"Couchsurfing in Berlin"

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August 30th 2009
Published: August 30th 2009
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Berlin's Olympic stadiumBerlin's Olympic stadiumBerlin's Olympic stadium

U2's truckers letting off steam
I had a slightly odd evening in Berlin recently - “random”, I think the youngsters would call it. It started when I met Marie, who is really called Tanya, at her friend's flat off Friedrichstrasse. You're frowning so let's engage reverse gear and incorporate some back story:

A couple of weeks ago I asked Swiss Jules for suggestions on where to stay north of Milan. He mentioned a jazz festival in Lugano, but I thought accommodation might be booked out. 'Try couchsurfing.com,' was his reply. I dismissed the idea - chiefly because I don't like sleeping on couches - and opted for Lago Maggiore instead. A few days later, though, I thought I'd have a little browse on the site. Aha, you can just meet travellers for coffee or a drink. Well, a coffee is actually a drink but I know what they're getting at. How nice, I thought, to meet somebody interesting with local knowledge. Maybe I'll see the side of town that tourists don't.

The next logical step is to send a message to a suitable host. Now, I hadn't initially thought of the site as a dating site but... If there's a choice of messaging a

Berlin's metro at 1.20am
guy or a pretty girl, what am I going to go for? It's a no-brainer; you know me by now. Also, if you're anything like me, you've no time to delve far into the 1,600 or so entries for Berlin. Find a honey on the first page, is what I say. Actually, that's not strictly true. If she had listed her interests as shoppin' and chillin', I would have scrolled further. Tanya's passion for sailing, however, was enough to intrigue me.

An extended nap in the afternoon, coupled with chaos on the S-bahn lines in Berlin, meant that I didn't turn up in town until 10.15pm. Late for meeting a new girl, I agree, but the nice thing about couchsurfing is that these aren't “dates”. Anyway, I reached the flat where a send-off for a Parisian girl was in full spate. I rang the bell. 'It's Barnaby for Marie,' I said. Silence. Bugger, I forgot that's only her surfing name. Regardless, the buzzer buzzed and there was just seven flights of stairs between me and an exciting encounter.

We spoke of sailing and fashion - the latter topic saw little input from me - and how she would
The stageThe stageThe stage

U2's 360 degree tour
love to have Madonna as a godmother. That was the turning point. What I did discover, though, which is applicable to me, is that drunken cycling is 'verboten' here. No surprise there - this is Germany, after all - but the following news shook me up a bit: if caught, the police revoke your driving licence. That is worth knowing. But surely a couple of “grapefruit beers” are harmless enough, I thought naively, knocking back the last “alcopop” in the fridge. So, if squiffy peddling has you nervous as an oyster at low tide - glancing constantly over a shoulder for blue lights - you'll be relieved to learn that, in Berlin, the metro runs all night at weekends..

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1st September 2009

HaHa! Drunk cycling - the cops won't usually pull you up on it, certainly not in Bavaria, where they consider you a good sport if you don't take the car after 8 Maß, but yeah, it is verboten so if you're unlucky, you'll get a fine. Even with 'points in Augsburg' (they'll give you points on your drivers license. Get too many points and you lose it. Augsburg is the central place where they store this info).

Tot: 2.882s; Tpl: 0.014s; cc: 37; qc: 172; dbt: 0.0341s; 2; m:saturn w:www (; sld: 1; ; mem: 1.8mb