Saturday, 15 August 2015

Berlin day two

I sleep pretty well, despite the heat. Thank god for that. Or rather thank the monks of Andechs, who propelled me to the land of nod so gently.

One of the reasons Dolores chose our hotel was the reports she read on the web of their breakfast. Very complimentary, they were. Just like the breakfast itself. Or did she say that just to get Lexie to come along? He has a great interest in breakfast. And other meals.

Downstairs in the breakfast room, Lexie immediately senses where the fried things are and heads their way. I follow him. No bacon, sadly, but there is scrambled egg, little meat balls and small bits of deep-fried schnitzel that resemble chicken nuggets. Maybe they're chicken nuggets gone horribly wrong.

“Daad. What happened to Pommerania?”

“It ended up in Prussia, Lexie”

Dolores, meanwhile, is loading up on smoked salmon and horseradish. Andrew stares glumly at an empty plate. His stomach is playing up again. Maybe he shouldn’t have drunk that bourbon and apple stuff quite so enthusiastically last night. Eventually Dolores persuades him to stare at a croissant instead. He occasionally rips off a corner, chewing it with little enthusiasm.

According to weather forecast it won’t be as hot as yesterday. It’ll be hotter. Great.

Salmon polished off, Dolores returns to the buffet for some cake. It’s a very central European thing, eating cake for breakfast. Seems really odd to me. Much less healthy than a plate piled with grease and gristle.

I’ve an appointment in the early afternoon at Heidenpeter, one of Berlin’s new breweries. It’s one of the few beery events pencilled in for our stay. Dolores was very clear from the start, “I want to see something of you, Ronald. I don’t what you spending all holiday on your beer crap.” Beer crap? Is that what I do?

The plan is to ride into town, look at some shit, eat something, then split up. Me heading to Kreuzberg the others somewhere else. But first some preparations. To complement our internal greasing at breakfast, we get some external grease applied. Andrew has the same sort of skin as me. We'd get sunburned in a cave.

“Daad, what happened to the Teutonic Knights?”

“They split up and had brief, unsuccessful, solo carreers.”

Warschauerstrasse S-Bahn station is undergoing extensive rebuilding. Access to the platforms is via a long ramp, exposed to the sun. I’m already feeling uncomfortably hot. There are queues at the two ticket machines. People are taking forever to get their tickets. When it’s our turn we see why. Or rather struggle to see. The machine’s screen is near unreadable in the dazzling sunlight.

It’s not quite as unpleasantly hot on the S-Bahn. There’s a bit of a breeze. Chance to count tattoos again as I chill. I get bored at 35.

“Daad, what happened to the Commonwealth? Poland and Lithuania.”

“Got carved up by its neighbours. Like the Ukraine.”

When we’re parked in Friedrichstrasse I point out to Andrew the gantries where there used to be border guards armed with submachine guns. “Just like at Schiphol, dad.” Now I think about it, it wasn't not so different from a modern airport. “Except at Schiphol they’re there to protect us. I think.”

I try to remember where the border was as we trundle along. Past the university hospital, that’s for sure. All the shiny new things tell me my mission is as pointless as non-alcoholic beer. All that valuable land has long been gobbled up for development.

We’re starting with something dead touristy. Looking at the Bundestag. We have to change at HauptBahnhof. Walking through what seems like every layer of the station to get to the world’s shortest underground line (just 3 stops) is great fun. Especially as it’s so cool today. Needed some exercise to warm my cold, old bones.

"Daad, why's it called the Bundestag?"

"Because its architects were Herr Bunde and Herr Stag."

We don’t linger long. Or go inside. Or even get within 100 metres. A couple of quick snaps of the family squinting into the sun in front of it is as far as it goes. Then back down into the U-Bahn to ride the last of the three stops, taking us to the Brandenberger Tor.

“Which side of the border was it on, dad?”

“It sort of was the border, Lexie.”

“You couldn’t get very close to it because of the fences. And there were guards with guns in front of it.” Dolores adds.

"Great! Guns. Were they assault rifles?"

A sweaty walk away down Unter den Linden is our next appointment. A very important one. Lunch.

Did I mention it was hot earlier? It’s hotter now. And dustier. Some poor sods are digging up the street. The ground around them is littered with water bottles.

We’re on the sunny side of the street, which is none too bright. Of  us, I mean. It's way too bright in the other sense.

“Daad, what happened to Limburg?”

“It was eaten by its neighbours.”

We don’t have that far to go, really.

“See those traffic lights there in the distance? It’s about twice as far again.” I reassure the kids.

“Daad, how far is it really?”

“Over there on the corner.” I point.

“What, with that crappy, generic, old writing?”

“You mean Gothic, Lexie." Andrew corrects him.

"It’s a good sign. It means it’s an Augustiner pub.”

We sit in pavement shade. I'm thirsty. I haven't had a beer yet. Other than the Andechs I needed to brush my teeth. I know what I’d like. Edelstoff from the cask. But I suspect they only serve it in the evening. They do. Bum. I settle for a Dark Mild. I mean Dunkles. Dolores and Andrew stick with Helles. I feel slightly cooler in at least one sense after slugging down half. (Being cooler in the other sense is never going to happen*.)

My lovely, moist roast pork might not have been perfectly paired with the weather. But I spit on your pairings. Could have been more crackling, for my taste. If not my waist. Andrew has a local delicacy: currywurst. I’m put off by the lurid sauce and unidentifiable orange dust.

Next: panic when I have to take a solo U-Bahn ride. And I tell you what I have for my tea.

* Note the lack of an “again” in that sentence.

Augustiner am Gendarmenmarkt
Charlottenstraße 55,
10117 Berlin.
Tel: +49 30 20454020

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