Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Berlin day one

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 ago.

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.”

The 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.

Another 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 him.

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 central.

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.

The 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 its doors.

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.

When 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.

It’s 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?"

When 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.”

It’s 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 anything.

“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.

“Moderate 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.

“Sometimes 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.

It’s 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.”

“Yeah, right.”

Alexei 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.

The 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.”

We’re 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?”

“Yes, dad.”

“And chips?”


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?”

The 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.

We 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.

Bierhof Rüdersdorf
Rüdersdorfer Str. 70,
10243 Berlin.
Tel: +49 30 29360215


Raoul Duke said...

Ahhh, Berlin - enjoy the craic!!

... said...

have you ever been to a Bierbörse in NRW Germany? Very un geeky like the Biermeile as you described.

Ron Pattinson said...

No, never been to a Bierbörse. Maybe I should.

Joris said...

Hard to imagine, that Tegel could be even a bigger shithole than Schonefeld.

Anonymous said...

So based on this entry, is it safe to assume Alexei was the first to say Shut Up About Barclay Perkins?

Loved reading it, by the way.