Monday, October 31, 2005
Got to Prague safely after 2 security scans at the airport (we aren't in the US, right?), a bus from the terminal to the farthest-away gate that one could possibly imagine (including going past all the cargo terminals, service terminals, and a Qantas 747), and a struggle to find space in the overhead bins for my luggage.
I exited the airport, after clearing immigration (doesn't seem right after a 1hr flight), and finally managed to find a taxi.
The guy that I found was parked and waiting inside a ticketed parking area. The cab started towards the exit, and then he stopped. He told me that he had "an old ticket", so he reversed to ask one of his colleagues if he had a newer ticket (that I guess would mean he wouldn't have to pay for the parking). His colleague didn't have one, so we did the next best thing... Just as his colleague was saying he didn't have a newer ticket another car started heading towards the exit...so we followed it. The taxi pulled up right behind the car as it inserted it's ticket, and then proceeded to tailgate it through the boom gate, meer inches off the bumper of the other car. The boom gate did start to come down, but then detected that we were in the way, and it went back up again. Nice work Mr Cab-Driver!
Here are a few snaps from around Prague. Sorry about the lighting, but it was getting kinda late.
Stumbled across this store - "Sydney Shop". Full of FAIR DINKUM Aussie stuff!
The front window of Sydney Shop...
The river that runs through the middle of the city.
And again in the other direction.
[EDIT - 01 Nov 2005] Happy new American-financial-year. It turns out that I didn't see the nice part of Prague. Unfortunately I won't get to on this trip, but I have been reliably informed that I will be back here 2-3 times per year, so I will see it one day.
Big-up respect to the B&BIG reading crew.
The first stop was in a conference center attached to the Frankfurt airport. I was the first to arrive, and I decided to wait for some of the other guys near the departures board in the Lufthansa terminal (they knew I would be there).
Apparently, if you stand near the departures board, in a shirt and dress-pants, with your security card around your neck, people think that you must work for the airport. I quickly worked out Ich arbeite nicht hier (I don't work here), and used it a few times. God only knows if it is a correct phrase...but it seemed to work. :)
So, as if that wasn't bad enough, I soon found out that the whole seminar would be conducted in German (except for the parts presented by our colleague from Canada). To make matters worse, this meant German introductions to the Customers.
The couple of other Native English Speakers decided to introduce themselves in English (if you can call Canadian and Scottish English). It came to my turn, and there seemed to be some joking pressure from my German colleagues for me to do mine in German...so here goes:
Guten Morgen. Mein name ist Brett White. Ich komme aus Australien, aber Ich wohne jetzt in Darmstadt. Ich arbeite seit 6 Jarhen bei Agilent Technologies. Ich bin der neue AE für N2X und NetzwerkTester. Entschuldigung, Ich spreche wenig Deutsch, aber Ich lerne.
Good Morning. My name is Brett White. I come from Australia, but now I live in Darmstadt. I have worked for Agilent Technologies for 6 years. I am the new AE for N2X and NetworkTester. I'm sorry, I don't speak much German, but I am learning.
What do you think?
Sunday, October 30, 2005
Anyway, to save a bit of money, and a bit of stress, I decided to take the ICE train down from Darmstadt to Munich with one of the FEs (sales guys) from the Kronberg office.
The trip started in fine style with Bel and I rocking up to the Darmstadt Hauptbahnhof about 1hr early. To kill some time we decided to get a coffee... We found a little café in the train station, and Bel ordered a hot chocolate, and I ordered a cappucino. I am not sure what they brought me, but sure as shit it wasn't no cappucino! The filth that I received was kinda like a long-black, minus the crema, with some frothed milk on top...it was also so strong that you could have stripped paint off the walls with it.
Train trip down was pretty uneventful, as well as the couple of days of meetings (except that I had to do an intro to them in German...).
On the way back, the FE and I were taking different trains home, as he had a train that got him to Frankfurt at a more convenient time for him.
I told the FE that our train was departing at 13:39, and he said that his was at 13:42, so we could take the S-Bahn (kinda like the Met) together at 13:20 and we would have plenty of time. I wasn't so sure that this was right [and he ignored my suggestion that we do our own thing and catch an earlier train in], as we needed to be at the Hauptbahnhof by 13:39 for our train, but the FE seemed sure that the 13:20 S-Bahn would be ok.
Anyway, we boarded the 13:20 S-Bahn for the Hauptbahnhof. After about 10min I start to doubt that we will reach the station in time [those of you who know Brett can imagine how well he would be handling this - but he actually was quite calm. Many paniced looks, but we did look at each other a few times at laugh about how rediculous it was]. With 5min to go I am looking at my watch, and looking at the train system map feeling kind of worried. With 1min to go I said to the FE that I didn't think we were going to make it for the 13:39 train at the Hauptbahnhof. He looked at the time, and at the train map, and he said "Yep, you will miss it. We should have left earlier." OH MY GOD!!!!!!
So, after a few confused looks it was revealed that the FE's itinerary was talking about him having to catch a 13:49 train from the S-Bahn station, to connect with a later train at the Hauptbahnhof. Our itinerary had been talking about us getting at 13:39 train from the Hauptbahnhof... :(
When we arrived at the Hauptbahnhof, about 5min too late, the FE helped us change our tickets to a later train, and we went separate ways.
Our new train required us to take the train from Munich to Mannheim, and then change for a train from Mannheim to Darmstadt. The trip to Mannheim was about 4hrs.
As we were nearing Mannheim, Bel and I were looking nervously at our watches. Our itinerary said that there was about 11mins overlap with the connection in Mannheim...problem was that our train was now running about 11mins late...we may just make it!
The conductor started babbling over the PA about some shit, and we kept hearing Darmstadt blah blah blah Darmstadt blah blah Darmstadt... It really sucks when you know they must be saying something about your train, and the fact that they are late, and all you can understand is Darmstadt. [And I thought I heard them say about our train 'Nicht Verheiratet', or 'not married', which made no sense, but perhaps they use married to mean connect or link up, so I was super worried.] And we had no idea when the next train to Darmstadt would be that day.
To make matters worse, a few mins out of Mannheim the train stops. Blah blah blah Darmstadt blah blah Darmstadt blah blah Darmstadt... SHUT UP ABOUT DARMSTADT ALREADY!!!! Now we are surely going to miss the train.
We finally pull into Mannheim, and Bel bolts out of the doors, ready to run in vain hope from platform 2 to platform 9 for the connecting train. As she starts to run off on me I notice that the train on platform 3 has the same time on it as our connecting train. Added to that, it also has Darmstadt on the list of stations. I yell out to Bel, point at the train, and we board it.
Once on board, we have a bit of a look around, and we can't find anything that indicates the train is going where we want it to go. To make matters worse, it has just come from France...and as it starts to move out, we are sure it's heading back the way we just came...in the direction of France! Panic much?!?!?
I go off in search of something that mentions the stops, but I can't find anything that mentions Darmstadt, and they fail to do their usual announcement telling the new passengers what train they have just boarded. I find something that says it stops in Frankfurt, so at least it's in the right direction...I guess. I had a bit of a closer look at the sign, and it had EC-55 for the train number. I checked our tickets, and they also said EC-55, so I was sure that this must be the right train. We hoped. ...luckily it turned out that it was, and eventually we got home.
Someone remind me again, who in their right mind would go to a country where they don't speak the language? And then who would board trains with intricate connection schedules in the same country? Nobody in their right mind, huh? :)
'Brush [and Bel]
Here's a pic of the müllermilch bottles. The one on the left is Bananiger, and the one on the right is Pistazie Cocos. Let me just say that This shit is Bananas!. The banana flavoured one is like your standard banana flavoured milk...YUM! The pistacio coconut one is a whole new world of heaven! Die Milch is sehr lecker!
'Brush, and Bel
Here's entry number 1...
Unfortunately you can't see the name of it too well, but it is Bärchenwurst, which roughly translates to Little Bear Sausage. This one nearly made me spew when I saw it in the catalogue. I wonder how many little bears it takes to make each highly over-processed roll of this crap? But, not only is it delicious *spew*, but it's also nutritious! It comes Mit extra Calcium! In fact, I think I might go out and buy some now!!!! Oh, hang on...I can't! It's Sunday and all the shops are closed! DAMN IT! :P
Found this one in Plus (a discount supermarket, similar to Aldi). Now your breakfast can taste good and sound good at the same time! :) "Anybody want toast?" "Sounds good to me!"
Also found these in Plus. I can just picture the weekly shopping trip now...
Käse (cheese) - check!
Milch (milk) - check!
Bärchenwurst (...) - check!
Radio Toaster - check!
Brot (bread) - check!
New hub caps for the Pinto - check!
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
Pressing our Knackers against a vintage Porsche...
Brush, Bel, and Anita in the "second hand" section of one of the Porsche buildings. We could nearly afford one of these...if we combined all of our incomes. For those who are wondering, we are hiding our Knackers behind the camera.
Brush, Bel, Anita, and our Knackers in the middle of Stuttgart.
I guess I really like Stuttgart...we didn't get arrested for exposing our Knackers in public at all! :)
PS: For those who haven't worked it out...Knackers is the nickname of the guy leaning against the Porsche.
This is for the Dilbert fans out there...I wonder if it is still as funny in German...
Here is a very rough translation thanks to Google (and a little work from me...but very little):
- Our goal is nothing less than the complete assumption of the software department of Pointy-Haired Carl.
- We begin secretly to settle their work additionally to ours. Then I require that he is to report to me.
- Purely hypothetically, if the plan succeeds, we would have to do twice the work for the same money?
Hmmm...I'll let you be the judge.
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
The main shopping street in Bad Homburg. There was some farming festival on that day.
Not even Wensleydale?
This was for Damo. Gotta love a good organ grinder! *snicker*
Belinda in some cute little park we stumbled across in the AltStadt (old city).
A small street in the AltStadt. Could it be any cuter?
Old skool kitchen table...
Old skool lounge room...
Old skool kitchen (with sloping roof)...
Old skool entrance hall...
Seriously pimpin' bed! You don't get the full effect of the bed here. I will take another pic later without the bedsheets on. Believe it or not, the mattresses match the rest of the bed, and the bedside tables! Also, you can lift up the mattresses to access storage space in the bed for bedsheets etc.
PS: The house smells like my Nan's house. What is with old people all smelling the same???
Monday, October 17, 2005
Friday was our first chance all week to eat at home, so we bought enough groceries for that day, but forgot the milk, butter, juice, paper towel, tissues and toilet paper (because we had to pay cash we were so worried we wouldn’t have enough that we were a bit distracted). While we were cooking dinner that night the stove and tap incident happened and the fix-it man used the last of the paper towel that we in the house when we moved in. Luckily Frau L. got us another role form her place. I say luckily because we ran out of toilet paper Sunday morning, and we had no tissues, so paper towel was it!!!!)
Because we had forgotten so many things our breakfast on Saturday morning before we rushed to Stuttgart was toast with Jam, no butter. Well, it was toast for me. We had bought an uncut loaf of bread that you seriously could kill someone with, it was so heavy. In trying to cut slices for toast Brett had cut his too think for the toaster and didn’t want to cut more – so he had bread and jam, no butter. No juice, no tea or coffee because we had no sugar or milk.
We weren’t thrilled with our breakfast but thought it would be okay to put up with since first thing Sunday we could run to the shops and buy more food. NOT THE CASE. After driving past ever supermarket in the area on Sunday moring, and then into the deserted centre of town we realised we were screwed. Finally we found a petrol station that had milk and butter so our breakfast was a little less depressing than the day before. It also included muesli – which Brett described as nice but a little boring (how can food be both nice and boring?!?!?!) and which I described as freekin’ cardboard.
Then the bathroom door incident happened and was concluded until about 8:30 so we were too tired to go to a restaurant (and so sick of eating out) that we went and bought pizza at the only pizza place we knew of – PIZZA HUT and brought it home to eat. So Sunday was super!!
For those who care about the daily boring details of my life here in Germany today (Monday) was my first housewife day (should only be a week or so of that) but I had dinner all ready for Brett when he got home, I had done a load of washing and some vacuuming and I had shopped for groceries (using my backpack which also killed me because I bought so much).
Love to all
===== WARNING - THIS AIN'T SHORT! =====
After the last few days, I must say that I am sick of the word "kaput". Here's a list of things that we have had to get the landlord to come and look at:
1. The stove.
We went to cook dinner one night and the oven wouldn't turn on. I went down to the landlord and gave her a bit of "Ich kan nicht der Ofen anstellen" (I can not turn on the oven). She seemed a little confused by this and kept saying "Was ist anstellen?" (What is 'anstellen'?). At least this is what I think she was saying, though maybe she was asking WHAT I couldn't turn on. After much turning on and off of hotplates, determining that 2 worked and 2 didn't, etc. it turns out that the safety switch had tripped. SOLVED!
2. The kitchen tap.
The tap in the kitchen was leaking a little. Luckily the guy came to fix that at the same time that the whole oven fiasco was going on. Aparently today he came back (for an unknown reason) and gave Belinda a plug (minds out of the gutter, people!) for the sink, which was missing when we moved in. He thinks Belinda is a freak because she didn't want a plug with a chain on it, and this would mean that she would have to pull the plug out with her hand. What else would you use? Honestly! SOLVED!
3. The bathroom door.
Sunday morning I noticed that the bathroom door was a little tough to open. When I was turning the handle, the latch-thingy wasn't pulling back all of the way, and was catching when opening the door. I didn't think much of it until Belinda tried to go back into the bathroom to put on some washing and found that she couldn't open the door. No problems...except that I was BUSTING to go to the toilet!..and so was Belinda after waiting for about an hour, hoping that it would initially miraculously fix itself, and then when that failed that the landlords would come and fix it.
Anyway, with the whites of our eyes slowly going yellow, we boarded the 'Brush-mobile and went to Burger King (thank you GeorgeW for having a base so close by...hence lots of US fast-food places) for a McPiss. (For those who don't know, a McPiss is when you go to McDonalds for the sole purpose of using their toilets. This is a close relation to the McDump, or the McShit).
Oh yeah, here is the note that we left for the landlord, which they also didn't understand (WTF?!?!?!?!).
"Herr & Frau L. Vielen dank für der Apfelkuchen. Es ist sehr lecker. Klein problem. Wir konnen nicht die Badzimmertür offen. Sie ist nicht verschließt. Es tut mir leid. Brett & Belinda"
Here's what we thought we said...
"Mr & Mrs L. Thank you for the apple-cake. It is very yummy. A small problem. We can not open the bathroom door. It is not locked. I'm sorry. Brett & Belinda"
Reading it now, I realise it is a shitty note, that makes about as much sense as any note left by someone with the grammar and vocab of a snail.
Anyway, finally they came to fix the door (or maybe just to find out what the f'k we were on about). After much trying by Hr L. and his son, they finally called a locksmith who came and opened the door for us...USING A DRILL! Turns out that the tongue-type-thingy that keeps the door closed had snapped off in the hole-type-thingy that it sticks into in the wall. (Does that conjur images of french-kissing for anyone else?!?!) SOLVED!
4. Belinda's keys.
So, my keys work fine. I can get into the house, and then into our apartment. Belinda's key, on the other hand, can get her into the apartment...but that's not too helpful when you can't get into the building...but she can open the letterbox! :)We decided not to tell Hr & Fr L. about this yesterday because we thought that the stress might kill Hr L. He was lookin' kinda shakey after the whole Badzimmertür incident of 2005.
Anyway, that's enough from me. I think Bel has some stuff to write now....
Friday, October 14, 2005
The Maritim group of hotels are apparently "Conference Hotels". One may think that a conference hotel would provide free, high-speed internet access to all it's rooms, right? Wrong.
The Maritim in Berlin, and in Bad Homburg, only provided dial-up access in their rooms (Berlin has wired-LAN in some, and I was lucky to get one of them), or you can pay 18€ per day for wireless-LAN access through the T-mobile hotspot.
Anyway, the documentation in our room in Bad Homburg said that in your room their was an analog connection for internet access (read as "phone plug for dial-up"). It also said that in the lobby there was a digital connection available "for your laptop".
Now, being a networking-type-dude, I assume that a digital connection means an RJ-45 connection to a public LAN in the hotel. So I grab my laptop and head downstairs...
I have a quick look around in the lobby and see one of those internet cafe style pay-as-you-surf terminals. Surely this can't be it, so I keep looking around. Without too much searching I find an RJ-45 connection next to a nice comfy chair, with a power plug next to it. Perfect!
So I quickly sit down, whip out my ethernet cable, and plug in. Instantly I get an IP address, open the VPN client, and connect to the Agilent VPN to check my email. Awesome!
Ok, so I have been checking email for a few minutes when this guy in overalls comes up and says "Wer sind Sie?" (Who are you? B&B rough pronunciation guide - Vair zind zee?). At this point I panic and give him a bit of "Entschuldigung. Ich spreche wenig Deutsch." (Sorry. I speak little German. B&BRPG - Ent-shool-dee-goong. Ikh shprekhah venig Doy-ch.) His reaction to this is to say very quickly, and very aggressively, "Aus! Aus!" while making a disconnecting motion with his hands. The long and the short of it is that I had managed to plug into their Corporate LAN for the hotel...
Anyway, I returned to the lobby later that day to ask at the counter about the digital connection. I asked the girl (in English) if the connection over there was the digital connection mentioned in the literature. She said to me "No. It has been disconnected now."
Yay 'Brush! Less than 1 week in the country and people think I am a hacker already! Ich bin nicht ein Hacker!
This weekend on Saturday we are going sightseeing around Stutgart with Anita from Brush's work here (the tools will know who I am talking about) and John N from Brush's office in Aus.
I have to mention of our wonderful relocation consultant, who we would have been lost without while trying to open bank accounts, que to register ourselves while getting yelled at because people think they are before you, get bus timetables, and rent apartments from people who speak no english. I would recommend not moving to a foreign country without one. Cynth has a theory that all German girls are gorgeous and if you were to judge all German by her WOW German girls are HOT, and really nice. Add Anita on top of that and its enough to give a girl a complex. :-)
Photos will follow
So far its all going well, though we can't play any music as we didn't bring any cassettes or records with us. A stereo from this century will be purchased. Today we will get our first load of clothes we sent over. The rest of our stuff will arrive mid Dec.
This morning when we opened our font door there was a note on the mat the began with 'Herr White' the rest of which we couldn't read. Not because of our German skills, but we couldn't actually make out the words. After much debate we made out enough to realise they need our keys during the day so that the leaking tap in the kitchen could be fixed (we could see the words Schüssel - key and Wasserhahn - tap). After a quick tidy we left the keys with the land lady, who was very impressed with our attempt in German to tell her where we were going today. We have no idea what she said back to us though.
We have been checking out the local area and have a US military barracks, a Wal Mart, a Pizza Hut, Burger King, and on the plus side, two backeries, butchers (a plus for Brush), discount supermarkets (Aldi, Lidl, Plus), bus stops and a train station for me, and so on. I am going to have to get a grandma shoping trolley so that I can go to the supermarket when Brett is away with the car.
Tuesday, October 11, 2005
After a fun German language experience trying to find the supermarket we find the bottle of water (with bubbles of course!!! - Brush is much more a fan of this than I am) and we are amazed at how cheap it is. 69c for 6 x 500ml bottles of water.
I get a €1 coin out to pay and we go to the counter (hoping that the girl doesn't try to speak to us) and are told the price is €2.19. Obviously we are confused but assume we read the price tag wrong.
Outside we decide to investigate the docket and see a second charge on there for Pfand 1,50.
We hadn't bought a second item and inwardly I am almost willing to acceptpt the erroneous charge rather than attempt to sort it out in German. Before being brave and going back in we decide to look the word up in the dictionary that is always with us and find that it means 'security or deposit'.
Assuming that it is somehow related to the strict German recycling system we decide that we should ask one of the people at the hotel reception what it means.
Apparently our assumption was correct that it is related to the recycling and is done on things like beer too, but not canned food - and if we take the bottles back to the SAME shop we get the €1,50 back.
So now we are determined to drink all the water before we check out tomorrow so that we can take them back and get the money.
Depositing at an ATM (or Gelbautomat) is unheard of.
And, if you are lazy and withdraw cash from another bank's ATM you will pay €5 for the privilage!!!!!!
well we are now banking with Deutsche Bank who are GREAT. We can deposit at any branch and at some ATMs, they have longer opening hours, english internt banking site, and the list goes on. If any of you need a German bank account go with DB, and tell them we recommended you - we get a present ;-)
Monday, October 10, 2005
Anyway, plane flights were actually not too bad. Bel and I slept most of the 12hr flight from Singapore to Frankfurt. The meals on Singapore are better than the slop they serve on United, IMHO, and the movies on demand are sensational.
Won't bore you all with too much detail, but our hire car is a Mercedes A-series. Jealous?
We managed to find an apartment for us to stay in for the first 6 months. It is a huge apartment in Darmstadt that is fully furnished in pimpin' 70s style. Once we have moved in I will upload pictures. The place is €750 per month, which includes all rent, furniture, utilities, etc. The old lady that owns the place even comes to change your bed sheets every few weeks, washes them, and irons them for you! WTF?!?!?!
We have had a few little language issues, but managed to get through them so far. Yesterday I started to ask the girl in the hotel reception if breakfast was included with my room. I got "Ist frühstück mit mein Zimmer" out and then freaked out because I couldn't remember the word for "included". Apparently "inklusive" would have done the trick, but I went with "inbegriffen", which also seemed to work. Hopefully Tansy will tell me if I was wrong.
That's enough for now. Hope you all are well!
Friday, October 07, 2005
Last few days have been kinda hectic and rough. Lots of stuff to do, logistics-wise, and lots of people to say goodbye to. It has really sucked.
One positive to come out of it is discovering how many people care about you. It really is quite a nice feeling to see people make an effort to come to farewell lunches, parties, dinners, etc. At the same time, it makes you start to realise just how many of these people you are really going to miss. :(
I realised while driving my car tonight that some of the people I have said goodbye to I have known for more than 1/3rd of my life. Guys like Mashy and El Guapo that I went to uni with I have known for nearly 10 years. As for Whitty, I just can't shake the guy, and I have known him for about half of my life. And then there's our families...
Anyway, today we finally found someone to take NoS, our bunny. He will be going to live with my aunty in the country. Saying goodbye to him made me cry a little... Not as many tears as the scene in Cool Runnings where they pick up the bobsled and carry it across the finish line, but nearly. :)
So, to all of you, Bel and I are really going to miss you all. We want to thank you all for all of your support in getting this move organised, and for all the love you have shown us.
Auf Wiedersehen, Auf Wiederhören, and/or Tschüs...take your pick. :)