Wednesday, January 31, 2007

My bratwurst has a first name...

Arriving back in the UK I was glad to be home and ready to get out there again. So the next morning I got on a tube for the first time in a month – then decided to go to Berlin. Sorry London, but we have to do it in baby steps.

With Sarah already exploring Berlin, I had someone to hold my hands in a big city. For those that don’t know Sarah, this is her. She will now be refereed to as Sarz. She’s the goddess of all things that are cool, apparently. Although Sarz is allergic to wheat. This means the steady stream of schnitzel, beer and sausages that I gorged on was viewed with envious hatred by the young lady - you may be a godess of cool Sarz, but I didn't have to the glutton free products below ;).
Berlin is the artier and less conservative Munich. It was the capital of the great Prussian empire until 1771 when the country of Germany was formed, and it stayed as the capital after that. Berlin has the feel of Melbourne, the politics of Canberra, but Frankfurt is the finance hub (Sydney). So Berlin is cheap, cheap, cheap. I honestly thought I was in Eastern Europe things were so cheap.

In fact everything I have come across in Germany I love. Just like the start of a letter to Playboy: ‘I never thought it would happen to me…’, Germany is by far my favourite country to date. It’s the food (everything is simply bread and meat), the beer (bigger still), the woman (buxom fraulin goes no way to describe) or simply the natural beauty of the place. On top of this, everything works like clockwork. My pet peeve is incompetence, and so is Germany’s. Even the flag is good. The red is for blood and strength, the gold for power and wealth, and the black for the land. Much better than the French’s white flag.
Helpful Germans - only 190 more stairs out of 321 - thanks guys!

But Bart, I hear you say, aren’t the Germans aggressive and stern? I thought this too, but after two tours of duty, I’m yet to meet a nicer race. I have never seen so many beggars as successful as they are in Berlin. Everyone on the train put their hands in their pockets and pulled out some euros when asked.

Reichstag - chilly!!!!

One thing that struck me in Berlin is there are no English translations. When I saw this, I thought: ‘here we go’, another version of France where they refuse to speak to you or help you. But nay pessimistic Bart, it’s because every German I spoke to could speak English. And those that didn’t actually apologised and were embarrassed when they couldn’t. So this is what made my train trip from Schonfeld to Alexanderplatz that much more interesting.

Now travel is addictive. And with any addiction there is a hit - a tipping point - which is what the junkie is after every time. Many say their travel hit is the feeling of returning home. Others say meeting new people. Mine is being lost. Complete and utter confusion, helplessness and detachment from everything is what I like about travel. It’s that point when you get out of an airport and think ‘shit, where the hell am I and what the hell do I do now?'. But that’s only because I enjoy that satisfaction, the afterglow if you will, of sorting your way through the problem and coming out super duper at the end.

So with this in mind I bumped in to a friendly little German at the airport who helped me find my way to the train station, on to the train, chatted for a little bit and then burst in to tears. And I’m not meaning that little tickle in the back of your throat when the spider dies in Charlotte’s web, but the ‘I hear mucus is valuable so let’s see how much I can get out my nose in one continual sobbing’ session. Strange way to start Germany 2.0. After some Aussie bloke questions: ‘you alright mate – did your dog die?’ the answer was a break up with an English girl (damn those Allies) and he was back in Germany to pick up the pieces. After a few bitches, her loss and there’s plenty more sauerkraut in the currywurst quotes, he was okay and ready to start his life again. Now I know how Ghandi must felt.

On to find Sarz.

Berlin turned on a lovely 4 degree day with winds and the end of a snow storm, followed by rain, rain and more rain. Great day for us to meander around the Brandenburg gate, the Reichstag and laugh at such amusing names such as Ausgang (that’s the collective term for us two), Bumphart, Farkhaus and anything with
Hamburger in it. But after getting up at 4 am to get to the airport only 1 day after getting off the world’s longest flight, it was time to do what any traveller in a hostel does – buy cheap booze and invite a whole bunch of people to your room. Well, Sarz was one up on me there after I taught her the ropes in the French Alps and had already launched, advertised, stocked and trademarked Timmy’s Bar (after one of the rooms occupants) and the party began there - Room 416 Academy produced it's first graduate. The rest of the night has gone from my mind.

Timmy's Bar

We made our own way around the next day, going to see the Victory Monument, a church or two before paying a few euro to take a Third Reich tour to the highs and lows of the Nazis. Saw a lot of sites that you wouldn’t come across and stories that you wouldn’t hear about until they are pointed out by a tour guide.

That night, with Timmy’s Bar closed, we jumped on a pub tour and realised that Berlin has some pretty fucking cool places. I had to add the profanity to enhance the statement. One such bar, situated in a derelict building that is squatted in by random musicians, had to be the favourite. With massive beers for less than you would pay for a small OJ in the UK, I was in heaven. For you Melbournians, Berlin is your city. While I was there, that’s all I could think – this is Melbourne through and through. It’s got the most courtyards in Europe, full of underground, hidden bars and clubs, and everyone seems to be more than happy to meet you. Once again, won’t go in to the details, but good night was had.

Oh and Alison, to answer your question, no, only with ski goggles, but I was giving it my best try.

The next day was the full 5 hour walking tour of Berlin, including all the favourites. So let’s see what they are.

On 10 May 1933, members of the Nazi party walked in to the Humboldt University and gave lists to the students of books they wanted brought to Opernplatz (a public square over the street) and burnt all authors who were Jews, Communists, homosexuals, disabled or simply challenged the new power (can anyone say Bush's Patriot Act 2002?).

About 200,000 books were burnt. According to scientists, the severe reaction came after after Hitler read the below:
To apologise for this act, to this day there is a second hand book sale at the front of the university when weather permits. Also, a memorial in the middle of the square. The memorial is a room under the square with a perplex roof, which is has an empty bookshelf on each four walls wall.Onwards to other memorials and monuments before crossing what is left of the Berlin Wall. Nowadays only small sections of the wall exist, with the area marked only by bricks in the pavement and road as well as several checkpoints.

East side vs West side Stay on your side and don't look at me capitalist pig!

The most famous checkpoint is the entrance to the US zone called Checkpoint Charlie – the point where Soviet and US tanks faced each other after a tense border argument. This, and the Cuban missile crisis, were the closest to battle that these two super powers came. While the missile crisis was a naval blockade, the reason for Checkpoint Charlie’s tense moment was simply a diplomat trying to play a ‘how big is my dick’ competition with Soviet border guards and taking it a little too far by ordering tanks to in to the street to show why he didn't need a passport to pass over the line. One of the most exciting times in the walls history – apart from the Hoff singing on it (full rendition of the Hoff’s classical song can be heard at Sarz’ My Space here).

Off to a few more places, including Hitler’s final resting place – his bunker.

Well what did you expect from a bunker – it’s underground!

And it’s not really there anymore. The Soviets, who reached Berlin first, never wanted Hitler to have a resting place or a memorial, so his body was cremated and thrown in to a river and his bunker was destroyed. The irony is that not more than 20 metres from this site is now the huge Holocaust memorial.

Now what I love about Deutschland is the way they live. They don’t have the siestas in the afternoon or go to the gym and flog themselves mercifully at lunchtime. They work hard and smart, drive expensive cars, eat massive meals, drink huge beers and go home late after a big night to do it all again the next day. I thought the excess of Oktoberfest was seasonal, but it doesn’t seem to be. The food is what got me the most. In London you pay 4 pounds for semi-frozen bread with a slathering of ‘prawns’ and mayonnaise, and if you’re lucky you can get an OJ made from concentrate. Germany – 1.50 Euros (a pound), a bread roll bigger than your head, stuffed with salami, five cheeses, lettuce, tomato, mustard and then a hand squeezed OJ. So, while Berlin was a bit of a site seeing trip, just like a Munich, it did turn in to a cook’s journey through Deutschland.

Bratwurst in a roll

Chocolates from Plantagen & Schokolade (chocolatiers to the Royals)

Frankfurt, saukraut and dried onion

Not sure if I want to get my lips around the extra 'additive' (enlarge photo)

Apart from looking like I'm getting an enema - I was excited by this salami roll

And welcome back to British cuisine!

But I didn't try this place - seemed to insulting for me

But I may need to buy a t-shirt here after my sampling

What a great little trip that one was. I do love Germany (well I do have some Kraut blood in this little body) and can’t wait to get back there. Oh, and to make you all happy, I beat an Italian in Fooz Ball and got him to say his soccer team cheated in the World Cup as a prize, and saw a Mercedes being towed!!


At 9:11 AM, Blogger LaLa said...

I am sooooo jealous, Berlin is my favourite city in Europe. I went to some random nightclub called Silberfish where they played the Muppets theme tune at about 4am.

God. I am so depressed now.

At 1:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I bet that's not the first time you've had a long wiener in your mouth

At 2:10 PM, Blogger Bart said...

Long - yes.

At 11:31 AM, Anonymous jimmy said...

you look like one of the Von Trap kids with the hat jacket combo!

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