24.07.2012 - 25.07.2012 21 °C
Thanks to the prompt intervention of my brother Brian, (thanks Bro) we made it to Melbourne Airport in time for our first flight.
In the tradition of Murphy's law, our usually very reliable but venerable BMW 318i decided to hit the red line on the temperature
gauge as we cruised down Dandenong Rd, North Caulfield. Suddenly my mechanic's suggestion that there seemed to be a small
intermittent leak in the cooling system came back with a rush. The RACV yellow van and Brian's little red car arrived simultaneously
and the wiry, wizened visage of the RACV man glanced up darkly from a radiator that had only a small quantity of coolant remaining.
With little choice but to continue - can't leave a car parked on the streets of Melbourne for weeks at the mercy of every passing
loon - we continued to Brian's place, fortunately with the engine temperature staying within range. Relieved, we left the beemer and went on with our chauffeured drive.
The upside of this little delay was that there was little time to go through pre-travel anxiety. A mid-afternoon departure is ideal for a long haul
flight because the stress is all in the getting there on time. Compared to, say, a three AM departure which has been a previous experience that leaves you wiped out
Although we expected crowded travel conditions with the Olympics about to start, the rear end of the plane was peppered with vacant seats, so that many people were taking advantage and catching a few zzzzs stretched out across multiple seats.
Our first leg from Melbourne to Singapore was in the giant A380: as you look at it through the terminal windows you have
to question whether the thing could conceivably get up in the air, and if it did, how it could possibly stay up and then come down
in any kind of graceful way. Once on board, it soon becomes apparent why the term "cattle class" has become a commonplace
description of "Economy". The "cattle" are herded into minute pens and instructed that they will be fed shortly.
Perhaps the cattle metaphor is too generous to the airlines. Now it is more like the space allocated to battery hens.
Like the unfortunate slaves whose lives are spent cranking out eggs, the economy passenger too has insufficient space to
even place their limbs in a position of any comfort. It seems the allocated space per passenger has shrunk yet again, and it comes
as no surprise that the number of 'passenger rage' incidents appears to be on the rise.
Presently the packaged meals begin their slow journey down the aisles, blocking the way to the 'conveniences' for a substantial time.
Who knows how the stewards keep their smiles about them through the ministration of these evil chunks of supposed edible nature?
Within the hour one begins to suffer the agonies of the damned as one insides begin to bubble and froth with the fermenting
evil of pre-prepared airline catering. Sure, the recipes have improved somewhat, but on every long haul flight I have ever
been on, the explosive bloating that results from ingesting such morsels has resulted in painful fart suppression over many, many
dark hours. The constant long queues at the toilets as up to a dozen people at a time waited there turn suggests this is
an all too common sensation. Why can't the airlines find a safe and suitable food regime to offer the public when it has
them captive in a metal tube at 40000 feet? Curious indeed.
After the Long March through Changi Airport with only well cryptic guidance cunningly concealed in flight documentation, we made it to our connecting Lufthansa flight for the next leg to Frankfurt.
For once, no delays with security scans, indicating we have now officially reached old fogey status and don't attract much attention from the Holders of the Ionising Wand. Settling in for the longest leg, Lufthansa seem to have a policy of keeping the main lights in the cabin on until about 3am, as well as regularly trundling trolleys down the aisle to chip bits of bone from passengers whohave drifted off for a few moments with their limbs akimbo over the edge of their seat.
Now the seats seemed to shrink even closer around one's cramping muscles, so administration of 'courtesy' alcohol was deemed essential to getting any kind of shut-eye.
And so to Frankfurt, hot dog! We're getting closer.
With boarding passes for the final Frankfurt to Berlin leg already in hand, the switch to the final plan was like flying with an old friend, the smaller but more comfortable domestic style craft, 737?
Our legs permitted to stretched a little, twitching in anticipation of the final release from the air to terra firma.
Even though we had now been in transit for about 28 hours, it was only 8:45 in Berlin, and somehow the brain kicks into morning activity even without the benefit of more than a few splintered shards of sleep.
The moment of release, where you emerge in the bright light of a brand new country where you have never been before, dragging your baggage behind you,is a time when your senses swoon a little as you try to make sense of a thousand new impressions at the same time.
Somehow you follow the signs to find the bus stop, and after mistakenly waiting at the wrong end, change to the other end, waiting on the 109 bus that the illuminated sign promises. Somehow you have retained this bus route number in your head... or was it 190 (nervous shudder). No matter. The driver has no idea or interest in where your longed-for hotel is located, of course. So, wrack the brain again for a landmark within reach of where we want to go.
Scouring the mental image of the Google Map of Berlin somehow retained from a brief study, recall the name Adenaeurplatz, named for the first chancellor of the free German republic. That's enough to confirm we are en route, landing within a five minute walk of Bregenzer Strasse,
where our hotel awaits. An instructive point for young players: the more you focus on the minute details of your concerns,
the less other people are able to help you. Be aware of the perspective of those around you, and give them the right context to be able to understand you a little. Big picture before little picture.
On arrival at Bregenzer Strasse 5, we are greeted by Christian, whose face is already known to me from the positive reviews of the place on TripAdvisor.
With a relaxed few minutes of signing in, we are quickly settled in a comfortable room with a balcony overlooking the quiet residences of Bregenzer Strasse. Jet lagged and dehydrated, inflated with
gas from more than a day of living on airline food, we restrict ourselves to a small exploration of the neighbourhood.
In this predominantly 4 or 5 storey residential sector of West Berlin, there seems to be a cafe or other eatery on nearly every corner, as well as here and there along the street. Christian points out that there's no need to go far now if you want something to eat. A choice of two Italian places, Greek, and Vietnamese is available just by walking around the block.
By the way, if like myself you always find you need a few items from the equivalent of the corner shop, tea bags, milk, bottled water and so on, the Kaiser Minisupermarket two minutes walk away has everything you need, and if you have a half euro spare you can grab a tasty Czech beer as well. Just bring your own backpack, as no plastic bags will be given unless paid for.
(Even at festive occasions such as a promo event for Duckstein Beer - I kid you not, it's real - you eat from a real dinner plate with real cutlery, after paying an extra refundable two euros on top
of the cost of the food. Makes sure the dish and knife and fork come back and all the waste is collected and recycled wherever possible. Come on Aussie, we should be doing it too, right now.)
And so to bed, to catch up on those z's that changing time zones deplete. Time enough tomorrow to start the holiday in earnest.