"What's that then?" I enquired.
"Really Drew, its the parliament building." Connie explained.
"Like the Houses of Parliament in London then?"
"But no Big Ben!" Pia giggled.
The trip is in the New Year, well next week in fact and is part of our social studies course. We leave on Monday and take the Nacht Express to Berlin so we get there Tuesday morning. We have two days there, we stay in some hostel place Tuesday night then get the Nacht Express back so we are home Thursday morning - well back to school at least!
I'm sure it was mentioned before but you know me!
"So we get time on our own?"
"Yeah, Frau Boxberg likes the odd tipple and she can't take us all on the Ku'Damm!" Anna chuckled.
"You'll see." Steffi promised.
"Come on you lot, we haven't got all night."
"Sorry Miss." Steff mentioned.
"I've got you lot in birth's four and five, don't disappoint me by mucking about."
"No miss." we all chorused before clambering on board the Berlin bound train.
The whole carriage was reserved for our party; I've never slept on a train before so it's a bit of a novelty.
"Come on." Anna chivvied leading the way to our 'cabins'.
Pia let out a yawn.
"What time is it?"
"Erm, eleven fifty."
"Still ten minutes before we leave Köln then." Connie advised.
We were all in one 'berth' playing Gin Rummy - well the girls were, I'm useless at it! The carriage juddered then without further ado we lurched forward.
"Berlin here we come!"
The door sprang open.
"Okay you guys, back to your own berths and get in your bunks. And don't spend half the night talking!"
Well it cut the number of conversationalists in half but the three of us left in our berth, that's me, Anna and Connie were still having half a conversation an hour later. But exhaustion finally got the better of me shortly after one and lulled by the gentle swaying of the carriage I was son in the Land of Nod - no not the place in Yorkshire, you know, asleep.
"...Dieser Zug endet hier."
"Come on Drew, you're always last!"
"Not on a bike miss." Steffi put in.
"We are not on bikes now however so come on Fraulein Bond, shake a leg."
My first impression of Berlin was of it being cold and windy. Of course that description would probably apply to pretty much any railway platform at eight o'clock on a January morning! It wouldn't have been half so bad but I was only wearing shorts. Well okay they were knee length and there were thick tights underneath but come on - its January! And yes it is a long story and no I'm not going into it right now. At least my top half was snug in my ski jacket.
"Brrrr indeed," Frau Boxberg agreed, "now we're all here, we'll go down to the concourse to get some Frühstuck then our bus will be picking us up at nine o'clock pronto. Got that everyone?"
"Yes Frau Boxberg." we all chanted.
"Right then, Stefan, if you could lead the way please. Drew if you have a moment please?"
What now? Am I gonna get bawled out for being last up? I waited with Frau Boxberg for the others to go ahead.
"Drew, I know there are things happening at home with you being Weinkönigin but why are you dressed like that now? Not that you don't look very nice for a girl but maybe jeans would be more practical?"
"Erm, well I erm sort of erm said I'd be like Gaby for the erm trip if Connie beat me in a bike race."
"And Miss Thesing bested you?"
This was embarrassing!
"Yeah well they never said that I had to wear an inflatable Santa costume."
"I hope there are pictures?"
"I wish there weren't." I sighed.
"So Connie beat you?"
"It was a fix!"
"But you still agreed to fulfill the bet?"
"Well you have to, I mean, I agreed to it."
"Sometimes Herr Bond, sometimes!" she shook her head. "Come on or we'll miss getting breakfast."
She gave me a quick hug before ushering me down the escalator to join the throng on the concourse.
We piled our stuff on to the coach, the first order of the day was an orientation tour, no stopping but Frau Boxberg pointed out all the points of interest, we'd get time to visit them all later and tomorrow.
"What are you up to Con?"
"Um just playing with your hair?"
"I was thinking Gabs, can I put it in braids?"
"Do you have to? You had me looking like a five year old last time."
"I promise it will look fine."
"Whatever." I sighed in defeat before returning my attention to the city outside.
By the time we stopped for our first proper visit at the Reichstag Connie was done and I was sporting a pair of pretzels! Grrr! Why me? So not only was I having to wear what the girls told me but there was clearly a conspiracy to make me look as girly as possible!
We filed off of our bus and congregated around Frau Boxberg.
"Everyone here? Good. For those of you who don't recognise it, behind me is the home of our parliament, the Reichstag. In a moment we will go inside but first can anyone give us any history of the building?"
An hour later we returned to the front of the building and I found myself posing for pictures with everyone - I'm not gonna be allowed to forget this am I? It was pretty cool going in the Reichstag actually, the domey thing was really ace and apparently the guy who designed it is British!
"People - we will go to the Sowiet Kriegsdenkmal and then to the Brandenburger Tor so please keep up."
The sun was out but not really giving much heat but at least my legs were a bit warmer than when we got off the train! We trailed across the road into the park on the other side and we were soon contemplating what was clearly a war memorial and in true communist style it was over the top complete with artillery and tanks!
At least the Brandenburg Gate looked a bit more exciting - if you know what I mean. Frau Boxberg once again gave us the run down and of course we had to do a group photo in front of the gate. We left Pariser Platz and walked to our waiting bus on the Unter Den Linden.
"What're all the cops for?" I enquired, there were several more heavily armed than usual policeman stood at the intersection.
"That Fraulein Bond, is for the British Embassy." Frau Boxberg supplied. "Since the terrorist attacks in America and London there is much more security, the road in front used to be open for traffic and on the other side of Unter Den Linden the American Embassy also has high security. The prices we pay for freedom can be very high."
On that philosophical note we proceeded to our waiting bus. Hey! Who's she calling Fraulein?
The bus didn't take us far, we all piled off again opposite the carbuncle that is Berlin Dom. I'm sure Dad would have liked it but looking at old buildings doesn't really do much for me. Still we saw the National Opera, what's left of the castle, the Humboldt University and a bunch of museums before we reconvened by the statue of Marx and Engel's, the founders of communism.
"Okay everyone, listen up please. It's two o'clock now so we'll take a break for lunch now. I want everyone to meet back here at three thirty; we will then go to the Fernsehturm after which you will have free time until six when we go to the hostel. Any questions?"
There was a general mumble of consent.
“Right then, enjoy yourselves.”
The six of us started walking towards the road where we could see a few shops.
“So what's this Furnturn then?”
“Well duh.” Anna pointed up.
My gaze followed her finger, my eyes locking on the huge tower reaching skyward.
“Its only a TV tower Gabs.” Connie noted
“We'll go up to the viewing platform, there should be some good views this afternoon.” Steff added.
“You never been up one Gab?” Pia enquired.
“Nope, Dad was on about it back in the summer, I think there must be one near Dusseldorf.”
“Yeah I've been up that one.” Anna advised.
“I hope we don't have to walk up.”
“There's a lift of course.” Nena supplied.
Well I hadn't actually thought we'd have to walk up.
We wandered about for a bit before homing in on Alexander Platz where Nena suggested we hit the Dinea to eat. I think I've told you about these places before, really great self-service restaurants with so much choice you could eat there for a month without doubling up on a meal. And the Berlin one was bigger than most! My problem is that faced with so much choice I never know what to have! I settled on a couple of Frikadellen with some Röstii and salad from the pay by weight selection - after all we are going out to eat later.
It was a close call getting to the rendezvous with the teachers, luckily we weren't the last to arrive – Dominic and Jacob had that dubious distinction. It was only a few minutes walk to the TV tower and the queue to get in was pretty short. I had to chuckle though; one of the things they used to compare heights was the Blackpool Tower! The lift up to the viewing levels was incredible – 200m in about 10 seconds, now that's what I call an elevator!
There are two floors open to the public; the upper one has a restaurant the lower one has a gift shop and snack bar – all over 200m up in the air. Frau Boxberg took us round pointing stuff out then announced that we should meet in the entrance hall in thirty minutes.
“Brill! Lets go get a coffee upstairs.” Nena enthused.
“We've only just eaten.” Steffi pointed out.
“Mark my words, you'll really like this.” Nena persisted.
“Whatever.” I sighed.
We had to check our bags and coats and the concierge told us what table we would be on before we even went upstairs!
“Oh cool!” I purred.
“Told ya.” Nena preened.
It was a pretty good view but more than that it was constantly changing as the restaurant was rotating. Well neat! We ordered coffee and the cakes looked really good so I had a slice of Marzipan torte with mine – yum!
We spent most of our time trying to identify stuff, that's the Dom; those trees must be the Tiergarten, which makes that the Reichstag so that must be the Brandenburg gate…. You get the idea. It was really fun, just as well that the lift is so quick, we only just got down in time even so.
“Okay, now that the girls have graced us with their presence.” The Head gave us a hard look, “For those interested I am going to visit the Pergamon Museum, otherwise we will meet up the Zoobahnhof at six, our bus will take you there now if you wish or you can stay in this area and meet my group at five forty five to drive there.”
“What'll we do?” Connie asked.
“I saw some cool looking shops up near the zoo.” Anna noted.
“Good enough for me.” Pia enthused.
I hadn't got any strong feelings either way so we all piled onto the bus, which then took us back past most of the sights on the way to the Ku'Damm.
“Are we really going shopping again?”
“Yeah.” Connie and Pia chimed.
“Well I'm not so bothered.” Steff admitted, “you got something else in mind Gabs?”
“I wouldn't mind checking out the Zoo.”
The coach dropped us off outside the Zoo entrance that was to be our rendezvous point later, Steff and I headed in to see the animals, the others headed towards the shops.
Now I'm not a big fan of zoos – I can't remember the last time I visited one – but this example seemed pretty good to me. We wandered around, stopping to watch the penguins and hippos in their glass tanks. I thought it was pretty neat the way most of the animal houses were styled sort of like where the animals housed there come from. I know it's a bit soft but I was taken by the mountain goats on their artificial mountain – ironic really – the nearest mountains are nearly 300km away! We headed back to the entrance area where we waited for the others whilst watching the elephants.
The bus rolled up at five past six and we rejoined the rest of our party. The drive to our accommodation didn't take long; we were in a youth hostel that luckily was split into small dormitories. For a second night I was billeted with the girls – well I could hardly go in the boy's dorm looking like this and I'm sure they think I'm a girl anyhow.
“Right people, we have a restaurant booked for seven thirty so don't spend too long getting ready and girls – you don't need to dress up eh? Casual stuff is good tonight.”
Yay! I cheered to myself.
“Come on Gabs, we've got you something for tonight.” Anna grinned.
Well it could've been a lot worse I guess. It complied with the bet but at least it was trousers and a t-shirt and cardi aren't too much hassle. The worst thing was that I had to keep the pretzels on my head. Grrr! Its not that they're annoying per se, no it's the reactions to them that get me, everyone thinks they are so cute and ‘Heimat'! If only they knew – not that I'm anxious to reveal myself.
The restaurant wasn't anything particularly different – Italian by theme. By the time we got to coffee I was nearly dropping off. Some day!
Maddy Bell 29.04.08 © 2008
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