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Phil’s Travels – Berlin, Germany (04.24)


Phil’s Travels – Berlin, Germany (04.24)

A very early morning alarm, nearly the day before it was so early, was followed by an hour taxi ride through the deserted streets of London and carless lanes of the M25. There was life at Gatwick though. The Bag Drop service was much improved compared to last year’s visit. Many more staff to help and many more stations open. Even security was quick. Well done Gatwick North and loving the look of the new wooden seats (not comfortable, but look good).

The easyJet flight was on time, comfortable and luggage no issue. Funny how such ‘cosy’ seating was easier to sleep in than Premium Economy on other airlines. I slept like a baby to Berlin. Passage through Berlin’s new wood-clad airport was let down by a very slow baggage delivery. We had to wait nearly 30 minutes. Did our luggage fly over on a later plane? Or does this long delayed airport just specialise in delaying.

The S-Bahn service, S9, took me directly from the airport to Zoologischer Garten in a little over an hour and my usual Motel One was a further 10-minute walk away (first time in 20 years, I had a room at the back and not overlooking the multi-lane highway that is Urania Avenue). There are now so many Motel Ones around Zoologischer, one should be careful when booking and going to it (some folk I met had made mistakes). Next time I will try the 20-storey tower next to the Waldorf-Astoria (imagine a Travelodge right by The Ritz in London). First point of order in my room was a conference call with my friends in Africa. I was then free to meet and drink decaf with IHIF delegates and fringers, like myself.

I visited the fascinating new MMNT concept lab by Adina (very much a real, live, working research facility, much like what we tried to create with NH in Madrid many years ago). I had some drinks with Make at sunset and suffered an avocado attack at the Accor party (guacamole shmeer all over my suit, which did not come off after 15 minutes of wiping in the Gents and may be irretrievable as a result). To cap off a wonderful evening, I left Das Stue, remaining shmeer and all, under an unholy hailstorm (the size a sizeable marbles and just as hard).

The following day was more meetings and decaf, including entretiens in the Motel One-surrounded Waldorf, at the Palace and in the zoo-viewing rooftop of 25hours. Post final decaf was a lovely dinner at the Classic Remise, for which many thanks to our friends at Mayer Brown. During the tour of the cavernous venue, we saw many a rare and expensive car, and I discovered my all-time favourite car (photo below – yes, a banana yellow E-type Jag, darling!).

All credit and many thanks to Kathryn for taking such a great picture for me.

Final day, breakfast with no decaf at the busy Crowne Plaza. Yes, no decaf. The meal cost €32 per head and for that fortune there was no decaf. Talk about milking the punter. I wonder if the same breakfast costs as much outside of major event days, and whether decaf would also appear. I had decaf elsewhere though and headed to the airport on my new friend, the S9, in glorious sunshine (very welcome after days of grey, rain, wind, hail and general inclemency). We passed by my favourite Berlin building – formerly the BASF Tower, now called Lux Berlin (why, I don’t know, maybe BASF needed some quick cash and sold to some kind of soap-worshipping commune).

The German transport system is quite different from many countries, in that you have to buy your ticket and then validate it. However, finding these machines and knowing how to validate are not easy and I have always wondered what would happen if you don’t validate. This time I found out. Some unsuspecting tourists were effectively kicked off the S9 by some ticket inspectors at the next station and told to find the validation machine, validate and only then resume their journey. Obviously, the machine was not obvious and the poor tourists could not reboard in time and had to wait 20 minutes for the next S9. I hope they did not miss their flight.

At the airport, the queues for security were just as slow as last year. The layout is surely all wrong. Gatwick handles many more passengers and has solved its issues. Berlin should pay them a visit and learn a thing or two (a redesign of the terminal perhaps). Flight, arrival in Gatwick, Express into town and Bakerloo home were all faultless. Sometimes the UK is just better. Auf wiedersehen Berlin, bis nachstes Jahr.

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