It’s been almost two weeks, and I’m halfway through writing up my Berlin Holiday, Well I will be after I complete this particular entry.
I apologise for the length of these, and I’m fully aware that not everyone cares about every final detail. Tough, I do. Overall, I spent about a grand on this trip. I’m getting my money’s worth. I’m not going to forget it soon. I have, however, reduced the sizes of the photos, and reduced the number of posts on the front page. This should help ease the load.
Day four started off back at the same cafe (Barlier Republik) along the side of the river. I ordered another delicious pretzel, and this time, Chris ordered the currywurst. Jonathan ordered a breakfast the size of a canoe, all for a reasonable price.
The meals were scoffed, though Jonathan’s protein-on-a-plate took longer than ours, and as the day was getting on, we had to plan what to do. Earlier in the week, we planned a trip to Hamburg on the train. This wasn’t worth mentioning, however, as we soon cancelled the idea, after finding the train tickets were €200. Each. This was a little out of our price range by €190, so we decided to take a day out somewhere a little more local. We bought a 3-day S-Bahn ticket (which is their version of the Metro, I suppose… a snip at €22 for 72 hours) which took us anywhere in the vacinity of Berlin and the surrounding districts.
After a view of the S-Bahn map, a couple of places popped up straight away. Potsdam, and Spandau. We were all confused by a notice saying “Please validate your ticket”… none of us having any clue what this means. It turns out, you simply need to stick your printed ticket into a seperate machine which stamps the date and time on it. God knows why they couldn’t just make it simple, and have the ticket start from whenever you bought it.
After the initial confusion, we were in posession of three, slightly warm, fully validated train tickets. A train pulled into the station, with “S7 Potsdam” showing on its display. All of the S-Bahn trains used large backlit LCDs for their destination boards. Not that you needed to know that, but I found it interesting, as you simply don’t see those over here much. We boarded the train, and made ourselves comfortable, and watched Berlin pass us by, as we travelled the 17-mile journey (as the crow flies) to Potsdam station. This is where I take the first photos, as I couldn’t quite believe how many bicycles there were…
We were held up slightly at this point, as Chris attempted to draw money out of the cash machine, only for his card to be “refused”. Thinking it was a fault with the machine, I put mine in, and managed to get money straight away. Chris disappeared with Jonathan’s mobile, while he phoned his bank back here, to find out why his card had been declined. Unfortunately, the bank didn’t find out why either. This left Chris worrying. What was he going to do for money? Either way, that was a worry for another hour, as I gave Chris the money I drew out, as I didn’t need it… I just wanted to test the machine.
As soon as we left the station, there was a tour bus straight in front, obviously touting for trade. As we didn’t have a clue where anything was, we decided to take the tour. After viewing the sky, and the pounding sun, I took the wise decision to stock up on water. This was going to be needed.
The tour was cheaper than the Berlin one we’d taken earlier in the week, costing €18. The bus itself was better too. it smelt new, and it actually had a guide. Unfortunately, he didn’t speak English on the bus, so we had to wear headphones if we wanted to hear what was going on. Thankfully, this one worked pretty much perfectly – the headphones looked new too, so I was able to keep up with the dialogue and where we were. We drove past various sights, such as Potsdam’s very own Brandenburg Gate…
The first stop was Cecilienhof Palace, the location of the Potsdam Conference between July 17 and August 2, 1945. The palace is now a museum and hotel.
A very pretty building, and I have no idea who that bloke is with the beard. He just got in the way when I was taking it. The guide showed us the grounds…
… and that’s the guide. Whenever we stopped off, he did actually speak English, and explained where we were. He knew his stuff.
On the way there, and on the way back, we had to cross the Glienicke bridge.. a very famous bridge, as it was where the east and the west exchanged spies. It even has its own domain name… http://www.glienicke-bridge.com .
Although it simply looks like a faded white line, this was the official border line, up until 1989. The bridge itself, as a memorial to this, is painted two different shades of green.
Next step was Sanssouci, which translates in french to “carefree”. This was a very pretty place, and to save on my typing, Wikipedia has a full article about it here. Here’s a photo of it though…
The last stop was Park Sanssouci’s New Palace. Unfortunately, I didn’t catch much of what the tour guide said about this place, for some reason. I just remember very big, impressive buildings. I think I was more concerned about the fact that I was only on day 4, and I’d almost used all of my camera batteries. I’d changed to the final set earlier in the day.
That was the last stop, and the tour was over. We now had a choice of where to get off. We decided to get off where the Postdam Brandenburg gate was, which I photographed earlier. I had a feeling that getting off at a strange place would mean only one thing – getting lost… The majority won (Jonathan and Chirs), so we got off. Turns out that the main shopping street appeared to be right next to the Brandenburg Gate…
Chris’s first concern was to find a cash machine, so while he disappeared into the distance, Jonathan and I (ooh, correct grammeration) sat around patiently. To my right, I spotted a perfectly normal looking clothes store. As I had now been wearing the same t-shirt for 3 days, I decided I needed to buy a new one, just in case my laundry didn’t make it back to my hotel room. The price was €12, and I had €15 in my wallet… didn’t fancy spending that, but I had already spied a credit card reader next to the counter. I delved deep into my wallet, and got the old bit of plastic marked “Visa” out… “Ahh, nein”, was the response from the (admittedly friendly) shop assistant, who I assume ran her own shop… bugger.
At this point, she must have realised as I was English, as I say, in best Hartlepudlian, “Er… what about this one?”, totally forgetting that “I wasn’t in Kansas anymore”…. I flap my wallet about frantically, pulling out my credit card, hoping that the Mastercard logo would bring a smile to her face, and allow me to insert my flexible blue plastic into her crusty grey slot. Again, she shrugged her shoulders, smiled politely, obviously realising that there was a 600-mile language gap here…
I had no choice but to hand over the last of my Monopoly Money (€’s) to pay for the t-shirt. I exited the shop with the t-shirt in a little plastic bag. Good stuffs. Slight problem was, that I was now completely skint. I had three coins to my name. Clearly, my cards were useless over here, which dismayed me somewhat.
Me and Jonathan stood around for what felt like an hour, waiting for Chris to come back into view. He did, eventually, clutching two boxes of chess-piece chocolates, and informing us both that we was also full of ice cream…. righty-ho. He was only supposed to be looking for a bloody cash machine.
We walked up the main shopping street, I took another load of photos, walked back down, and went to a bar pretty much next to the Brandenburg Gate for a quick drink. I visited the toilet, and froze on the spot…. I could see a door marked “Herren”, but where the fuck was “Himmen”? Suddenly, I remembered the scene in Auf Weidersehen Pet, where Dennis comes out of the bogs, and I remembered that “Herren” was the correct one. Two words about (some) German toilets… you have to flush the urinals yourself, and the taps are very confusing. I was amused to see that the paper towel dispensers were *exactly* the same as the ones we have at work. I didn’t expect that.
We finished our drinks, and headed for the bus back to the train station. The bus stop had very comfortable seats. At this point, let me give you some safet advice for visiting germany. CYCLE LANES ARE NOT A SERVING SUGGESTION. They take them very seriously. Me and Chris had claimed the comfy metal seats, and Jonathan was just loitering. From my left side, I hear a bike bell ringing… “Tringeling… Tring. Tringeling.”…. I see a biker approaching. He doesn’t slow down, instead he just keeps ringing his bell, louder and faster. I look to my right….
“Jonathan…. you’re standing on…..” [closeup to my face, wide eyes, blood draining from face] “…… RED TARMAC!!! JESUS CHRIST, MAN! GET OUT OF THE WAY!
Jonathan takes a step back onto the paving stones next to the cycle lane, Herr Bikerren gives us all a dirty look, and continues on his way. By this time, the bus was due. It arrived something like 3 minutes late, and we were almost disappointed – after the train journey, we expected everything to run like clockwork. We boarded the bus, and thankfully it was air conditioned. Wonderful. We were stood under the cold air vents for the whole journey to the station.
It had clouded over by this point, and there were a few spots of rain falling from the sky. We entered the station, and were confronted by the awful fear of… “Um, where do we go now?” Jonathan hovered around the exit, clutching a map, trying to plot on the map where we would need to go. After almost going up to the platforms which allowed NATIONAL travel, we realised that the green signs with “S” printed on them are where we needed to go after all.
We boarded a stationary train (well, OK, I didn’t fancy boarding a moving train, but you know what I mean) similar to the one we got there. We sat down, and prayed that it would go in the right direction. The train door alarms bleeped, the doors shut, the train engine started up, and we were in the move….. in completely the right direction. Phew. The half-hour jorney back was entirely uninteresting, which is why I took this photo…
See? Totally uninteresting. Great fun, though.
Eventually, the Friedrichstrasse station approached, and we disembarked. The station was literally only a hundred yards or so away from the hotel. In fact, this shows how close it is.
This was taken from my hotel room – You actually exit the station underneath that bridge. Not far at all.
We return to the hotel, and Chris forces his chocolates into the minibar fridge. He does this by removing the entire contents, and leaving it all to stew on the top of the fridge. I’m not sure whether the hotel actually approved of this, but it’s better than carrying useless, melted chocolates for the entire journey back to England.
I return to my room, to find that the hotel elves had indeed washed my clothes, and they were conveniently hanging with the receipt stuck on top of them… the cost?
Forty-three Euros, fifty cents. That’s (according to xe.com) $59.59, Ã‚Â£29.25, 7,104 Japanese Yen.
My jaw didn’t just drop, it almost fell out. Christ, that was more than what I paid for them originally. Though, it was done, my clothes were washed, and everything was A-OK… surely. You’d like to think so.
I slipped into my jeans, which I don’t normally need a belt for, only to find that I couldn’t go three steps without them falling around my ankles. Whether this was to do with weight loss, or the fact they’d stretched during the hotel laundry process remains a mystery. I’ll never know. Either way, I got changed, and put on a nice, clean shirt. I’d arranged with Chris and Jonathan that I’d meet them in 10 minutes, downstairs in the bar, so we could make our way along to the eaterie establishment that we’d chosen for that particualr evening. I think we’d arranged to go back to the Kartoffelkeller.
Unfortunately, during this time I’d lost my pass card for the room. I’d obviously left it somewhere in the room, but could I fuck find it. Eventually, I’d tracked it down to being in my wallet. Gah. I knock on their room door, and… got absolutely no response. No sign of life at all. Piss. They’d obviously gone without me – maybe I’d got the message confused, and by ‘bar’ they didn’t mean the hotel bar. Meh, I knew where external bar was, and I was a big boy, so I wasn’t too fussed. I walked round to the kartoffelkeller, expecting to see then tucking into masses of… kartoffel. Unfortunately, there was no sign of them, and by now, it was raining heavily. I returned back to the hotel room, slapped on the telly, and pouched some crisps I’d bought earlier in the week, thinking this was going to be my night in. Shortly after, there was a knock on the door. It was Chris, wondering where I’d been.
I explained the story, he explained how I’d already left before he knocked, and before we all went anywhere, we had a pint (rather, 500ML) in the hotel bar, and headed off to the chosen food outlet. We changed our minds, and headed to the Argentinian steakhouse over the road from the Kartoffelkeller. Personally, I didn’t have any major food – Chris got an extra portion of fries, whcih I helped demolish. In hindsight, I wish I’d ordered a proper meal, as it looked nice, though I’d pouched a (really) large bag of chipsticks only minutes before so I wasn’t really hungry. On the subject of crisps, they only have two real flavours of crisp in Germany… paprika and ready salted. This suits me down to the ground – I love both.
Anyway, we finished up, and headed off to the Karteoffelkeller, where we had another couple of half-litres. Someone nearby was smoking joints too. It smelled like my old college staffroom. Even weirder is that I think they were English.
We drank up, and headed back to the hotel. It was late by this time, and we needed another early start to make the most of our 72-hour pass… but where do we go next? Stay tuned, you might find out in a fortnight…