We were all pretty much done in by the time we got back to the hostel; I got changed in the thankfully private bathroom for our room. What a day! I was barely in my bunk before I was asleep.
"Come on Gabs, rise and shine!"
Urgh I hate morning people! And Connie was being far too morning.
"What time is it?"
"Six thirty" Anna supplied.
"You don't have to shout" Pia mentioned from below me.
"Well shake a leg, we have to shower and get breakfast by eight thirty." Steffi noted.
"I um girls, I need to shower."
"That's ok, its free, we've already done that stuff." Connie stated. "oh and I've put your clothes in there already."
So far the only stuff of mine I've worn has been my pyjamas - this is like soo not fun!
Twenty minutes later I was dressed in surprisingly some of my own clobber. Mine but hardly what I'd pick myself, where Connie got it from - oh hang on she was talking to Jules at the weekend. Bloody sisters!
"Very nice Gabs." Pia stated.
"Come on guys, do I really have to wear a skirt? I'll even wear the shorts again."
"Its that or a dress, you can't wear the same stuff again today, think of your reputation."
"I don't have a reputation, I'm a boy remember?"
"Not this week you're not, Gaby Bond." Connie stated quite forcefully. "a deals a deal."
Sheesh, she's getting worse than Mad!
"Come here, I'll do your hair." Anna suggested.
"Not the braids again, please?"
"Of course not, they wouldn't look right with that skirt."
I wasn't sure if she was being serious or not. It was easier to succumb than argue so with a sigh I sat on a chair and let her have her way with my Barnet. The resulting 'do' was very girly, but I must admit it was quite practical however the big silver hoops she replaced my sleepers with offset that - Brünhilde meets Essex girl!
There was one positive thing going for all this bet stuff - I didn't have to pack my bags! Well anyway we went to the cafeteria to get some breakfast, we weren't the only school party staying, which made me a bit nervy, and the canteen more like feeding time at the zoo!
"Can I have the Silverberg party over here please." Frau Boxberg's voice cut through the cacophony.
"She could a let us finish eating." Nena grumped.
"Bring it with you dumkopf!" Steff admonished.
It was several minutes before we were all gathered. Frau Boxberg surveyed us, I'm sure she raised an eyebrow when she looked at me. Despite half the school thinking I'm a girl (the other half don't know I exist) today was the first time a lot of them had seen me in a skirt, so I was getting more than a few 'weird' looks anyhow.
"Okay, today we are going to Potsdam which is a short ride down the autobahn. We will visit some of the Palaces and so on, but also we will have the opportunity to visit some sites of more recent historical significance. We will lunch in Potsdam mitte before we return to Berlin this afternoon. Depending on the time you might get a bit of free time again before we return here to freshen up before we go to eat this evening. So you need to bring your bags down to reception where we will put them in the storage room. Questions?"
"Will we be able to change when we come back?" Hilde enquired.
"We should have time Hilde but there will only be the washroom available no showers."
"That sucks." Someone mentioned.
"Alright I'll see you all downstairs."
The weather was at least better than yesterday morning and promised to be slightly warmer which was good for me in my chiffon mini skirt! Not exactly winter clothing, I'll throttle you Connie Thesing! I'd better not end up with a cold; Dad'll kill me if I go down with another virus. The coach was toasty warm and we were soon heading down the motorway towards the capital of Brandenburg.
We turned off the autobahn well before Potsdam - a place called Grünwald and I think we were all surprised as we drove the rest of the way along the side of a lake. It wasn't like some reservoir either, even today there were boats out - a colourful collection of dinghies and yachts vied with several powerboats.
First stop when we reached Potsdam was the railway station - only for toilets -, which is when I discovered that the bright sunshine and warm coach had lulled me into a false sense of warmth! It was flippin' freezing, if you didn't want a wee before, by the time you got into the Bahnhof building you did - especially if you happen to be wearing next to nothing. Grrr!
My first impression of the town was 'it's a building site!' Frau Boxberg explained that it's a mixture of rebuilding wartime destruction and making up for best part of 50 years of neglect. They must be spending millions of Euros doing it. Anyway we drove around the edge of the town so we could see the mosque, which is really something to do with a fountain in the royal parks. Then it was through some fairly run down streets before we paused to look at the newly refurbished royal Bahnhof. Its not even being used as a station just some training place for the DB. It looked great but it seemed to me to be a bit of a waste of money. A couple of minutes later our bus pulled into a parking area.
"Okay people, we will have a short walk to look at the Neue Palais, it's only a couple of minutes walk but we'll be outside for about twenty minutes so bring your coats."
Not that my bum freezer will help much.
We trooped across the road and into the Royal Park where we were confronted by what appeared to be two stately homes either side of a wide drive.
"We all here? Drew, Connie hurry up."
"Yes Miss." I sighed.
"Right then, welcome to the Neue Palais.”
Well it turned out that the bit covered in scaffolding was actually just the gatehouse! Not that the Palace itself wasn't pretty impressive what with all those domes and statues everywhere. Apparently when this was under Russian control they let the university use the buildings but like everything else here it was left to rot so there's loads of repair work going on.
After taking a look at the huge gardens and the view back towards the town we headed back to our transport, I was really happy that the driver had kept the heat on – my thighs were blue! Anyway we then had a slow drive round the park to see the Belvedere, the Orangerie and the Botanical Gardens before reaching the bizarre sight of a windmill.
There were quite a few more people around this bit not that I could see much. After returning to the cold we gathered around Frau Boxberg.
“Although this is on a smaller scale than the Neue Palais, the building we are going to see now is much better known, the Sansoucci Palace.”
Well even I was impressed, the view was pretty cool and the building was on a much more human scale. The guy who had it built was Frederick The Great – we saw his grave and where his favourite greyhounds were buried! The really weird thing was that he never allowed women, not even the Queen, to visit the place; it was a real mens club, which is a pity as I'm sure they would've liked it.
Oh yeah the windmill. Apparently its something to do with some old law over land ownership that even the King couldn't overturn.
So anyway we had to walk back to the coach – thankfully via the lav's as it hadn't got any warmer – my bits were ready to drop off, they'd certainly shrunk with the cold! It was a bit of a drive to the next stop, back into town before passing the Russian Enclave and entering the ‘Forbidden City'. This was where the Russian KGB had their headquarters but now it's famous as a place for ‘personalities' to live, you know like footballers and TV peeps. We bumped along the lane then turned into the grounds of Cecielienhof.
Cecielienhof is really quite weird. I mean here we are in the heart of Prussia something like 600 miles from England and there's like this mock Tudor palace! In fact if you closed your eyes you'd think you were in Stratford upon Avon! So like it was only built a hundred years ago by that Frederick geezer and its named after his son's wife. It's mostly a hotel now, which is weird, but apparently this is where Russia America and Britain met after the war to divvy up Germany. It's hard to think about this really peaceful house having a past like that.
We took some photos – the guys had never seen anything like it before – they didn't get the Tudors in Germany or the Victorians for that matter. Never thought about that before, I'll have to ask Dad about it.
Back on the bus we returned through the ‘Forbidden City' to the city centre, Frau Boxberg pointed out the Dutch Quarter and the Catholic Church before we got a leg stretch at the ‘other' Brandenburg Gate. As it was lunchtime we were let lose for an hour – me an' the gang got Gulasch soup at one of the restaurants behind the gate then it was time to return to Berlin.
Back at the hostel the head issued instructions.
“People!” she waited whilst we quieted, “if you want to freshen up or change now is your chance. Our restaurant is booked for six so you have a couple of hours for shopping or whatever first. Make sure your bags are labeled before you leave here – I've arranged for them to be brought to the Bahnhof – we'll go there directly from the restaurant. Questions?”
There being none we all hoofed it for our bags. Well I sort of followed in the girls wake dreading what Connie might inflict on me for the remainder of the day. When we emerged from the washrooms twenty minutes later I was thankfully wearing a longer skirt than I started the day with. Mind you my nice thick socks were replaced by stupidly thin tights. It could'a been worse I guess and to be fair the others were dressed up a bit too.
We started to explore the Ku'Damm – not that we'd got much to spend in designer shops!
“Hey look over there!” Pia enthused.
“Where am I looking?” I tried to follow where she was pointing.
“By that bus, it's a Steiff shop!”
“Oh kewl!” Connie agreed, “Lets go take a look.”
“I want a picture.” Steff announced.
Somehow that meant I had to be in it too. I'd never heard of Steiff before but I know too much now! So much fuss about soft toys.
Well we finished our shopping and met the rest of the guys at the restaurant having only bought a mini teddy each, Pia got a top in Pinkie and I managed to sneak into a model shop where I bought myself a model of a Berlin bus for my collection.
The meal was pretty good, it was quite a fancy restaurant and we had a really good time. However all good things come to an end so at nine o'clock we left to go to the station. As promised our bags were waiting for us and after collecting them we headed to Gleis 5 for the Nachtzug. Although it wasn't due to leave for best part of an hour it was waiting and we were allowed onboard to settle in.
It was pretty much a repeat of Monday night, I was berthed with the girls and we were so busy chatting we were already clear of Berlin before we noticed we'd left!
I lay on my bunk listening to the rumble of the carriage through the by now Sachsen countryside. Its been a great trip but I've got to get Connie back for this, it's not like it has been so bad but some of the other kids have started calling me Gaby and now they've all seen me in a skirt. They must think I'm either a right weirdo – or a girl I guess. I think of the two I'd prefer girl to weirdo as like the lesser of two evils. Roll on tomorrow, Cons gotta let me have my jeans back to go to school. I know Mad can be tricksy sometimes but like she never pulled a stunt as big as this on me, just you wait Connie Thesing!
Maddy Bell 05.05.08 © 2008
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