After packing up my flat in Newcastle and returning to my parents house in Bedfordshire I was exhausted. Not just slightly tired, but borderline needing-medical-attention exhausted. I spent a week watching cartoons in bed, and a further week laying on the sofa watching bad TV, just to recover from my time away. During that period, an advert for Easyjet’s sale grabbed my attention more than one of the films I was watching, and I booked two return flights to Berlin.
About six weeks later my girlfriend and I stepped off the plane. It had been a beautiful flight all the way over to Germany, with the in-flight magazine mentioning my online friend Cassandra Harrison. When we started to land the pilot mentioned it was a brisk 8ºc outside, and our first steps through the airport reminded what that meant. However, we got to our hotel and collapsed for a little while, before dashing out to meet Pippa Buchanan and her fiance (of course, we got totally lost and went to the wrong station first, but that’s par for the course during the first 24 hours in a foreign city).
I’d been to Berlin a number of times before, and so I said that aside from meeting my friend Pippa and going up the TV tower, I was fine with whatever my girlfriend wanted to do. The next day we gorged ourself at the hotel breakfast and waddled out to do some sightseeing around Oranienburg Strasse, taking in the Kunsthaus Tacheles, the Synagogue, and the Ramones Museum, before heading off to the Reichstag to meet Pippa again.
(I would totally recommend the Ramones Museum, which showed you the history of the American punk group for €3.50, and also doubled as a really nice cafe. Kunstalle Tacheles was it’s usual pee-smelling graffiti-stained sixth-form art self, but it’s worth gawking at once. I can’t say I’ve ever seen any worthwhile art there though.)
Pippa had a cunning plan to get us into the Reichstag without queuing, and as we were not standing for election that involved going to the extremely fancy restaurant on top of the building. This meant queuing in the much shorter disabled entrance and taking a lift upstairs, which was a great relief to me as I was already starting to feel tired. It was also here that my phone had a freak-out, making me think that I wouldn’t have any of the photos from the trip – this caused me much nerd-consternation, but I tried to hide it and not let geekery spoil my time away.
The next day I woke up and felt awful. Fatigue hits me like that sometimes, when even a nights sleep won’t make me feel better. It’s like I’m too tired to sleep properly. I woke up and tried to force breakfast into myself, but had to give up and rest in the morning while the other half did cultural activities without me. I recovered enough for some less strenuous activities in the afternoon, and so we took the train down to Kreuzburger and wandered around. I saw Etsy Labs (from the outside), and the fabulously named Kreuzburger (try the haloumi burger!) before heading to spend a few hours at the Hamburger Bahnhof art gallery.
We were pretty tired after all that culture, although it was great to see some of the works on show there, and availed ourself of the very Germanic market at Alexanderplatz on the way back to the hotel. We had a meal of potato pancakes and hot sugared nuts, while watching a live duo sing polka songs for the entertainment of the masses. A holiday in Germany isn’t complete without that sort of omska-omska casio beat, but I was too tired to work out how to buy beer. The civilised European method of “paying a deposit for your glass” defeated my tired self, and so we returned to our hotel room and had an early night, watching subtitled movies and adverts for German TV shows (there seemed to be a TV show about crime-fighting monks who used kung-fu and BMWs. It looked awesome, but I might have misunderstood something owing to my near complete lack of German.)
On our final day we rose sluggishly, ate our body-weight at the buffet breakfast, and then brought more hot sugared nuts at the market. I was feeling decidedly slow and we had a long day ahead of us, so we met up with Pippa again for a guided tour of Kreuzberg that ended up at a delicious Somalian felafel place. Then we staggered around the Film Museum at Potsdammer Platz before attempting to catch a train back, a process which shocked me having not one but two cancelled trains. We made it in time, however, and on my return I felt inordinately grateful to be able to understand the London Underground signage.
What I did miss from Berlin was the sense of being somewhere with wide open spaces, where transport hubs smelt of the bakeries in their basements at night, seeing young people in the streets, and discovering a whole new city (again). But at the same time it’s also taught me that I’m nowhere near fit enough to be galavanting around, and so I’ll be hibernating for the winter. By which I mean “resting up until it’s warm”, not “sleeping in a cave for four months”.