It looks like now I have to comment on the rumours
that Konst changed his location another time. Indeed, having practically
used to be addressed as "domnul" ("mister" in Romanian) during the last
three years, nowdays I have to get used with another title, -- Herr. And
yes, I have recently moved from Bucharest to Berlin. Having my internet
connection installed at home, I am here to describe my first
impressions. First, about the moving itself.
DHL Express my dreams
Besides ordering an ADSL connection, I had one more problem after the
arrival. I had to repair my home computer, which was destroyed by the
"excellent" service of the world-famous DHL courier service. It started
when being in Bucharest, Konst ordered expedition of his personal things
to Germany. After packing the things up into two boxes of TV-set-size, I
was asked to perpare the documents for the customs. In my humble
opinion, for 660 EUR (that was the cost of this excellent service; the
new company told me however they would cover the expences) not only that
the client must be assisted to fill in various forms, but also a
separate Thai-massage girl must be provided during the whole time of the
expedition. Instead, they asked me also to measure the weight of the
boxes at home. Not having any industrial weighing-machine at home by
chance, I had to write down some numbers, like how it looked to me how
many kgs the boxes had.
The next day a guy from the Romanian branch of DHL had to come by to
pick up the boxes. So I discovered another due of mine. As a client, I
had to stay at home during 4 hours waiting for the courier guy to
arrive. They also said the guy couldn't phone 5 minutes before arriving,
because of their corporate rule. It was extremely uncomfortable for me,
for my office was just a few minutes away from home. Another solution,
according to what the lady named Alina told me on the phone, was to take
the boxes from home to the office and wait for the courier there. But no
chance for a call anyway.
I was sitting in an empty appartment, without the computer (it was
already packed), reading a book. After about 3 hours the phone rang. No,
it wasn't my grandma on the phone. It was the hero of the day, the DHL
courier, who now was kindly asking where it would be better to park his
car, because in 5 minutes he'd be there, and "you know how difficult it
is to find a parking place in the downtown". The "corporate rule" turned
into a mockery.
Having paid my own 660 EUR (the company was going to pay me back as soon
as I arrive), for some unknown reason I helped the DHL employee to
carefully take the boxes down to the car. It 3 days they were
supposed to be in a good shape at the gate5 office in Berlin.
It took them 2 weeks to deliver the bundle. And it was absolutely not
necessary to be careful when loading the boxes into that car. It neither
made any sense to mention there was a computer in the packing list.
Normally, it would mean some fragile electronics that must be treated
accordingly. So when I unpacked the boxes here in Germany, I had an
impression that a dump-track was used to transport and unload them. One
of the sides of the box, which contained CDs and books was broken and
then sticked together with a scotch tape with the logo of the expedition
company. Inside it didn't look so good either: some of CD-cases were
cracked, the glass on a photo-frame was broken, and the majority of
other small things looked like they were dragged over a floor of
concrete, for they had skratches with white dust inside them. In the
second box there were clothes and the computer without monitor. From the
first glance outside it looked well, but when I took a look inside, I
saw a network card, which somehow got between the CPU and its cooler
(!). I really cannot imagine what kind of stress the computer case must
had been exposed to, so that the cooler tears off the CPU. Also, because
of the case bend, the CD-ROM changed its position being fixed inside.
Testing which followed showed that the MB and CPU flied out.
Due to the problems described above I finally got my home computer up
and running after two weeks since the arrival. Paper stuff, first-time
arragements and the new job wouldn't let me address the new hardware
buying issue too fast. Nevertheless, I pulled myself together and went
shopping. I bought myself the following pieces: CPU of the fashionable
Sempron series, 512mb DDR and an ASRock motherboard. Looks like the
vendor wanted to express soemthing like "solid as rock" with its brand
name, though my first idea was to add another "s", so that it be
"ass-rock" or "rock in the ass". The CPU, memory and the "rock in the
ass" cost me 180 EUR and still they are performing good enough here.
The forced upgrade was made the same day when I should had had an ADSL
connection installed. I always said that a home without an internet
connection is a kennel, so I was a bit in a hurry with it. Provider
called T-Online managed to surprize me. My colleague and I accidentally
found their support
hotline in Russian (in Germany! :). A girl with a very womanly voice
picked up the phone and told me about the types of connection they had.
She also took my order for an analogue line and an ASDL. In a few days
my phone line was connected and then they sent me modem and splitter
devices. In a week my internet-connection was there too.
Frankly speaking, I never had to deal with ADSL before. So setting it up
took some time. In Romania I had a TV-cable connection, which didn't
require the ppp module. Thus, it wasn't in my Gentoo system, while in
order to bring up ADSL one requires ppp over ethernet. Then I booted the
first Gentoo CD hoping to setup the connection there. The point is that
it's recommended to have a net connection when installing Gentoo, so
that it can download packages. That's why developers included various
tools to relatively easily setup a connection into the boot CD. Among
those tools there were the ADSL scripts called adsl-setup and adsl-start
respectively. In the bunch of papers that t-online ISP sent to me, there
was a note with my username/password pair. A friend who also had ADSL
from the same provider explained to me how to make up a username from
the written numbers. It was FirstnumberSecondnumber#Suffix@t-online.de.
After adsl-setup generated /etc/ppp/pppoe.conf file, I tried to bring up
the connection with adsl-start. The latter told me there was something
However, I didn't give up and tried to setup ADSL in Windows first,
hoping to use the CD which I received along with the first manuals by
snail mail from the ISP. In Windows'98 the software was installing
slowly and each time hanged up in the middle, not showing the dialog,
whose screenshot was in the book. The dialog was meant to be used for
connection parameters introduction. Then I decided to return to Linux
and to continue trying there. It was almost 4am. I am extremely happy
about the flexible working schedule at my new company. The contract says
it's up to the employee when he comes to the office. It might be either
9am or 1pm, and noone will be there to punish him.
So when the adsl-start script couldn't bring up the connection again, I
thought there was something at the provider's side. Just in case, I
looked into the script itself and found DEBUG environment mentioned.
Running DEBUG=1 adsl-start gave me a path to a log file, whose
contents said there was no /dev/ppp device. "Interesting way to treat
errors" -- I though, and tried to load the ppp_generic module manually.
It happened to use some unresolved symbols frm slhc, which was not
listed in modules.autoload of the 1st Gentoo CD. Issuing modprobe
shlc solved this one. Then I got my connection up, ran chroot
/mnt/gentoo /bin/bash and successfully downloaded and installed the
needed packets, so that to be able to use ADSL in Gentoo installation on
the hard-disk too. Here I conclude that Linux kicks ass, though
sometimes it needs to be helped a little to do that.
Besides getting the things moved, the new company also paid my
air-ticket and rented an appartment, which was actually an advance given
from my first salary. The appartment has one room, and it's not worse
than the one I had in Bucharest. Even better, for it has the following
stuff. A set of quite fresh furniture, which I had to rearrange a little
so that to put the computer somewhere. Plus, there is a TV, frige, an
electric kettle, a coffee-filter and a vacuum cleaner. However, in
comparison with $150/mo which I used to pay in Bucharest, 487 eur is
quite a scary price. At the other hand, from my own experience, the
process of getting used to the European prices ends when one stops
converting everything into hrivnas/lei/roubles and getting pissed by the
results of such conversion.
The fastest way to rent an place to stay in Berlin is to apply to the
services of companies that own whole blocks and rent appartments in
them. They send their offers in PDF files, which also have pictures
showing how the appartments look like. To my great surprize the interior
I saw was pretty similar to the one I saw on the pictures. The reason I
got surprized was that in the world of the modern commerce photos on the
ads usually exaggerate the goods value. To have a good example, just go
to the nearest McDonalds and take a hamburger. Then place it somehow so
that you can see both your burger and its congener as it's shown on the
ad on the wall. See yourself how uglier the one you bought is.
As to the appartment, here are shots from the ad.
And below is the interior formed in Konst's habitat during the 20 days
Quite a similarity, huh?
Besides the appreciable change of the adderess form from domnul to Herr,
the outside look from my window changed partially. I say partially
because in Bucharest I could see -- except for extremely foggy days --
the Communist mega-construction of the Ceausescu era, the 2nd biggest
building in the world, the People's House. It may be strange, but here
in Germany I also can see (when there is no fog) a symbol of the
human-faced socialism. It's the DDR TV-tower on Alexanderplatz in the
Eastern part of the city. One can say that the not existing anymore
country of my childhood, the USSR, keeps on reminding me about itself.
Many say about the cultural shock that happens to people from Eastern
Europe as soon as they arrive somewhere in the West. I was asked several
times if I had such a shock.. Now, what is the polite may to answer on
this question? Fuck the shock. I already saw all of this, though Germany
is the first EU country I have ever visited. I have never to the States
either. However, I've been to Israel, Hungary, Romania.. I mean, one can
even enjoy some of the market economy miracles in Eastern Europe as they
recently appear in the region.
However, there are still a few things I liked here because of their
- Tickets-machines in the subway and in trams. One should press on the
sensor screen and chose a ticket type, then put in some coins or a
banknote. Then the ticket is printed and the rest is given. No
ticket-office, no turnstiles at the entrance. There are inspectors who
impose penalty on those without tickets.
- Machines to allocate places on the queue in official institutions.
One comes, presses a button and the machine prints a paper with a
number. Then one should sit in the corridor and wait until there is his
number on the electronic board. The board also shows the room number
where to go along with the queue number. So then you enter, give the
ticket to the official guy, who serves you then. No standing from the
early morning with written lists, no "you weren't standing here". The
machine is more difficult to cheat on.
- Online-banking service. For payments such as salary and for paying
for different services one must have a bank account. The bank gives you
a plastic card to access the account as soon as you open one. Such card
can be used only to widthdraw money at ATMs. A credit card is given a
bit later, in 3 months, if they see there are some money being
regularily transferred into the account. So I don't have any CC so far.
Everything except for cash withdrawal can be done online via
web-interface. It will show salary from the employer as soon as it's
there, and if there was any payment for articles -- there is complete
info on when it came and how much was there. If you want to make a
payment for something, just specify the recepient parameters and
transfer the needed sum.
My previous knowledge about the Berlin Wall is a real disappointment. I
was stupidly thinking that the respective construction used to split
Germany into the Eastern (GDR) and Western (FRG) parts. But just in case
I wasn't alone in my ignorance, some of the readers will now find out
something new :) The Wall used to separate Berlin and not whole Germany.
Western Berlin used to be an enclave within the territory for the
GDR. It was ruled jointly by the US, France and others. It was quite a
shame for me not to know that. Despite many things changed till then,
the architecture in the both parts of the city differs a lot. Say, the
area nearby Landsberger Alee reminded me of the bedroom communities of
Kharkov, Kiev, Chisinau and Bucharest at the same time. At the other
hand, Kurfurstendamm looked like Broadway to me, at least I imagine it,
although I never was there. So, Berlin is a very different city indeed.
The population is about 3 millions and a half.
Because of being multi-national, Berlin is quite a tolerant and
cosmopolitan city. The district I live -- Wedding -- is in the Western
part. Though it's frequently referred to as a Turkish district, not only
Turks live here. Judging from the lastnames on the mailboxes at the
entrance to my block, there are many Germans and some foreigners also.
Although my living place is in Western Berlin, the office of my company
is located in the Eastern part. Only 20 minutes walking actually. During
the first-time I was pretty amazed by the fact I have to pass a former
checkpoint the two Berlins twice a day.
Speaking of the internationalist character of the megapolis, I cannot
help mentioning my own alikes, those who came from the former USSR. I
remember some friends used to tell me one can hear Russian on every step
in the German capital downtown. But from my own observations, it is not
exactly like that and really depends on a district. Say, in Wedding
during 20 days only once I saw a group of teenagers speaking Russian. At
the other hand, if you go closer to the downtown, to Alexanderplatz,
there are indeed relatively quite a lot of the ex-Soviets. I said
"relatively", since it depends on what you compare it with. Remembering
my visit to Israel four years ago, must admit I was really surprized by
Tel-Aviv, where almost every third group of people spoke Russian. That's
what I call a lot.
Let's get back to the languages issue. To my deepest regret, while
Russian is spoken quite widely in the street, I still haven't heard
anyone speak Romanian here. I really hope into some Romanian-speaking
community so that I can maintain the fluent knowledge of Romanian I have
now. It cost me 3 years of learning and practice so I don't want to lose
Finally, as a great fan of foreign languages I already started learning
German. So far my only teacher is a grammar book, however after the New
Year I'm going to attend the language school. Cases, articles that
control the cases, declining articles, verb prefixes changing their
position.. Not really as easy as English, but still not that complicated
as Russian is. So I'll manage to handle it. There is simply no other way :)