Monday, 31 August 2015

Berlin Bank Holiday

Observations about Berlin:
1) there's lots of wasps
2) there's lots of yoga studios
3) there's lots of currywurst.   but no schnitzels.

I had three days to explore and catch up with Simon and Sebastian, the guys we met in Bucharest.

I nearly missed my flight and had to run frantically through Gatwick for the second time this time I do long stay parking I must remember it takes AGES to find a parking space!!!  I also got stopped at security (as I have every time this year!) because my external charger looked suspicious.  On the way home I got stopped because my camera and hair straighteners looked suspicious.  I even got taken into a private room for them to be swiped down for explosives. Sigh.

Berlin-Schoenefeld airport is pretty rubbish and I have learnt not to judge a place by its airport.  The train station at the airport is just as bad and very poorly signed so there were lots of tourists wandering about wondering which platform they should use for the city centre.  Eventually I found the right platform and and headed off to Alexanderplatz, where I then got the underground to get to my hostel.

My room wasn't ready so I left my luggage, found a cafe for breakfast (a mandarin and chicken bagel - it was weird and I managed to explode the mandarin all over my face) then joined the free hostel walking tour.  It was three and a half hours long and I was knackered after but it was good and took us to all the standard tourist areas including museum island and Checkpoint Charlie.  No interesting facts I am afraid as I forgot to pack my notepad.

Checkpoint Charlie

Recreation of Checkpoint Charlie...very authentic with the souvenir shop in the background

The Berlin wall 

Jewish holocaust memorial

Berlin Cathedral

Afterwards I went for a few beers with some people from the tour before heading back to check in, then join Simon & Sebastian at a mini festival thing in a park, where we caught up over beer, it was lovely.  I snuck a ride on the back of Simon's pushbike to get back to the tube (I was hoping he would take me all the way home but no such be fair I don't think my bottom would have lasted the entire journey)

Museum Island

Unfortunately I was sharing my dorm room with a biatch who came in at 5am, slammed all the doors and shouted out the window at her friends about 5 different times.  I told her to shut up but she didn't listen and carried on regardless...the downsides of dorm rooms!

The following day I joined Simon, Sebastian, Dario and their friends on another tourist tour of Berlin,  with Sebastian being our host with the most.  This time we hopped on the 100 bus - it's a public bus, but does a route that takes in most of the touristy places.  A day pass is 6.70 euros and you can use on all public transport so this is by far a much cheaper option than any of the city bus tours.

some rather good graffiti. 

East Berlin pedestrian crossing - I love the icons


I love european man hole covers!!! I feel like I am a bit obsessed!

Being with a local had its benefits, as Sebastian led us to the place Angela Merkel works, the German Chancellery , which was having a free open day.  Usually you have to book a tour months in advance, so well done Seb for knowing about this :) We wandered about the grounds and had a pleasant al fresco lunch before continuing onwards and up the Victory Column, which is 285 steps to the top.  It's quite crowded at the top but you get good views for only 3 euros.

German Chancellery

Riding Angela Merkel's motorcade

Victory Column

View over Berlin from the column

After we found a pub garden and rewarded ourselves with a pint or two before heading to East Berlin to walk along the East Side Gallery - the longest remaining stretch of the Berlin Wall which has been painted by lots of different artists.    Isn't it crazy to imagine waking up one day and realising you can't get to work/see your friends/go to school because some numbnut has decided to cordone you in and build a huge wall.

The wall  - East Side Gallery

We stopped to watch some bands playing nearby, got some delicious pizza that we ate in a park and tried and failed to find a geocache.  We eventually found one out of 2 so not too bad I guess.

Their decorations are made out of baby clothes...

We went back to Seb's flat which is BEAUTIFUL and so cheap - it's about the quarter of what you'd pay for a similar sized flat in London, and it was gorgeous.  Fun fact - when you rent in Berlin, you often have to buy your own kitchen, as previous occupiers will take theirs with them.  Nuts!

On Sunday I met up with the guys again and we went to a flea market near Seb's house, then on to a really trendy Shoreditch like place called Neue Heimat which was another market but also with food stalls and a jazz band.  This is where I accidentally managed to activate the emergency function on my phone which texts my mum and step dad telling them I am in danger, sends a photo and my location.  It's a pretty neat app however I can't remember how to activate it and managed to panic mum into ringing me to check I was OK.  Bless.

 After this I said my goodbyes and got the tram back to the touristy spots so I could spent the afternoon wandering about them at my own pace.  I went to the Topography of Terror exhibition but it was filled with very graphic photographs which I wasn't in the mood to see, so I didn't stay long.  It was very hot and I was getting tired from the walking so  sat down by the river and finished reading my book - The Humans by Matt Haig, I highly recommend it, it's laugh out loud funny.  I started to feel  a little melancholic and weird and to cure it I bought a 90 cent beer and drank it in the park on my own.  It didn't really work.

Overall, I did like Berlin, but it's definitely not up there with my favourites.  I like pretty cities and it's not particularly pretty.  However, I do like the vibe - it's very liberal, and everyone is friendly - people were talking to me on the tube which would never happen in London.  It was also really good to see the boys again, so here's to many more reunions in the future!

Thursday, 27 August 2015

A belated catch up

Sorry, as Lisa so kindly pointed out, an increase in age shouldn’t mean a decrease in blogging.  So here’s some things I have been up to…

A lovely 14 mile bike ride on a sort of date down the Thames Path.  We also had a quick pit stop at Surrey Docks farm which was a nice little find.  I even cycled home from London Bridge on the road all by myself.  Lovely jubbly.

A ridiculously lazy Sunday whereby I got out of bed at 11, cleaned the kitchen, went back to bed, got out of bed again, had brunch with housemates, walked to the park and played Molkky, got tired so played Molkky sitting down (it doesn’t work very well), went home via the ice cream shop (I was good and resisted) and fell asleep on the sofa for a further three hours, had inner, went to bed.

Walked from Blackfriars to Clapham with Sepha, had a delicious home made salad and good Linkee (boardgame – it’s fun, try it) session.

A date with a ridiculously perserverant guy.  I knew it was a no the moment I walked into the pub – he looked nothing like his photos, and he was sat there with a drink in hand and didn’t offer me one (not a feminist thing here, just a politeness thing –if I got there first I’d always text and ask what they wanted to drink).   Anyway was texting Becky half an hour in to try get excuses to leave, however he plied me with more drinks so I ended up staying.   It wasn't the most awful date ever, and he was nice enough, I just had no connection with him at all.  The drunker I got the more brutally honest I got, after trying every trick in the book to put him off me (“I’m still in love with my ex, I don’t want a serious relationship right now, I am a serial dater” etc etc) I eventually told him I just didn’t fancy him.  He was undeterred.  I called him desperate.  He was unperturbed.  I later received a text from him saying he wished he had taken me home (errrr, that never on the cards!) and that he was well endowed.  I mean after the last few dates I have been on, it was nice to have someone so keen and honest about it, just a shame I didn’t reciprocate.

Another lovely bike ride round Richmond Park, including a rather lovely picnic round the lake in the middle and several deer spottings, culminating in a refreshing lager shandy by the river.

A sort of second date where I discovered another bar in Peckham which is my new favourite – Ali Baba at the back of Copeland Park (where the Bussey is).  It’s super chilled and feels like you’re in someone’s back yard.  And there’s bunting.  And a fire bucket.  And the bunting nearly caught fire.  And they were playing classic 90s RnB.  And there’s £3 Hanoi Beer.  What more could you ask for?

A brunch in the newly discovered Jonnie’s café – more upmarket than the Dulwich Café, similar prices.  (I have turned into a lady wot brunches. Oh dear).

A trip to the Saatchi with Jen.  You’re always guaranteed to see something quite weird at the Saatchi and I think it’s my favourite gallery for that reason.  This trip’s highlights include a massive rectangular block made out of blue rubbish bags, a beautiful mural of some trees, a hanging tree sculpture and an exhibition on death which included the hanging hides of a dog and a cat, and a very realistic decomposed body lying on the floor.


So that’s about it really, but I promise a bumper update next week as I am off to Berlin this weekend!  I am going to visit Simon, Sebastian and Dario who I made friends with in Bucharest.  I’m staying in an 8 bed mixed dorm room and slightly freaking out about it but I am sure it’ll be fine……Update next week!