Bitcoins: Was ist das und was kann ich damit machen ...

Berlin Bitcoin Story: The excitement and difficulties (!) of my first offline use of bitcoin

I’m a new user to bitcoin, although I have an account on a trading platform and have used the currency for online payments (to pay for a job done by a contractor online). What I haven’t done is mining bitcoins. Also, I never actually paid for anything with bitcoin in ‘real life’. Until recently.
I live in Kyiv, Ukraine, and the bitcoin community here is not that big. Yes, we have an exchange which enabled buying BTC through about 4k payment terminals, and we have several merchants and services accepting the currency. It’s still really small. When I read the news and see the EU maps of spots accepting bitcoins, I’m really excited about the prospects. I was excited even more about the possibility to spend some coins in Berlin during my New Year trip.
Just before the holidays, somewhere in mid-December, I bought a fraction of bitcoin on Cex.io. It was a relatively small sum, as I used my spare money. The fee was 4.5% for a credit card; I was ok with it. So, I had my 0.23 BTC issued to my account in a blink of an eye. Previously, I didn’t even use a wallet – just transferred the funds from my Cex account to any address. That was for business purposes. This time, I registered with GreenAddress and downloaded their iOS app. As usual, I transferred funds to my wallet in mere seconds.
Then, I looked up for some places in Berlin where bitcoin is accepted. No wonder they were concentrated in Kreuzberg. I deliberately decided to not bring along much cash with me, as I thought I could get it any time through LocalBitcoins. What I needed was some more coins instead. Accidently, I bumped into one of those 4,000 payment terminals in my neighbourhood (a Hungarian OTP bank has one installed in their lobby). I tried to use this opportunity.
The payment terminal works the following way: you insert cash (UAH), and get a receipt which contains a confirmation code. You enter this code on the website (btcu.biz), and then provide a wallet address where you want the coins transferred. Pretty easy, but… I got involved in the process for an hour or more! First, my eyes couldn’t read the code properly, so I sent a photo of the receipt to their super helpful and incredibly friendly support (my best experience of communication with the support team ever). Then they asked me for my wallet address to issue the bitcoins. ...It turned out they were ‘used to’ Blockchain wallets, so my GreenAddress didn’t work out for some reason. Before I got any response, I registered with Blockchain and transferred my coins to that new account on my own, after which I did another transfer to GreenAddress.
..Well, it took me quite some time to get my bitcoins in my GA wallet via Btcu, it cost me about 9 EUR when paying about 50 EUR in UAH (2 EUR commission + I somehow received 7 EUR less in coins than I was supposed to, according to the course at the time, 29th December), and Cex.io would have been much better and faster.. But those funny support guys were amazing, as well as the opportunity to buy BTC in a 5-minute walk from my home! (I consider it an investment)
In Berlin, I didn’t have a chance to explore many bitcoin-accepting placed, so going to Kreuzberg’s Graefekiez (“Bitcoinkiez”) was a good option. On the first day, I took my friend to the Room 77 cafe which can be easily found by a giant neon Bitcoin sign outdoors. I was so excited! We had their hamburgers with fries. Each one had an immense plate, which didn’t leave any room for the cafe’s weird dessert – a fried Mars bar or something like that. Paying was simple, except for the fact that GreenAddress requires 2FA. So when you make a payment, you need to switch to an authentication app (or receive an SMS) to get a code, copy it, and paste in the GA app. My code lasted 30 seconds, so, on the third attempt, I had to wait till it changes and quickly do the copy-pasting. Lesson learned! The wonderful waitress told us that there were not that many payments with bitcoin, but the cafe was famous for accepting the currency. She herself confessed that she knew nothing about the crypto.
On the second day, we went to see the sci-fi and fantasy books in the Otherland bookstore. I didn’t find what I was looking for, but I finally bought a Vonnegut book. I, again, had several problems with my payment. There was no mobile Internet connection in the store, but the shop assistant gave me the Wi-Fi password without me even asking for it. Then, after fighting the authenticator app, I made a transaction. However, it wasn’t confirmed at once. Despite the fact that I received an email from GreenAddress informing me about the transaction, there was no payment on the bookshop’s side. I tried to tell the assistant that it happens, as the people in the mighty grand Bitcoin network are working on confirmations and assigning them to blocks, which might take time. We had a smoke break and looked at some more books, but there was no payment (I had a ‘5 confirmations’ stated under my transaction). The shop assistant called his colleague to consult on the issue, and they came up with a solution – the gentleman took my email address, to send me a message in case the payment doesn’t go through, and gave me the book I bought. I followed the number of confirmations the entire evening, and it disappeared after reaching 50+. I never got an email from the bookshop.
In this entire story (however a small one), I felt weird. On the one hand, bitcoin should be easy, fast, and relatively cheap (talking about the transactions). I understand that we should balance between simplicity/speed and security, and the latter is more important here. Also, I understand that the perfection of the protocol doesn’t mean that the system is perfect as well. But my message is that I would be excited to be able to pay with bitcoin directly and am patiently waiting for broader adoption in my country, Ukraine.
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