Quest for a Parkrun Z Day 1 - Berlin

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May 15th 2019
Published: May 15th 2019
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So the old man's quest to become a parkrun alphabeteer (running a parkrun beginning with each letter of the alphabet) has brought us to Poland, via Germany, with a brief foray into Slovakia.

I studied north of Berlin in 1988 and was a regular visitor to the then East Berlin. I've only been back once since reunification, and it's rather a weird feeling. Not only how much a place, particularly one with such a turbulent history has changed. But also, how you can walk along a road which is so familiar, then reach a part you have never visited before, because there used to be a wall in between.

We fly into Berlin ahead of schedule (an EasyJet first). Then pass through immigration. I get stopped by immigration a second time. So much for freedom of movement. We pick up our hire car and get charged an additional €53 for taking the car across a border (which is actually another EU country and part of Schengen). Another freedom of movement fail. I’m beginning to come round to the idea of Brexit.

Once we've checked into our hotel, we head into the city for a whistle stop tour. We take a tube to Alexanderplatz. This was once one of my favourite places and home to my favourite restaurant, the Alex Grill. It's very different now, the fountain is surrounded by winos and the restaurants on offer - McDonalds and Burger King. We opt instead for curry wurst and chips in a little café on the river overlooking the cathedral.

Next stop, by order of daughter number 2, is the Rittersport shop for chocolate buying. I'm not sure why she made this request, she must know that the chances of me buying chocolate and keeping it uneaten for 10 days are spectacularly low.

Then we continue our walk (with pauses to photograph fibreglass bear sculptures – who can resist a fibreglass art trail?) past the ever so tacky Checkpoint Charlie with its fake military post and fake soldiers who pose for photos with tourists.

On to the Memorial to Murdered Jews, a bemusing collection of concrete rectangles. Apparently they ‘produce an uneasy, confusing atmosphere, and the whole sculpture aims to represent a supposedly ordered system that has lost touch with human reason’.

An obligatory photo op at the Brandenburg Gate before our final stop, the Reichstag. We have tickets to visit the dome, but have forgotten our passports, so return to our hotel for an early night. We have been up since 3.45 am so it’s been rather a long day.

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