where the bus was leaving from, we piled into a nearby cocktail bar (The Chillout Lounge I think), and finished off the evening sipping ice-cold Caipirinha's. Himmel!

Thursday, 24 May 2007

Pankow, Karow, Spargel, Knut, and Pratergarten

Our aim was to do some serious leg-work and check out which areas of Berlin we could happily live in. Our first exploring tour was to Pankow, directly to the north of Prenzlauer Berg where we were staying.

The main street in Pankow, Breite Strasse, is a wide boulevard with a neo-Gothic parish church in the middle and a rather Baroque red-brick Rathaus ticking all the buttons of what a fairy-tale German town should look like. Something that pleases me about German towns is that you don't get the same ubiquitous high-street franchise stores that you can predict will make up a British high-street; Boots, WH Smiths, Woolworths, Body Shop, Superdrug, HSBC, Halifax, Clarkes, Specsaver, McDonalds, . . . anytown UK in fact. Pankow (or any German town I've been to) instead have mostly self-owned shops; local shops for local people! (Except for C&A for some reason; after abandoning our shores they seem intent on dominating the continent).

Wandering around the locality of Pankow you have no sense that the tourist honey-trap of Unter Den Linden is just a twenty minute S-Bahn ride away. You also find that contrary to what you might be told, not every German by any means speaks fluent English. More incentive then for us to learn German!

We explored some delightful parks in the area, from the formal Bürger park (which nether-the-less seems to have a herd of goats!), to the wildness of the Volkspark Schönholzer Heide. In the latter, you could imagine you were deep in Sherwood Forest if it wasn't for the regular aeroplanes flying overhead to Tegel airport (and for the distinct lack of any litter or dog waste). Eventually we came to the grandeur of a monumental Soviet Cemetery to those Russians who had fought liberating Berlin from the Nazis. It is not quite on the scale of the one at Treptow, but still enormous, impressive and moving.

We made our way back to Breite Strasse through what seemed a village of charming allotments and community gardens, each with their individualistic summer houses and arrangements of garden gnomes. This seemed like an area we (and the cats!) could definitely warm to.

Unfortunately, whilst in Pankow I got a call on my mobile from Halifax. The sale on our house has fallen through! This is bad news, but we don't let it stop us continuing our exploration of Berlin's housing market.

To the North East of Pankow (but still in the same Bezirk of Pankow) we came by S-Bahn and bus to Karow. We had seen on the internet an interesting house for sale here, but hadn't manage to arrange a visit with an estate agent (Immobilienmakler). We'd also seen another house, that had then been sold, and new-build opportunities on the edge of the area. Definitely woth checking out.

Karow is on the edge of Berlin (just short of the end of zone B on the public transport network), and abuts onto countryside. How much longer that will last with new buildings going up all the time is a matter of conjecture, but for the moment there are vistas of rolling rape-flower fields, trees, and open spaces.

We saw the house that had sold, and it was a missed opportunity. It even had a vets a few doorways along, so not so far to take the cats! The house we hadn't managed to get a look round certainly looked promising; fairly large and with an impressive Grundstücksgrösse (total property size including garden), enough to build another house on in fact. On the down-side, it was rather close to a main railway line, and it did seem a bit remote down a rough road.

Travelling by bus into the heart of Karow, there was a lot of evidence of DDR social housing blocks of apartments being renovated. It did seem a bit remote from Berlin, but there looked like lots of opportunity for new build housing.

Back to the centre of Berlin for lunch, which for me was a large dish of spargel (asparagus) near the Zoo Bahnhoff. Unfortunately I had assumed that spargel in a bechamel sauce would be vegetarian, but for some reason it also had strips of parma ham which I delicately excised from the dish before eating. This is the spargel season here in germany, but it is always the forced, white asparagus. I can't see what the attraction is; British green asparagus seems to have a lot more taste to me, and white asparagus has the consistency of stringy over-boiled leeks. Still, when in Rome . . . oh hang on, that's where we were supposed to be this week, but sitting amidst the buzz of Berlin I cannot complain.

Any visitor to Berlin could not be unaware that a cute polar bear called Knut has been born to Berlin Zoo. There are even postcards of giant Knut's curling around the Brandenburg Gate! So, we had to visit the Zoo and see the little chappy. Unfortunately, we missed the end of his twice-daily audience with the visitors by a matter of minutes. No worries; Berlin zoo is one of the largest and best in Europe, and I did manage to photo Knut's family instead:

No visit to Germany is complete without visiting a Biergarten, and the Pratergarten in Prenzlauer Berg is the first (begun in 1837) and possibly the best. I believe it is also where Rammstein Herman Munster look-alike (boy, am I going to get my ass whipped for this!) Till Lindemann had his fortieth birthday party, so pretty damn famous then.

So that's where we ended up this evening, particularly enjoying the Prater Schwarzbier.

Zum wohl!

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

Return to Berlin!

We were supposed to be meeting friends from the USA in Rome this week, but we had an offer on our house and so it was all systems go to find a place in Berlin.

A change of plan, and we found ourselves today flying from Luton for Berlin-Schönefeld airport.

We arrived in Berlin late afternoon and made our way to our friend Debbie's apartment near Greifswalder Strasse. Select to view a dynamic map of the area.

We were delighted to discover that Debbie had a couple of other guests; two of the most adorable kittens you've ever seen! Here is a photo of them helping me to unpack!

And here is one of the kittens on her own.

After a curry we went down to Alexander Platz to re-acquaint ourselves with this marvelous city.

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

Passive Leipzig

Leipzig has been anything but 'passive'. For example, it was here that the Monday Demonstrations, peaceful political protests against the government of the German Democratic Republic of East Germany, began.

No, one of the German places we are studying on the Open University course L130 is Leipzig, and I'm going to use information about it to practice using the passive.

The passive voice is when the subject of the verb experiences the action rather than performs it. He was seen, rather than Somebody saw him.

The passive imperfect is formed by using the appropriate tense of the verb werden (to become) with the past participle, which goes at the end of the clause.

So, what do I (or Wikipedia!) know?

The University of Leipzig was founded in 1409. This is called the passive voice because the subject of the sentence (the university) is being acted upon by the verb (to found) rather than initiating the action. And it is in the imperfect past (well, everything is perfect today isn't it?).

The verb to found is gründen, which I'm pretty sure is a weak verb so we can give it a regular past participle formation gegründet.

Quick conjugation of the verb werden in the imperfect tense:
  • ich wurde

  • du wurdest

  • er/sie/es wurde

  • wir wurden

  • ihr wurdet

  • sie/Sie wurden
So here's goes:
  • Die Universität Leipzig wurde 1409 gegründet.
Or, perhaps a bit more elegently:

  • Im Jahre 1409 wurde die Universität Leipzig gegründet.

(The imperferct active voice would have been something like: Ich gründete die Universität 1409. But I'm not really claiming to be that old).

That's easy enough, so what else does google know about things being founded in Leipzig? How about:

  • Das Gewandhausorchester Leipzig wurde 1781 gegründet. The Gewandhaus Orchestra of Leipzig was founded in 1781.

  • Der Allgemeiner Deutscher Arbeiterverein, die erste deutsche Arbeiterpartei, wurde in Leipzig am 23. Mai 1863 gegründet. The General German Workers Association, the first German Workers Party, was founded on 23rd May 1863 in Leipzig.

  • Die Handelshochschule Leipzig (HHL) wurde am 25. April 1898 gegründet und ist die älteste Wirtschaftshochschule Deutschlands. The Leipzig Graduate School of Management was founded on the 25th April 1898 and is the oldest business school in Germany.

  • Die Deutsche Bücherei wurde 1912 in Leipzig gegründet. The National German Library was founded in 1912 in Leipzig.

  • Der Deutscher Fußball-Bund wurde in Leipzig 1900 gegründet. The German Football Association was founded in Leipzig in 1900.

Switching from gründen to bauen to build, past participle gebaut:

  • Das Völkerschlachtdenkmal wurde zwischen 1898 und 1913 gebaut. The Monument of the Battle of the Nations was built between 1898 and 1913. And as an aside, Es ist das größte Denkmal Europas. It is the largest monument in Europe.

  • Das Altes Rathaus wurde 1556 gebaut. The old city hall was built in 1556.

  • Das City-Hochhaus wurde 1972 gebaut. The high-rise building was built in 1972. And, es ist das höchste Gebäude Leipzigs. It is the highest building in Leipzig.

Those buildings could also have been described using errichten to erect, which has the irregular past participle errichtet. So:

  • Das Altes Rathaus wurde 1556 errichtet. The old city hall was erected in 1556.

Another verb to describe buildings in the passive imperfect is when were they opened, eröffnen, which has a past participle of eröffnet. So:

  • Das neue Messegelände wurde 1996 eröffnet. The new trade-fair centre was opened in 1996.

  • Das Zentralstadion wurde 1956 eröffnet. The central sports stadium was opened in 1956.

  • Das BMW Werk Leipzig wurde 13. Mai 2005 eröffnet. The Leipzig BMW factory was opened on the 13th May 2005.

I guess a further way to describe buildings is when they were demolished, with the verb abreißen, to pull down, past participle abgerissen. My knowledge (for which read, Wikipedia's knowledge) isn't so hot on when things were demolished, but I guess that with Leipzig being such an old city (a trade fair there is first mentioned in 1165), but with a modern looking city centre (I nearly said grim, grey, concrete, seventies, Soviet-style wasteland), that at some point:

  • Die alten Fachwerkbauten wurde abgerissen. The old timber-framed buildings were torn down.

In Ordnung, I think I've got the hang of the passive imperfect. But of course the passive voice can be used in any tense. For the present tense, if you are describing an action as opposed to a state, you still use the past participle, but you use the present tense of werden. To give a reminder of werden in the present tense:

  • ich werde

  • du wirst

  • er/sie/es wird

  • wir werden

  • ihr werdet

  • sie/Sie werden

So, now we can say:

  • Das Altes Rathaus wird jetz renoviert. The old city hall is being renovated (now).

  • In Leipzig wird Deutsch gesprochen. In Leipzig German is spoken (not surprisingly!).

  • Neue Gebäude werden errichtet. New buildings are being erected.

On first impressions, it might seem a bit strange that you use the past participle for present activities, but if you think about what we say in English we do something similar. e.g. In Nottingham English is spoken (compare was spoken, has been spoken), rather than use to speak in the present tense (he speaks, they speak).

To add a different twist; if you are describing a state, then instead of werden you use the present tense of sein to be.

  • Hunde sind nicht erlaubt. Dogs are not allowed.

  • Das Geschäft ist heute geschlossen. The shop is closed today.

Sein is also used if you want to express the past perfect tense (things which happened and aren't continuing to happen). In this case you use the past participle of the main verb with the present of sein, then stick the past participle of werden, worden, on the end. Or rather you don't, because the past participle of werden is actually geworden. Drop the ge-, and this form worden is only ever used to form the passive. Examples:

  • In Leipzig, Neue Wohnblöcke sind gebaut worden. In Leipzig new blocks of flats have been built.

  • Im zwanzigsten Jahrhundert sind viele Fabriken auf dem Randgebiet von Leipzig konstruiert worden. In the twentieth century many factories have been constructed on the outskirts of Leipzig.

  • Ruhige Demonstrationen sind für Montag geordnet worden. Peaceful demonstrations have been arranged for Monday.

Sometimes you need to use von (by) in the passive. So, rather than the subject directly operating on the verb such as with Der Bürgermeister öffnete das neue Rathaus the mayor opened the new town hall, you could say that the town hall was opened by the mayor:

  • Das neue Rathaus wurde vom Bürgermeister geöffnet.

Because you are using von, the important thing is to remember that von causes what follows to be in the dative case. So it is von dem Bürgermeister rather than der Bürgermeister (contracted to vom).

Finally, a note about when you don't need to use the passive when you would in English, by using man one. In English you can say 'that isn't done' and it is in the passive voice. If you were a bit posh (or wanted to sound like you are), you could rephrase that as 'one doesn't do that', with the normal active voice word order of subject-verb-object and 'done' (past) becoming 'do' (present). In German using 'one' is not only not posh, but is often the usual way of phrasing a sentence which otherwise would be in the passive, so 'that isn't done' is 'Das macht man nicht'.

Tuesday, 1 May 2007

The Cats' Passports Have Come Through At Last!

And they have a place to put an identifying photograph! We shall have to dig out the guidelines for passport photographs that we had to adhere to when we had ours renewed a few months ago. So no Simba, you can't wear your cool sun shades. And Cassie, no hijab in the photo please!

I have this image of the cats standing in line at German passport control, and the guy there looks down at Tosca and then at her photo and gives the mandatory 30 second hesitation and stern look they seem to have been trained to do.

I think these passports are really quite cool; I wish I had one! (I don't fancy being micro-chipped and given an anti-rabies vaccine though).

Now we just need to sell the house, and off we go to Berlin!

Edit: I've now added a photo of the passports, showing Tosca's open.

Thursday, 19 April 2007

Deutsches Kino

Films I would recommend:

Das Boot Intense, claustraphobic war film. Ending that makes you throw up your arms and shout FFS NO!

Der Untergang (Downfall) Mostly Traudl Junge (Hitler's secretary) and other's recreation of the last day's in Adolph's Berlin bunker. Excellent and daring performance by Bruno Ganz as Hitler.

Goodbye Lenin Nice slice of Ostalgia and touching performance by Daniel Brühl and Katrin Saß as his mother who he tries to reassure that East Germany still exists.

Die Fetten Jahre sind vorbei (released here as The Edukators) also with Daniel Brühl as a trio of anarchists who inadvertedly kidnap a businessman who it turns out used to be a radical 68er himself. Much introspection and political discussion that goes nowhere but otherwise is a thoughtful and uplifting film. (great ending!)

Das weiße Rauschen Oh yes, with Daniel Brühl again. Is a pattern emerging? If you ever want to get an understanding of what schizophrenia is really like then this as as good an insight as anything I've seen (I imagine).

Lola rennt (Run Lola Run) Fast moving thriller which questions the consequences of causality.

Die Blechtrommel (The Tin Drum) Psychological nightmare during the inter-war years and the build-up to Nazism. Actually, no, not recommended for the easily disturbed as I still wake up having nightmares about this one.

Sophie Scholl Focuses on a leading woman from the anti-Nazi White Rose movement. I wanted to see this after reading about the movement on the display boards at Dachau and wasn't dissapointed.

Der Himmel über Berlin Directed by Wim Wenders in black and white and colour this is the most beautiful cinematography ever. Not the fastest or most engaging of plots though!

Europa, Europa A young Jewish lad flees from Poland and first finds himself educated at a Soviet Youth boot-camp, then at a Hitler Youth academy where he tries to conceal his Jewishness (his attempts at disguising his circumscision are excrutiating). Apparently a true story but hard to believe at times.

Herr Lehmann A gentle comedy, mostly good for its character definition than rib-breaking laughter or dynamic tension, chronicalling life in Kreuzberg at the downfall of the Wall. Memorable for the opening scene where Herr Lehman gets a dog drunk. No, really, must be seen!

Das Experiment Recreates a real-life experiment of dividing volunteers into prisoners and warders. Violent and disturbing.

Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht directed by Werner Herzog and with Klaus Kinski as Dracula. The best cinematography of any film about Dracula, EVER.

Stalingrad I've only ever managed to get this with terribly terribly dubbed English. Good gruesome goresome (anti-)war movie in the spirit of Full Metal Jacket. I imagine it is very true to life about the Nazi siege of Stalingrad and the lives of the soldiers caught up in it.

Amundsen der Pinguin A kids film without English subtitles, but I'm including it because it has Till Lindemann (lead singer from Rammstein) in it as a villain.

Was Tun, Wenn's Brennt? (What to Do In Case of Fire). A bomb planted by a group of youthful anarchist squatters in the 80's eventually goes off in the year 2000 when they have (mostly) left their dissident past behind and (mostly) got respectible jobs. The bomb blast is investigated by the Polezei and the group collaborate in removing film evidence of their bomb-making plot. Very enjoyable, a kind of Edukators-lite, but has a different slant after recent real-life terrorist bombings.

Oh, and if you can ever get to see the Heimat series (it was shown in its entirety on TV here (the UK) last year) then that's a most worthwhile experience. Nothing much actually happens to be honest, but it's breadth of time period and the interaction of characters is fascinating.

Wednesday, 18 April 2007

Ein Dinosaurier im Hauptbahnhof

Why do I want to live in Berlin? Because it is total wahnsinn! Where else would you get a diplodocus (shouldn't that be a Bahnsteigosaurus?) in the main train station? Apparently it belongs to the Naturkundemuseum (Museum of Natural History), which is being renovated, and will be at the Berlin Hauptbahnhof until 28th may.

For the full story, and the originator of the photo, please visit The Penguin's most excellent guide to Berlin.

Tuesday, 17 April 2007

Tanz Mit Laibach

(This photo is not mine, and is probably copyright.
contact me if you have objections to its use.)

Last night we went down to the CC Club in London for a Laibach gig. Though Slovenian, a lot of their songs have German lyrics, so this was an excuse to expose myself to the language. And have a good stomp of course.

I admit a bit of trepidation. I didn't really get into their concept album Volk, and this tour was to promote it. Let me say that listening to Volk live and having it on in the background at home are worlds apart. It was total geil! The back-projected animations and film-clips were worth the entrance price alone, and should be a looped installation at Tate Modern. At times, the emotion almost moved me to tears. Especially memorable was a solo singer they brought on (forgive me, I don't know his name nor could tell you the track) whose voice was pure opera, soaring into almost mezzo-soprano.

For the second half they brought on two snare drums either side of the stage, and we knew they were going to revisit some of their old favorites. They did not dissapoint! The drums were played immaculately by two buxom Rheinmaidens in jackboots and short leather skirts. I made a point, purely out of musical inquiry you understand, of keeping my eyes on them to make sure they really were hitting those drums in time and not miming.

Frontman Milan Fras had a strange moment when a sampled 'urgh!' went out of sinc for 'Das Spiel Ist Aus', making it sound like he was throwing up after each line, but it was soon under control. Otherwise the sound was almost perfect for what was quite a small venue, save for a few feedback moments. Amazingly you could buy a double CD of this concert just ten minutes after it ended. They must have CD writers there much much faster than those on my PC. Otherwise, you can download the live concert by following this link.

No posting about Laibach is complete without a link to Laibach kittens by Joel Veitch. Enjoy!