Gordy's 30th Birthday
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[13/11/05: Written on the Bath - Paddington train, with a pause at 11:00 for a 2-minute silence.]
Having given up on the idea of hiring a boat on the Avon for his 30th birthday, Gordy decided to have a weekend in Berlin. This wasn't the weekend of his birthday (his actual birthday was the Thursday before our Trimix course), but this was the only weekend that Prof could make. Those of us who went were:
Scary had to work, and the Prof didn't come in the end (ooh-err missus).
We were all arriving from different places. Darran and Ruth had flown out a day earlier from City Airport, Gordy and Emma were flying from Bristol Airport, Ian and Caro were flying from France, and I was flying from Heathrow.
Ruth had found a cheap hostel in Berlin, and, using my GCSE German, I had booked 4 rooms. Also in German, I had asked for directions from the airport to the hostel.
I left work a little early, and headed off to the airport. Having already printed my boarding card the previous night, there was no need to arrive too early at the airport. Unfortunately, I had forgotten about the lack of catering on BA flights, so I had a collect a meal voucher. All I got was a five pound voucher. What can £5 buy at Heathrow, I thought. A pint and a half of Stella was the answer! The flight was delayed a bit, but not by much. We made good time flying to Berlin, which was a good thing, because there was no beer on board.
I arrived a Berlin airport, and was surprised to see how small it was. I found the bus stop fairly quickly, and went to the kiosk to buy a ticket.. Unfortunately, I had forgotten the German for ticket! Fortunately, I had bought a German dictionary at WHSmith earlier on. Anyway, I got my ticket, and got on the bus.
I was disappointed with the lack of totty, but was looking forward to trying out my German. As the bus stopped on its way into Berlin, this strange looking bloke got on. With all the empty seats throughout the bus, why did he decided to sit next to me. "Wie spät ist es", he said. I ignored him. He nudged me in the ribs. "Wie spät ist is?", he said again. "Ich weiß nicht", I replied. He was quiet for while, but still made me nervous. After about 5 minutes, we nudged me in the ribs again, and said "Wie spät ist es?", he said again. I was going to reply with "Nur funf minuten, habe ich nicht gewusst, und ich weiß nicht jetzt", but couldn't be bothered to get into an argument. "Ich weiß nicht", I replied, and he shut up.
I got off the bus near the hotel. The directions suggested getting another bus, but it didn't seem too far to walk, so I did. As I was walking along the road, this woman, who was parking on the pavement stopped me. "Darf mann hier parken?", she asked. Desperately wanting to flirt with her, all I could think of to say was "Ich weiß nicht". There seemed to be a pattern developing here.
Anyway, after a bit of confusion, I arrived at the hostel, to see Gordy, Emma, Darran, and Ruth sat outside drinking beer. I said my hellos, went upstairs to check-in, and then joined them waiting for Ian and Caro, drinking beer. As we were waiting, my phone rang. Confused, I said "Who's that? It's a German number?". Emma was amused when I closely followed that with "Hi Klaus". I'd met Klaus in my first year at University, but hadn't seen him since then (1991). He lived about an hour outside Berlin, and said he'd meet us on Saturday evening.
Ian and Caro then arrived, with Caro hobbling along. Tom had injured her during their holiday in France, while messing about around the pool. I sent him a text message telling him what a bad man he is, but he didn't reply. After Ian and Caro had checked in, we headed off to find somewhere to eat. As we walked past an Indian restaurant, Emma said "Look. It's an Italian restaurant serving curry". No, Emma, that's the Indian flag, not the Italian flag! It seemed like a controversial idea, walking past a curry house, but we ended up at a German restaurant called "Banging". I asked the waiter whether he could seat 7 of us, and he found a table fairly quickly.
There was a big selection of meals on the menu, so found it quite hard to understand. There was no way that I was going to be able to translate for everybody, Emma's A* GCSE German was a bit rusty, and Ruth didn't fancy translating for everybody either. Fortunately, the waiter spoke excellent English, and sorted us out. Later on, I wanted to attract his attention. "Entschuldigung, Herr Ober", I said. He came over, but looked at me a bit strangely.
After we'd finished eating, he turned on the gas burner right above my head. After about 5 minutes, I was starting to fry. I had to ask him in English, because I couldn't remember the German for "I am hot", and I really didn't want to say "Ich bin heiß".
On the way back, Caro started teaching me the words to "head, shoulders, knees, and toes" in German, although some of the words weren't exactly what I'd learnt in my German class......
[Just changed trains at Reading. There's some top totty sat on the table across from me, but I won't have time to pull her before I get to Slough, and she's way out of my league anyway.]
I can't remember whether we had any beer action back at the hostel, but I'm sure we did.
Nobody else was around when I went down for breakfast, so I went for a quick reckie around. I can't remember much about what I found, but the sun was shining, and there was some totty about. Back at the hostel, the others had just surfaced when I got back. Time for tea, breakfast, and some good perving. Looking through the guidebooks, we decided what we would do for the day. I wasn't that bothered what we did, so let the others decide. Having already been in Berlin for a day, Darran and Ruth had an idea of what was what. After deciding what to do, Gordy tried practising his German on me (he didn't know a word, so just read a phrase from his guidebook). It all went well, until I answered. I didn't say what was written in the guidebook, so Gordy was a little lost.
[Just got off the train at Slough, and I realised that the bird that I'd been sitting next to had a VERY low-cut top on. What a pity I didn't realise earlier. Getting the escalator up to Tesco, there was a woman with sexy boots, and the shortest skirt in the world in front of me at eye-level. Way-hay!].
Anyway, back to Berlin. After breakfast, we had to go for a bit of Geld Automat action, before I could buy my bus ticket. As I was buying my ticket, Gordy and Emma walked in, and also needed tickets. I just carried on my conversation with the shop assistant, and Gordy and Emma ended up with tickets as well. As we walked out of the shop, Gordy was lost for words for a while, and then commented how impressed he was at my German! This was a strange feeling - Gordy being nice to me. As Emma pointed out, I ought to make the most of it.
All with tickets, we got on the tram, and headed off to the Checkpoint Charlie museum. Last time I'd been to Berlin was in 1991 (just after the Berlin wall had come down in 1990), and the time before that was in the mid '80s. Walking around the museum, I saw the famous "You are now leaving the American Sector" sign, which I had last seen actually in place at Checkpoint Charlie. There were lots of stories about brave escapes from East Berlin, but one story made me smile.
It was about a school kid, who lived in a farm, that was connected to West Berlin by a single road. The farm and road were part of West Germany, but the land either side of the road belonged to East Germany. One day, he returned home after about 30 minutes, and told his mother that he had been stopped by the East German army, and told that he was in East German territory. His mother told the school, and, from that day onwards, the kid had a West German army escort into school. It wasn't until the wall came down many years later, that he admitted that he'd made the whole thing up in order to get a day off school.
From the Checkpoint Charlie museum, we walked to the only part of the Berlin Wall still standing, which was being made into a museum. After that we headed off to some big shopping place for a bite to eat and, more importantly, some beer action. I can't remember the name of the place, but I can remember Gordy being really impressed with the structure.
In the afternoon, we visited the Holocaust Memorial (it just looked like a load of concrete blocks to me), the Brandenburg Gate, and the Reichstag. It was quite scary at the top of the Reichstag, but it was well worth the long wait to get inside. There were lots of pictures of politicians all over Berlin, but it wasn't until a week later that I realised that the Germans were having an election!
Back outside, we waited around a bit, until my old mate Klaus arrived. I was concerned that I wouldn't recognise a bloke that I hadn't seen for almost 15 years, but I recognised him straight away. We headed off to a pizza restaurant, to drink beer, eat pizza, and chat about the old times. Despite the long walk, I didn't feel that hungry, but still managed a few beers. We walked back to the shopping centre place for a few more drinks (top marks to Caro, who managed to keep up, while hobbling along), before heading back to the hotel for even more beers.
Gordy and Rach headed off to play pool, while the rest of us had a few beers at the hotel. We got chatting to two Swedes,. who tried to convince us that the were in the Swedish national cricket team.....
We all had different flights to catch back to England, so we all had different plans for the day. After breakfast, I was going to go up the telecom tower, but it was too cloudy. I therefore had enough time to go on a bus tour of Berlin, before getting my flight back home. Apparently one of the local buses does almost the same route, but I decided to pay extra, to get the commentary. It was a very interesting tour, and well worth the money.
Back near the hotel, I tried to find the bus-stop to get a bus to the airport. I couldn't find one. I therefore asked for directions. Unfortunately, I got a bit confused between "Bus Halte Stelle" and "Busten Halte", and actually asked where the bra to the airport is! No wonder he replied in English.
At the airport, there was a massive queue at the check-in desk, but, fortunately, there was one auto-check-in machine that wasn't being used. I then went through security, only to find that there wasn't a bar air-side. Gimmeration!
Thanks everybody for an excellent weekend.
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Created on: 13 Nov 2005. Modified on: 16 Nov 2005.
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