Berlin – Just passing through? Not this time…

S-Bahn Train at Berlin Hbf.

If it seems to those who view my Flickr page think I have an affinity for Germany, they’re right.  As a kid in Secondary School I was a little bitter that I had to learn Spanish as opposed to German; after all, what the hell did Spain do during the war, right?

Of course, this was before I learned about Latin America and the many exciting phenomena there; A desert drier than Weetabix, spiders that cure ED, and steam trains left in salt flats to crumble into dust.  If I’m going to go there in the next year, I’ve got anywhere from seven to nineteen months to make up for all the nights spent with Babel Fish instead of doing my god-damn homework.

Anyway, that’s then, and this is now:  In a month’s time I shall turn a stopping point in my Germany trips so far into a destination.

My dalliances with the city so far

Both times I have been through Berlin, I came in via Tegel Airport to the north-west.  A fairly unremarkable place, probably not such a good starting point if you’re allergic to taxis like I am; the buses are only for those who want to know what it feels like to be at crush-depth underwater whilst breathing bottled air from the rainforest.

From there it was straight to Berlin Hauptbahnhof, for onwards passage to Leipzig on the first trip, Züssow on the second.  And that’s really all there is to report, me and my father never really travelled far beyond the station, the Tiergarten being the furthest extent of our wandering.

Sniping deals on accommodation and travel for numpties

This is how much difference two weeks makes.

In the middle of April, around the 14th, I snagged three nights at a hotel literally minutes away from Berlin Hbf, giving me a lot of scope for onward travel throughout the city and possibly beyond.  Three nights for ~£110, or ~£37 a night.  Breakfast is a bit expensive but I’m sure I’ll work around that.

Fast forward to the 25th, 11 days on, and the time has come for me to book my flights.  I plan to come into Schönefeld as it has an S-Bahn right next to it, which immediately sticks two fingers up at that god-awful bus.  Guess what kind of conundrum I had to wrestle with?  The age-old dilemma of getting cheap flights at ridiculous times, or selling your house to obtain reasonable flight times.

As we all know, the railway networks virtually shut down at around 1am – Something I first discovered when planning my route back to Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam at the end of a 3-day stint there – and don’t resume service until 6am.  This is a necessary evil, as this allows ballast to be relaid, worn rails replaced, and for the railway network to be healthier and happier as a result.  But that is of scant comfort when you find yourself stuck in an airport terminal at 9pm trying to sleep like an exhausted marching soldier in wait for an ambush  a flight at 6am.

Given the content of this blog, you can probably guess how I responded to this dilemma.  I called upon the gods of the iron horse, of course!  Okay, I was still paying ridiculous money for such a simple trip to a European capital, and the time of the incoming journey still requires me to stay at a hostel the night before, but keep in mind, both endpoints of a rail journey are almost always next to or in the centre of the cities and towns they serve, there’s no need to site the station miles out of town to comply with noise regulations, or even just to find a plot of land big enough for the runways.

Now, I can appreciate that in one instance I am referring to a Hotel, and in another the inbound journey, but the point remains.  I’ve heard that in order to get the best deals on hotels, you should wait until a few weeks before you go to snag the best deals; I’ve never tested this successfully, but I expect that during peak tourist season it’s best to just snap up them tickets early before they evaporate.  Maybe I should’ve booked the travel tickets first…

In short, I wasn’t prepared to board the plane in a semi-lucid state to save a few tenners, and frankly I hate airports, so if I’m gonna pay close to £200 to travel to Berlin, I might as well do it the only way I truly love – scything through the land at ground level.

Targets of Opportunity

Calm down, I haven’t hired Lancaster Bombers to level the city, although I could probably enjoy a Lancaster Bomber Beer to steel my nerves before the epic train trip over (London St. Pancras – Brussels Zuid – Cologne – Berlin).  These are simply sites in the city I have in my sights:

Tempelhofer Feld

Do I really need to explain this?  It’s a massive airport, preserved since it’s closure in 2008 as a public park.  Pity I can’t pretend to be a DC-4 without attracting concerned looks…

Deutsches Technikmuseum

This one kills two birds with one stone, as it features both aviation and railway exhibits.  I never realized how hard it was to find aviation and railway museums abroad until I tried it, and only knowing basic German phrases does not help matters.

Another highlight is that the site resides next to a disused 19th Century Berlin train station known as Dresdener Bahnhof.

Computerspiele Museum

This is a museum about gaming, presumably on both console and PC.  Gaming made up such a big part of my childhood, it is impossible to give this one a miss.

All set?

I am, pretty much:  Travel and Hotel are done, all I really need is insurance.  Nothing to really do now except await the fun.

Until then, there’s always Boris: