Apart from a lifelong aversion to idiots, I’ve been pretty lucky on the allergy front, i.e. I haven’t had any. So, it was with some surprise that, at the ripe old age of 38, I suddenly developed hay fever. I put this down to some sort of weird German tree that I have never encountered before; clearly I’m not allergic to birch as Latvia is 98% tree and 2% people and I survived just fine there. (Kind of.)
Anyway, as with most things, I felt that the best way to tackle my new condition was head-on. In a bid to show my “Heuschnupfen” who was boss, I decided to take it to a tree festival. However, going to a festival with just your hay fever for company would be a bit dull so, luckily, my good friend Han said he’d come along for the sneezy ride.
Kirschblütenfest (Cherry Blossom Festival), now in its 10th year, takes place in the Japanese, Chinese and Korean Gardens of Gärten der Welt (Gardens of the World). This all sounds lovely until you realise that Gärten der Welt is in the ever-so-picturesque district of Marzahn-Hellersdorf – so far east that you could easily think you’d crossed into Poland.
Han: Do you know where we’re going?
Me: Um, kind of. I don’t usually go this far east.
Han: Yeah, I always feel that the further east I go, the greater the risk of being stabbed.
Following the instructions on the Fest Facebook page, we hopped off the train at Wuhletal and ran for what we hoped was the right bus. It wasn’t. Instead of getting mad at being flagged down for no reason, we must have looked forlorn enough that the driver felt sorry for us, took the time to give us detailed directions and let us on the bus without even checking our tickets. He dropped us back at Wuhletal and we got back on the train. So far, so circular.
This time, we managed to get off at the right stop, find the right bus and, in no time at all, we reached
the end of the world Gärten der Welt. It was a tad busier than we had expected.
We decided to be clever and go for some coffee and cake in the hope that the queue would have cleared a bit by the time we came back. No such luck. If anything, it was longer. But at least there was a little entertainment to keep us occupied.
After queuing for close to an hour and paying the princely sum of €7, we entered the gardens. Relieved at finally being able to walk at a speed greater than 1mm an hour, we scoffed at all of the people who had left one queue just to join another – this time for coffee. We, on the other hand, had far better things to do.
You might think that I’d feel like a bit of an idiot, climbing onto statues and taking silly photos, but you would be forgetting one very important fact – this is Berlin. You are never the craziest-looking person.
Still, even by Berlin standards, people had really pulled out all the stops. Some were vaguely on theme with an oriental flavour…
Some were just bizarre…
Some were probably at the wrong party…
And one was, nope, you’ll never guess…
Having recovered from our embarrassment at dressing normally, Han and I set off to explore the gardens. While some of the park is still under development, the parts that are finished are quite beautiful.
The “Catholic” Gardens, in particular, were rather interesting in their design – and far nicer than actually going to church on a Sunday. (Sorry, mam.)
The day turned out to be much nicer than the forecast had predicted and we happily wandered around, feeling the sun on our faces and enjoying the madness. This being Berlin, there are no silly “Keep off the Grass” rules and, as far as the eye could see, Geishas, fairy-tale characters, goths and possible asylum escapees amicably intermingled.
While I’ve always believed that I could have been a samurai…
this didn’t really feel like the day to find out. Instead, we strolled over to a stage to watch some traditional Asian dancing. In keeping with the fairy-tale theme, I have done a “Queen of Hearts” and chopped off some heads for your viewing pleasure.
Knowing there was probably going to be a scrum for the bus (and with me now sneezing uncontrollably), we decided to leave a little early. I left Han at his station and proceeded to my next train. The drunkest couple in the world sat down beside me. He was tiny and loud; she looked like she’d been hit in the face with a shovel repeatedly (but probably hadn’t felt it). He took a dislike to me for some reason (not shovelled enough?) and I left the train with him shouting insults at my back. Ho hum. Onto the next train.
On the platform, I was approached by another little man. This one turned out to be a rather persistent Algerian who seemed determined to find love on the S-Bahn.
Unfortunately, it was not to be. I leapt out of the still-moving train at my station and headed for home.
And we all lived happily ever after. Probably.