Grumblin’ Ole Geezer’s Volcano Lair: Part 8 – Bemused in Berlin

This time it was more difficult to return to Berlin than in February: both Monika and I were getting tired, and not having any actual functioning “headquarters” anywhere gradually progressed from bemusing to totally confusing. Once we were back in Germany, I started feeling perplexed and out of place, as if I were spending pointless days in a state of perpetual deja vu, and just a day or two after we’d arrived, Tenerife started looking frustratingly unreal as well. Fortunately I had an unrelated task scheduled that kept my mind off pointless brooding while we worked on resolving a few final issues: I had promised I’d make a couple of field recordings for the “Italian diaspora” we had befriended in Berlin. Here is one of them:

[Orazio Ferrari (double bass) and Giuseppe Guarrera (piano) performing “Le Cygne” by Camille Saint-Saëns.
The video was directed, shot and edited by Giulio Tarantino.

This little project kept me busy and amused for a week or so, while we tackled the final and most brutal tasks: organising the transportation of some of our stuff that we wouldn’t need on the Canaries back to Slovenia; organising the transportation of a substantial pile of instruments, studio gear, household items and personal belongings to the middle of the Atlantic Ocean; and wrapping up the loose ends in Germany.

In Deutschland getting rid of any “subscriptions” to anything is as hard as it is to eradicate a particularly tenacious venereal disease. Various companies like internet providers – or providers of anything you might have subscribed for, for that matter – will cling to you (or your wallet) like limpets, or rather leeches, and you’d sooner scrape off a combination of syphilis and gonorrhea than some of these parasites.

In the beginning of April, before we left for Tenerife to sign the contract for the apartment, I had already handed over the rehearsal room where my music studio had been to some of the aforementioned Italians. Of course the landlord attempted to milk the new tenants for more money, claiming that they’d have to sign a new contract if they wanted to take over the lease if I, as the “main signatory” of the initial contract, was leaving. Fortunately another “main signatory” (a Slovenian whom we had originally rented the studio with) remained in Berlin, so he would still be in charge, and therefore changing the “main signatory” (as well as consequently altering the contract to something more expensive) was not necessary. However, once I returned to Berlin, it became obvious that the landlord kept sending me the bills instead of pestering the other remaining “main signatory”. When I brought this to their attention (telling them that I would by no means be picking up any mail from them any longer), the landlord once again brought up the idea of changing the contract. So even though I had already waded through all of this manure about a month earlier, I now had to spend yet another couple of hours arguing about it (in German, which is always loads of fun when you aren’t completely fluent in the language). Finally they figured out that they couldn’t really force a new, more expensive contract on the Italians, and they agreed to start sending all the bills to the remaining “main signatory” who was not me. (About a month or so later, the remaining “main signatory” informed me that the landlord is now trying to force the issue of altering the contract in the coming autumn, but it’s certainly not my problem anymore.)

The situation with the internet service provider was similar: they enforced a three-month notice requirement, so I’ll have to keep paying for the damn internet access until September, even though I’m no longer anywhere in Germany at all. I could have gotten around this by sending them proof of my new address abroad, but I had no intention of giving them my forwarding address. I’m no delusional paranoid conspiracy theorist, but I had no intention of giving any information to an ISP who had been only too happy to share my information with the copyright breach extortionists on the occasion when a friend from Slovenia had left his torrents running for a few minutes a couple of years ago, and the oversight had ended with an extortion letter that had required us to hire a lawyer in order to respond to it (and basically tell the extortionists to stuff it).

Our apartment lease required a three-month notice as well, and we had to wait until we’d actually signed the contract for our new flat in Spain before we could initiate the proceedings. Fortunately our landlord was prepared to consider handing the lease over to an Italian pal of ours, who, on the other hand, could hardly wait to “occupy” our flat: during the four and a half years that we had been renting it, the prices of flats in Berlin had increased so drastically that we had eventually ended up with one of the cheapest places around. The landlord’s property manager, who dropped by to check the apartment, was only too happy with the idea of simply handing the lease to someone else without any interruptions, and he was also visibly impressed with the state of the apartment (which was not really surprising, as five years ago, when we had moved in, the place had been an absolute disaster, one of the worst places we’d ever had the displeasure of renovating, while now it actually looked habitable). We, on the other hand, were eager to hand the flat over to our friend, as he had also agreed to buy the kitchen and the majority of furniture from us, otherwise we’d be forced to empty the flat completely before handing it back (and would thus have to either attempt to sell all the individual pieces of furniture or throw most of it away). In case we simply left without finding another tenant, we would also have to keep paying rent until the end of July. So the manager requested the usual heap of papers from the Italian, who happily provided everything, and we could actually start hoping that the whole deal would go through smoothly. The landlord had about a month to decide before we would actually be able to buy our one-way plane tickets to Tenerife, anyway; but one month certainly sounded better than keeping the apartment for another three months.

After our Italian buddy had pointed out the stuff that he’d be buying from us and negotiated the price (to my initial amusement and subsequent weariness, he focused on the proceedings with the passionate and tenacious dedication of a knickknack peddler at the bazaar in Cairo), I also, despite my wholehearted aversion to this sort of flea market operations, managed to sell the rest of the stuff that I didn’t want to lug to Tenerife (like my trusted bicycle and so on) via dedicated Facebook groups. Of course, the effort invested seemed to exceed any financial gain by far, but it was better than nothing.

Meanwhile, in the middle of May, Monika received word from Santa Cruz that the complete paperwork for the new apartment – confirmations of taxes paid, registries registered for, and the like – was “almost ready” and that we’d be able to pick up everything in a week or two. Monika told them we wouldn’t be arriving until the middle of June or thereabout, so they had plenty of time to get it done.

We also scanned a collection of required documents that we’d procured on Tenerife and sent them to the movers, who would eventually drop by Berlin with a truck and take our stuff to the transport ship in Hamburg. Before they confirmed everything, they also asked for a rough outline of a cargo manifest, which I provided, and we agreed to finalise everything once we returned from Slovenia, where we would be heading next.

Finally I called my cousin, known for his love of road trips. To my profound relief he immediately agreed to borrow a van back in Slovenia and come to Berlin in a week or two to pick up the crap we would not be taking to our new volcano lair, but could not throw away either (stuff like important documents that needed to be archived, books acquired during our stay in Berlin, winter clothes, and so on). The upside was that my cousin’s girlfriend was free at the time as well, so they’d be able to make a little bit of a vacation of it. Besides, he had been among those who had helped us get to Berlin in the first place, and helping us to get out was, according to him, only proper. Have I mentioned that my cousin rocks – on his guitar as well as otherwise?

Finally we went through our things carefully and packed everything that we’d be taking for a wee trans-European van drive.

Studio on the move

My musical endeavours are currently, and until further notice, on hiatus, as in the middle of June the studio in its entirety ended up in boxes and cases:

A few weeks after all the gear had been placed on a truck and then a transport ship container, accompanied with my desperate petitions to the unforgiving universe that it refrain from making someone drop a particularly precious piece of equipment or causing any sort of disaster, everything made it to its destination in one piece:

Now I’ll just have to deal with the trifling matter of finding a suitable place for it all, and then I’ll be able to resume my fabulous career as a studio rat. Hopefully that happens before I’m too old to move on my own, let alone lug all of these damn boxes around…

Grumblin’ Ole Geezer’s Volcano Lair: Part 7.2 – Introductory Bureaucracy 2


Due to import restrictions (and/or the transfer tax and an administration fee for second hand cars), used cars are rather expensive on Tenerife (but, on the other hand, due to the fact that the island tax is much lower than the VAT on the EU mainland, gas is very cheap comparatively). Furthermore, buying a car on Tenerife can involve loads of hassle with all the paperwork and relevant taxes. Finally, all potential debts are associated to the car, not the owner (parking fines, outstanding loans, even social security, taxes, etc.), and if you’re buying a used car from a private seller, you have to deal with the Ministry of Traffic and the related bureaucratic hurdles yourself (see this source for more information).

However, most used car dealerships will deal with all of this in your stead as well as usually offer some kind of warranty on used cars – but, naturally, the prices at used car dealerships are even steeper than those of private vendors. As we were already up to eyeballs in bureaucracy at the time – and because I’m extraordinarily far from being any kind of a car expert, let alone a car mechanic – we decided to stomach the additional cost and buy a car at a dealership. Of course, there were a few failed attempts – especially the one comes to mind where we decided for an advertised Ford Fusion that looked pretty good and was discounted to something almost approximating a normal price. Monika phoned the dealer and they claimed the car was still available. To our dismay we soon figured out that the advertised car had been sold ages ago because the company in question had not updated their website for who knows how long, but the employee Monika had spoken to earlier had failed to mention that (or notice it at all, I suppose). The employee was also rather disappointed when we actually came to the store and didn’t simply buy what was, in her words, “a similar 5000-EUR nine-year-old Citroen” instead of “the 3900-EUR ten-year-old Ford Fusion” that we had actually agreed upon.

By that time – after about a week of trying to find a decent car – I was so fed up with everything that we walked straight into a random nearby dealership, which turned out to be owned by a capable and pleasant (not pushy, for a change!) Argentinian, and simply bought a ten-year-old but well-preserved Seat Ibiza after a short test drive and superficial inspection (I elected not to pretend I knew anything much about cars, save for how to drive them, appreciate a good reliable engine, and enjoy seeing them in something as closely resembling good working order as possible). The dealer gave us a one-year warranty and took care of all the paperwork very painlessly and promptly (OK, he needed an additional day because he forgot about a special local holiday in the capital city of Santa Cruz, where the only Ministry of Traffic office on Tenerife is located, so his first trip to the Ministry was in vain – these local holidays or arbitrary fiestas, as one might call them, are a notable feature of the Canaries: every city, town, village and hamlet seems to have its own patron saint that needs to be celebrated on their own special day every year; nobody can even begin to remember all of these extraordinary holidays and associated parties; but you can most likely attend at least one of these merrymakings somewhere on the island each weekend if you’re so inclined). The car had some minor initial problems, all of them more or less trivial (like a fried breaker for the cigarette lighter outlet that I needed for GPS navigation and the dealer hadn’t thought of checking; a power window that broke almost immediately, probably due to dust in the wiring; and a broken lock on the gas tank), but to date the dealer has in fact fixed them all. He did attempt to pass off the broken gas tank lock with a “but who cares, I mean, nobody will steal gas on the Canaries” excuse, but fixed it nevertheless after we started rolling our eyes and laughing at his rather amusing attempt at avoiding the issue. For now the car has been running great and I’m counting on many cheap Seat parts being around in case I eventually need them – although I’m also, hopefully not too optimistically, counting on the proverbial reliability of the VW engine under Ibiza’s hood.

Getting reasonably-priced car insurance was a problem, though. Before we had sold our previous car, as we’d certainly not needed or wanted one in Berlin, my insurance record had been spotless, so I had benefitted from a full bonus. However, I hadn’t needed any car insurance for almost exactly three years. Monika’s sister, who happened to work at my former Slovenian insurance company, sent us a confirmation of this, but unfortunately the time limit on transferring the bonus to the largest local insurance company was at a maximum of one year. We made some phone calls and it turned out none of the other insurance companies would even consider transferring the bonus, at least not without a lengthy and complicated bureaucratic procedure. Not willing to give up on this just yet, Monika suddenly remembered we could ask our friend Jocular Banker (see Part 5 and Part 7.1) if the bank was willing to insure our car and possibly acknowledge the bonus. The first thing he said was something like “…but I have to tell you right away that our car insurance is far too expensive.“. After we shrugged and asked him to tell us about it anyway, he approved a full bonus without even looking at the paperwork Monika’s sister had provided (when Monika offered him the document, he just said: “Nah, don’t worry about it, I’ll just put eight years without any insurance claims here. Nobody ever checks this, anyway.“). He made some calculations, and it turned out that the bank was able to offer us a significantly better insurance package for much less than the major local insurance company, and they’d even space out the payments over one year without any interest. Great success – thanks to Jocular Banker.


Our business (as well as quite our hobbies, particularly our music and my scribbling endeavours) largely depend on fast and reliable internet access. However, this turned out to be a bit of a problem (as we had expected, anyway). Even though we opted for Movistar, the largest Spanish telecommunications company, all we could get, for now, is a relatively lousy ADSL access, with speeds pretty abysmal in comparison with what we had been used to even in Berlin, let alone the superb fibre optic access available almost everywhere in Slovenia. The people at Movistar did try to sell us IPTV as an “obligatory” part of a certain mobile phone & internet access package they seemed to be pushing hard at the time, even though Monika kept telling them that all we needed was the fastest internet access they could provide, and that was it (we hadn’t had any TVs in our apartment ever since we’d moved from Slovenia to Berlin five years ago, which is still one of the best decisions of our lives – now we can truly appreciate TV for the brainwashing propaganda shitbox it actually is, whenever we happen to see one somewhere). Fortunately, the phone guy who arrived to hook us up about a week after we’d signed the contract revealed to us that IPTV is not really “obligatory” or “unavoidable” in any way. He called Movistar, had them change our package, and told us that TV would have sucked away half of our bandwidth anyway, had we actually opted for it. He also told us that fibre optics were in the works, but that, even though the cables should have been installed in our city about a year ago, this particular crown achievement of the local telecommunications industry would, in accordance with the infamous Canarian relaxed pace, have to wait for another few months… Or maybe years. We’re keeping our fingers crossed, but not too tightly, because we wouldn’t want them to fall off due to the long-term lack of blood circulation.


Last but not least: tap water. Man, was that a real pain in the posterior.

– During the initial inquiry about water at the Illustrious City Hall, they told us to inquire at the city waterworks.

– Next morning, at the city waterworks, we were told that our apartment building only had a single official water meter for the whole building, and that the rest was not their problem. We should drop by the apartment building’s “President of the Community” to clear up the matter.

– The President of the Community (or La Presidenta) told us that the water was a real pain in the posterior (no shit), because our apartment building still didn’t have “official water” “officially” distributed to individual apartments via separate meters. We’d have to drop by the Illustrious City Hall yet again in order to procure some sort of a temporary license for a provisional water meter.

– After waiting at the Illustrious City Hall for another couple of hours, Monika tried to explain the situation to an official. As the official wasn’t sure what to do, Monika called La Presidenta, who attempted to explain the situation over the phone. Still unsure what to do exactly despite having her ear gnawed off by our Presidenta, the official gave us an appointment in order to clear up the “water situation” – in a week or so, of course.

– In a week or so, the appointment took place, but it involved yet another official, who didn’t know anything about anything, so poor Monika had to explain it all again. The explanation, however, began about an hour late due to the new official’s climacteric coffee break and her subsequent unfortunate accident with a scanner. (After she’d put in a bunch of clipped-together papers and, naturally, caused a paper jam, the device froze, so it obviously had to be reset. I kept trying to tell her to turn it off and turn it on again, but instead of listening to the prime directive of IT, she called the IT department, which, after fifteen minutes of fruitless torture, told her to turn it off and turn it on again.) By that time the poor official was so upset she no longer conveyed any impression of knowing what she was doing, and she also declined talking to La Presidenta over the phone: she just decided to fill out who knows what sort of paperwork, probably randomly dreamed-up, and told us that “someone would contact us eventually in order to hook up our water“. Of course, we asked what “eventually” meant: a day? A few days? A week? A month? The answer, my friend, was, quite sadly and rather impotently, blowing in the wind.

– As it is a bit difficult to actually do anything in flats without water – especially when you want to start fixing and painting the walls – we went to see La Presidenta again in order to bitch and whine about our lacklustre attempt to solve anything whatsoever at the Illustrious City Hall. Reasonably pissed at the Illustrious City Hall, she told us to go to the waterworks again in order to procure an “official meter”. Afterwards she’d call a plumber she knew (who had already hooked up all the other flats), and we’d just fix the water issue ourselves. By that time it had become plenty obvious that fixing things yourself was the way to go on the Canaries, especially if you ever wanted to get anything done at all.

– Next day we set out on a quest to the waterworks headquarters yet again – unfortunately for us, as we didn’t yet have a car at that time, located halfway between our city and Granadilla, a picturesque village higher up in the hills. This time, however, our quest took place during one of the very rare monumental annual storms on Tenerife, which began shortly after I snapped a photo of this neat little rainbow:

At the waterworks they had no idea why in the hell we would want to buy one of their “official meters”, as the virtually identical ones sold by the local hardware stores were much cheaper, they informed us kindly. Fed up with everything, Monika told them she didn’t give a damn, that La Presidenta wanted this particular meter, and that she – Monika, that is – wanted to buy one of their “very official meters” despite the very rude price. The waterworks staff just shrugged and sold her one. As I’ve already mentioned, at that time we still didn’t have a car, so, nursing the precious official meter, we ended up loitering on the doorstep, staring at the storm – a true downpour, a deluge, and a rare though welcome sight, locally. Soon we were joined by another local victim of the waterworks, after which yet another guy, apparently a Moroccan beset by water problems himself, offered us all a ride down to the city, for which all three of us were extremely grateful.

La Presidenta was happy with the counter, but her plumber kept failing to pick up his phone for days. By that time we had already arranged for our engineer friend to check the electricity (see previous post), so he also hooked up the goddamn water while he was at it. The friend in question may almost be a rocket scientist (and he is an airplane pilot as well), but he is obviously not an experienced plumber, so one of the first things we did after moving into our new flat was flood the furniture workshop belonging to one of our neighbours that he had on the ground floor. What a fine opportunity to introduce yourself to new neighbours! So Monika and I helped clean out the water – a trifling matter of approximately 160 litres that had poured into the man’s workshop, drenching some of his prized flea market possessions – while the engineer was attempting, quite fruitlessly and sort of nervously by now, to identify the correct pipe. The budding plumber that I am, I hesitantly dared propose that we unplug all of the unconnected pipes and blow or pour a bit of water into a faucet in our flat. It turned out that this was the correct plumbing logic, and thus we finally identified the correct accursed pipe and finished the job.


This particular leg of our grand scheme thus came to an end. We started fixing the usual stuff in our new abode – the cracks in the concrete, typical of this sort of apartment blocks and nothing to worry about, but if you don’t fix these while your flat is empty, before painting the walls, you’ll most likely never eradicate them later, after you litter your lair with furniture. We almost finished fixing and painting the bedroom walls… But then the “day of cheap plane tickets” arrived and we had to return to Berlin in order to take care of the rest of the outstanding issues.