Bezirk [1] in Berlin© – 22:  January 14, 2012


 I continue to be amazed (and amused) by the German take on advertizing.  Do you think you would ever see an ad like this in the US?   Kinda takes the ‘glamour’ right out of being a model, doesn’t it?  Who wants to the Hakle Girl?  Imagine walking along the street and seeing the Hakle Girl?  Would folks holler out, “Hey, Hakle Girl!  Would you smell MY butt?”  Or is she fixing to kiss it?


 I’ve mentioned before how great German parks are.  The new one at the end of our street must be the absolute pinnacle of park greatness!  Every time I go there, I keep discovering neat stuff.  I don’t know whether that’s because I’m just gradually noticing things or because they’re continually adding features.  Yesterday I discovered three new (at least to me) features.

  •  The balance area.  This place has at least 10 pieces of equipment to help kids (or even adults) enhance their sense of balance.  For example, there’s one huge slab of wood – about the width of 1 king-sized bed and the length of maybe 2 king-sized beds.  The entire slab rests on several industrial-sized springs.  The top of the slab is what can best be described as ‘wavy.’  So, when you walk on this beast, your balance is simultaneously challenged by its surface and its wiggly-ness. There are several other similarly challenging pieces of such equipment; alas, most of them defy my descriptive capabilities so this example will have to suffice.
  • The raw area.  This area is fundamentally undeveloped, or at least that appears to be the case.  However, upon further examination, there are several aspects of it that are clearly intentional.  The area is fenced off from the pristine part of the park, but the fence is low and it has a gate, without a lock.  This is typically the case with neighborhood playgrounds and seems to be intended more to corral the kids (and make it easier for parents to keep track of them without hovering over them, and to keep dogs from using it as their toilet) rather than to genuinely restrict access.  There is no grass, but the area has huge mounds of packed-down dirt and several gigantic rocks scattered here and there – excellent for climbing – as well as a great supply of smaller rocks, which are just perfect for throwing into the small puddles that form after a rain (letting kids discover how both the size of the rock and their throwing technique can affect the level of ‘splashi-ness’ they can achieve).  There are also some huge poles (about 10-15 feet long and maybe 6 inches in diameter) scattered about.  In the States, such an area would be surrounded by high fences, locked gates, and warning signs.  Here, however, the place is easily accessible (except by tiny folks, who must rely on a parent or other older companion to open the gate for them).  Some kids had apparently taken it upon themselves to use the poles to build a rough tipi.  Could these poles fall on kids and perhaps hurt them?  Sure – but it’s unlikely that poles this size would crush a child’s head.  And apparently Germans assume two things:  (1)  It’s the parent’s responsibility to oversee their kids and stop them from doing anything really dangerous; and (2) Kids are gonna play and sometimes they’re gonna get a few bruises and bumps.  Contrast this with the US, where some elementary schools forbid children from running on the school playground, and don’t let them use the jungle-gyms that were erected in a time when we believed that kids should be allowed to play, accepted that they’ll sometimes hurt themselves, and weren’t so eager to run to a lawyer when something happens, suing everybody from the teacher who had playground duty at the moment to the owner of the mine from which the ore was extracted to create the metal that was used in the jungle-gym.
  • Canine hygiene.  It’s a huge park and, even if the intent was to keep the dogs out, that’s just not gonna happen because there are almost as many dogs in Berlin as there are people (although I’ve never seen a stray).  Clearly, you don’t want the park covered in puppy poop.  So, how did the park custodians decide to deal with this?  They have provided a number of places throughout the park where dog owners can get small plastic bags for picking up after their dogs.  These are more or less like the trash receptacles on posts that you find on almost every block in this city.  They’re about shoulder-height, to keep critters from pulling the bags out and to help humans see them.  The true test of this approach will be, first, do folks take full advantage of this convenience and, second, do the park custodians keep the containers well-stocked.


At the risk of indulging in stereotyping, I think I can reasonably assert that Germans tend to be orderly folks.  They are also far more disinclined to waste resources than are Americans (although that’s undoubtedly not a difficult achievement).  For example, they go to great efforts to re-cycle glass.

  •  In many cases, you pay a deposit on glass bottles (beer bottles, in particular).  Our building has a separate bin for glass (as you no doubt remember from my whining about what happens when it gets too full).
  • Throughout Berlin, there are huge public bins for glass.  In fact, within 2 blocks from our building (in different directions), there are 3 readily available public bins.
  • Many folks walk and use bicycles as their primary mode of transportation (to include carrying their children about the city).

 Take all these facts in mind, and juxtapose them beside what you see on the streets following New Year’s Eve celebrations – tons of broken beer, wine, and Champaign bottles!  OK, so maybe you don’t want to carry all your empty bottles back to your flat to dispose of them properly.  And maybe you don’t pass any of the public bins for glass where you’re out walking on New Year’s Eve, or maybe there are none near where you’re setting off your fireworks.  But, SHEESH!!  Can’t you just set the bottles down along the edge of the nearest building?  At least then, someone else can return them for the deposit, or otherwise dispose of them.  Do you really HAVE to smash them all to bits, making it hazardous for bikers (who could not only get flat tires, but could be thrown from their bikes into a pile of glass shards) and even for pedestrians?


 It’s been 50 years since I took the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT).  [YIKES!] I’d like to suggest the following question for the test.

 Read the statements in Columns A and B. 

Column A

The sun is shining.

The sky is blue.

Column B

It is December.

The city is Berlin, Germany.

 If both statements in Column A are true, then:

 a)      Both statements in Column B can also simultaneously be true.

b)      Neither statement in Column B can be true.

c)       Either statement in Column B, but not both, can simultaneously be true.

d)      Both statements in Column B can simultaneously be true IF, and only IF, the date is December 4, 2012.

 Yes.  I went to the grocery store and was at first alarmed by the peculiar color of the sky (blue) and then was further taken aback by the presence of a large, bright shining orb in the sky.  At first I was dumb-founded, having not seen such a thing in a great while.  It was only after further consideration that I deduced that, while such sights are routine in the summer here, it is only upon the rare occasion that you see them in December.  The statistical probability of seeing such sights here in December is pretty much the same as seeing snow in, say, Houston – ever.


 Which keys does an English-language speaking typist use the most?  Well, in my exhaustive study of a universe of one – I’ve deduced that it must be ‘M’ and ‘N’ – given that these two letters are almost worn off those two keys on my laptop.  Alternatively, the adhesive used to affix the letter names to these 2 keys may have been inferior.


If the lavatories in the rest room offer BOTH cold AND hot water, you know you’re in a first-class place.  Really!  Lots of restaurants only have cold water in the restrooms. In the winter, we’re talking ice water.  So, how many folks are likely to wash their hands in ice water?  What are the consequences of lots of folks failing to wash their hands (particularly the restaurant staff)?  Apparently none.


 You may have heard of a breed of dog known as the Rhodesian Ridgeback, which has a strip of hair along its spine that grows in the opposite direction as the rest of the dog’s coat.  William the Wonder Cat doesn’t have such a strip, but he does have a ridge of hair growing down his spine that stands up a bit and may even be just a tad bit longer than the rest of his coat.  If you’re old enough to remember a hair style known as a “duck tail” – or, when you wanted to be really naughty, a “DA”—you’ll have a general idea of what William’s hair along his spine looks like.  I have every confidence that he’s not a pure Siamese, both from his size and from the subtle stripes that you can see in his coat (and because he cost exactly half what all the other Siamese breeders were charging for a kitten).  I do wonder, however, where this ridge along his spine came from – surely not from a dog?  But, come to think of it, the color pattern on Siamese is pretty close to the color pattern on pugs.  Hmmm….


 If you remember from post # 17, I inherited a share of a gas well from my momma’s third husband’s first wife’s uncle.  Well, I finally got my check for the proceeds for calendar year 2011.  Now I can take the entire family – me, my husband, our son and his wife and 2 kids – out for a fine meal at MacDonald’s!  Once!  Seems as how my piece of this amounted to $28 and change.  It’s gonna cost about $1.50 to mail the check to my US bank; if I were to deposit it in my German bank, they’d charge me 25 Euros (about $32.50) to deposit a foreign check, so I’d have a net loss.  Well, hell!  I guess getting a check in the mail (no matter how small) is still better than getting a bill in the mail!


 I’ll bet you thought that I had pretty thoroughly catalogued all the bicycling horrors imaginable.  Well, so did I.[2]  Turns out, we were both wrong.  Sure, I saw the discarded Christmas trees along the curbs last year, but I wasn’t riding a bicycle then so the impact on a bike rider didn’t register with me at the time.  Imagine this.  The part of town where we live is all apartments – virtually no free-standing houses.  The older apartment buildings may be about 60 feet wide, and maybe 5 storeys high, with about 20 apartments.  Try fitting 20 Christmas trees along a 60-foot-wide stretch of curb sometime – end-to-end.  Fortunately, not everyone puts up a Christmas tree.  And, for the newer apartment buildings – where the advent of the elevator made it possible to build apartment buildings with 10 or 15 storeys—the ratio of Christmas trees to curb is even higher.  Obviously, dodging those Christmas trees is yet another danger.  Tonight other conditions conspired to make it the worst of all possible worlds.  First, of course, it was dark before 5, so I was riding in the dark.  Then, because it’s winter in Berlin, it was raining – just a fine, cold mist, which was enough to make the streets slippery and enough to coat my glasses with just enough water to make it difficult to see.  With impaired vision – and taking my glasses off would not have improved my vision (and would have presented the problem of what to do with them if I didn’t wear them) – it was even more difficult to see pedestrians (who wear nothing but black and navy blue outerwear) and those 3-foot-high bollards placed along the way at the entrances of every building.  And the real kicker?  Neither my front nor back lights on the bike worked, so I didn’t have the back-up feeling that maybe – even if I couldn’t see them – others might see me and be able to dodge me.  A white-knuckle ride, for sure!  Almost sounds like an idea for a video game, especially if you add dodging doggy doo (because the trees also infringe upon the space otherwise available for that purpose), AND the odd oblivious pedestrian dressed completely in black, AND the ripples in the bike path caused by tree roots!  Add in a few other bikers zipping around me because (admittedly) I wasn’t going fast enough to suit them.  It might not be exciting enough for your average gamer, but geezing gamers might want to give it a try whenever they get bored with playing bingo at the local fire station.


 OK.  When was the last time you even thought about a top hat, much less saw one?  And by ‘seeing’ one, I don’t mean watching an old Fred Astaire movie.  (Well, I suppose ALL Fred Astaire movies are old now, aren’t they?)  I mean seeing one for real, in the flesh (so to speak) and within touching range!   Well, just go to the post office in Berlin.  Or, at least, that’s where I saw one.  Just yesterday.  It was on top of the head of a guy with the standard ‘Berlin look’ – that perpetual-I-haven’t-shaved-in-2-days beard and the longish, wavy, I-haven’t-combed-my-hair-since-yesterday coiffure.  To complement the top hat, the young man was wearing a uniform of some sort.  The double-breasted coat only went to his waist in the front, but went down to the middle of his thigh in the back.  Some of the seams on the coat were adorned with piping of some sort.  The matching pants gave the impression of being bell-bottoms.  The look was finished with a pair of well-worn running shoes.  Although I had my camera – and was truly tempted to take a photo – I didn’t want to look like a total rube and take the picture.  You’ll just have to trust me on this one!


 Our granddaughter has blue eyes and blondish hair.  She’s 4 years old and, in the past year, finally decided that she would grow some hair.  [Her brother, of course, had a full head of hair by the time he was about one.]  Today when I picked her up at day care, I almost didn’t recognize her.  Her hair was braided – one short braid at the nape of her neck and a short braid over each of her ears.  Just looks like a perfect little German girl right out of a story book!

[1] ‘Bezirk’ is German for ‘neighborhood.’

[2] And here, Microsoft Grammar Check wanted me to type “So did me.”  I’d just LOVE to know what grammar rule the labzoids in Redmond think they’re following here!