Life in Deutschland

Finally, I got my hands of Harsha's Dell Latitude D810 and also managed to get connected to the internet from the hotel! Consequently, I can manage to write that blog entry of mine, which has been on the pipeline for quite some days. I will also try to finish off a story that started immediately after I reached here. :-D! First of all, some important points to start off with...

-> A laptop is simply the best machine to write your blog on. Simply super, the way your hands just move around the super soft tiny keyboard. Kinda answers my question as to why the authors would go in for a laptop that is light, small and doesn't have a super cool [or hot] machine with sizzling graphics subsystems and inhumane amount of main memory! -> Internet in Germany is blazing fast. In office, the net gives me about 200-400MBps. Yeah, you heard that right. Consequently, I am piling up setups in my harddisk! Yes, the crack sites are blocked. But then, @ home, i wouldn't have a websense equivalent, and cracks are never too big to download! ;-) -> I _have_ decided, even at the cost of dying hungry, I am gonna get that laptop of mine by the end of this week! And also at the cost of getting myself kicked outta my new apartment, which I will be shifting to by Tuesday anyway :-D! -> 15.4" in the laptop is more than enough. I am using a 15.4" inch display right now, although running @ 1680*1050 resolution. But my laptop will most probably running it only @ 1280*800 resolution, which mite be tolerable, once I am used to it :-D!!

Ok, now back to the topic at hand - Life in Deutschland! A briefer has been provided in my previous post. A lotta changes from India, and Bangalore. Well that must have sounded more like the obvious statement. Lemme elaborate.

Bangalore - lotsa people, close and not. Always there's an ear to which I can go yap yap, which might be recieved or not. I used to look forward to the nots, and then try and make discussion from that. It also helped that there were darlings in Bangalore. Life was easy in office. And at the end of it, altho I was coming back to a 2BHK shared by 4 people, there was always someone around to see me at home. If nothing, free calls to pals inside Karnataka, thanks to Hutch [altho I have a rant prepared in the drafts], else a call to people even outside the state was always there. Not to mention, calls galore from all the people that care for me. Blog posts, when I get bored. Or just call up the tons of people important to me, and life's back in its full splendor.

Germany is a LOT different. Especially the town/city I am living in, Erlangen is a lot different from Bangalore. It's a University town. The whole town would probably be the size of Koramangala, well slightly bigger and has one-sixth the population of Koramangala spread out in it. It's got about a lakh of people. 60% comprise of Siemens employees, 30% of University students, and the remaining 10% form the local population of Erlangen. It's specially famous for its University and its biology/medical related courses. It's the home of Spiral CT technology. For the uninitiated, that's _THE_ ultimate thing that revolutionized the Computed Tomography market. It enabled volumes to be generated easily while scanning the body with X-Ray!

Consequently, it's got a fair amount of people who are walking around and cycling during the summers for a town of its size. I will be writing a detailed post on Erlangen next. Will detail more on that.

The first thing you notice as soon as you land in Germany are the people or the lack of them. Compared to India, this place is almost desolate. The next thing you notice is how typically European it is. It's got the typical European architecture with its set of row houses and greenery all around amidst a few hi-rise buildings and apartment complexes.

The other thing that I was shocked inspite of knowing was the WARM welcome. Germany is WARM, HOT even compared to Bangalore. I reached to experience the Hi 30s temperature. It was a shock to experience the Trivandrum like heat after being te cool, comfortable, pleasant Bangalore weather for a year. From the low-mid 20s to the hi30s, my body did take some time, well it is STILL not completely adapted to the dry heat.

I reached Med Apart, a service apartment very close to the Siemens MED SW building, which is headquarters of Siemens Medical Solutions. The house where one of the most popular medical platform was conceived. The service apartment was a disappointment, a single room accomodation. Neat and cute, but still small, even compared to my measly quarters @ Taverekere in Bangalore. Harsha had come to pick me up from Nuremburg, which has one of the cutest airports I have seen in my life btw. I took a taxi - a Merc E class, with an orange haired lady driver. I had read long ago that you are supposed to tip anyone and every1 providing a service here, whether it be a taxi driver or a waitress at any of the cafes. Believe me, it's TRUE :-D!

Experience @ Med Apart: The ruddy bloody heat - The place I am staying It took me quite some time to get used to the heat here, at the cost of being redundant. It took me a weeks time to figure out how to work out the shutters in the apartment and until then, I was sweating the nights away coz I just couldn't go to sleep easily. Believe me, I can go to sleep anywhere and that helped, but still it was TOUGH to go to sleep and I didn't like it one bit. As I type this, the temperature is much more comfortable, thanks to some clouds and some itsy bitsy rain. It's almost like Bangalore for that matter... My feet are getting slightly cold sitting so close to the shutter, which acts as my window and the entrace to the balcony...

The other things I took some time to figure out to operate were -> The Microwave machine, with a twisting knob... Was kinda hard :-P -> The pressure cooker that Navin gifted me [very very sweet of him btw]. Took me some time to realise that I really shouldn't use it as a bartan to cook Top Ramen in it :-D! And then anyway, I realised the place was decked with enough crockery anyway. So, decided to use that. The major test of my culinary skills would be from Wednesday, when I would have shifted into the new apartment and will cook rice in the pressure cooker, probably for the first time! I had a rice cooker, and then a cook to help me out with the rice. And there was always Ro..

NOTE TO PEOPLE COMING TO GERMANY: Please DON'T carry a pressure cooker with you thinking that it's not available here, as I was made to believe. It's available allrite! I checked and cross-checked with my own very lens laden eyes. It's available in one of the marts in Erlangen. :-D!!

The German Public Transportation System: Getting to office Before coming to Germany, again I was made to believe that Germany owns and is proud of one of the best public transportation systems in the world. [Apparently, it's common in European Union as well]. Well, good to say that it is TRUE! I was amazed at the spinning weaving system. It essentially comprises of 2 systems, from what I have seen, but I was told it's actually 3 separate systems. The 2 that I have experienced are the Bus Services [including Tram services in bigger cities], and the Train services [Deutsche Bahn]. The third one present in bigger cities, like Nuremburg are the Metro Services.

P.S. It's raining like crazy and to a person sick of the summer here already, it's a god given gift. The temperature's dropped suddenly and my feet are really cold now. I have put some coffee to brew in the percolator [Yeah I managed to work that one very fast and well as well]. Cream and sugar [Zucker in German] is what I pick extra from the coffee shops :-D!!

However, there were shocks even in ze transportation system. This place closes DOWN, and i mean SHUTS DOWN completely by around 7,8. There are buses, but NOT all the routes after 7 or half past 7. That's for another post. The train services continue tho, till what time I do not know. [NOTE TO SELF: Find that out.. You don't wanna get lost/stuck again]

And yeah they are punctual, in all probability to the minute. The usual bus that I take from where I stay - Doris Ruppenstein Strasse[Strasse = Street] to BahnhofPlatz [Bahnhof is German for Railway Station], reaches Doris Ruppenstein Strasse Bus Stop [Bushaltestelle] at 7:21am. I take it after getting a bite to take away from the Wiehgartner's Backerie [Bakery] and board it exactly at 21 minutes past 0700 hours. It reaches the Bahnhofplatz and I am supposed to board the train, an RE [Regional Express] to Forccheim [that's the place where I work]. That trip takes about 13 minutes. I catch the bus from Forccheim Bahnhofplatz to And Der Lande Siemens [Industry Land Siemens] at 26 minutes past 8. I reach office about 12 minutes from there, taking a circuitous route. I hope to save some time from all this, once I get my bicycle, as all these buses take quite a circuitous route! With a bicycle, which is used aplenty here, you can just ZIP through the most part. :-D!

The various classification of trains in DB: Harsha had enlightened me on this - there are 4 classifications of trains in the German Railway System - the RB, RE, IC, and ICE. namely standing for Regional Bahn, Regional Express, Inter City, Inter City Express. Relating it to India, RBs are a lot and are equivalent of the passenger trains. They stop at every station possible. The REs stop only in major towns and stations. The ICs stop only in major cities, and the ICE stop only in the huge major cities and travel across the European Union!!

And in terms of speed as well, they are in ascending order. Personally tho, I call the RB, the SCREECHER. When it applies its brakes, it emits an unearthly sound, the kind made by the Nazguls in LOTR. :-D! Another experience, which I hope to capture is one of these hi-speed trains passing by you in the station, or more preferably, open terrain, where in you'd be able to appreciate the speed at which they travel. These include the IC, ICEs and some of the goods trains!!

Btw, you don't have to pay everytime you enter a bus/train, especially if you use it as your mode of commutation. There's something called the Mobicard, which you can get b/w 2 cities, having many classifications - in my case - before 9am, from Erlangen to Forccheim, including bus services for a month. That would cost you about 99.90euros [100 quid]. With this you have unlimited travel power, in the city of Erlangen in the buses, any train [RB/RE and NO IC/ICE] from Erlangen to Forccheim, and any bus commutation within Forccheim.

And they keep coming up with various offers to even travel various parts of the European Union. :-D!!

Food: How does this vegetarian survive there? Yeah, I was given many scary stories before leaving that Germany is the land of non-vegetarians. Even the non-vegetarians claimed that they had bad food there. It's too bland, and blah! I dunno about the non-vegetarian food, but the food at the Siemens canteen, in Forccheim, speaks of decent continentatl cuisine, and at times, some excellent Italian cuisine as well.

Breakfast: I usually grab a chocolate croissant [Shochkolade Croissant] and a cuppa coffee for breakfast. Somedays, I go for the chocolate, or the blueberry muffin as well. Once, I have shifted to my apartment, I am gonna get to some cereal and cold milk, couple it maybe with some eggs and orange juice as well! Plans, yes, if I have the time and the patience to prepare. I tried the cereal and milk part. I had it for one night and the next day morning breakfast as well. However, the milk curdled that night and since then, well the cereal box is lying like that and the curdled milk carton has long since been dumped :-D!

Lunch: Lunch is as of now at the Siemens Canteen. As I have already mentioned, the food is decent. I ave an option between the vegetarian [Vegetarisch] section, which usually has

  • Some boiled vegetables - usually corn, peas, carrots
  • Some potato dish
  • Some cheesy dish - usually lasagna, pasta with sauce, and some days cheesy potatoes. This is usually considered the main dish
  • A boiled mix with some form of sauce of vegetables again
  • Some days - Stuffed Capsicum, Potato/Veggie patties, Rice of some sort
  • A sauce - Usually tomato based or white sauce

I am planning to pack lunch if I can prepare some extra dinner. Would be nice to cut down on all the cheesy fat that I can spare

There's also a salad counter, comprising of cold cuts and some veggies - the usual, lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, and a choice of dressing - French and Italian

Dinner: I usually try and skip this part, owing to the extra calories that are going in during lunch. However, eventually I end up with a Subway Veggie Delite Salad. :-D!! I tried cooking one day and the Top Ramen packet that I took also gave me company for 3 days. Else, I usually have a sandwich or a salad. Plans are to cook in full form tho, especially since I have to pass some time now!

As far as the groceries and other needs go, there are some 3-4 supermarkets in Erlangen! There are the Norma and the Aldi series of supermarkets, which you can generally find near you, from where you can buy the provisions, the fruits etc. There is also this supermarket near the Bahnhof, which I oft visit with Harsha, called Kaufland. I have also heard that the rice there is good. Will have to check that out next week.

Miscellaneous: As far as the minutae in Erlangen is concerned, the chief concern for me is spending time. Shops, which are Goverment regulated, come to a close by 7! Latest by 8. The restaurants and some backeries are open for longer times, but then, there's not enough transportation for me to check them out yet.

There are 4 Indian restaurants in Erlangen, including a Punjabi Dhaba sorta thingy, which also specialises in the Italian cuisine btw. Loads of Pizzerias, and bakeries are present here.

The coffee is bitter and requires quite an amount of cream and sugar to make it Indianish, but I am slowly beginning to appreciate hardcore, black percolated coffee. It's costly :-D!

I am making a bit of money collecting recyclable coffee cups in office, which other people drink and now have made it a habit to just dump it my place! I get 5cents per mug. I have about 25 now. Have to recycle them on Monday!

Another interesting thing that I learnt about the German education system is that, people generally complete their education, usually ending up with AT LEAST a Masters, most of them Doctorates, by the end of 28. If they don't go to the University, they are usually working as an apprentice for some trade by the age of 16.

The beer mugs in the beer garden are HUGE. I realised that when I went for the Anna Fest, which is something like a Summer Fest. The summer fest is held in every office/town/city/state. It's the time the Germans really do go out and party ;-)! The beer mugs can hold a liter of beer each, and Germans can easily chug down an easy 3-4. :-D!

There are vegetarians amongst the Germans as well. [Shocking].

Candy, especially gummy bears and all, contain gelatin, which could contain animal bones. So beware vegetarians, before you delve into eating some of these.

I am uploading the pics to Flickr! I shall of course, write another article about Erlangen, which should also hopefully be up by Monday. And maybe one on the Anna Fest and the Beer Gardens. But for now, I have to go and watch LOTR - The Two Towers :-D!! Will update more, and maybe modify/add to the same once I get hold of some more details, but my brain is slowing down and my hands have started to ache typing so much.