Trip Start Jun 22, 2011
4Trip End Ongoing
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Where I stayed
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
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
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
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
“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
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)