BERLIN

Trip Start Jun 22, 2011
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Trip End Ongoing


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Flag of Germany  ,
Tuesday, June 28, 2011

With my preferred destination of Copenhagen having been struck off the list by my ruthless travel companion we headed to Berlin on the final leg of our mini European tour.

I had heard good things about Berlin, and so was looking forward to the trip; but it didn't take long before we were reminiscing about the good times in Scandinavia and hankering to get back.

My luggage limped along the conveyor belt, having been battered and bruised by some spiteful German baggage handler and, as a consequence, the handle had broken. Irritated, I shook my head and muttered, 'It wouldn’t happen in Stockholm’; and thus a phrase, that we were to use time and again during our stay in Berlin, was born.

Having dragged my bag to the train station we tried to navigate our way into the centre of Berlin, which was easier said than done. The train station felt cold and unloved, with no signs of modernisation since the 1930’s; there was little or no signage explaining what to do or where to go; the ticket machines operated only in German and there were no staff to ask for help or directions. German efficiency…huh!

We picked a train and hoped for the best. The best wasn’t good. The Berlin Transport Authority seems to have opted for a more 1940’s ‘death train’ feel rather than the slick 21st century Airport Express favoured by their European brethren. The seats were uncomfortable, the heat was unbearable, the resident alcoholic was unsightly and the aromatic cocktail of sweat and whiskey was deeply unpleasant. As I went to check whether the window blinds had built-in magnets I discovered that not only were there no magnets, there were no blinds. Vorsprung durch Technik.

No matter. The hotel – Art’otel, just off Kurfurstendamm – had come recommended. We could relax there.

Having taken the decision to overlook the rather grumpy greeting afforded to us by our hosts at Reception we turned our attention to the vast swathes of scaffolding that covered the outside of the hotel. It was concluded, accurately as it turned out, that the appearance of scaffolding directly outside the bedroom window was probably not a good thing. We made it all the way through to 7am before the room started vibrating and we had to retaliate with some grumpiness of our own.



Broken luggage. Broken train. Broken hotel. But the pneumatic drill was as good as new. Typical.

Fortunately, as we were up early, there is plenty to see and do in Berlin during the daytime, so much so that we decided, unusually, to do that most touristy of things and jump on a city bus tour. There is still a lot of walking to be done in Berlin but the bus allows first time visitors to at least get a handle on the city – there are so many points of historical interest that you feel that you have to at least tick off the main ones – the Berlin Wall, Checkpoint Charlie, The Brandenburg Gate, The Reichstag…

But that’s the thing with Berlin, you get the feeling that it is living in the past; and the past, in Berlin, can be a fairly depressing place. I studied History, I learnt about Hitler, and the war, and it was interesting to see historical reference points ‘in the flesh’. But can you really enjoy going to a concentration camp? As interesting and as poignant as the Holocaust Memorial is, I can’t, hand on heart, say that I had fun whilst I was there, despite what the picture below might suggest.

So it is at night that a visitor looks for their fix of fun; but, sadly, it is night time that most disappoints. We walked on main roads, back alleys, side streets; we walked up and down, for hours; we went to some places that had been recommended, and some that had not. We were told that we were in the right places but just on the wrong days. "Come back at the weekend", they said. “Everywhere is busy at the weekend”. Sure it is, but today was Wednesday. Besides, Berlin is a big city; Berlin is London; you can’t fail to find people in central London on a Wednesday night. Well, it turns out that Berlin is not London; Berlin is a mystery.

In the places that we did stop to refuel the food was terrible and the service was worse. I have probably walked out of no more than two restaurants in my life because of poor service; we walked out of two in one night in Berlin.

By Thursday evening things were starting to improve and we had a thoroughly entertaining night in a club called Weekend; but the previous two nights had sealed Berlin’s fate.

I later told some German friends that I had been to Germany; they expressed surprise that I had picked Berlin as my city of choice. They knew. They knew about the attitude of the people; they knew about the social scene; and they knew about the over-bearing nature of the history that can engulf visitors to the city.

“We would have recommended going to Hamburg or Munich; much nicer; much friendlier.” Hmmm…bit late now Fritz. As with comedy, so with recommendations – timing is everything – a concept with which the Germans continue to grapple.

Places of note

Hotels…  Art'otel

Restaurants/cafes... Hackesche Hoef area

Bars... Weekend (club)

Sight-seeing...
Brandenburg Gate; Holocaust Memorial; Berlin Wall Checkpoint Charlie; The Reichstag (Parliament Building) Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp (1hr North of Berlin by train)
 
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Comments

Mel on

OMG, looks like everything went wrong on your Berlin Trip and it almost feels like a “mission impossible” to change your mind but I can’t leave it like this…
Already often said but now officially quoted:
Let’s go to Berlin and I show you the Berlin I know and love. I will introduce you to my open minded and friendly Berlin friends and bring you to good Restaurants and Clubs :o)

jamesbsavage
jamesbsavage on

Thanks Mel...everywhere deserves a second chance :)

Annabel Garner on

Glad you say that everywhere deserves a second chance as I loved Berlin and really want to go back!

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