Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Surviving the Irish Summer

Ireland got a mini heat wave last week.
Clear skies, sunshine, warm air, dry grass, and sun burned chests – it was pure bliss.

The fab weather caught me off guard, I hadn't converted my wardrobe from Winter to Summer.
(We don't get Spring in Ireland – we barely get a Summer)
So I had to push past the woolly jumpers, stretch in past boots, and shoulder Winter coats out of the way to be in reach of vest tops, flip flops and shorts.

Tropic of Capricorn, Western Australia
I was 100% sure I had suncream from last year, but it was no where to be found, so I had to give in and pay Summer prices for new suncream. An hour off early from work (to celebrate the sun) gave me the opportunity to smother in suncream, lay out on the freshly cut lawn and read my book. It was the most content I have felt in 2012.

For the first few days of sunshine no one dared speak about the sweat or the sunburn or the dying plants – but four days without rain started to drive some people mad.
I laughed at their silliness, I had endured 40c heat (104F) in Australia and survived, this 25c (77F) was a doddle.
But the fifth day of sunshine stopped me in my tracks. I was sneezing, not little lady 'achoooos' but big ones, ones that took over an hour to emerge, my eyes were running water faster than the River Shannon and I felt crap.

On top of the seasonal hay fever, I was so tired, like exhausted. Past 2pm in the day my eyes were squinting, I blinked for longer than is acceptable when holding a conversation and I drove like a maniac to get home and sit (looking out).

Hay fever season, Ireland
(c) fifiheavey
When I relayed this info to my partner, he laughed. “Go for a nap,” he advised.
“I don't do naps,” I replied, naps are for lazy people and I have so much to do.
“But you always took naps when we were away,” he recalls. But his recollection was in accurate.
Me sleep during the day, never!

Well in Thailand I did a little because I wasn't sleeping at night and I needed indoor shelter from the cruel sun. But not in Australia.
Cue himself reminding me “yeah but you went to bed super early and were not fit to walk after work.”
Oh, yeah ... maybe.

We spend the Winter storing up carbs to help us fight the cold, tucked into woolly socks and thermal underwear, staring out at the cold wind and the snow and frost dreaming of the sunshine and the light breeze.
But when it arrives, we stare outside soothing our sunburn in aloe vera, sniffing and snoozing, never hoping for rain or clouds (that would be a curse) but waiting for the 'break.'

At least the Summer tunes are good ... and beer gardens have shade!

Summer grazing, Ireland

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

The Jerry Springer Show

I met a friend recently who I had not been in contact with for years. As we caught up with others trials and tribulations over the past years, I got to talking about some of my travelling highlights.
Full Moon Party, Great Ocean Road, the Barrier Reef, Hiking an ice glacier, sky diving in New Zealand ... I had loads to talk about.

But she interjected “Did I hear you went to a Jerry Springer Show?”
It took me off the hop, yes I did see Mr Springer in Chicago.
“Oh tell me all about it” she perused.

Perplexed, I summoned up my memories of the night. Was Jerry Springer more important than Cuba, is Jerry bigger than the Sahara?

But Jerry was important to her, so I had to just laugh and recall:
I had applied for tickets off the cuff on line while sitting in a hotel in Albuquerque. We were going to Chicago in two weeks and I though why not (I applied for lots of other shows Oprah Winfrey, Ellen, the Tonight Show and the Late Show)
But it was only Jerry Springer who beckoned us.

I was excited at the time, Jerry Springer had been a big name in the 90s and I had practised my very best chant of Jerry, Jerry Jerry!

The day of the show was long, the security checks were tiresome, we moved from room to room. They coached us on what was acceptable behaviour and what was not and we watched some shows. We were told that the cameras would pick up on our expressions to the stories as they evolved, but that our reaction could be used with any scene in the entire series.
So say I was shocked that the gay dwarf was actually having a relationship with his gay partner's mother – my reaction could in fact be themed with the story of how a stripper wants her grandmother to stop stealing all her male clients ....!

Finally the show begun, Jerry came out, told a few jokes and then got the actors on stage.
Yes I said actors. I actually forget the story lines (it was over four years ago) but I remember it all being nice and fake, except for one storyline which was probably true but they were paid to juicy it up.
We heard three different stories – none of which were related to any theme and we booed, shouted, created Jerry and laughed. I did my very best disgusted face for the cameras.

And afterwards we did a little message for Jerry. It really was fun, but actually not that memorable.
I never did see my facial expression of disgust on the show afterwards and I didn't get to meet Jerry.

When we visited Chicago it had just been hit by floods and loads of tourist places were shut, so the city will always be associated with Jerry Springer for me – and The Dark Knight (because we saw it in the Imax theatre!)

Will I return to Chicago to see The Dark Knight Rises?!

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Going Underground

History buffs beware – it is easy to become overwhelmed in Berlin.
Museums showcasing ancient Berlin, remnants of WWI, see the rise of the Nazis, WW2, persecution of the Jews, the Berlin Wall, life with the Berlin Wall, the Cold War, and Berlin following reunification.

Need to to sit in a cold dark room for a while?
Excellent idea – go underground!

Think you know Berlin? Go underground!

After hours of walking in the surprising hot sunshine of Berlin in April, and taking a whirlwind tour of the city and it's outstanding history. We took a tour of Berlin underground and it was the highlight of the trip (I speak only for myself!)

The underground system was started in the 1920s, extended and upgraded by the Nazis for meetings and organising invasions and torture, an excellent bomb shelter during WWII and set up as a precautionary shelter from an impending nuclear attack expected by the city during the Cold War.

Dark passageways, lit only by glow in the dark lines and signs create a gloomy, dark and secretive city under the modern spacious and bright Berlin we know.

Some subway stations throughout Berlin hold the doors to bunkers.
(c) fifiheavey

Every day, hundreds of people walk past a green door in the Gesundbrunnen Underground railway station unaware that within lies a subterranean labyrinth full of authentic history waiting to be experienced.”
We learned that behind these doors in subway station stood the only chance many had if World War Three had in fact broken out between America and Soviet Union.

The cold war is not a part of history I would be most familiar with it, I know the basics and very little details. The main point to remember – nothing really ever happened (that WE know of) but there was a hell of a lot of preparation and anxiety surrounding the first or next move of the two nations. And these two nations had control over sections of Berlin.

Behind the doors of Pankstrasse subway station is a modern bunker for over 3,000 Berliners
(c) fifiheavey

In our underground tour: Subways,Bunkers and Cold War we learned about the preparations for a nuclear attack, the access to bunkers, the numbers allowed, the machines to filter air and water, the control measures, the psychology behind the schemes and in the conclusion of the tour the realisation that all the work probably wouldn't have prevented millions of deaths. The bunkers were nothing more that a calming solution to the hysteria.

A place to lay your head - with 3,000 others underground
(c) fifiheavey
I don't care if you hate history, museums or war. You will love this.
Unconventional and still shrouded in mystery, don't think you know anything about Berlin until you step underground.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Want to hug a bear?

Ever wanted to hug a bear?

You need to visit Berlin - the city of bears.

They appear on street, corners, stand staring at you in train stations, hold your hat outside shops and even the American Embassy in Berlin has one!

Hug for Buddy Bear showing the u-bahn stops
(c) fifiheavey

In 2001, artists painted approximately 350 bears (Buddy Bears) to appear in the public domain, as decorative elements in the streets of Berlin. Four different bear designs (one standing on all four paws, one standing on two legs, one standing on its head and one in a sitting position) took part in this activity in the city centre of Berlin.

This one won a medal
(c) fifiheavey

Afterwards, many of the bears were sold at auctions in aid of child relief organisations. Nowadays, these Berlin Buddy Bears are exclusively presented on private premises, in front of hotels and embassies as well as in the foyers of various office buildings.

Hot dogs, icecream and a friendly bear
(c) fifiheavey

Hey it is either a bear or a beer on the streets of Berlin!

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Beer and efficiency

Boozing in Berlin
(c) fifiheavey
Ireland does not not have a drinking culture.
That is a bold statement, but one I most definitely stand over after my return visit to Berlin last week.

In general, us Irish reserve our drinking to the weekend or occasions of celebration or commiseration. We don't drink every day, because despite generations of stigma it is not our culture.

"God invented whiskey so the Irish wouldn't rule the world!"
We are fond of and take to The Drink on a regular basis, but it has never become part of daily life.

Germans are known as pretty crazy party people. Their dance and rock music influences helps hammer in that perception. But from what I witnessed last week, they do not reserve their drinking habits for parties only.

Let there be Rock - Bretter Bube Bar
Take the U-bahn and you meet locals swigging beer, watch out for the cyclist balancing steering their bike with taking a sip of local brew and don't be surprised to see alcohol ... everywhere.

(c) fifiheavey
Small glass bottles of vodka, gin, jagermeister are sold just above the sweet stands at the counters of supermarkets. "Where is the nearest bar?” is a silly question, every eatery including cafes and some take-aways give you access to an alcoholic beverage.

“Just apple juice?” a waitress questioned confused as we ordered brunch, around us everyone had a a 'real' drink in front of them.

And does all this mass drinking result in chaos? Puke on the streets? Loud singing? Rudeness?
A lack of productivity? 

Apelmann - East German pedestrian traffic light
are symbols of German efficiency
(c) fifiheavey

How can a land of beer on every corner result in one of the most efficient systems?
Trains run on time, people queue in an orderly manner, food is fast and yummy, the streets are clean and the people are respectful.

Checkpoint Charlie, Berlin
(c) fifiheavey

And the biggest benefit to drinking German beer?
No Hangover!