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The centre of my world May 3, 2007

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.

[Disclaimer: you are forewarned that the subject of this blog-post could not possibly be less interesting. Reading it may bring about acute suicidal tendencies. Please feel free to switch off your computers immediately or to go to another more interesting site. Anyway, it’s your own bloody fault for existing. If you didn’t exist, I wouldn’t write the stinking blog in the first place.]

Düsseldorf. That utterly – to me – unpicturable, unimaginable, perhaps even non-existent settlement, has oddly become the hotspot of all this household’s activities.

Red tape, you understand.

Has anyone ever had the misfortune to pass through Düsseldorf? If so, can they let me know what the life expectancy would be for a visiting pair of homos who normally find it a mammoth effort to get out of bed, ever, were we to render ourselves thereto? Of course I haven’t got a clue where it is, even. My German geography is utterly hopeless. I know it’s not up here in the north-eastern lump of Germany. And I know it’s not in that bottom bit holding the rest of the country up which is, conveniently, nicely evenly split between Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg. So I suppose it’s probably in amongst that cluster of towns over in the west somewhere. I’m imagining disused mineshafts, low-budget airports and 50s architecture. TOYS’Я’US, banking headquarters and suits.

And the odd British diplomat.

But I mustn’t moan. I suppose bureaucracy is one thing the British aren’t too bad at. Firstly because, in comparison to our continental cousins, at least, there’s less of it. I mean, I know there’s the electoral register and having to tell some department or other where you live so that they can work out how much council tax you need to pay. But you can probably biff that off with no major urgency on a nice bit of Basildon Bond and hopefully it’ll take them two years to get round to answering you (and then backdate the lot and charge you a gazillion pounds), but there isn’t the heart-deadening procedure of going and taking a number, sitting in the waiting-room with other deadened types and then handing over a wad of standardised documents to a silent hag at the town hall (in Germany) who will only open her mouth to tell you something is wrong, to a policeman (in France), who will be mystified that you’re going through with the procedure at all, or to a… don’t know (in Russia) (always got someone else to do it as was too petrified of dealing with Russian bureaucracy myself, worried I might disappear down a paper-clogged black hole and never resurface).

And whatever interaction I have had with official Britain has never been too agonising. Firstly, because it mostly hasn’t been for anything compulsory so when it gets too dispiriting, like with trying to be able to vote from abroad, for example, you can just nicely give up and justify it to yourself by thinking it isn’t your direct business any more who runs the UK. (And if a translation agency with ideas above its station thinks I’m going to start filling out application forms, they’ve got another thing coming. Or, rather, nothing coming.) Yes, getting Brent Council to cough up my student grant was often a pain, but at least the application forms were in 965 languages so I could have fun thinking, “Gosh, Tamil looks nice,” while starving gently to near-death. And getting a replacement passport has been a relative piece of cake.

But the Brits have gone and efficiently centralised everything in Germany. If you want a new passport, or a tourist visa, should you happen to be from an undesirable nation, or anything else that’s got to do with Her Majesty’s government’s bureaucratic wheels, Düsseldorf’s the place for you.

It was not ever so. At least not in other foreign parts. Whenever I had truck with official Britain in St. Petersburg, for example, I could just trot up to Proletarian Dictatorship Square (yes, really) and Vanya was your uncle. (They’d imported EVERYTHING in the building from the UK. There were UK electric sockets. An Armitage Shanks loo. A real British lady refusing everyone’s visa applications – “Sorry, computer says no. Next!” – though not the Russian’s, as I was there hollering in a ludicrous posh accent and calling people ‘ma’am’. Even the men. It worked a treat. She went all deferential on us.)

But the Düsseldorfers could make a bit of an effort. My passport, for example. The photograph I sent them made me look – honestly enough – like a big, pink potato who’d been on a 36-year bender. But I didn’t worry. I thought a good chunk of the staff’s activities would be photoshopping applicants’ photos to make us all look lovely and put the Great back in Britain. But they didn’t bother their arses. They just used the photo I sent them. How unambitious! So now I’ve got to look like a fat potato until 2018. (10-and-a-bit-year validity, it seems.) (Mind you, the passport is written in Welsh and Gaelic as well now, in addition to all the Eurotongues and happily displays the word ‘quim’ at the top of the coat-of-arms, so that’s a bit of a thrill.)

But UK bureaucracy is putting on a less friendly face to those from undesirable foreign parts. I’ve already complained that a UK tourist visa now costs 300 euros (and a passport 200). We became aware of that intelligence a day after the new tariffs had been introduced, on April 1st, and that took the wind out of our sails until yesterday, when we decided we’d be brave and go the whole hog and apply for a visa for the Russian so that he could join me on some of my next few trips. We have an Anglo-Kraut wedding in the summer which neither of us could possibly miss. I’ve got a new nephew we need to go and gawp at. And my old lady will need visiting ere long.

All very posh and hi-tech, the visa application. You do the whole god-damned thing online. Well, until you get to the ‘sign here’ bit, where you have to save it and print it out. But what’s this? No demand for payment? And why can we only apply for a six-month visa? And why is the only option for payment/collection, “In person”. Hmm, OK, we’ll ignore all that nonsense and do as they say and then I’ll get onto them, not on the 2-euros-a-minute special phone number but a different, meant-to-be-for-something-else one… Frazzled, we got to the end of the process. Ceremoniously pressed the final button. Only to be asked to make an appointment.

Darlings, to get a visa to visit the UK, you now need, if you live anywhere in Germany, to go to fucking Düsseldorf. Oh yes, the site says, sneeringly. New system. Introduced on May 1st. Yep, a day before we got the ball rerolling. I presume this is something to do with security, but I can’t help thinking having a visa system which even staff at the Russian Embassy in London would find exhaustive is going to put folk off bothering to turn up and spend their foreign pounds in the UK in the first place.

All rather a pain. But tell me, is a trip to the UK worth risking life and limb with a trip to Düsseldorf for?

[My apologies to anyone who’s read this far. I did warn you.]



1. narrowback - May 3, 2007

ach, that wasn’t so bad… no apologies necessary.

given that my occupation is a wee bit bureaucratic itself maybe I had a touch of professional (LOL) interest or possibly a bit of morbid curiousity like watching an auto wreck.

but why Dusseldorf? Here in the states if a task can’t be handled by the local consular office you’re handed off to the embassy in Washington, D.C. as far as I know. Did the UK get some kind of break on the rent or a hefty incentive payment for locating the back office functions in a bad neighborhood.

I could regale you with the tale of the bureaucratic tangle that has kept me busy at work for the last three weeks – and a mighty one at that… “When Bureaucracies Collide” – but I wonder if you’d find it just as boring as you felt your story was.

I can understand the hefty fee for the visa – y’know keep the riff raff out – but 200 Euro for a passport? Is the UK trying to keep citizens from leaving the country?

ps. sorry for the prolonged silence…multiple long stories there

2. pleite - May 3, 2007

Narrowback, happy to see you again. I was mummyishly worried about you. Hope whatever it was that’s been keeping you away wasn’t too horrible, or wasn’t even horrible at all.

I don’t know why all this stuff happens in Düsseldorf. There is an embassy here, just round the corner from the Adlon. A German pal of mine obsessed with the monarchy was gutted when the only opportunity to see The Queen on her last trip here was when she walked from the Adlon to the embassy, which she managed in a new world record. Anyway, don’t know what they do at the embassy now. Make the policemen on round-the-clock guard-duty tea, presumably. (I don’t know if it’s an urban myth, but the people who used to protest round-the-clock outside the South African embassy on Trafalgar Square in London – the Canadians and South Africans have the best embassy sites – in the apartheid days used to, so the story goes, have tea made for them by embassy staff.)

Got your next Berlin trip planned yet?

3. liukchik - May 4, 2007

Ah, the Rhine-Ruhr area – cue blissful memories of my youth on German exchanges to such lovely places as Hagen, Altena, Dortmund, Moenchengladbach, Koeln, etc. Very efficient of the Brits to have it all in Duesseldorf – I guess they didn’t want to move from the Bonn area, and well, you never know, Germany might just split in two again. Make a trip of it – there is masses of stuff (although it is the equivalent of Blackburn, or Wolverhampton, or Burnley, it’s not just bleak industrial landscapes and tower blocks (that would be the old GDR, natch!))

4. Arabella - May 4, 2007

If I lived in Berlin and the only way I could enter the UK to get new supplies of Nairns demanded first going to Dusseldorf, I would go to Dusseldorf. As they used to say: “Is your journey really necessary?”

5. pleite - May 4, 2007

Lukeski, that must be it. Not wanting to move from Bonn. And I suppose I shouldn’t be naughtily Berlin-centric. The population is probably higher there than here. Apart from in Berlin, as we all well know, the former east is now devoid of human habitation.

Christ, there’s a thought. Germany breaking in two again. I’ll stay in the East, if so, regardless of what regime comes. (Anyway, looks like the UK is more likely to break up than Germany at the mo. Am currently watching a Dimbleby election-evening special on the net. You’d be entitled to a Scottish passport – or should I say Cead-siubhail? – by my reckoning.)

6. pleite - May 4, 2007

Arabella, nairn’s oatcakes? I had to do a bit of (google-based) research there. I lived in the Potteries for two (mostly-scared-to-leave-the-house) years but didn’t manage to fall in love with the local delicacy. But only because I probably never tried them. Do you recommend pikelets too, post-Düsseldorf?

7. MountPenguin - May 4, 2007

I spent a morning in Düsseldorf once (on non-consulate-related business). The lasting impression I have is “nice but dull”. But far nicer than any “equivalent” one could think of in the UK. As well as being the capital of NRW it’s also the headquarters of the Japanese community in Germany (go down the Immermanstraße and you’ll see what I mean).

8. Geoff - May 4, 2007

I used to live quite near Dusseldorf (Monchengladbach) and I loathe the place. It is possibly the blandest place I have ever been to, and what’s worse is that the Dusseldorfers I met all seemed to think they were the height of sophistication and looked down their noses at other Germans. It’s got quite a nice modern art gallery though if you like that sort of thing.

9. chendaberry - May 4, 2007

Christ that’s shocking! Düsseldorf is a bazillion miles away and full of nasty advertising types (tis the biggest centre of the advertising undustry – think i will keep that typo – in Germany). I can’t believe they’d make you pay the bazillion euros it takes to get there, stay the night etc. (cos it’s so far away) and get back again, on top of the outrageous charges for a visa. Probably cheaper to get the Russian chipped like I did with Kiya (who is a cat, to anyone who doesn’t know) and get him in that way. I think that only cost 100 euros and then you’ll never lose him again. Provided whoever finds him takes him to the nearest vet, that is.

10. William Thirteen - May 4, 2007

Düsseldorf isn’t so bad. a couple of good museums, a leather scene, and more japanese than in the rest of the country combined. it is one of the few german cities outside berlin that seems actually survivable.

11. Geoff - May 4, 2007

Really? I’ve been to most of the big German cities and found Dusseldorf to be the worst by far. Just never felt like it had any personality. Although admittedly I was a bit young for the leather scene when I lived there.

12. MountPenguin - May 4, 2007

@chendaberry: Wouldn’t the Russian have to be quarantined for 6 (?) weeks and / or have a rabies jab ? Also I don’t think chipping alone would cost €100; maybe that includes the whole rigmarole involved in making the pussy cat / Russian in question UK travel ready (injections, EU cat passport etc.). (Our cat came ready-chipped and has never been further than Köpenick, so I have no idea on that point).

13. aimee m. - May 4, 2007

there is always the easy jet extra luggage fee. seems cheaper than a visa, for sure.

14. aimee m. - May 4, 2007

(might want to check how flexy the russian is first, tho.)

15. Arabella - May 4, 2007

I think the Stoke on Trent variety of oatcake is the floppy, pancake kind. The ones I need, NEED I tell you….cough, are like biscuits only good for you.

16. Ed Ward - May 4, 2007

I went to Düsseldorf for the day once, when I was a Wall St. Journal reporter. Came back the same day, although it was something like 11pm by the time we trudged back into Zoo Station (yes, it was that long ago). Dunno about the leather scene, but there are scads of good Japanese restaurants there that *don’t* feature sushi (someone needs to educate Berliners about Japanese cuisine, and yes, I know, it’ll never happen). I managed to get into a Korean-run ramen joint (we had to eat an early dinner to make the train) and was sitting at the counter when my landlord, of all the people I didn’t want to see, walked by. He was as surprised as I was, especially since I owed him rent and he couldn’t figure out what I was doing there. He cooled off when he found out it was work, though. The ramen was unspectacular, but there were, I suspect, other choices.

But yes, it’s dull all right.

17. pleite - May 4, 2007

Ed, this is intriguing, that D. is a hotbed of Japanese folk. What can be the attraction? (And where’s a good place to eat Korean in Berlin, by the way? It is a gaping hole in my gastro-geography.) I only bump into the landlord on the stairs in this house, which is terrifying enough. If I ever see him in another city, I might go in for self-disguising surgery.

Arabella, I could do with eating some good-for-you biscuits. But what I really, really fucking need to find are good-for-you cigarettes, good-for-you Weissbier and good-for-you red wine. Well, red wine is good for you, some will say, but I’m not sure I consume it in a good-for-you way. Alas.

Aimee, he’s got ideas above his station now and thinks he deserves a seat. The bloody cheek. But I suppose we’ll take the plunge and go and expose ourselves to the wicked West for a day. And we’ll have to end up making a night of it, no doubt. I don’t that much fancy our chances of surviving the trip.

Penguin, can you or Mrs. Penguin clear up the Japanese-in-Düsseldorf conundrum? What the buggery fuck are they doing there in such numbers? Can it remind them of home in any meaningful way? (I think I know the asnwer to that question.)

Geoff, oh dear, not encouraging. Though maybe it’ll be interesting to go and do a comparison between Anglo and German grimness. I can’t believe it’ll be as horrible as Luton. Or Stevenage. Or (shiver down spine) Silverdale, Staffordshire.

William, an encouraging voice. Thank you. I’ll chant your words at myself on the train there to keep the mood up (as the disused mineshafts multiply outside the train window). (And go shopping for a harness.)

Chen, I’d love to have the Russian chipped, though only in my more control-freaky moments. He’s always getting lost. It does all add a rather dreary prelude to a trip to the UK, and makes me think it would probably be cheaper to go to India instead, where we’d both rather go. But my family will stop believing the Russian exists if he doesn’t make a dutiful appearance soon, so we’d better do it now before flat-brokeness next strikes.

18. narrowback - May 4, 2007

There used to be a half decent korean restaurant on Budapest Str. across from the Intercontinental but it closed about a year ago…if you do find another in berlin be sure to let me know…it’s one of my favorite cuisines (there’s a large population of koreans here in chicago)

maybe there’s an obscure and mostly forgotten subsection in the british immigration/passport statutes – a leftover from the days of former imperial glory – which would allow the russian to accompany you visa-less as a manservant, batman, native bearer…

I’ve dragged traveling companions past the embassy just to show what the security measures look like tho’ it does seem to be a bit toned down in recent times.

do germans have some nostalgic longing for a monarchy? i’ve got a german friend here who is obsessed as well. he was even going to go off to kentucky this weekend for the Derby just because Liz is making an appearance. he only relented when I pointed out that he’d be driving thru some pretty god awful backwaters to get there.

thanks for the concern but it wasn’t a single “horrible” circumstance but more of an odd collection with only one or two minor bits being discomforting the rest was just the usual – travel, overwork, etc.

I tried to get in another visit before the summer got into full swing but unfortunately the airline prices were a wee bit too dear. that combined with employer prohibition on vacations until october will keep me from berlin until the late fall. i’ve penciled in early november for a trip

19. liukchik - May 4, 2007

It is bizarre, because the Japanese families in London all congregate in Finchely and West Acton – there are dedicated Japanese language letting agents, schools and, of course sushi restaurants in both areas – the companies they work for try to replicate the safe Japanese suburbs for them during their placements in the UK. I suppose Duesseldorf fills a similar role – it is not too industrial, has a high standard of living, yet is still a city. Queer.

20. pleite - May 5, 2007

Liukchik, don’t call me a queer! Het! Oh, that’s not what you meant… Am I allowed to tell my ludicrous amusing Japanese-English story? It’s pathetic. My sister once let her house to a Japanese family. Your old landlady/my mother was in charge of sorting out problems when they arose as my sister was in Scotland. And one day – brace yourself – Mr. Japanese telephoned my mother and said it was, “raining in the bathroom”. There was a leek. Ooh, we did laugh. You won’t believe it, but then he took out a ceremonial sword and cut some fish really finely… I can’t believe the safe Japanese suburbs are well replicated in London, seeing as my only intelligence about London is that 90% of the population is now murdered every day. Or is it a bit less than that?

Narrowback, I’ve met a number of monarchy-mad Germans. The French have at least got the Monegasques to keep them entertained but the odd Prince or Count you still see popping up in Germany doesn’t seem to be enough to sate the local appetite (although there’s one nicely naughty one who’s constantly pissed and getting in trouble. And another who sold Zsa Zsa Gabor’s 90th husband his title). But the monarchy-mad Germans can content themselves knowing that half the monarchies in Europe are German in one way or another… I’ll see if the Russian is happy to travel as part of my retinue. I’ve got a feeling he may say no. They’re getting very uppity, these post-Soviets.

21. MountPenguin - May 5, 2007

Neither I nor Mrs. Penguin have the faintest idea why Düsseldorf is so attractive to the Japanese. I suspect it just sort of happened. Maybe some enterprising Japanese businessperson set up an import-export company for Solingen knives (if you’re ever stuck for a gift for someone Japanese, something with Solingen stamped on it is always a sure choice), and everyone else homed in on Düsseldorf because someone was already there.

22. MountPenguin - May 5, 2007

Aha, here you are.

23. daggi - May 5, 2007

And where’s a good place to eat Korean in Berlin, by the way?

Hmm. There aren’t many places to “eat Korean” at all here, in fact, even though the rapidly-increasing number of Indian/Pakistani/Bangladeshi restaurants suggest that Brick Lane may soon be opening an outpost somewhere in Prenzlauer Berg. Regardless: my internet searches on this theme a while back suggested the following:

the one (“Korea Haus”) on the Danziger Straße (near to Paul-Heyse-Straße, Tram M10) is not to be bothered with. It does offer, supposedly, an all-day-buffet for 6 Euro, but whenever I’ve looked in, the food was gone, the place was empty, and the restaurant was only being used for the owner to do her bookkeeping. I’ve never ever seen a single person eating in there, which is usually a bad sign when it comes to restaurants. As I said, the Korean food fans on the internet say the place should be avoided too.

In Wedding, on Leopoldplatz, there is also a “Korea Haus” – a takeaway as well as a eat-in restaurant – which looks like it used to be a Eckkneipe (while not being on an Eck). I walked past the other day – German Schlager were playing and it’s menu was pretty expensive. I didn’t see any main courses for under 10 Euros.

Otherwise, on a more positive note, there’s a place on the Rigaer Straße in Friedrichshain (roughly opposite Lidl), which seems quite posh, and is reasonably priced too. It must be, as I’ve been twice. Friendly staff, who sometimes explain something about the food, reasonably large portions, delicious. Was once recommended by tip, the article is somewhere on the wall. It rudely states that the staff are “incomprehensible” when they speak German, which is just rubbish. A number of Korean/”Asia” food products and various Korean tat (displayed on a subtle shelving unit) can also be bought, and some South Korean government propaganda is also available to take with you, should you wish. I must go again soon. It’s called “Maru” – Rigaer Str. 26, closed Mondays I think, open theoretically from noon to midnight – but I wouldn’t arrive after 10.30 as if it’s almost empty at 11pm, the staff tend to show their willingness to go home (though they carry on serving drinks etc., if the “subtlety” of them putting on their coats and gloves (it was in winter) goes “unnoticed” by the 3 loud German yuppie guests).

Düsseldorf and Japanese is a bit like New Malden and Koreans. But more on that at my new place.

24. daggi - May 5, 2007

And before I forget:
Pallasstraße 21
10781 Berlin (Schöneberg)
Telefon 814 747 69

+ schmeckt alles sehr gut, preiswert, beste scharfe Bullgogi,wenn nich sogar einzige scharfe! Bullgogi in Berlin(?)
– wenig Platz, dauert sehr lange ( eig. ein Zeichen der Sorgfalt in der Küche, aber Wartezeiten bis zu 30min normal )

That’s what the internet-Berlin-Korean fans say (here: http://www.hangaram.de/index.php?option=com_joomlaboard&id=805&catid=11&func=sb_pdf )

I’ve never eaten there as it’s either full, or the evangelising owner (the name!) (the walls are covered with scrolls onto which she has copied out half of the bible, and will point at them madly) has been too evangelising for my tastes. She once claimed that “all over the world, we are working to spread the ideas of Christ”. I asked “In Afghanistan (it was the time when the Taliban were running Kabul) and North Korea too?” The almost-best-possible answer she gave was “I am North Korean” – yet somehow got out to the west, to study politics at the FU, and now runs a sect-church-cum-Koreanisches Imbiss at Winterfeldtplatz.

But I must go there again sometime. It’s bound to be entertaining, if she’s got time to sell food and the word of god.

25. Ed Ward - May 5, 2007

Sounds like the Unification Church, aka the Moonies.

Until the Germans realize that Thais, Japanese, Koreans, and Chinese are all different cultures, this place is doomed to “Asia” food, which, as I assume you know, is crap.

I didn’t have the patience to read all that German on the Düsseldorf page, but I was told that, post-war, the Germans decided the city would be the fashion capital of Germany and Japanese designers were subsidized to come. That may be a myth, however.

26. MountPenguin - May 5, 2007

The Vietnamese have certainly managed to pull the very cunning trick of passing themselves off as Thai. Although the more honest ones do announce themselves as “Vietnamese-Thai-Sushi”.

27. Daggi - May 5, 2007

Germans decided the city would be the fashion capital of Germany

Indeed it is. Düsseldorf’s main shopping street has the highest turnover per square metre in the whole of Europe (the world?) due to the large number of expensive fashion boutiques.

28. William Thirteen - May 5, 2007

indeed, the presence of the japanese is related to the fashion industry, though my informant indicated that this was due to the use of the japanese textile industry (oh the fickle finger of globalization) rather than the use of diminutive japanese designers. the fact that a lot of postwar germany cash was concentrated in the area also encouraged the fashion houses to move in, the better to help the magnates part with their filthy lucre while spiffing up the old wardrobe.
a walk along the good father Rhein is also enjoyabe if the weather permits….

29. Geoff - May 5, 2007

Oh, it doesn’t even compare to the grimness of Luton or Stevenage. Nowhere can be quite that bad.

30. pleite - May 6, 2007

Geoff, the UK does quite a good brand of grimmity, doesn’t it? I don’t know why gloom isn’t a better publicised part of the British “soul”. Mind you, I bet I’ve mentioned on here before that when my ex came to visit me in St. Petersburg, he was instantly told by the dinner-ladies at the soup-kitchen connected to my work that Dickens was the most gloom-laden, Dostoevsky-like British writer. My dinner-ladies at school in London never talked to me about Dostoevsky. Ever.

William, a walk along the good father Rhein sounds lovely. A river-walk is a very good thing. Staying in St. Petersburg for a sec, the river there was a largely ignored city jewel. I lived close by so could trundle along it at my will, and it was extra impressive when frozen solid. But folk seemd to prefer to stroll along Nevskij Prospekt, the city’s main street, which ran (sort of) parallel, but not within striking distance. (Mind you, the Russian and I are already beginning to think the UK might be a faggot above a load. They can (probably) keep their visa.)

Daggi, you really are Berlin’s best sleuth. More back-slap-worthy information-provision from you there. I lived on Rigaerstr. once, for about ten minutes, and would happily rehaunt the place. I’ll make it there as soon as someone can be forced to remind me. Shall it be our next venue? I won’t take my new passport… Aber, even more importantly, you’ve got a new blog! Is this your new virtual home? Have you abandoned IHMN to non-occupancy? (Might it get squatted?) Should I wreak havoc on my blogroll immediately?

Penguin, I was at a candidly Vietnamese place today, not pretending to be anything else. And perfectly satisfactory it was too, though not more memorable than that. I, like Ed, struggled with the linked page but I did get gripped by the Japanese text at the top, under the Japanisches-Generalkonsulat-Düsseldorf bit. It started out all calm and spacious. But then worked itself into a busy, chaotic frenzy by the end of the line. It made me think it had been written by this man.

Ed, I met a (rather dishy, it has to be said) judo-or-karate-doer on a Russian train once. The trip was between Moscow and St. Petersburg so long enough for you to know your neighbour completely by journey’s end. I was working for a Christian organisation there, even though I’m a wicked old atheist myself, and he instantly got scared, having been taught everything he knew by a Korean and having gone to Korea to be a better judo-or-karate-doer and struggled to remain a non-Moonie. He was almost as worried when he found out I was a poof. (I resisted his manly requests to punch him in the stomach, worrying where it might lead. I didn’t dare suggest that I could give it a gentle pat instead.)

31. Daggi - May 6, 2007

Hm, yes, I do fancy eating there again. In the same way that frozen Tuna steaks dissappeared from Lidl about a week before the news that almost all the Tuna in the world had died or been eaten, the first time I went I had a good deal of raw Tuna in my Tuna-based Korean meal; yet the second time most of the fish was noticeable by its absence. Next time I will eat Bib-imbab.

32. MountPenguin - May 6, 2007

The “calm and spacious” bit of the Japanese text says, unexcitingly, “Düsseldorf” (or more accurately “Dyusserudorufu” in phonetic script, there not being any Chinese characters which are imbued with even a hint of Düssel-ness). Unfortunately the site you link to seems to be on strike.

For reference, the text is basically a much longer, more detailed version of my original Düsseldorf-Japanese hypothesis. Doesn’t mention anything about fashion / textile industries though, while this page indicates the Japanese businesses in the region are mainly industrial.

33. pleite - May 6, 2007

Penguin, try the link again. It seems to work. It might make you and Mrs. Penguin smile. It’s a longish youtube video and perhaps takes a while to load, or something. Just getting into language-nerd mode for a sec, the Russians would also reproduce ü with ‘yu’. Oddly, they go for ‘yo’ for ö, which makes Cologne come out quite odd in Russian, especially by the time they’ve squeezed in a soft sign between the l and the n.

Daggi, naturally I will try a dish with ‘bib’ in its title. Schicksal. I’ve googled it and it looks pretty good. So, when are we going Korean? Can we import the bible-bashing woman for the evening we go? I’ve never met a North Korean evangelist before. I once did a translation for a South Korean woman here, but it was all, very conventionally, about Buddhism.

34. Daggi - May 6, 2007

Unfortunately I think that meal is actually called Bimimbab. Just change your second identity to “Bim” (or “Bab”, if you wish) and I’m sure it’ll be all ok. We could go to Schöneberg to meet the bible-basher (it was very amusing, though I don’t know if she’s calmed down in the past 5 years or not) and then get over to Friedrichshain.

35. pleite - May 6, 2007

I insist we go to both establishments and doctor the menus. The Russian and I were out on a food-quest earlier and kept our eyes peeled for anything Korean. Foiled, of course. We ended up at the very unambitiously named Thai Cuisine on Oranienburgerstr. No atmosphere and English tourists all over the place, sympathising with the one who couldn’t cope with the spiciness of the food and had burnt her tongue. Nice, big, fat prawns, mind.

36. Ed Ward - May 7, 2007

Wait, Daggi has a new blog?

37. One-time Daggi - May 7, 2007

Formerly known as Daggi, now nameless, I think

38. narrowback - May 7, 2007

my impression from the korean community here in chi is that they’re all religious fanatics of one sort or another but i should point out that moonie types are a distinct minority… just your plain old garden variety protestant fundementalists. While I could weather an hour or two in a resturant for some good bulgogi (best cooked traditional style on a grill built into your dining table) more frequent contact can be a bit of a burden…I had to change dry-cleaners because I could no longer stand the constant proselytizing during my twice weekly visits. i was more than pleased with the replacement establishment where the sverdlosk educated mongolian proprietor would entertain me with her renditions of katyushka and amursky partisan

all due respect to ed w. but I have come across some fairly decent thai, korean and vietnamese establishments in berlin… granted they are few and far between but not all asian cooking in the hauptstadt is glop.

39. pleite - May 8, 2007

Ed, oh yes. Daggi is now also to be found here or is this a completely new you, Daggs, which we must not even mentally associate with the old one? In any case, that’s the first ß in my blogroll so I’m pretty fucking happy.

Narrowback, you mentioned that Mongolian to me when we had our lovely booze-up. Yes, that sounds far more entertaining than getting a god-lecture with your dry-cleaning. Not only do I know nothing about Korean food, I don’t really know anything about Korea itself either. Or the people, language, culture, history. Oh well. We all need our blind-spots.

40. leon - May 8, 2007

It was called “Bibimbab” in the last Korean restaurant I ate in (which was excellent, and cheap, and served many kinds of wonderful tea, and being in the fashionable end of Bethnal Green was sadly replaced in about 5 seconds by some drearily middle-class eatery which sits practically empty every night).

41. leon - May 8, 2007

On the other hand, I found a great Iranian restaurant in Underground Zone 3 the other day, so it’s not all bad news on the culinary front.

42. pleite - May 8, 2007

Bibimbab makes me think of both Le Petit Prince and Gulliver’s Travels. There was once an eatery called Le Petit Prince in Kentish Town – long since departed – though don’t know if there’s ever been a restaurant with a Gulliver’s Travels theme.

I might dash off on an adventure of my own. I’ve been waiting for a translation to come through for a good 24 hours now. Rather boring. I need either fags or to do some fantasy-flight-shopping. All well in London?

43. leon - May 8, 2007

As well as can be expected. The weather seems to have decided it’s actually March, after a couple of weeks thinking it was July.

A Gulliver’s Travels theme restaurant would be brilliant: tiny sheep, man-sized Brobdingnagian bread rolls, and food cut into geometric shapes to represent the confusing science-baiting one. Oh, and Gordon Ramsey steaks being eaten by horses. And perhaps a tiny burning palace in the mens loos (and outsize chamber pots in the womens ones…I’ve probably lost you all by this point).

44. pleite - May 8, 2007

No, no, I like it. Although we’d have to sneer at it from outside, wouldn’t we, because of theme, even if it was a theme we liked? Unless we sneered in the cold and rain (freezing and raining here), in which case we could go in to seek shelter and pretend we were having a horrid time while secretly loving it. (I am completely controlled by the weather. I now want to sleep till July.)

45. Daggi - May 8, 2007

You’ve forgotten that the Gulliver theme restaurant would have to be opened by the Krankies, and I’m not sure whether they’ve got time between pantos to pop over here to open an eatery – I’m pretty sure they’re fully booked.

If you’re completely controlled by the weather, Bib (Bim?), you’ll adore this site, which shows that the German Met. Office is just as “nanny state” as the British one, only that the media here don’t report every sneeze as if its a hurricane (yet). Click here and click on Berlin on the map for the latest official weather warnings *they*’re trying to cover up: http://www.dwd.de/de/WundK/Warnungen/index.htm?Land=PD00&Art=O

46. Daggi - May 8, 2007

Where’s my comment gone? WP seems to remember my name. Has the one link led to it being classed as spam?

47. Daggi - May 8, 2007

Hang on, that one got posted. Strange. Perhaps I just posted on the wrong post (again). Or WP has banned posts on weather warnings and the Krankies. Good thing too.

48. pleite - May 8, 2007

No, I reckon it was you posting with a link but no website. Perhaps. Anyway, luckily, I could rescue it. Hurrah!

I think I saw the Krankies being driven away from the new half-café-half-mobile-phone-shop at high speed just the other day, actually, so they are prepared to come to Berlin for special occasions. The tall one was shouting, “Dja not fuckin’ hear me? I said, ‘No fuckin’ autographs’. Aw right, pal?”

49. Daggi - May 9, 2007

The tall one? How tall exactly? Are you going to call me “Lofty” from now on?

50. Daggi - May 9, 2007

I do think we should try and save some tax by becoming a “charity” (ok, not quite, but an “e.V.”). Want to help set one up? I think we need 6 members and then we’ll be basically (Romanian) millionaires. By the way, by when do I have to do my tax return to claim back about 350 Euro of Lohnsteuer? You’re an expert in these matters.

51. MountPenguin - May 9, 2007

If it’s from 2006, the deadline is May 31st (although I don’t usually get a threatening letter from the Finanzamt until towards the end of September). If you’re more organised than I am, you can also apply to extend the deadline until September 30th (or October 31st, not sure which) – a simple letter suffices. Though if you’re expecting money back, the sooner you get the forms sent in, the better.

52. pleite - May 9, 2007

Daggi, Penguin’s answer looks pretty water-tight to me. I vaguely aim to have my own declaration done by the end of the month, as that’s the conventional deadline, but I was late last year – blogged, of course – and there were no nasty repercussions. I got a rebate too, and they were pretty quick about it. So, yes, the sooner the better, I suppose.

53. William Thirteen - May 10, 2007

hooray – i am in duesseldorf today and tomorrow!

54. pleite - May 10, 2007

William, can you recce the British Consulate for me? Does it look as if it’s staffed by ‘computer-says-no’ types only? Hope you’re managing to squeeze in some nice river-walking while there.

55. Daggi - May 10, 2007

Thanks HRH MP, I’ll send a pleasant letter asking for a bit of an extension on my Steuererklärung homework. And then struggle to understand the forms.

56. pleite - May 11, 2007

Daggi, or, alternatively, just ignore them until you can be bothered to get round to doing it at your own pace. The worst reminder I’ve ever had was a demand for payment, when I was already about a billion years late, with Säumnisgebühren of about 20 Pfennigs.

57. MountPenguin - May 11, 2007

@Daggi: I’ve just been browsing in my Big Book of Tax Tips for People Who Use Cardboard Boxes as a Filing System and it turns out the 31st May date is only for people such as my majesterial self who are verpflichtet to do a tax return. As an Arbeitnehmer you can claim your wotsits back up to two years later, no questions asked (according to my information, but don’t quote me on it). It might be worth popping along to the Finanzamt – I presume we share the same one in the Pappelallee – and asking. They’re usually quite helpful (until you get to subjects such as Mehrwertsteuer, which is simple in principle but the details are only comprehensible with the aid of narcotics).

58. pleite - May 11, 2007

Mmm, narcotics. (OK, I didn’t mean that. Just trying to be cool.) (“Mmm, tea,” doesn’t work.)

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