It’s become a tradition to visit Berlin in August. Principally to visit the Berliner Biermeile, the world’s least geeky beer festival. Which is why I love it.
We usually fly, but this year
decided to take the train instead. Mostly because Tegel is such a
shithole. And inadequate on just about every level. It looks like
they’ve done nothing but essential maintenance for several decades. I
guess because the new airport was supposed to be up and running years
As our train isn’t until 11:00, we’re in no rush. Which is how I like to travel.
“I’m just off to Ton Overmars for some train beers, Dolores.”
“What about all the beer on the floor?”
“That isn’t train beer.”
“When are you going to drink it?”
“On the train.”
“I meant the beer on floor.”
“I’m saving that for a special occasion. That’s special beer.”
“Grolsch Session IPA is a special beer?”
“An especially weird one.”
selection of cans is disappointing. Most of it’s watery
thirst-quenching beer. I’m after something with more kick. I get 7 cans
of Stone IPA. A bit weird, I know, seeing as it was brewed in Berlin.
change this year: both the kids are coming along. For Alexei it will be
his first chance to join in with the drinking at the festival. Lucky
We jump on a tram just before ten. Thankfully, it
isn’t too packed. All those terrorist bastards are probably still having
breakfast. The bastards. Coming over here, clogging up our trams. It’s
really annoying. It’s not even as if we live anywhere even vaguely
As we have first class tickets, we can get a
free drink in the NS lounge. And relax somewhere quiet and
air-conditioned. It’s probably the coolest we’ll be all day.
train leaves from platform 10B. When we troll up there it’s packed.
Almost every international train I take nowadays is jam packed. The ones
headed for Belgium are particularly bad. We have reserved seats. No
need to push our way through the mob when the train pulls in and opens
I usually leave seat-grabbing to Dolores.
Years of taking overcrowded Deutsche Reichsbahn* trains have left her
with particularly well skilled at elbowing through crowds.
we get to our compartment two young women are already seated there. Not
in our seats, mind. We plonk ourselves down and spread out our supplies
on the table. Reading material, sandwiches and, of course, beer. My
Stone IPA and a six-pack each of Heineken Pils for the young ‘uns.
The journey takes six and a half hours. Despite only being
around 650 km. One of the reasons it takes so long is the number of
stops the train makes. Six in the Netherlands alone and another ten in
Germany. That’s an average of one stop every 40 km or so. Ridiculous for
an international train. Without changing the infrastructure, they could
easily lop a couple of hours off the journey time.
quite a warm day. Soon it becomes obvious that the air conditioning
isn’t really up to the job. The compartment starts to warm, even though
we keep the door closed, as recommended by the conductor.
"It looks like Australia outside. Remember when we took the train from Melbourbe to Sydney, Dolores?"
the train stops at Bad Bentheim to change locomotives, me and the kids
stretch our legs on the platform. It’s pretty warm. And while the switch
is being made the airco is shut off.
“We’d best get back on, dad.” Andrew warns after a while, “The train will be leaving soon. We don’t want to get left behind.”
“I just want to take a few more photos.”
“Jesus, Dad, stop messing about and get back on the train.” Alexei says impatiently.
“Just a couple more. I need stuff for the blog.”
“You and your stupid blog.”
noticeably warmer in the compartment than before. I open another can of
IPA for purely refreshment purposes. It’s not like I’m a pisshead or
“Look like you’re having fun, Alexei.”
“Stop taking photos all the time, dad.”
“I need . . .”
“I know, you need them for your stupid blog.”
I manage to limit myself to one can an hour. Very restrained.
is my middle name.” I remark to Dolores. She makes that noise. The stop
talking total crap noise. I hear it a lot. She has a few different
ones, depending on the degree of bollocks she thinks I’m talking.
I think you have the impression I’m a totally different person from who
I really am.” I get another noise in reply. That’s the two levels of
bollocks up from the last one.
We notice that the train
doesn’t terminate at Hauptbahnhof but carries on to Ostbahnhof. Which
is way closer to our hotel. Just one S-Bahn stop away. We decide to
carry on through to there.
They’re getting along nicely
with Warschauerstrasse S-Bahn station. Another couple of years and it
should be finished. They’ve only been rebuilding it for five or six.
It’ll probably be ready for the opening of the new airport.
boiling hot when we emerge from it. Luckily the kids are carrying the
heavy stuff. No point bringing them along and not making use of their
strong, young bodies.
We dump off our bags at the hotel
and rush out for provisions. Bread, beer, cheese, beer, ham, beer. Plus
some beer for the kids.
“I’ll get the food from the
Aldi. You and the kids can go and get beer in the Getränkemarkt. I’ll
see you there when I’m done.” Dolores suggests. That’s fine by me.
“Don’t spend ages looking at beer, dad.” Alexei is very impatient today.
“I’m usually pretty quick.”
“No you aren’t.”
I head to the Bavarian section at the back and start pulling out bottles.
“Why are you getting so much beer? You’ll never drink all that.”
“That sounds like a challenge to me, Lexie.”
“Daaad, hurry up.”
“You’re a right Mr. Grumpytrousers today.”
“Shut up, dad.”
While I’m scanning for bottles of impulse Schnapps, Andrew grabs a bottle of Apple Jack Daniels.
“Feeling thirsty, Andrew.”
“Well, you’ve got all that beer.”
“Only eight or nine bottles. That’s not much. And you’ve got yourselves beer, too.”
“Less than you. And there are two of us.”
No sign of Dolores. Damn, it’s hot. We shuffle our feet a little at the spirits section. Andrew is checking the prices.
“Rum is about the same price as in Ton Overmars, dad.”
“What about Korn?”
“That’s dirt cheap.”
“Absolut is cheaper here.” Alexei chips in. He knows his vodka. Getting impatient, though. Me, too. It’s the heat, I reckon.
Two Polish men arrive at the checkout with ten crates of Tyskie. And one crate of soft drinks.
“Looks like they’ll be having a quiet weekend.” I remark.
“Great racial stereotyping there, Dad.”
“I was speaking in admiration, Andrew.”
gets tired of waiting for his mum and trots off to Aldi. Me and Andrew
remain and quietly melt. No air conditioning, sadly. It’s equally as hot
inside or out.
Eventually Dolores and Alexei return and we pay. Thank Stalin for that.
walk back to the hotel is a hot one. But at least we have beer to
drink. Not that we linger long. We’re off out for some nosh. At the more
hipster of the two nearby beer gardens.
On the way, I try to get a snap of the weird, slightly derelict-looking industrial building in whose grounds the beer garden is.
“Stop taking stupid photos, dad, and hurry up.” The heat is making Alexei short-tempered.
“It’s for my blog.”
“I don’t care about your stupid blog, hurry up.”
all pretty thirsty. So we get a big beer each. And I mean a big beer: a
litre. I get a Bürgerbräu Rodkelchen. The others get a Pils. We’re so
parched that we’ve soon made big dents in them.
It’s pretty hisptery. But it’s pleasant sitting outside and the prices aren’t that hipstery.
“Do you fancy a burger, kids?”
Dolores trots off to the food shack to order while me and the kids wrap our faces around our litre mugs.
“Let me get a snap of your beer, Alexei.”
“Dad, what did I tell you about taking stupid photos all the time?”
burgers are pretty good and only 7 or 8 euros a pop. Which is dirt
cheap compared to Amsterdam. The prices still aren’t crazy in Berlin.
But how long can that last? Hose prices and rents are already going
crazy. I’m taking advantage while I can.
only stay for the one beer and head back to our hotel. Though we won’t
be hanging around in our rooms. The hotel has a roof terrace. We grab a
few beers and head up there. The breeze is pleasantly cool as we gaze
out towards the Fernseherturm. Watching the sky slowly darken and the
lights of the city sparkle up. It’s all rather soothing.
“I must get a shot of the skyline.”
“Dad, can you put that stupid camera down for once?”
Literally German Imperial Railways. Weird how that was the name of the
train company in communist East Germany. Dolores reckons they left the
name unchanged after the war because they didn’t want to spend money
repainting all the trains.
Rüdersdorfer Str. 70,
Tel: +49 30 29360215
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