First Month in Berlin

Hallo again readers!

Well I have been here in Berlin for almost a full month now. Quite a bit has happened since I wrote last so I will let you all get caught up with this blog entry :)

Berlin's Museum Insel (island) on an overcast day

Berlin’s Museum Insel (island)

First I should mention that the German university semester schedule is different than the Canadian one. The year begins in mid-October, not the beginning of September. So you may ask why I am here so early? The Humboldt University gives all its international students the option to take an intensive German language course in preparation for the start of the actual school year. I took advantage of this offer.

The course really lives up to its intensive name: five days a week with 4.5 hours per day of pure German, German and more German training. But I am learning a lot and meeting students and newly found friends from all over the globe. Most of the students are from European countries (quite a lot from Spain and France I noticed), but others are from as far as Australia, Japan and even a few from Canada.

The past week our class went to two different theatres (our instructor is an avid theatre enthusiast). We went to the Deutsches Theatre, which is THE theatre of Germany. If you are acting on that stage, you made it big and you are the best of the best. We also went to a smaller improv theatre, which I personally found funny and more entertaining.

The old Deutsches Theatre, a bit small on the inside

The old Deutsches Theatre, a bit small on the inside, not what I expected.

There were a few headaches that I suffered as well since the last blog. In order to live in Berlin, everyone must apply for an “Anmeldebestätigung” or in other words, a document that says you are registered with the city. I went to the office bright and early (which was far away only because I didn’t know there was one in my very own neighbourhood), to find out that you need an appointment. So I had to return the next day and then there were some miscommunications with the application and I didn’t bring the right documents because I thought it was something else (you can’t blame me when dealing with the complex German language, and legal language that is!) ….. and yah. In the end though, I got it stamped and I am living here legally now.

Me acting like a tourist

Me acting like a tourist

Headache number 2: Simply put, I got pinched with a fine. Here in Berlin, you don’t have to pay upon entering the trains, buses, trams, etc. Anyone can easily be a “Schwarzfahrer” (a Black Rider in literal translation, also known as someone who doesn’t pay a fare). But there are controllers of the “Deutsche Bahn” (the German train company) and their sole purpose is to travel around the city and unexpectedly check everyone’s ticket. These guys and gals DO NOT look like they work for the DB. They have no official uniforms, they wear the plainest clothes and some could (no joke) even pass for looking as homeless- kind of like undercover cops.

Anyways, I bought myself a week ticket and validated it on a Thursday night at about 11pm (bad idea). Go forward in time to the next Thursday: I am sitting in the S-Bahn train going to class and these controllers come suddenly through the train and loudly ask all passengers to show their tickets. I am sitting there thinking all is good, nothing to worry about, as I of course have my valid ticket. He asks me for mine, takes it, looks at it for an unusually long time and then tells me it is not “gültig” (valid). I was then explained that a week ticket is only good for “7” days. That meant it expired the day before, Wednesday. I tried to explain to him that I bought it Thursday night and that I thought it would subsequently be valid until the next Thursday night. Makes sense, right? I said I didn’t know the rules exactly, but he simply didn’t budge. In the end, I had to pay 40 Euros at the main station office, and that hurts. That’s over 50 bucks for us Canadians. But now I know and I will be sure not to make that mistake again.

Well, I am trying to enjoy this last week of language class and freedom before the start of the semester. It’s go-time in two weeks. I am a bit unsure about how I will do when the semester starts. I don’t know how well I will be able to keep up in normal, fast-spoken German lectures. I think I will do fine after some time and hey, I am only getting better as each day progresses.

See you again in zwei Wochen! (two weeks)

A mini "Oktoberfest" in full swing at Alexanderplatz

A mini “Oktoberfest” in full swing at Berlin’s well-known Alexanderplatz