Riding on the tram in Bremen today, I first used a new system they have for buying tickets. And it looks quite handy. To use it you need a chip card – they’ll give you a free one but you can also just use the chip on your bank card. Then you insert the card into a machine in the bus or tram, select the ticket on-screen and that’s it. No extra paper needed. As a bonus, tickets are even a bit cheaper than buying a paper ticket with the driver would be and the system keeps track of the number of rides you make in a day and upgrades you to an all-day ticket if that’d be cheaper. Nice.
Unfortunately I had to use the tram for the sad reason of attending the funeral of a good friend’s mother. I’m not good at these things and in fact it’s the first funeral other than my grandparents’ I have attended. The whole setup they had organised and the surprisingly short ceremony were good, modestly colourful and reassuringly positive – starting off with a Harry Belafonte song she liked, played on the organ even. Many people attended and I didn’t envy the family when accepting the condolences of every single one of that long stream of people.
Afterwards everybody went for coffee and cake – I’m not sure wether that’s a German thing or not, but we did the same for one of my grandmothers. It gives everybody the chance to relax and chat and reassure themselves that life goes on.
Of course, parents of friends dying can make your parents who are the same age a bit uncomfortable and start them talking about related topics. I learned that one of my grandmothers was from the same place as my friend’s mother. A place that’s in Poland these days. The other grandmother is from a place that’s in Poland nowadays as well and I also learned that my grandfather probably was the only west German in the family although he grew up in Hungary. A bit twisted, all that. Apparently he was from a really rich family, so I could be a seriously spoiled brat instead of just a spoiled brat if it hadn’t been for the war – with the tiny caveat that it’s pretty safe to assume I wouldn’t exist at all in that case.
That said, we essentially don’t have any relatives. All the grandparents are dead. My parents don’t have brothers or sisters and the only relatives we have are so distant that I don’t really know how we are related, neither in a diagrammatic sense, nor what the word for that type of relation is. But even with such a small family, it’s amazing to see how people have been spread across Europe even before the days of ‘globalisation’.
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