Day three!

OK, now we’re getting to the business end, and possibly a lot more photos to come.

I was awoken abruptly at 7AM by the building site across the road from the hotel drilling away. And, considering I was hungover, I decided the best thing to do was take a little walk. Chris and Jonathan were obviously still sleeping, and I couldn’t understand the telly, so I thought I’d pop out and see some of the sights on my own.

Now, if you remember the picture I’d taken from the hotel window, there were some cafes and bars across the river. We hadn’t been near these at all, so I thought I’d start my walk by checking these out. I noticed the menus were also printed in English, and the meals actually looked reasonably priced. Somewhere different to eat. This WAS a good sign.

I decided to follow the river for a bit to see where it goes. Despite the fact that we’d taken a bus trip less than a day before, I’d forgotten where any of the sights were. Imagine my surprise when I followed the river for no more than 10 minutes, and ended up standing in the grounds of the Reichstag, the German parliament building In fact, it was the big glass dome visible from the hotel window. And I didn’t even realise! I broke out the camera.

Unfortunately, during my exploration of the grounds, I came across the most harrowing part of the entire trip. Around the edge of the grounds are large concrete blocks which double up as seating, and prevent cars from entering the pedestrianised bit. Next to one of these blocks was a large, fresh bloodstain on the ground, with a swastika scrawled in permanent marker next to it. I suddenly felt very uneasy, and strangely cold. It hit me for a few seconds, that I was in a strange country where I couldn’t speak the language, and entirely on my own. It was intimidating to say the least. I even felt like I needed to look over my shoulder a couple of times.

I took my mind off it by taking yet more photos, all of which are on my flickr. On the subject of my flickr, I realise that several hundred photos are a lot to look through. Therefore, my Personal top 20 is available, including 21 of my favourite photos so far. I *still* haven’t got through them all, so this may change as I upload more images.

Anyway, back to my walk. After taking shots of the Reichstag, I walked over to the train station, as to my surprise, it was simply a few hundred yards from where I was standing.

The trip on the previous day made it feel much further away. I had three reasons to visit the station. The first was to take photos of it, the second was to buy some bottled water (I noticed they had an offer on it while Chris was buying those big cans), and thirdly, to take better photos of the sandcastle sculpture things.

You could take closer looks at the sculptures if you really wanted to… for the “measly” sum of €6. But, considering you could take photos of it from a nearby road bridge, like I did, there wasn’t much point.

I took some pictures of a nearby historic bridge, and began to head back to the hotel. Hopefully, Chris and Jonathan would be awake by this time.

No, they weren’t.

I retreated to my hotel room fora while, and flicked through the German telly. I was amazed to see something I recognised, straight away.


Yes, it’s CASH CAB! But entirely in German! As they don’t call them cabs over there, it was known as “Quiz Taxi”, but from what I can gather, the idea of the show was exactly the same. Shortly after, Jonathan knocked on my room door, and explained that they’d finally woken. I explained to him that I’d found some good eateries over the river, and pointed them out to him. Chris eventually surfaced too, so we headed over to them for some brekkers.

We sat outside, as it seemed to be the thing to do. Everyone else was. Me and Chris opted for a hot fresh pretzel with butter, Jonathan decided to go for the currywurst. We ordered our stuff by pointing at the menu, and stating that we would like TWO pretzels. TWO. Quite clearly. TWO.

After about 20 minutes, my pretzel arrived. Jonathan’s Currywurst arrived. And Chris ended up with… something… wrapped in foil, covered in what looked like sick. Clearly, this wasn’t a pretzel. As I demolished mine, Chris sat there, looking at his monstrousity, wondering how to say “I didn’t order this” in German. Eventually, we called the waitress over, and told her that we simply didn’t order this. In English. Grudgingly, the plate disappeared back into the building and a few minutes later, it was replaced with a pretzel. Hurrah! We eventually had our order, and we had a waitress who looked like she was about to commit suicide. Everyone’s a winner!

After checking the receipt carefully to make sure we hadn’t been charged for whatever that thing was, we paid and left. Despite the waitress’s error, I still enjoyed the pretzel, and decided I would go again at some point.

At this point, we began to plan the day, and what we would do for the rest of it. Checkpoint Charlie was only up the road, so we deicded to visit that. On the way there, we spied something rather amazing.

Yes, this IS a Bugatti Veyron. I think it’s the first time I’ve ever felt humbled in the presence of a car. It’s like a work of art. Ever since I saw it on Top Gear, I always wondered if and when I would ever see one in the flesh.

The building it was in was actually like a shopping centre for new cars. Each manufacturer had their own shop, with their latest and most expensive models on display… most of them you could sit in, and play with.

We lost Chris for about 20 minutes at this point, as he went and sat in some of the cars and twiddled with the buttons of various expensive cars. eventually, he reappaeared, and we continued up Friedrichstrasse towards Checkpoint Charlie.

The subtle hints that we were approaching it came thick and fast. I couldn’t help but laugh at a hotel sign which read “Check In, Charlie!”.

Moving on swiftly, the site of Checkpoint Charlie is now surrounded by 10 foot high boards with detailed descriptions of the history of both Checkpoint Charlie and the Berlin Wall itself. Very informative, and very interesting. This was the point where I realised my bank card worked in bank machines here, which I was thankful about, because at that point, I probably had about €80 to last me the rest of the week.

I took more photos (as usual), and we started the long walk home, but not before Chris bought an old Military police cap, and a piece of the Berlin Wall embedded in a postcard as a souvenir.

We returned back to the hotel and got changed. Well, Chris and Jonathan got changed. It was hard for me to get changed, as I’d handed all of my ruined clothes into the reception to get cleaned. More about that later. I knew, however, that tomorrow evening I’d at least be able to get out of the manky t-shirt I was wearing, and get some decent clothes on. Still, I had to wear it for one more day.

Either way, back on to the evening. We went across the river again onto the cafes to get something to eat. We stopped at one place on the corner which was a bit expensive and didn’t really have anything I fancied, so while Chris and Jonathan had a meal, I decided I would go back to the indian later, and pouch another curry. Which I did, and it was very nice. Chris and Jonathan both tagged along, and I must admit to feeling a little greedy having a curry on my own while they just had drinks. Either way, I paid for the drinks to make up for it. I really, really enjoyed the curry.

During the meal, however, I explained that I knew where the Reichstag was. As the evening was setting in and the sun was going down, we decided to take a walk over to it, following the path I’d taken earlier in the day.

I took another load of photos, including this particularly nice sunset.

Weather-wise, this sums everything up, except for the last day.

After visiting the Reichstag, Chris told me that the Brandenburg gate was only a few hundred yards away. I was surpised, as even though we’d apparently passed it on the tour the previous day, I had no idea where it was.

We got there, and it appears one hell of a lot smaller and less significant than it does on telly.

Acer Image
Acer Image

You can tell how much of a tourist attraction the place is though. Some unknown guy pulled up in his Ford Mustang, and began to take pohots of his car (and his poodle in the back seat)

He seemed to be less than happy that everyone else in the surrounding area also seemed to be taking photos of his car too. Including me.

By the time we’d finished walking round and dropped some more freshly purchased souvenirs back at the hotel, it was about 10:30. We headed along the same bars and cafes for a couple more drinks. We ended up in some place called the Kartoffelkeller… the literal translaton of which, is “Potato Cellar”. We’d already eaten, so we didn’t order food, but we picked up a menu, and intended to visit later in the week. By this point, I was shattered more than the other two, so I was happy to call it an early night… at 1AM.

Day two…

The day was Tuesday, and I was awoken by the sound of the building site directly outside of the hotel. it was 7:30. I was less than pleased. Still, it gave me the chance to view exactly what the place looked like in the daytime.

Well, apart from the mass of mud and machinery, it’s not too bad. the River Spree is the stretch of water in the background, and the row of cafes and bars behind it were where most of our Euros went. I’ll mention more about these as the days go on, as we didn’t venture down this way on the first couple of days.

At approximately 10:30, it was time to find breakfast. Not easy in a place you dont know too well. The plan was to head northerly up Friedrichstrasse (the long street the hotel sat on), and hope we come across some kind of shop.

Within seconds, my dream came true. There was an indian no more than 100 yards from the hotel. I almost dropped to my knees in floods of happiness. Even better, we found what looked like an Irish bar too. So, that was the night sorted, and my food sorted for the week. Grub at the indian, along to the Irish bar to drink. Hurrah!

We kept walking, and eventually came across a little internet cafe, though I decided not to use the internet. Chris and Jonathan, however, opted for a sarnie and a cuppa, and I enjoyed a bottle of coke I’d bought earlier on, though it does taste different over there.

So, the sarnies were eaten, and we carry on with our exploration of the city. At this point, there was no particular plan to the journey, so we picked a direction, and continued walking. According to Google Earth, we were heading along Oranienburger Strasse. This seemed to be the old part of East Berlin, with many old tall buildings. Clearly, it was my first chance to appear in a photo in Berlin….

As we didn’t have a clue where we were, and found these posters rather odd, we reached a landmark (a railway bridge) and headed back. We noticed that street also had a lot of nice looking bars and eateries on there too, so we decided we’d also visit there later too.

One thing that became clear, however, is that we were not going to make it far in the blistering heat. Seemed that every few minutes, we were stopping off for drinks, which were small and ludicrously expensive.

I think that bottle of water cost me 2 euros. Bah.

They say that mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun. But only Englishmen go out in the midday sun, walk into a random chemist and buy a bottle of suncream for €13.50… which is exactly what I did. Or rather, Chris went in and bought it for me. I gave him a tenner. My jaw *dropped* when he came out asking for more money. Still, at least it was a worthy purchase.

On the previous night, I failed to mention that after we arrived, we had a very short walk around outside the hotel, and noticed that during the day, there were bus tours which took you round Berlin. This was going to be our next activity.

The bus trip cost €20, which seemed like a lot, but the ticket lasted for the full day, which meant we could get off at any of the stops, and look around. The guide was provided by a pair of headphones mounted in the seat, and a button on the seat itself where you could choose the language. Amusingly, the only place we stopped off was the main train station, or the Hauptbahnhoff. At least I think that’s how you spell it. The main reason we stopped off, however, is that I’d noticed some sand sculptures, which seemed interesting.

As can clearly be seen by that, I didn’t take my main camera on this trip, instead I opted for my camcorder. Disastrously, the battery didn’t last more than 20 minutes of filming, as I kept forgetting to turn it off. Therefore, it was up to my trusty cameraphone to catch most of the photos. Due to the fact the headphones attached to my seat were broken, I don’t really have much of an idea what I was taking photos of, though there were some impressive buildings, such as this brick towerblock.


So, with the trip completed, we had a little more idea of what was on offer, and the best places to see. And, the fact they were all pretty much in the vacinity of the hotel.

We decided to complete our full day in the land of Sauerkraut by getting ready and going out for something proper to eat. And where did we go? Well, would you believe it, we ended up in the indian. Hurrah! Now, something I was surprised about was that the majority of the food places have most of their seating outside. This was certainly a new experience for me. So, we were sat down, in wicker chairs, under large parasols advertising some kind of German Pilsner. We ordered food, and didn’t have to wait too long for it to arrive. While we were eating, a red squirrel scurried across the floor next to us. That was odd. Not only was this the first time I’d seen a squirrel close up, it was a red one too. These are rare as fook here in England, so it was a nice and welcome surprise.

The food was magnificent. Large portions, good rice, nice soft naan breads. It was better than most places at home, and it wasn’t too spicy.

After the food was pouched, it was time to go out and experience some German beer. Of course, we couldn’t resist a stroll into the Irish bar, seeing as it was only a few metres away from the indian. Strangely enough, drink-wise, this happened to be the low point of the trip. I got a pint of Fosters (well, 500ml of Fosters) which was warm, and tasted like a mixture of cider and wine, and Chris and Jonathan got a pint of Newky Brown, which tasted equally as bad. After 1 drink, we simply couldn’t stay there any more.

We returned down the same route we’d taken on the morning, in order to check some of the bars they had on offer… we found this little place with a courtyard. It was rather empty, and rather nice. Pils flowed like water, despite it being expensive. I think it was €4 for 500ml…

Suddenly, the poster I was leaning against in the earlier picture made perfect sense – we were walking down the red light district. It’s funny how the majority of them asked if we wanted a good time in perfect English, as if they could tell just by looking at us. We refused, and kept walking to the final bar of the evening. a mock American diner… now, I’m sure if any of us at this point had actually been sober, we’d have enjoyed it, but all the barman (who wasn’t German either) wanted to talk about was football. Ergh.

What I remember more than anything about this place was the “bar” itself. It was apparently made from some kind of translucent resin, with fluorescent tubes underneath it. The heat from the tubes, combined with the years of drinks spilled on it, caused your arms, glass and everything that touched it, to stick to the bar.

None of us fancied a conversation about football, so we made our excuses and left. Quickly. We, once again, had to head through the red light district on the way back to the hotel.

Something which I failed to mention is that whilst at the train station, Chris bought two 1 litre cans of lager, one of which he gave me. I enjoyed immensely. I attempted to go to sleep, listening to a radio station on my mobile – BRF 91.4 . The first song I heard was Mike Oldfield’s “Shadow On The Wall”. I’d never heard this played on the radio before. I was delighted.

After listening to some classic songs, I rolled over, and went to sleep. Day 3 was only a few hours away.

I’m home!

What a holiday. I’ve been back in the country 9 hours, and I’m currently sorting through the (literally) hundreds of photos I took while I was there. Words cannot describe just how awesome the entire trip was.

I wasn’t going to start typing a full blown blog, but since I’m sat here I might as well give it a go. The trip started last Monday, at 10AM. I ordered the taxi for that time, despite the fact the plane wasn’t until later that afternoon. I like to be careful.

The taxi drops us off, and I’m presented with a building, with “Newcastle International Airport” plastered all over the front of it. I guessed we were at our first destination of the day.

We arrived to find that we were too early to check in. So, we headed for the nearest Starbucks, and found a comfy seat. This is where the long photo journey started, as the shutter clicked on the first of many holiday photos…


So, after wandering around for a bit, we head to the ticket desk. By the time I’d demolished my Greggs pasty bought moments before, the ticket printing was complete. I expected it to be a lot more complicated than it actually was…. We each gave the (pretty miserable, if I’m honest) girl behind the counter our itineraries and passports. Before we knew it, our luggage was whisked away to places unknown, and we had three shiny tickets in our hand. This was all feeling very surreal. I’ve never stepped foot in an airport before that day, so this was all new to me.

We waited outside for a bit, before we headed up to the check-in desk. Basically, you empty your pockets into a tray, then walk through a metal detector, and pray to god it doesn’t beep. After that, you can browse the vast array of duty free goodies on offer… including televisions. I don’t quite understand how that part of Duty Free works. Do you have to take the TV with you there and then, or do you pick it up later? I don’t know, and I will never know, unless someone tells me.

Well, our duty free shopping trip consisted of…. nothing. There was a bar there, which charged £2.99 for a pint of Carling Ice. This was supposed to be Duty Free, the profiteering bastards.

Begrudgingly, three pints later, we moved on to the “gate” This is simply where you sit for a bit, until they clean up the airplane, and are ready for you to board. It seemed to take for ever.

Eventually, the “gate” opened, and we went through, but not without incident. Patience is a virtue, impatience is a fucking annoyance. In front of me are a group of tourists speaking a foreign language, looking confused. To the right, up the corridor is where tickets are being checked, and other people are waiting to get on the aircraft. I dart forward, thinking they’re holding up the queue, and within milliseconds, a shrill voice screams “SIR!” at least twice… unfortunately I’d failed to notice the woman checking the passports to my left – the real reason the queue was being held up.

Apologetically, and with my tail between my legs, I show my passport, and get checked in.

My first view of the plane was the following:-


I was expecting something a little more substantial if I’m honest. It looked a lot smaller than what I was expecting. I climbed the stairs to the plane, and discovered my seat was a window seat. Brilliant! Viewing clouds from the top side is something that everyone must experience at least once in their lives. Truly marvellous.

We landed a short time later in Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport… and something was instantly noticeable. The thick, black, menacing cloud heading towards the airport. For the next 60 minutes or so, the airport was completely drenched in one of the heaviest thunderstorms I’ve ever seen in my life. And, for that very reason, the flight was delayed…


It was time to spend my very first Euros. I bought a bottle of coke, and a packet of spicy crisps. Interestingly, they’re manufactured by Smiths Crisps over there… possibly the same ones who were taken over and crushed by Walkers.

Eventually, the rain stopped. and we were able to board. The other plane we got on was slightly bigger… a 737. We boarded, and this time, I remembered about the passport check, and didn’t run off like an idiot. this time, I didn’t get a window seat, so I helped Jonathan with the crossword he was doing, both of us miserably failing to get 9 across, 11 down and another one which I can’t remember.

By the time we landed in Germany, it was getting dark. As soon as we left the aircraft, and went into the connecting corridor thing, a blast of heat hit us. Clearly they didn’t have the air conditioning on in it, and it wasn’t really that warm outside. We collected our bags, and left… it really WAS that warm outside. Considering this was after 10PM, the heat felt like something we’d get in England in the hottest days of summer. We jumped in a taxi (all of them are sort of a dirty white colour over there, and most of the ones we’d seen were Mercedes), and somehow, the driver understood where we wanted to go.

I was glad it was getting dark, as I would have a chance to see the types of streetlighting that Germany had to offer…


I’m happy to report that they’re big on Mercury Vapour over there, most of the roads we travelled down were lit by it. The dual carriageways were lit by flourescent. Only the streets in the city centre were high pressure sodium.

Eventually, we arrived at the hotel, and our first impression was “OooooOOOooh!”. It was definitely a four star hotel. I wasn’t even sure if all of the paint had dried in it. Everything shone and sparkled. We checked in, and made our way to the rooms, on the fifth floor. Chris and Jonathan were in one room, I was in the other.

The room was as shiny as the front entrance. After initial confusion on how to switch on the lights, I began to unpack… oh, bollocks.

The bottle of shower gel I’d taken had completely emptied itself inside the case. Completely. Every item of clothing except for one t-shirt was covered in blue, translucent gloop. Look at the jeans in the top left… that’s what everything was like. Somewhat amazingly, every electrical item I’d packed (camcorder, camera, chargers, batteries) escaped unharmed, despite the camcorder being packed in the same compartment as the clothes.

Chris came in and raided my minibar (he was paying for it all anyway) despite noticing that the drink he had just knocked back was priced at a ridiculous €12. I decided against using the minibar and we all headed down to the hotel bar, where the prices were equally as nasty. Two drinks came to €11. Shocking.

We didn’t stay in the bar for long, and instead decided to go to bed. It had been a long day, and the heat was taking it out of us.

I’d managed to work the air conditioning out in my room, unfortunately, Chris and Jonathan didn’t have the same luck. So, while my room was lovely and cold, theirs was apparently like the core of the sun.

However, before I went to bed, I took the first of many pictures outside the room window.

It wasn’t until the next morning I’d see (and hear) the building site in all its glory.