Posted by: lindsaygoes | December 14, 2010

Snow in Berlin and wine in London

Going to Berlin, mum and I were sharing my backpack, so before we left I had to explain a few packing essentials to her – such as the fact that she probably didn’t need five scarves and two pairs of gloves, particularly as I was going to be carrying the bag. Although, as the bag didn’t have nearly as many books as I normally carry, it was actually quite light, although pretty full.

We were relieved that our flight was on schedule, although because a few other flights were delayed we weren’t allowed to check in until quite late, and then they directed us to another desk. But the important bit was that we got to Berlin on time. We had an apartment which was pretty central, and after our day travelling had a nice dinner…in an Irish pub.

The next day we walked to the Brandenburg gate and then left the old East Berlin area on the train and visited some old bunkers which had been used in the Second World War, and also set up again during the Cold War. It was pretty interesting learning about some of the history, and the fact that the bunkers weren’t actually bomb proof, so they were more psychological than actually protective. That didn’t stop them being overcrowded during the Second World War when bombs were raining down on Berlin, although it was difficult to imagine the terror that people would have felt during that time. After that we headed to Charlottenburg Castle, which was lovely, although I didn’t really look at the general Berlin map to direct us there, just the train map. Don’t do that. Charlottenburg station is a bit of a distance from the Castle. Anyway, the walk wasn’t too bad, and once we got to the Castle we got to walk around the Christmas markets and I had a yummy hot chocolate which warmed me up nicely. The market was lovely and as it got dark the Castle and market were both lit up beautifully, and the area was surrounded by snow which gave the whole place a lovely feel. After the market we headed to Potsdamer Platz, where we saw more Christmas markets and then bought some Ampelmann (traffic light man) merchandise. As you do. Oh, and it was my birthday that day too, which was good. For dinner we went to an Italian restaurant, and as my Italian is slightly better than my German (that’s really not saying much though), I did get to use a bit of Italian, in Germany.

We decided to do a walking tour the next day so mum could get a bit of history, although it pretty much snowed all morning. My favourite line of the tour was ‘And Hitler was of course, a racist.’. We only made it until the middle break as it got too cold to be standing around in the snow, so it was lucky that I’d done the same tour last time I was in Berlin. Once we abandoned the tour we went to yet another Christmas market, and then abandoned the outdoors in favour of getting out of the cold in our apartment and watching a movie. Other than pay-per-view movies, the only English television channels were news, and clearly not much was happening in the world as the only things on were Wiki Leaks and the student protests in the UK.

On our final full day in Berlin in was snowing again, but we decided to do some indoor activities. We were going to go to the Reichstag, but the dome was closed because of the snow, so we headed straight for the museums. Initially we went to the Pergamom museum, which was fantastic, with some enormous reconstructed displays. The Pergamon Altar, which filled the first main room you entered, was breathtaking, and the colours on the Ishtar gate were fantastic. The audio guide they had was really good as well. I did think it was amusing on one section of the audio guide that they said ‘Germany has been excavating this region since 1905? (I could be wrong with the date), with some interruptions.’ . Upstairs was the Islamic Art Museum, which mixed old and new artworks and had some gorgeous pieces. From the Pergamon museum we went to the Neues Museum which is a mixture of old and new architechture, having been partially destroyed in the Second World War. It was really interesting how they had differentiated the reconstructed work, but also how they discussed it in the audio guide, having the museum itself as a feature. I really loved the upper floor as well where they had all these old cabinets full of hand written labels with gorgeous calligraphy script. I couldn’t really understand what they said, but lovely nonetheless. Once we’d have enough of museums it was time for – that’s right – another Christmas market. This time we headed for Alexanderplatz where we got to see the big TV tower as well as a ferris wheel (which we had a ride on) and loads of food and market stalls, which meant more hot chocolate for me. Yum!

The next day involved flying back to the UK, and apart from having to cross the airport to a different check in point and about a ten minute delay while they deiced the plane (really interesting to see, they had this giant spraying crane thing which hosed the wings with deicer), we had no problems. The day before however, the airport had run out of deicer and most of the planes had been cancelled. We arrived in London and met up with some of mum’s friends, which means that the rest of the email might be a reminded for them as to what we did (because a reasonable amount of wine was consumed). First stop was a supermarket to collect said wine, as well as copious amounts of chocolate. After that my mum had a bit of a nail bed infection, so she had to go to a drop in clinic. Because of previously mentioned wine there was a bit of giggling going on, so at the pharmacy associated with the clinic they sent us all down to the consulting room. That involved going down some stairs, past storage rooms with drop cloths, to a fairly dusty consulting room. The doctor (who was rather elderly, and that’s putting it nicely) came down to a consulting room full of four women, moved the backpack off his chair, which knocked off a glasses case. He asked ‘Are these yours?’, and then, when all replies were negative, looked at them more closely and said, ‘Oh, they’re mine. I’ve been looking for these.’. He briefly looked at mums nail, diagnosed it (vets do much more of a clinical exam) and scrawled a prescription. When one of mum’s friends suggested that she might need to not drink any alcohol he replied that she certainly could, and it might help with pain relief. I’m not sure how well mum will be able to claim on her travel insurance, as while doctors are renown for having bad hand writing, this was an exceptional example of illegibility.

On mum’s last full day we went to Camden markets. Once we’d had a bit of a look at the markets, it was apparently beer o’clock, or more accurately Glühwein o’clock. The only place we could find close by serving alcohol was a vegan cafe/bar, so we also had some gluten free cookies as well. From there we wandered round the markets a little more, and then went to Covent Gardens where mum wanted to buy a coat. I won’t bore you any more with tales of shopping! For dinner we went to the Troubadour Club, which has apparently had some quite famous acts, although we just went to the restaurant section, we decided not to visit the basement when we found out it was a £10 cover charge. We just headed back so everyone could drink more wine, and I could have a hot chocolate.

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