As we mark one month of living in Berlin and two months since we left The Rock, I’ve observed a few things that are “unusual” or “different”, things that make me go “Huh…” I know in a few more months or even a few more weeks they won’t seem different anymore because I will have gotten use to them, so before that happens here’s some of what I’m talking about.
- Diagonal pedestrian crossing lights
I’ve come across them at few crossings; the one picture here is the first intersection just a few meters from our place. It flashes yellow at regular intervals, and it means (I think), that you can legally cross diagonally across the intersection but should probably run like *&^%! and watch-out. Personally I haven’t tried it yet, that intersection is always busy and you’re lucky to make it across during the usual green pedestrian walk light; which by the way is a green ampelmann.
Speaking of traffic lights....
- Not only do traffic lights turn yellow before they turn red like at home, but they also turn yellow before they turn green, and actually the red and yellow are lit at the same time!?! To me, if I was driving, that would be kinda bewildering. (But, I know a similar thing happens in Canada when people see a red light with a green arrow.) I think the simultaneous red & yellow signal is saying “On your mark, get set, ….”
Still on the subject of traffic...
- Cities in Germany (and I’ve been to a few of them now so it’s not just Berlin), appear to have figured out how to get people and stuff from point A to point B. Most major road ways have lanes for people, lanes for cyclists, lanes for buses, lanes for cars…all down the same strip of roadway, and…..it’s respected…go figure! All city sidewalks have bicycle lanes…and don’t you dare walk there, you almost take your life in your hands, believe me I know.
Here’s a real noggin’ scratcher….
- Bicycle HELMETS are NOT mandatory for adults, but…wait for it….BELLS ARE!?! As well as a light in front if you’re riding at night. You read that right, not a typo. Helmets optional, bicycle bells and lights law. My guess would be so that you can ring the bell and blind the poor pedestrian that has inadvertently strayed into the bike lane while taking an evening stroll with her sweetie. (I’ve even seen a bicycle with a flashlight duct-taped to the handle bars, not sure how legal that is.)
Some other differences...
- NO Sunday shopping, not even little mom & pop corner stores, lesson learned…have enough groceries to get you from Saturday evening until Monday morning, or you’re eating out.
- Most check-out clerks, especially those at busy places like grocery stores, sit instead of stand behind the till. Having personally worked retail in a past life I can imagine that their feet are very thankful at the end of a shift.
- There are various forms of public transportation including trams, trains, buses, subways available for getting around. In some places you can take only one type, others all types, and still others combinations of various types….and most confusingly….street trams can and do underground, and underground subways can and do go above ground.
- Most restaurants have tables outside, and this time of year when the evenings are cooler, of even on a cloudy afternoon, they provide fleecy blankets to wrap around yourself while eating or lingering over a cup of tea. If there aren’t tables and chairs, some restaurants will put cushions on their outside window ledges so you can just sit there and watch the world go by.
- It is quite alright to linger over coffee, tea, beer, or in this case prosecco, at a café without getting the evil eye from the wait staff. I especially like doing that at my favourite café called am to pm (they're open around the clock) because they have hanging basket chairs. Erwin took this picture on our anniversary (32). While there we were treated to a street performance of jazz/swing music. Even more reason to linger .... and order another prosecco.