This time I finally managed to convince my long suffering other half to go up the TV tower in Alexanderplatz (it was a big F you to the West in a "look at what we can do" kind of way).
I walked the entire length, and photographed, the East Side Gallery. I also opened up the eyes of some friends to snus, and nasal snuff, a tale worthy of a Monty Python sketch!
I have touched in previous articles about the interest I have found about snus in Germany. They love their tobacco, whether it be smoked or smokeless.
Smoking in bars may be banned today but the Germans believe in freedom of choice so there are lots of bars that still allow you to smoke should you choose. This is true throughout Germany I have found.
Cologne is another city where you can still find bars that allow smoking. Whilst I no longer smoke, I still say good on them! I only wish this attitude extended to the EU parliament and the snus ban!
On this trip I took with me General White Portion, Ettan White Portion and Skruf Slim Fresh.
If you have ever been to Heathrow airport in the UK, you will know it is a true international hub. Terminal 5 has flights to just about every corner of the globe. I was not surprised that whilst waiting for the flight to Berlin Tegel airport, I was tapped on the shoulder by a Swedish man, who asked if he could have a snus as he had run out (I was on the General).
I was happy to oblige. I got to chatting with him and shared a glass of champagne or 12 (the British Airways lounge where we were taking advantage of the free booze on offer really does have some great people in, and free champagne!) and he was amazed that snus was as popular as it is outside Sweden. He offered to help me out if I ever was in need of any: a new friend for life!!
Someone began speaking to me in something that wasn't English; it was a Norwegian chap speaking, well, Norwegian.
A blank look followed from me but I pointed to my tin of snus and asked if he wanted one? He apologized in perfect English and it turned out that he, like the Swedish chap, wasn't aware that anyone outside Sweden or Norway used snus, hence the approach in Norwegian.
He was a nice guy and chose the Skruf. Copious amounts of booze later we boarded the plane and off we went.
Ich bin Snuser
We had a very pleasant flight, landed and were waiting for a bus into Berlin City Centre. I had just thrown in a snus and was approached by 4 different people, all Germans this time, who asked what I was using.
Conversations were had, snus was offered and it was all very positive. In short, Germans know of snus, they like snus, they want to buy snus. This is in contrast to my trip to Spain last year; before I had even left the UK I had had two thirds of the interest in my snus as I had in the whole trip to Spain.
We got to the hotel, checked in then went out for dinner. Nocti Vagus was the restaurant and it is a rather interesting experience. You eat in total darkness, and I mean total darkness!
They are a blind charity and all the waiters and waitresses are blind, so you experience their world and the challenges they face. Something as simple as eating a meal which most of us would take for granted becomes something completely different.
It also makes you rely on your other senses since you can't see the food. You suddenly have a new appreciation of your senses of taste and smell while supporting a charity that is employing blind people and giving back to the community.
Nocti Vegus wasn't where I could show off my snus (or what was left of it!) but everywhere we went and I got it out (ooo errr ;) ) the number of people who asked me about it was phenomenal!
So phenomenal that I ran out of snus! Three tins gone in the space of 4 days, spreading the word of snus throughout Europe is worth it. It may start making people question the EU snus ban, why they can't buy Swedish snus, what snus is all about, and how it can help them if they are a smoker who cannot quit.
We met up with friends who live in Berlin a few nights while we were there. My friend Rob wanted to know what this snus stuff I was always on about was (he is a smoker). He tried the Ettan and the General. His first musing was "is it meant to sting my gums?" I told him to push past the stinging as it gets better and when you are used to it its fine.
He told me that after using it he didn’t feel like it did anything for him, I then pointed out that since he had put the first snus portion in his mouth, he hadn't smoked a single cigarette! This is after about 2 hours of some pretty hardcore drinking.
I also learnt that weisse beer still doesn't agree with me, even the crystal weisse which is more drinkable. Whilst I avoided the stomach upsets, I had possibly the worst hangover of my life! I don’t get hangovers anymore after graduating from the Moe Unz School of Drinking, but this stuff slayed me!.
I wish I had brought some stark or extra stark snus with me as I feel that really would have helped keep Rob off the cigarettes, but, hey ho. Now, at least, he is fully aware of snus and can get a train up to Sweden to fill his boots with snus goodness should he choose.
I also gave him some nasal snuff, NTSU Black to be precise (which I love). Those of you who are aware of this snuff can probably guess what happened next! MMWWWAAAHHHAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!
What I did learn from my trip beyond the fact that weisse beer still kills me is that there is a huge market for snus OUTSIDE of Sweden. Us Europeans do want reduced harm alternatives to smoking. People cannot quit with the ineffective pharmaceutical methods out there. They want to continue to use tobacco without the risks smoking presents.
Europeans want snus. Europeans will buy snus if it’s available. Europeans are intelligent enough to realize that the Swedish snus ban makes no sense. We want the snus ban lifted!
I noticed that the Thunder chewing tobacco was on sale in a lot of places in Berlin. As I mentioned, I ran out of snus, so found a tobacconist and asked for "kauftobak" or chewing tobacco.
I was presented with the usual Oliver Twists (I discovered the snuberry flavour which is wonderful!) Blue Ocean and Jagerpris chewing bits and the new Thunder chew bags and loose snus chewing tobacco.
A tin of Thunder Original Chew Bags was purchased for about 3 euro and I was happy. I effectively had an extra strong portion of snus in my mouth. The person in front of me in the queue asked about Thunder Frosted chew bags! Snus by any other name is...legal in the EU.
So my German friends have proved once again that they are open minded and ahead of the game.
I urge you to bring up the snus ban with your euro MEPS, your chancellor, and anyone who can raise it with the EU oppressors. Channel the spirit you showed towards the Berlin wall, the hatred it made you feel, the oppression of the East Berliners.
That is what the snus ban is; it is a modern Berlin wall on our rights and freedoms to buy a reduced harm tobacco product. Let’s hope, one day, that I will be able to witness the fall of the snus ban, like the Berlin wall, and the unification of snusers in the EU with our Swedish friends.
Also visit Berlin if you haven't before. You will not be disappointed.
Snus from a British Perspective
Reporting from the UK and Germany for SnusCENTRAL.org