Matt Potter ... writing, and then some

quirky stories, amusing and true ... or not

a taste of 'Hamburgers ...'

Below are some delicious quotes from the first section of my travel memoir Hamburgers and Berliners and other courses in between (Červená Barva Press, August 2015).

Find more quotes from the second half of the book by going to a taste of 'and Berliners' - click here 

You can order Hamburgers and Berliners direct from the publisher at The Lost Bookshelf by clicking here, or from Small Press Distribution by clicking here.

 

 

Apparently wearing white socks with shoes (except when you are playing sport) is a sign of very bad taste here. Which is why all the men wear dark socks if they are wearing shoes with their shorts ...

from Last of the Fruity Old Queens

 

The streets of Hamburg are paved with gold ... the gold of beer bottle caps. They are insurmountable. Walk down any street or lane or alley and you will see hundreds, dulled with time and wear or shiny and new because the man or woman walking ten steps in front just started downing a fresh one.

from Fat

 

And the city (Berlin) has many centres. I had the feeling that this is not just because until 18 years ago it was a divided city, but that it has always had a number of places where its blood beats faster.

from Berlin

 

When I ordered breakfast the menu was written in Czech, Deutsch and – to my surprise – English. I’d heard that English is not widely spoken in the Czech Republic, which might prove a problem because German, for many historical reasons, is not a popularly spoken language outside Germany, Austria and Switzerland either. So if they don’t speak Englisch oder Deutsch, and I don’t speak Tscechish (as they call Czech in German) then I could be in for an interesting time.

from Prague

 

Antwerp has such a rich history. But where does it fit today? I don’t think many people here ask themselves that question, because it seems quite self-confident. There are streets and streets and streets of gorgeous and expensive shops, so many clothes shops and like Amsterdam, many shoe shops with lots and lots of boots.

from Cheese

 

The internet is free in this hotel ... which would be great if it was actually working. I rang down to reception earlier after 24 hours of frustration and was told they hoped it would be fixed tomorrow.

from Trocadéro 

 

I had to change rooms yesterday because the people in the room above me were having some long sex session that involved lots of running water ... so it dripped through the ceiling and into my room.

from Amsterdam 

 

It seemed to take ages for a new ticket to be issued. Then someone else who was probably bored steered me through the automatic check-in deal, only for me to then wait ages and ages at the baggage check-in for what, I still don’t know.

from Paris Trois 

 

So I visit the flat and it’s a done deal. She will leave at the end of August and I will move in on September 1st. So it’s great. So great of course, that it was doomed from the very beginning.

from Leather ... and do bad things always come in threes?

 

“Prague is swimming with cut glass. There is so much of it, there are shops and shops and shops full of the stuff.”

from ‘Praha’ in ‘Hamburgers and Berliners’ by Matt Potter, out now from Červená Barva Press.

Buy it online from the Lost Bookshelf here:http://www.thelostbookshelf.com/cervenabooks.html#Hamburgers%20and%20Berliners

and from Small Press Distribution here:http://www.spdbooks.org/Producte/9780996689403/hamburgers-and-berliners-and-other-courses-in-between.aspx

Prague is swimming with cut glass. There is so much of it, there are shops and shops and shops full of the stuff.

from Praha

 

I met an Austrian guy on the U-Bahn the other day who said that I was right when I said that people in Hamburg are friendly but they also stand back. They’ll say, “Oh yes, it’s very hard finding a place to live in Hamburg,” ... and then leave it at that. No offer of help.

from Stressful Week

 

I never used to do this, but now I do it all the time: I check to see which language the person is reading, slyly looking down or across or up. The most common language of course is German, but sometimes it is English. Quite often it looks like Russian.

from Culture Vulture

 

… but I asked others and they said no, it’s not just me, they DO look at you longer here than they do elsewhere. What I mean is that when you are walking down the street and you catch someone’s eye (a man’s), innocently, they will hold your gaze for what seems like ... forever.

from Orange

 

A friend, (who is not German, but Polish) came over last night and taking note of the décor, said my place was obviously not German because I had used colour … It could have been the Mexican bordello look I went for, draping two red scarves over the full-length mirror opposite my bedroom.

from The only person who ever offered to take me to IKEA 

 

I stood in the doorway of the train from Hamburg, gritted my teeth, hoped my shoelaces were tied tight (interesting, considering I am wearing boots with elasticised sides) and sprinted across the platform to the waiting train. This train was further delayed anyway, making my emergency dash unnecessary. Oh well, it’s all exercise.

from nach München 

 

The woman I met, who comes from Schwerin, said the town (or city really) wasn’t important enough to be bombed in World War Two (unlike other northern cities like Rostock and Kiel) and it still wasn’t important enough for the East German government to change things.

from Schwerin …

 

The bed and breakfast where I am still staying – close to the Hauptbahnhof, owned by the fruity old queen – is surrounded by sex workers plying their trade. All the sex workers on the street are Turkish. Apparently if you want the German sex workers you have to go to the other side of the city, to St Pauli, to the Reeperbahn! Just giving you all tips in case you ever get to Hamburg.

from Lübeck

 

The best thing I have seen at breakfast so far has been a spring-action cheese slicer in Copenhagen, that wound its way down the block until eventually there would have been none left. I wanted to stand there for hours just slicing cheese, handing it to other breakfasters with a smile and maybe a “Bon Appetit” or “Guten Morgen” or “Skol.”

from United Nations of Frühstück 

 

Actually I am sick and tired ... of getting lost. I never do this at home but here, I just lose my way at times. And unusually, it can take me a while to realise this. It happened again today.

from Köln

 

I watched a number of families leave the café, their Sunday lunch over. Many of them had young children, and there was the inevitable doing up of coats and putting on of hats and swapping umbrellas.

from Trocadéro 

 

I am slowly slowly getting used to things ... like looking to the left first before I cross the road, not the right ... not walking in the bike lanes which are part of footpaths as well as when crossing at street corners ...

from Hamburg again

 

You can buy beer anywhere. All the concession stands on the U- and S-Bahn stations sell it. And I am sure that yesterday, as I wandered about the massive Flohmarkt (flea market) I happened to come across at Eppendorf, there was a stall selling secondhand women’s clothes AND beer.

from Fat 

 

The shop (on Jungfernstieg, opposite Binnenalster) is a shop I have walked past dozens of times and today I was feeling good because I have more words in my German vocabulary than I did when I first saw the shop weeks ago (which makes it easier when shopping for clothes) plus I had finally gathered the courage to withdraw money from my German bank account.

from Leather ... and do bad things always come in threes?

 

I have to visit the Eiffel Tower and do all those tourist things. Somehow six days and five nights do not seem enough time now.

from Dimanche 

 

… in Copenhagen people just walk all over the place, so it took some concentrating initially to actually move forward through a crowd or when crossing an intersection. I realised how soon I had become used to everyone (in Hamburg) walking on the right, and how easy it actually makes things once you are used to it. So chalk that one up to the Hamburgers.

from Kobenhaven

 

I spent all day Friday and all day today (Sunday) at home, waiting for people to come and take parts of my household away. Some parts I was glad to see go, and other things it was a bit sad.

from Hamburg Horror 

 

The buildings on my side are all post-war, while the buildings on the other side are all pre-war, so I assume my side of the street was bombed during the war, and perhaps that is when the street was widened and maybe the park created. Outside my building are also lots of little flying bugs, which you have to be careful don’t land in your mouth as you grimace your way through them.

from Sundays … and Postcards

 

It was delivered on Friday, at 5.30pm. I had to be home for the delivery from 2.00 to 8.00pm, so was happy when the door buzzer rang only three and a half hours into my wait. “Meine Waschmaschine!” I said to the two men who delivered it, as I stepped onto the footpath and watched them strip it of its packing.

from Lost

 

I accidentally ordered more dumplings (shades of Prague) in a mushroom and cream sauce and had some wine too. The wine here sometimes comes in a little glass jug with the glass on a little tray. You pour the wine yourself and it makes you feel useful while you wait for your meal!

from in München 

 

I keep getting more work and I guess that is good. And I keep waiting to be found out. I know people find my classes entertaining but are they learning things?

from Found 

 

… walking through Altona Bahnhof at night, I never linger. The Asian food place always seems to be open serving the worst spring rolls ever (really dumbed down food) and the smallest Le Crobag opens again at 1.00am … serving yesterday’s stuff! I guess they reason no one at that time expects anything good or fresh anyway!

from Altona Bahnhof 

 

The all-black garb was too loose to fit, doubled over or gaping or both, and I was a flapping black blob, a dour windsock, on the back of the motorbike. Thankfully the German fashion police have far too many other people to apprehend before I would have got a look in, so I was safe.

from Biker Moll at the Gay Lake

 

But I found it (the umbrella), so that was good. I even kissed it, I was that relieved. I started to expect to lose a third thing, because a week ago I realised I had lost my tape measure.

from Lost

 

Living in smaller flats is nothing it is cracked up to be and IKEA is not the answer to everything, even if you are unsure what the question is.

from Immer Berlin 

 

So I went to pick it up the very next day ... only to be told that individuals can’t ‘import’ drugs into Germany, so the medication would have to be destroyed or sent back to Australia. Of course if I had only kept them in my suitcase it all would have been fine.

from Tough

 

And then I realised what it was: it was snow. It was snowing after all. And it started to snow really big flakes, just like those fake ones you see in films, and they started collecting on my coat and head and eyelashes, blowing towards me, and it started getting too difficult to see anything.

from in München 

 

Comments made about people from the south often amaze me because there are so many people from the south living in Hamburg. What must they think when derogatory comments are made about southerners? I have never heard anyone defend them.

from nach München 

 

Actually to get there (IKEA) I took the U2 to the end of the line, Niendorf Nord, and then the 284 bus. The bus actually travels through some fields before turning into an avenue of trees and then there it is, IKEA, so it’s quite an experience.

from Bag Crisis

 

Whenever I have visited Berlin I have wondered what my experience of Germany would have been like if I had moved to Berlin instead.

from Potsdam and Sanssouci 

 

So it was in Berlin that I discovered the face creme I am using is certainly face creme, but also has this little box filled in with brown colour at the bottom of the label next to the words ‘Sommer-Bräune’. So yes, I have been plying my face with a tanning face creme without knowing.

from Berlin 

 

I am resentful that my last few weeks in Hamburg have been dominated by the agent and his incredible demand that I remove the laminated floorboards the previous tenant had stuck down.

from Final Gasp 

 

Nor have I ever seen quite so many young men on crutches. Clearly this is the health condition du jour. Whoever decided it was fashionable to hobble about the main shopping district of central Hamburg on crutches must have shares in hospital equipment.

from Köln 

 

Paris is chockers with shoppers, eager to celebrate the Christmas spirit with their wallets. The streets are filled with cars, and what has been interesting is that while obviously French cars are popular here, they seem to be less popular than German cars are in Germany.

from Dimanche 

 

I keep practicing my German on taxi drivers. I had a lively conversation with a taxi driver today on the way to the new place. We were talking about Steve Irwin (well, he was) and boots.

from Titanic

 

Fruit is often served (usually sliced, so quite often melon) and sometimes stone fruits too. I saw a younger guy scooping out a kiwifruit this morning, the sad skin deflated and spent on his plate afterwards. Looked revolting, like the after-effects of a sex party!

from United Nations of Frühstück 

 

Turn a corner and you are suddenly faced with dull, shabby buildings that are leftovers from the old East Berlin, held together by the electric overhead tram wires clawing their walls. Then turn the next corner and you are faced with a huge expanse of ... nothing. Plans have been made for this space but work hasn’t started yet: stay posted.

from Berlin

 

There are many many fast food options in Germany. Given that every street corner has a Bäckerei (bakery) and / or Konditorei (cake shop), and the number of Döner Kebap shops defies reason, fast food here presents a very different face.

from Fat 

 

I have heard Paris described as a beautiful grey but it isn’t grey at all, it is more peach, pink and yellow and pretty.

from Paris Trois 

 

I found the woman who may well be the ultimate accessoriser! She was wearing a tanny-orange scarf around her neck and camel coat lapels, orange hennaed hair (am sure her real hair colour is now white), and orange face. I think she had gone to extra effort with her face because (1) she was wearing orange makeup over (2) her tanning-salonned face.

from Orange

 

I have 52.something square metres, which is quite large for a 2 room flat in Hamburg. (Kitchens are not counted as rooms here.) The bedroom is a bit too big I think, and it would have been good to have made the bedroom smaller and the living room larger …

from Sundays … and Postcards 

 

Blue sky is incredibly invigorating and the sight of it when you get up out of bed and look out the window can make your day.

from Immer Berlin 

 

Deutscher Einheit means very little to people I spoke to about it in Hamburg. Some said they thought it might mean more to people from the East (former East Germany) because there is very much the idea that the East joined the West, NOT that they came together.

from Deutscher Einheit

 

The problem with all the groups is juggling various interests. My first class on Wednesday is two men: one just likes to talk, while the other prefers written exercises. So I try to do both.

from Ich unterrichte Englisch

 

Yes, I am more than captivated by the idea that the Queen of Prussia just might have nipped out for a cup of sugar. I can see her crossing Park Sanssouci and wending her way to the King’s Palace, frilly cuffs falling over the Meissen cup as she picks her way through the trees and along the gravel. It seems so elegant and fun.

from Potsdam and Sanssouci 

 

It is often a real test of the food culture in a place to have Indian food ... see how spicy it is or isn’t. It was quite OK but also quite bland. Even in Germany Indian food is spicier.

from Kobenhaven

  

Some observations about Hamburg: there are hardly any tattoos and piercings and people here don’t wear sunglasses or hats!

from Montag in Hamburg

 

Otherwise, when the agent and co arrive for the final inspection, I will be halfway to Berlin. The story is too long and dramatic to tell now, but suffice to say I do NOT intend coming out on the bottom.

from Hamburg Horror 

 

When I went back at 7.00pm, all but 4 pieces of plastic ware had been taken. And I laughed to myself too because I had stuck (with sticky tape) the ‘Bitte ...’ sign on a small set of shelves. And someone had unstuck the sign and stuck it again on one of the plastic items.

from Final Gasp 

 

… as the McDonalds proudly states, Open 23 hours! I have yet to work out which hour it closes within the 24 (or maybe it closes for blocks of five minutes x 12) but I can’t say it is keeping me awake at night.

from Altona Bahnhof

 

Please send me some postcards! Not crass ones (naked cartoons or breasts-on-the-beach: though male ones are OK!) as I have a pin-up board in my kitchen and would like it filled.

Send them to: Herrn Matt Potter Goethestraße 32 22767 HAMBURG Germany

from Sundays … and Postcards 

 

A disproportionate number of Hamburg men are in dire need of a quick refresher course on personal hygiene. Many of these men also, unfortunately, think it’s good to drink beer on the U-Bahn at 7.30 in the morning. No joke. Beer, BO and the U-Bahn seem to go hand in hand in Hamburg.

from Köln

 

After a while I turned my head slightly and noticed that I had no hair left at the back of my head. I gasped.
 It looked almost bald. Turns out she had thought when I said “Nummer eins” that I meant one millimetre!

from Communication

 

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