Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Berlin, Berlin, Berlin

Well it was the blogs that brought me to London in the first place, and it was the blogs that meant that someone I know, Rebekkit, was in the Germany at the same I was.

Now then.
Let me just say two things about Berlin (and therefore, Germany).
1) You can't really fault a nation that serves cold cuts, smoked salmon, cheese of both the creamy, swiss and stinky feet varieties for breakfast.
2) The word "Faht" is to be found on signposts everywhere. This pleases me in particular, especially the word "Ausfaht", which sounded like an international exchange program with the nation of my birth.

The drive from the airport to Berlin proper is a little bleak - there is a lot a graffiti in a city that is almost entirely neat and clean.
Not knowing exactly what to expect from the place, it was a little daunting, but as soon as we reached the city everything seemed jolly.

This item was in the hotel room.
On the bottom was written "For Your Shoes".
I'm still not sure what the fuck it is, as I tend to wear my shoes on my feet.

Day one involved a big long random walk and a brief interaction with a girl at a supermarket.
I slowly became rather good at speaking German even though I can't speak a single word of it.
I am good with hand gestures.

What is this?
It looks like it should be leaking radiation.

One of the famous German-Lancashire Curried Hotdog stands throughout Berlin.

I think this place sells rain coats and umbrellas.

Berlin has a lot of these juxtapositions.
Old Berlin meets new Berlin.

I'm not sure if this was a list or a statement.
Thinks "What does Serendipity sell?" - sign answers the question for you.
Or, as I said, maybe it was a list - they sell home accessories and shmuck.
What do you do with a shmuck?
Next door to this place was a business called The Shmuckworks.
Perhaps they are somehow connected.

We then a taxi ride to a place with a complicated name for nosying about and lunch.
I am more than pleased to say that we had the first of several great meals.
Rebbecca had her bodyweight served in pasta and I had a kind of stewed lamb fillet situation that was wonderful.
It is at this point that I will mention that every single person we dealt with, regardless of their expertise with the English language, was delightful and helpful.
Why should I have expected any different?
I didn't really, but it was a lovely change from my time spent in London.

This is a little Christmas market.
It sold all kinds of great stuff, which if I had been local I would have bought one of each and eaten it at home.
Although it was very cold here, it was bracing and the sky was sunny.
We enjoyed a hot chocolate and watched the people eat the kind of sausage and schnitzel that you seem to be able to get everywhere.
I was a little dissapointed I didn't have any and then I saw this particular establishment and didn't mind so much.

I don't even want to contemplate what's in a vom grill.

We took a cab back to the hotel and this is where my mastery of the German language really came into play.
I only knew the name of the hotel, not the address, and the cab driver didn't know of it.
This particular driver didn't speak English and had me write down the name of the place on a piece of paper and he called HQ to see if they knew.
Eventually I heard a street name that I recognised and repeated it back to him.
It was a moment of revelation.
Off we went.
As we drove away, the driver said something like "Oh I knew the hotel but I wasn't sure which one. There are several of them, you know?".
To which I said "Fucking liar".
Fortunately neither of us spoke the others tongue to everything was fine.

The evening was spent with two kinds of bartender at the hotel.
The first took about 35 minutes to make two vodka cranberries and then was shooed away by Kristian who plied us with alcohol for several hours before we went to the dining room.
My favourite item on the menu was "roast leg".
I never asked what it was.
We can assume it wasn't fish or snake.
We then a taxi ride to a place with a complicated name for nosying about and lunch.
I am more than pleased to say that we had the first of several great meals.
Rebbecca had her bodyweight served in pasta and I had a kind of stewed lamb fillet situation that was wonderful.
It is at this point that I will mention that every single person we dealt with, regardless of their expertise with the English language, was delightful and helpful.
Why should I have expected any different?
I didn't really, but it was a lovely change from my time spent in London.
Also, our bartender let us have a bunch of drinks for free - another nice change.

The next morning I ate about 70 or 80 kilos of the best breakfast I could possibly imagine.
Cold cuts.
Smoked salmon.
Salami.
Pickle.
Cured meats.
Good bread and butter.
I had about 30 helpings.
These Germans really have their shit together.
(I wont bother to get into it now but we were running late and I didn't get to engorge myself on small goods the next day. Damn you Father Time!).

I had read that the hotel was on the banks of the River Spree, and with a mild amount of investigation we started on another good long walk along its shores.
Once again, it was quite chilly yet sunny.
Perfect strolling weather.

We passed many people who returned every smile with a smile.

It was a delight to walk along such a nice waterway.
The path stuck to the river the entire way.


Berlin is covered in images of bears.
This was my favourite as it looks genuinely worried about something.

Perhaps it's worried about this.
If you can guess which bit of the bear it was you get a prize.

Brilliant - German organisation at it finest.
A four lane footpath.
They should these in London and make sure at least 3 of them lead to a sharp drop into the Thames.
We walked all the way into town where we took a river cruise.
The commentary was all in German, and despite my mastery of the language I had no idea what they were saying.
In a very civilised fashion they let us order beers which they then brought to us.
Brilliant.
Others out there will know an awful lot more about German architecture than I do, so I'll not spit out a bunch of facts.
I felt very much like I was traveling through Terry Gilliams Adventures of Baron Munchausen.





The tour took a good hour and a half and I thoroughly recommend it to anyone visiting the city.
It also conveniently went back up the river, not quite as far as we walked but almost.
For those who are curious to know why I take my pictures at such oblique angles, there is a reason.
I hate all the junk that clutters up nice images.
People.
Signage.
New things.
So I crop it out.
Here is an example of a what I hate.

After our big cruise, we wandered down to The Van Gough, a pub we'd spied on the way past on the cruise.
We settled in and let Carlos the Paranoid Bartender fill us full of beer and vodka.
Often for free.
What a great guy.
Here is Carlos the Paranoid Bartender and Rebecca.

Carlos was a lot jollier than he seems in this picture.
He was well traveled but was now frighted of planes after 9/11.
Incidently - we do the dates the other way around in Australia but we don't call it 11/9 because we aren't pedants.
Carlos couldn't believe that cheap flights made sense because it must cost more to run a plane than than what they were making on tickets.
There did seem to be some merit in his thinking.
Some of these paintings were apparently part of a collection of fake Van Goughs owned by Hitler.

They don't seem to be the kind of thing he enjoyed, but according to Carlos it was the case.
I didn't realise he had contributed to Lord of the Rings though.
We spent several hours at The Van Gough, chatting with Carlos and swilling booze.
Then on his recommendation we stumbled around the corner to an Argentinian steakhouse where I ate about half a kilo of rare beef.

And that was Berlin pretty much.
It was only two days but I had a ball.
For my pals at home reading this, know that Germany is significantly cheaper than London.
Berlin at least is cleaner and the people friendlier.
The place if full of art and galleries and good food of which I sampled only a little bit of each.
Germany is a nation with a difficult past and I tried not to make any of my visit, or this report of my travels touch upon these difficulties.
But perhaps it's worth mentioning that in a place where, once upon a time I would not have been a welcome traveler, I was treated with nothing but friendliness and helpfulness.
Perhaps I shall revisit one day and spend some more time there (stinky feet cheese for breakfast....oh yeah).

10 Comments:

Blogger Oscar Grillo said...

Who is Van Gough?

11:14 AM  
Blogger Patricia said...

Wonderful! Elliot and Rebecca met at last! Are you going to tell us any more about it? So far you have only described the German food. What about meeting Rebecca? Do tell!!!

11:45 AM  
Blogger Rebekit said...

who is elliot?

7:33 PM  
Blogger Rebekit said...

well written elliot, thanx again, I had a wonderful time!
-rebecca

PS Patricia: we had some great laughs, especially when elliot spoke german. You'd think he was from there, no joke.

7:48 PM  
Blogger Matthew Cruickshank said...

Around the world with 80 gays

4:09 AM  
Blogger Patricia said...

Well, a success all round. When are you coming to London Rebekit?

8:44 AM  
Blogger Rebekit said...

I was in london as well :)

10:02 AM  
Blogger Patricia said...

And we missed you!!!!!

12:06 PM  
Blogger Rebekit said...

i told oscar when I was going to be there a whiles back, so you can blame him for that :)

1:33 PM  
Blogger mi despertar said...

I like you blog.
Hugs from Miami

6:27 AM  

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