Berlin was great. I loved it, but I really need to learn German.
The long version.
ReboundRabbit and I were flying out to Berlin first thing on Saturday morning. Flying from Leeds, to Berlin via Amsterdam.
Leeds / Bradford airport was interesting. I went to drop RR off at the front of the airport before parking the car, and they actually charge you just to drop people off now. £2, to drive to the front (or rather, about a mile from the front of the airport, you can't get any closer because of Glasgow) and the drive off again.
We were flying with KLM, as it was the cheapest price we could find online. Easyjet might have had a slightly cheaper flight cost, but getting to Luton at that time in the morning would have cost us a fortune. Flying with a proper airline also meant that we got a cup of tea and some biscuits on the plane as well.
Checking in was easy, and I'd paid extra for a "FastTrack" through security when I booked the car park. That was a bit of a laugh, at least we were able to walk straight past the completely empty "non-fasttrack" area and have a chat with the grinning security guard. "You didn't pay for this did you?" He asked us. Oh well. It was a slightly shorter walk :)
The first flight was great. A little Focker F70. I've never been on one before. A bit noisy, but the flight was only 50 minutes so it didn't matter that much.
I'd never realised before how big Amsterdam airport is. It's huge. We wondered around for a bit and went to meet one of RR's friends who's in Amsterdam at the moment. She'd cycled over on her bike, so after an expensive coffee we went over to have a look at it. A lovely old Raleigh with down tube shifters. She let me have a little ride around the car park, just so I could say that I'd ridden a bike in (almost) Amsterdam.
The wait was quite long, but passed quite quickly, before we were boarding a 737 for the flight to Berlin. A little over an hour, and we were there. In freezing cold, wet Berlin. :D
Of course, I'd been listening for weeks to "Look at the temperature in Berlin, it's 30 degrees!", and I'd quite failed to take in the "Oh, it's going to be 12 degrees and raining next week" that I'd not packed anything other than T-Shirts. Not even a jacket.
RR's wonderful friends, who picked us up in a big old Merc with their tiny baby in tow, took us to a big shopping place, and I made my first Berlin purchase! A rain coat. :)
We then trecked through the howling wind and lashing rain to a brewery / restaurant, where we were meeting some more friends who'd been over and seen us in England a few weeks before. The food was OK, although my Schnitzel was a bit dry. The beer was good, and the company was fantastic. They all spoke English around me (with occasional lapses into excited German for baby talk, the other friend being quite pregnant) which made me feel welcome, but a little ashamed that this group of 5 people was speaking my language to make me feel welcome in their country.
We'd planned to spend the next day cycling around Berlin after meeting BadDoggie and Sugarspun. This wasn't looking good though. I don't mind getting wet, but wet and wind is a bit too much.
However, after a good natter, a good nights sleep on a fold out bed, the weather looked grey, a bit damp, but not windy.
We met BadDoggie, Sugarspun and MNP for Brunch at a Cafe RR loved when she was studying at the University over the road. Interesting Chat, MNP is fun, and it was great to meet Sugarspun and Catch up with BadDoggie again. He bunged me some money for server up keep, and paid for the brunch as well. Many thanks, it's much appreciated.
Then we all had a wander back towards the zoo, where the Doggies went off in search of something interesting to do, hopefully without getting wet, and we went off to hire our bikes.
Fantastic bikes they were too. Big fat tyres, laid back riding position. Just right for pootling around Berlin looking at the sights. We rode through a park (that I've forgotten the name of), and I stepped behind a bush to get changed into some shorts I'd brought along. I only had one pair of trousers and with the rain (that started again 30 seconds after we got on the bikes) I didn't want to get them soaking wet. I was winked at by a passing rather buff looking young man. RR then told me that this was a fairly notorious place for rent boys :)
Shorts on (in the rain) we rode off to meet another of RR's friends at the main station, passing the Reichstag and Angela Merkel's place. More coffee (and cake of course, we were on bikes) at a nice restaurant.
Then more peddling around Berlin. The Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie (where we bought an impressive array of tatty gifts for people), the victory column, back through the park to the Zoo. Where we returned the bikes, and got on a bus that took us past all the same places again :)
Cycling around Berlin was the highlight of the holiday for me. I found Berlin fantastic to cycle around. It might be a bit frustrating if you're trying to get somewhere quickly, I didn't know the road network well enough to comment on that, but for pootling around looking at stuff, it's the best place I've been to so far.
Curry in the evening, which RR told me would be quite different from a UK curry, but the dish I ordered seemed fairly similar.
The next day we were off. We said fair well to our fantastic hosts, and went off into the city on the U-Bahn. One of the trains we caught was very unusual (compared to the London Underground, the only subway I've got to compare against). There were no doors between the carriges. It was like one giant bendy bus. You could stand at one end of the train, and see the other end a long way away, moving about as the train went around corners. It was fantastic.
We stopped for a rather disappointing lunch at RR's cafe again (it's gone down hill since she used to go there) and then after buying a birthday gift for D2, went to the University by bus so she could give her Thesis defence.
The day went a bit weird at that point. We got to the room, and got everything set up. One of her professors turned up, but the other was no where to be found. Then RR's Mum appeared out of nowhere. The other professor hadn't turned up, and nobody could contact him. So the first professor went a grabbed another passing professor and made him view the presentation as well.
RR did a fantastic presentation (in English). Unfortunately, the second professors English wasn't that good, so he started asking his questions at the end in German, so for the next 20 minutes I understood very little of what was said.
Then we were kicked out of the room while the professors discussed things, and RR was brought back in on her own for a while. Result, she passed, very well. They brought up one point which she completely disagreed with, they said that she didn't use "free speech", and they thought she was reading from notes. Although she wasn't. It was all from her memory and knowledge of the subject.
Oh well, no point arguing now.
We then spoke more with RR and her Mum before the drive back to RR's home town. 100+mph down the auto-bahn. :S
I met RR's grannie, we had a simple meal together. They're all really nice people.
The next morning after breakfast we went shopping for all sorts of stuff. Spending nearly 80 euros on chocolate, booze and pudding mix :)
Our suitcase was heavier on the way back than on the way there.
After a delicious meal of really good Schnitzel (cooked by RR's grannie) and white asparagus, which is big in Germany but I've never had before, we were off to the train station to get on the train back to Berlin.
A double decker train! Of course we had to sit upstairs. The country side is like a very flat England. Very similar, although with more wood.
A bus to the airport, and then a (slightly late) 737 back to Amsterdam. We were still in plenty of time to catch our connecting flight back to Leeds. The plane to Leeds wasn't very full, so we got to switch seats to some very comfy ones right at the back. Ok, it was right next to the Engines, but the leg room was great.
I loved Berlin. The transport system was great (although not pushchair friendly), the people I met were fantastic. Cycling was brilliant.
+1 would do again.
So now I've met the "in-laws", RR's mum is visiting at the end of the month, and she'll be meeting my parents :)
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