Multitasking to the max

Today I found myself in the bus for half an hour Skyping one-handed on my iPhone while balancing my bike, listening to music and (of course) looking stylish all the while!

I love multitasking! I know, I’m a freak.

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Europe on a Budget tip 5: Flea Markets!!!!

While they don’t really do op-shops here (charity/ 2nd hand shops if you’re reading from the UK) they certainly do flea markets!

This morning I headed down to the Flohmarkt with a friend and in search of a bike. I know that this is a sensitive topic, the word on the street is that most of the bikes there are stolen. I had a bit of an internal struggle about this but my fears were set aside with the fact that there’s little you can do about it and when your bike is stolen you go back to the flea market to by another one anyway. Someone else suggested I ‘consider it a rental’ which is right really, the bikes are very cheap and if I get a few good rides out if before it dies or is stolen I will still have got my moneys worth.

Anyway, enough moralising over the markets.

I love my new bike! It was at the first bike stall we went to and it’s perfect, in all it’s imperfection! For a bike like this in Australia you’d pay at least $100, maybe more, because vintage is ‘in’ and in Australia we ride less and have fewer vintage bikes to go around. In Europe, however, they are everywhere and considered completely average. YAY!

Here she is my 34euro pride and joy with the clearly stolen basket thrown in as a ‘gift’ from the seller.

Clearly stolen - see how someone elses lock is still on it. I have decided to leave it as it is, then someone can steal it from me and I'll go and buy a new one and feel better.

As well as bikes the market has fantastic old clothes, leather bags, furniture, jewellery, clocks, anything you can think of! I am in love with the Frankfurt Flohmarkt! Lucky I have to be able to carry all my belongings with me and am not setting up house here!

For more info on the Flohmarkt, days, dates and locations see this website:

Help me name my bike!

Now it needs a name! I’m thinking it’s a girl, that’s as far as I’ve got though at the moment, and of course you may think otherwise. Looking forward to your suggestions!

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Europe on a budget tip 4: Free french lessons

There are lots of networks out there and ways to meet people in language exchange situations. Here there are lots of English and German conversation groups where German natives come to practice their English and of course English speakers go to practice their German.

Living in Germany, having German friends and speaking German at home mean that I don’t need to attend one of these groups. Instead I’ve been trying to learn Spanish and French.

I’ve been lucky enough to find a lady, originally from France, who is learning English and would like to teach someone French in return for the opportunity to practice her English in conversation.

Fantastic! French lessons for English conversation.

I would highly recommend seeking out this sort of situation when you plan to stay anywhere overseas for a period of time. Advertise on message boards and visit local language schools. It’s a fantastic way to exchange skills and both get some benefit!

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Fractured Fairytale

Today I was serenaded by a stranger.

Sounds terribly romantic doesn’t it. It would have been perfect had it not been a stranger, rather the love of my life, unfortunately though he is all the way back in Australia though, so alas, a stranger it was.

I don’t think I’ve ever been serenaded before. It was, as you can well imagine, rather perplexing and embarrassing.

The owner of the cafe where I worked had a had arranged a small BBQ of friends and colleagues out the back of the cafe. There came a group of people, with different backgrounds and stories, some from the US, some Germans.

At sometime during the party one of them pulled out a guitar and started to play and to sing. Of course I thought this was fantastic! Living in the fairy tale world that I do spontaneous singing and music are perfect.

A little while after he began I popped my head out of the cafe and started throwing requests into the mix. I started with James Taylors ‘Fire and Rain’ guessing that he was probably older than my father and that this would be about the right time in musical history. Well, he had a go, he got it all a bit mixed up, missed half the song and the notes. But he tried. Then I went back in. Then every time I stuck my head out, someone would ask me what my next request was, so I pulled some other things out of my head that I thought were around the ‘dad’s music’ time that this man might know and was sadly disappointed. I think they managed a beatles song, but the rest of it was some US country ballads I’ve never heard of.  One of my requests had been Deep Purple, to which I was told ‘he’s no hard rocker’ and then from the guitarist came something to the effect of ‘for the beautiful girl I’ll try anything’ or some such rubbish.

Anywho, I kept going about the general cafe business, sometimes listening out if there was any decent music coming from the back, there mostly wasn’t. Then at some stage when I’d quite forgotten them out there, the other owner of the cafe came in and said ‘I think he’s singing for you now’ so I stuck my head out the back door of the cafe and sure enough the whole 10 or so people gathered were all staring at me and the man was standing with his guitar and singing with great feeling:
‘I love you so and that is why
whenever I want you
all I have to do is dream
dream dream dream
Dream dream dream dream
dream dream dream dream ‘
By the Everly brothers. Thank goodness I only got that bit of the text! I’ve since looked at the lyrics and, if he had this time known them all, that would have been so entirely inappropriate! Goodness it was embarrassing! But there he went and serenaded me with such dedication so that all I could do was try desperately not to go too red! Laugh and sing along where I could, and then at the end applaude. With all of them staring at me the whole time. 

At the end of the day I discovered that as well as BBQ’ing (or grilling as it’s called here) they’d all been into the booze, which I hope explains it. Before leaving the man with the guitar came and thanked me for letting him sing to me. Clearly he enjoyed himself.

So that is that, my little fractured fairytale.

I wonder what will happen tomorrow.

Much love to all


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Getting direct with the Germans

An older man just followed me on his bike.

I wasn’t making haste, I had plenty of time to get where I was going so I was meandering. I sensed that there was a bike moving slowly behind me and stopped to admire a building, partly because I wanted to admire the building and partly because I wanted to see if the bike would keep going.

It didn’t.

The man stopped and asked if I was looking for something, I sad no, he then he asked if I had some time. I said ‘nein leider nicht’ (no, unfortunately not) rather curtly. He got the message. Wished me a nice evening, to which I replied, ‘and to you, bye.’

He rode off ahead at the proper speed.

The reason I am sharing this is because it is a little achievement for me. Slowly I’m learning to not let these random strangers scare me. I’m learning to stand my ground politely but firmly.

I will keep practicing, politely but firmly won’t always work. When that happens I would like to try out Jose’s method. For that though I will need a little more confidence. I’l tell you more about that later.

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Things I’ve learnt from random men in buses…

It sounds odd, I know it does. Particularly as older German natives are generally less forthcoming when it comes to conversing with strangers. It seems though that when you do something they consider so completely and utterly stupid (demonstrating, in their eyes, a complete lack of understanding of the proper way to behave) they feel compelled to tell you about it.

I realise that sounds quite derisive, and I really don’t mean it to be so. I am very appreciative that these men felt so compelled to educate me, it was done in good spirit and I thanked them both.

The first situation was a when a woman hopped into the bus and the driver could not change her 50euro note. She was very normal looking. Reasonably dressed, neat tidy, respectable. She could very easily have been a friends mother. She turned to the passengers and asked if anyone would be able to change her 50 for her. Nobody responded, they either shook their heads or turned away as if one of the beggars was asking for spare change. I couldn’t help it. I think it’s a travellers thing. When you’ve been in rough patches and people have helped you out you can’t help seeing people in theirs and knowing it could just as easily have been you. I told her I might be able to, she sat in the seat across from me and I counted out 50euro in smaller notes and changed it for her. She was thankful, bought her ticket (the bus had kept moving of course) and sat down somewhere else. End of transaction.

While she was buying her ticket a rather serious looking but well-meaning older gentleman next to me told me ‘vorsicht mit geld wechseln!’ (be careful changing money) and warned me that many 50euro notes are forgeries and that it’s not a good idea. At first I just said ‘Oh’. Then I thought about it a bit more smiled at him and thanked him. He didn’t smile of course. Just nodded his head and continued to look serious.

I’m sure he’s right, you should be careful, and I thought to myself ‘well, if it’s a forgery I’ll consider it a 50euro deposit in the bank of good karma.’ When I got home I got all my 50’s out (three) and inspected them closely, not knowing anymore which was the one the lady had given me. They all looked exactly the same except that one of them had a different signature on it. I put that in my wallet deciding i’d best spend that one first and get rid of it just in case. They’re all gone now so it’s no matter anyway.

The second situation was late one evening on the bus home from a movie. The bus was surprisingly crowded for that time of the evening and I was sat up the front by the driver. At a stop along the way an older gentleman, (I can’t guess exactly at his age as I’m utterly hopeless with such things and these days you’d never get it right anyway) stepped into the bus. He had grey hair but was spritely, clearly not in any way incapacitated but clearly older than me. As we are trained to do from a young age I offered the gentleman my seat. To which he took good-humoured offence saying ‘oh goodness! Do I look that old? Do you think I’m old?! Thank you but no, I will stand, it’s ok.’ Not knowing how to react to this, although it was said with a smile and sort of laugh, I kept silent. He didn’t. He went on to advise, again well-meaning, that some people will get very offended if you offer them your seat ‘you see, they feel that if they need it they are quite capable of asking for it themselves’ he told me. Hmmm. Right! I told him that it was a habit left over from my school years and then became suddenly very engrossed in the contents of my mobile.

Really! How are we to know what is right and what is not these days? When doing what we are trained to think is right can still be taken as an offence?! Dear me. I know I am now at an ‘adult’ age where technically I have just as much right to the seat as any other but I still could not sit there if a mother with children, someone older than me, a pregnant woman or anyone else who looks in any way like they may benefit more from the seat were to step into the bus.

Now being in receipt of this information nobly imparted by knowledgable men would I behave any differently?

I don’t think so.

It always comes down to instinct and the moment. No matter what the situation is, you can always only do what you feel is right at the time. There’s nothing else to it. But I appreciate their insight all the same.

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Europe on a budget Tip 3: Free haircuts!

Today I went and had my hair cut for free! And it’s a good hair cut!

A hairdresser I was walking past several weeks ago was advertising for hair models for the trainees to learn on. So in I went and booked!

This is a great way to save and stay stylish! I don’t know about the rest of you but when I’m on a tight budget hair cuts are the first to go, I used to go once every 6 to 12 months depending.

Of course having a learner cut your hair means that there is the possibility that something could go wrong. I wasn’t too worried about this though, they are very closely supervised by experienced hairdressers and are very eager to please. If you can’t find a hairdresser advertising for hair models just go in and start asking if they need them. Sometimes you may have to pay a cheaper rate and sometimes they will be free. It’s always worth asking!

I’ve also found out that you can book them for foils and colours aswell. This might just turn out to be the best hair year I’ve ever had!

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