Thursday, October 17, 2002

Back to Blighty

Okay, back in London after my little sojourn in Germany. Various brief comments. I only had two days in Hamburg and one in Lubeck, so my comments will inevitably be superficial.

It was really hard to find internet cafes. In fact, I did not see a single internet cafe in three days. There were coin operated internet terminals in hotels and railway stations, but these were expensive, and not ideal for a lengthy internet session, as the connection speeds were slow, and the keyboards were designed to be vandal-proof rather than for typing. What I wanted was, well, an internet cafe. I wanted to be able to sit down for an hour or so, catch up with my e-mail, browse the web a little, and maybe do a little blogging. However, I didn't see any such cafes. I wasn't make a concerted effort to find one: I simply expected I would find one in my wanderings. But I did not see a one. I am sure such internet cafes are easier to find in Berlin and Munich. Such cafes probably do exist in Hamburg, too: Googling for "Hamburg Internet Cafe" does find results. However, I have stumbled across them in the middle of tiny villages in the third world. I wouldn't have thought they would be hard to stumble over in the city that gave us the Chaos Computer Club. Is this German labour and trading laws? I know that Richard Branson closed all his Virgin Megastores in Germany because he found German trading laws made it impossible to run his stores the way he wanted to. (He wanted them to be open on the weekend, for instance).

Germany has great Turkish food. Go up to a fairly ordinary looking kebab stall in any random suburb of Hamburg and buy a kebab, and it is every bit as good as what you will get in Istanbul.

Australians sometimes complain that events involving us never make the news in foreign countries, and that foreigners have no idea who our leaders and politicians are. My chief exposure to English language news over the past few days has been snatches of CNN and the BBC news channel caught in lobbies and restaurants, and Australian prime minister John Howard and foreign minister Alexander Downer have been omnipresent. This is one of those situations where you should be careful what you wish for.

In a bar in a somewhat industrial suburb of Hamburg, I was sitting in a railway station bar having a beer or two. Into the bar came a Russian, aged about 35. (This sounds like the start of a bad joke). He attempted to order a beer, but had a little difficulty, as he knew no German whatsoever. (I don't speak very much German, but I do speak enough to order a beer). However, he spoke excellent English. This demonstrates the total failure of the Soviet Union. They friends were supposedly the East Germans, and the Americans were their enemy. Thus in their schools they were taught German. But, they didn't actually learn German

Anyway, back to serious blogging tomorrow.

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