Seeing as this was my very first Halloween in Berlin, I decided that I should write about my adventures here.
First of all though, to provide an update on the German class I was hoping to take: it turns out that it has needed a bit more paperwork than I originally thought, but I’m pretty certain I will be able to take the class. I had to register to Seb’s university as a “guest student” but since that is done, I can now pay for the course and officially be a member as of Monday. My second German class went well, although it’s funny to be back in the land of having homework and exams to prepare for. I think it’s going to improve my German a lot though!
On Tuesday, Seb and I went to the Berlin Dungeon with a group of other people here from England for the year.
Unfortunately I couldn’t take any photos while inside, but those are the pictures I took of the entrance. We began the tour as a big group, and I personally thought it was a lot of fun! Our first “tour guide” was a creepy looking joker that continually would stare at one of us or another to make us feel uncomfortable, or would sneak up on us and then shriek unexpectedly. We went down an elevator that was made to look extremely old and had the sound effects of chains clinking, and after that we went through a series of rooms that had various creepy people in costumes in elaborate rooms. We learned a bit of Berlin’s history, and at one point took a raft ride to escape the plague while rat sound effects went on over our heads. Often we were shrouded in darkness, and then when the lights came back on the actor would be in a completely different place than he was before, standing right over someone. They often took people from the audience for various demonstrations, and at one point a woman in a torture chamber made Sebastien demonstrate various torture tools. Well, she was going to but then said she didn’t want to make his blood get everything dirty. The entire tour took about an hour, and it reminded me of something out of Disneyland (just because of how elaborate it all was). Sebastien wasn’t quite as into it as I was, mainly because of how touristy it all was. Either way, I figured it was a great way to begin Halloween week!
On Wednesday, in my conversation course I showed the kids the beginning clip of the film “The Nightmare Before Christmas”. It was the song “This is Halloween” and I read over the lyrics with them after having watched the clip. I think they enjoyed it alright, and after that we got into conversations about scary films and Tim Burton, and what their Halloween plans were. Also, starting this week, my teaching schedule has changed a bit. So now I am working with a grade 6 class on Thursdays, and the first class was a complete success. I introduced myself, and the kids were totally interested to hear about me. One little girl is from France, and actually spent a year in Canada. I can’t imagine moving around that much and constantly having to learn new languages (her and her sister have been in Germany for three months now, so they had to start learning German this year after learning English last year). However, she showed a lot of interest in my conversation course and I will hopefully see her next week. For the rest of the class, I worked with groups of four, reading a passage from their textbooks out loud. Some of the kids, including the girl from France, were completely eager to read with me, and I really enjoyed it. Reading out loud also allows me to correct the students on their pronunciation without discouraging them – it actually made me think back to when my Dad was teaching me how to read, and he would always make sure I pronounced words correctly (no wonder I’m such a skillful reader now!).
On Thursday evening, after my German class, I went to my Australian friend’s house for a movie night. On the bus ride I did see a few Trick or Treaters, including a group of tiny ghosts. We watched “Hotel Transylvania” in honour of Halloween, and I was able to drink some tea and knit. At the end of the night it took me about two hours to get home since I didn’t know the most direct route, but it was a very enjoyable evening.
On Friday night, Seb and I went to a Halloween club event. The deal was that people would pay one entry fee to get into four different clubs – and if you were wearing a costume and arrived before midnight, you would get in for half price. On the way there, one of Seb’s friend presented me with white and red face paint, offering for me to attempt some sort of costume. So, while on the train, I drew a heart on one cheek and a Q on the other, and coloured in the rest of my face white. Seb allowed me to draw a heart on one of his cheeks and a K on the other, but I didn’t colour the rest of his face white. In the end, I got in for half price (although they said that next time I should put in more effort) but Seb didn’t quite pull it off.
I had pretty low expectations of this event before I went. I figured it was just an excuse to promote the clubs, and thought that there would be minimal decorations and perhaps a few half-ass attempts at costumes. I was pleasantly surprised to instead find that there were tons of elaborate costumes, and each club had been transformed into a spooky dance floor. The first club we entered had corpses hanging from the ceiling, a giant spider attached to the disco ball, cobwebs everywhere, and a horror movie projected silently on one wall. The music came along with five different screens displaying things such as “Happy Halloween, little monsters!” and skeletons dancing.
As for the costumes: according to Seb, Halloween isn’t too big of a thing in Berlin. And the people that do wear costumes never ever dress as something silly or funny – it’s always scary. In some parts of Germany, there is an event in the spring called “Karnival” and that’s when people can dress as anything they want. At this event, the most popular costume seemed to be a nurse covered in blood, and there were quite a few zombie brides (although I don’t understand how so many of them had access to real wedding dresses they could pour fake blood all over!) There were a ton of people with fake contacts in an icy blue colour, and at one point I found myself staring at a zombie bride who’s one eye was completely white with no pupil or iris. People had all sorts of fake injuries – one had a face that had been ripped off then placed back on, one had gashes on her cheeks that were being held together with safety pins, and one had a credit card that had been thrust into her forehead. There were a few costumes that weren’t so scary as well, such as Marie Antoinette complete with a ball gown and a tall white wig, and a few normal pirates (totally what I want to be for next year!). There was one group that did the cast of Alice in Wonderland (there were multiple Alices though, some with blood on their outfits and some without) and it was really funny to see the Mad Hatter breaking it down on the dance floor. A few of the costumes looked very impractical – quite a few masks, which I know from experience get very hot in normal circumstances, let alone in a club. Plus someone wore a complete Merlin cape and hat, along with a full length white wig and beard. I wish that I had taken my camera into the club to capture some of the elaborateness of the costumes, but I’ve never been one to take pictures in a dark club. The only problem with the evening was that it started getting exceptionally busy by about 1am. The clubs were stuffed full of people, and there were huge lines of people waiting to get into each. Seb and I left a little earlier than we had expected to, because of how full it was, but we certainly had a great night.
The next day, I was at “Claire’s” searching for earrings, and one of the girls working there noticed my stamp from the night before. She and the other employee had been at the Halloween event too, and agreed that it had been too full. It had taken them forever to get in unfortunately. Did I mention that I had this entire conversation with them in German? That’s right. I’m practically a local, going to clubs and discussing my experience with strangers in German. That was the highlight of my day right there!
The other day, I posted a blog that provides a link to an article I wrote a year ago about how early people in Canada begin to publicize Christmas. Just as a follow up: I had it in my head that Germany is not as commercial a place as Canada, and therefore figured that Christmas publicity wouldn’t happen for another few weeks. Apparently I was wrong! A few weeks into October, there were already Christmas chocolates and goodies available at the grocery stores, and a week ago I noticed all sorts of Christmas CDs, advent calendars, and books at a department store. Last night there was a Christmas tree on the side of a street, but as Seb pointed out, it was not yet lit up. I guess the key difference is that in Germany, the things available are those that have to do directly with the holiday, such as something to read or decorate your house with. In Canada, it was a lot more about companies directly relating their advertisements to Christmas: “buy THIS for your loved one for Christmas! It’s on sale, but only until December 23rd!” To read the original article I wrote, check out the link I posted in my last blog about my short career in journalism.
Anyways! Thank you so much for reading all about my recent adventures. I hope you also had a great Halloween!