Thursday, 1 November 2012

Week 4 - Berlin

Hello again! It's time to break radio silence and bash out another update. Or two – it's been a while.

Things have been a bit busy and it's only now that I'm finding the time to stop and take stock.

Berlin - Festival of Light - looking away from The Reichstag
So, the last email was from Germany, relating Switzerland. This time I'm sitting in Sitges, Spain, and I'll start by rewinding to Berlin.

Festival of Light at Potsdamer Platz
As soon as I arrived at Berlin, John and Dai Meng collected me at the station and whisked me off to a nice Indian restaurant, continuing the good food safari part of the journey. From then on it was a week of all sorts of good things.

First up was Monday night when we hit the city centre to check out the Festival of Light (lots of pretty things projected onto buildings, not Fred Nile's caveman fundie Christian association). It was a good intro to Berlin and some of her little landmarks, like the Brandenberg Gate.

On Tuesday John and I saddled up and went for a nice long bike ride all around the town. The weather was great once again (*waves fist at Swiss weather gods*) and we explored the old Tempelhof airport and the Berlin Wall gallery, before looping around the city centre and heading home. This sounds like a full day in itself but John had other ideas and so we found ourselves heading out in the evening to shoot some tongue-in-cheek video for a music project he is working on.

Die toten wecken auf!
This involved three of us dressing up as zombies, and John donning a pink outfit and pig's nose. I could explain, but it's better to wait for the finished product.

John's current obsession with zombies has also led him to write an amusing little novella (zovella?) and publish it on Amazon. You can check it out at You might even be able to find a bit of the video we shot that night if he links it up.

Berlin wall mit Hawkins und girly bike
Righto, so anyway after the zombie shoot we wiped off the blood and proceeded to have an excellent German meal, where I ate something amazing that I can't remember the name of (it was not, however, brains).

Speaking of amazing meals, I was also treated to two home cooked specials by Dai Meng. One was a traditional Chinese spread, and the other a German sampler of various popular dishes, including sauerkraut, which I am still not entirely sure I like.

Moving away from the food again (for now), we also hit up some awesome museums during the week. John and I checked out the computer game museum, which was kinda cool but not great. Lots of nostalgia though, and we did get to play Pac Man with a giant Atari joystick (which is harder than it sounds).

Then there was the technical museum, which was full of old trains (Rik you would have loved it), as well as some really cool old film and photography gear. And, no doubt, other stuff, but it closed before we could check it out...

The standout museum for me though was the Pergamon, which I only explored half of unfortunately. They have rooms – big rooms – full of reconstructed bits of ancient cities. You could spend hours looking at just one or two objects there. It's all too much to take in in one hit, but it was still very cool.

Berlin evening outside the Pergamon
One other nice little outdoor activity that John and I did was to seek out and visit the old abandoned amusement park in the former Eastern bit of the city, at Treptower Park. It's totally overgrown, and full of sad old relics, like fibreglass dinosaurs (poor upside-down t-rex!) and bits of old rides. There's a cheesy little train that still runs around the outside of the park and for a couple of euros we took in a

Old animatronic ape at the amusement park
You can try to sneak through on your own but there are security guards there to keep people out. In times past the guards would make you delete your photos if they caught you in there at all, but now they sort of open up the entrance to make a bit of money on the weekend. Most of the park is still off limits though - if you stray into an off-limits area you'll soon get a "HULLO! <woof woof woof>" from a local trained dog and his guard-human.

Poor T-rex!
I should make quick mention of a couple of other nice Berlin meals too. There are Turks aplenty there, so you can get kebabs everywhere. What we call a kebab though is called something else and instead you get a sort of long bread roll with kebab stuff inside. The quality is enormously variable but John and Dai Meng had a favourite spot which was did a fantastic version.

Those two are mad about Latin dancing too, so on my last evening there we went off to a social dance (no I did not dance, are you mad? I drank a beer instead) and then headed to a Cuban place for another great dinner and 4 euro cocktails. Perfect.

Computer game museum - how many of these can you name?
All up, Berlin was great. Once again I was looked after and shown all sorts of cool things. The weather was also great and there was plenty of time for exploration and even some guitar in the park.

Bullet holes
Pergamon. I wanted to climb up and shout "wewease bwian!"
Of course, there's a lot of history in Berlin, but nothing quite hammers it home like seeing some older buildings riddled with bullet holes from the war. They've patched up a lot of the buildings, but have also left some as they are, perhaps to help with that national guilt thing that many Germans take so seriously.

I expected to be a bit ho-hum about a big city like Berlin, but everyone raved about it, and I can see why now. It has a nice laid back feel. Distinctly un-German I suppose, probably due to all those bloody artists and foreigners. It was also incredibly pretty with the Autumn colours and blue skies. Definitely somewhere I'll be back to one day. Thanks for looking after me guys!

I'm going to split this blog up now, or there will be too many cool pics to choose from!

Edit: the full set of pictures are now up on Flickr, click below to view them!