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Published: October 29th 2021
The World Clock and TV Tower.
It was a very, very early start as we were on an 8.45am flight (could be worse) and we do like to allow loads of time to get to airports. In fact we were way too early and we had loads of time to spare - thankfully there were none of the environmental mob blocking the roads, which is happening a lot at the moment. We were relieved to check-in as it meant that we had completed all the new, COVID related pre-flight bureaucracy correctly, as it was incredibly complicated - not just for the flight but also to keep the Germans happy.
Of course, we were going to have to wear masks now right up until we leave the terminal in Berlin.
We had a nice leisurely breakfast. We briefly contemplated getting in tune with Terminal Five and having breakfast at the Fortnum and Mason bar (after shopping at Gucci, Rolex, Prada and Burberry obviously), but we went to Prett with all the other peasants.
There was a stunning sunrise whilst we were waiting to board.
As soon as we arrived and turned our phones back on, we got texts to say that we could enjoy
View from the TV Tower
The apartment blocks of East Berlin looking towards the west.
the same mobile phone benefits whilst roaming that we would get back in the UK - great news and a surprise as I thought we had forfeited that right after Brexit.
One right that we had forfeited through was the right to go in the EU immigration queue. This was the first time that we had travelled to Europe since Brexit, so we had to remember to join the long "rest of the world" queue. At least it did mean that we got a stamp in our passport. And despite all the above-mentioned bureaucracy, we had to show our proof that we had been vaccinated again, which, luckily and thanks to the roaming benefits still being available, we were able to show on our phones.
We decided that we would get to Berlin via the train and not take the easy option by getting a taxi. That was a good move, as it cost us €7 rather than the estimated €50 cost of a taxi, although it did mean changing trains twice and dragging our suitcase up and down all the steps. Rather frustratingly, there are very few escalators. We managed work out the trains quite well, although
Alexanderplatz viewed from the TV Tower.
we did need a little help at Alexanderplatz with which platforms were going in which direction. A very helpful man could tell that we were confused and stepped in to help - something that would definitely not happen in the London Underground. And he spoke to us straight away in English. English is everywhere here - announcements are in German and then almost always follow in English (ha, ha, NOT French).
Everyone is obediently wearing their masks, without a hint of the rebellion that is going on in the UK.
We emerged for a short walk to our hotel and could we finally take our masks off, until we got to the hotel and then they were straight back on again. After a quick turn-around we were ready to hit the Berlin tourist circuit by 1.00pm (and that's with the one hour time difference) - the advantage of an early flight.
We headed back to Alexanderplatz, which was actually quite a short walk, although I would not have wanted to do it with our luggage. This is deep into what used to be East Berlin, which seemed to be a combination of building sites and endless grey,
The sunrise at Heathrow airport.
utilitarian apartment blocks - a hangover from the communist days as only the bourgeois, capitalist, middle classes live in houses.
East Berlin (and probably the whole of Berlin for that matter) is dominated by the huge Berliner Fernsehturm, often called the Telecom Tower or the TV tower. This is one of the few examples of communist architecture that is worth holding on to. It is basically a huge spike with a ball halfway up, the bottom third or so which contains a viewing gallery and a revolving restaurant.
We had tried to book the viewing gallery in advance and were unable to as we had left it too late. However, we saw a queue and found out that there are walk-in tickets (there was no mention of that on the website). They checked our vaccine record as well and also made us install a tracking app on our phones. So different to the UK.
We were so pleased that we had been able to get in as the views were excellent. You could really see the contrast between the functional east and the decadent west as you moved round. Below each window was a picture of the
Chips, chicken and macaroni cheese - my wife was appalled.
view and labels showing and describing most of the key buildings to look out for.
Apparently the height of the tower is second only to a similar tower in Moscow. The East Germans clearly knew better than to try and out do their Russian comrades.
Berlin also looked very well designed looking down on it from above. Whilst it didn't have the grid system of American cities, there are a number of long, straight, wide roads leading into the city. Very unlike London where we had had the misfortune to drive at the weekend.
There was no chance of getting any tickets for the revolving restaurant, which was a shame, as it is only partially open and they are booking two weeks in advance. We wished we had got our act together earlier.
We then had a walk around Alexanderplatz. Capitalism was everywhere now with all the shops, illuminated signs and advertising. We just had to visit the "I 'heart' Berlin" tourist tat shop. I loved the World Clock, which dated from East Berlin times and shows the current time in all the main cities around the world. As it was a couple of minutes to the hour, we thought we would wait for it to change. It didn't, so it looks like it was running slow, which wouldn’t have been allowed to happen in communist times.
We found an amazing restaurant for a much needed beer and some "Check-point Charlie chips", which consisted of chips (frites) covered in mac-and-cheese, chicken and some jalapeno peppers. My daughter would have loved them.
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