Tag Archives: Hotel

Forest Chump (Part Two)

On New Year’s Eve, I was out of bed by 9 for breakfast. Much as I love being a “Continental European”, I will never get on board with the continental breakfast – especially not in the depths of winter. Someone else could have the slabs of cold meat and cheese. I was having cereal, raisin toast and a lovely big pot of tea.

Where's the bacon?
Where’s the bacon?

After that, it was back to my room to shower and psyche myself up for my first ever walk in the forest. I toyed with the idea of going full-on Latvian and wearing heels but the Germans might kick me out for that. Sensible footwear it was.

So damn cute.
So damn cute.

I’d seen people heading down a little lane opposite the hotel, so that was where I started. The skies were ominous but the walk was actually quite… pleasant. I’d pass the odd dog-walker every now and then and we’d exchange smiles and hellos but apart from that, it was was perfectly peaceful. And very tree-full.

Sexy German trees...
Sexy German trees…

After I’d been walking for a while (keeping an eye out for wolves, naturally), I stopped a likely-looking, Jack Wolfskin-clad German couple in very sensible shoes.

Me: Hello, my fellow forest nymphs. Is there a lake around here somewhere?

They gave me a rather dubious look up and down and were probably thinking, “What the hell is this Arschloch doing in a forest?”

Horst: Well, there IS a lake, but it’s around a 7km walk in that direction. 

My face must have dropped slightly, as his wife chimed in.

Hilda: But there’s a river around 400 metres that way. 

Me: Right, be on your way, my feisty forest faeries… 

I trotted off in the direction she’d pointed in, but I think maybe the famous German sense of humour was at play here.

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Are you a river?

Are you a river?
Are you a river?

I decided to follow a man out walking his dog and three-year-old for a bit. I figured that if there were wolves, they’d probably go for the mutt or the toddler first. This, however, got annoying fast as (what are the chances?) it turns out they were English speakers and the daughter couldn’t get the names of the Seven Dwarfs straight. Before I started yelling, “Bashful, Sneezy, Dopey, Grumpy, Happy, Sleepy and DOC!”, I needed to get my zen back. I climbed an embankment and did the unthinkable. Yes, it’s the photo the Latvians thought they’d never see…

It's me! Hugging a tree!
It’s me! Hugging a tree!

After sending the pic to a couple of people and enjoying the virtual “thuds” as they fell off their chairs, I sauntered back to the hotel, river-less, wolf-less but happy.

I enjoyed a quick red wine nap-cap and then went back to bed for a couple of hours. Turns out trees and fresh air are exhausting… When I woke up, I decided that there was no harm in being sociable for a while and hopped on a bus into Lübeck. The bus dropped me off outside a rather suspect-looking bar – you know the kind of place that you’re not sure if you’ll come out alive but you’ll probably have some good stories if you do? In short, perfect.

As I walked through the fug of smoke, every head in the place turned to look. At this point, it’s important not to show fear so I marched to the bar and asked the 80s hair-do behind it for a glass of wine. The man next to me immediately offered me a chair, shook my hand and introduced himself. In no time at all, we were gabbing away like old friends.

I thought the guy on the other side of me could be trouble as there seemed to be some tension between him and my new buddy – I would have ended up on my back on the floor if he’d lunged for him. But then, dream boat that I am, I got a toothless smile from the tattoo-covered trouble-maker and knew that I was going to be just fine. (In these kinds of situations, it’s always good to get the scariest-looking person on side.)

A guy came around selling roses and my new buddy bought me one. An hour later, he came around again, and my new buddy bought me a second one. Two white roses also appeared from somewhere else in the bar and soon I had a veritable garden in front of me.

Time to go
Time to go

After the drunkest man in the world accidentally smashed a pint glass on my jeans, it was time to head back to the hotel. Germany on New Year’s Eve is characterised by the sounds of rocket launchers and ambulance sirens so, rather than wait 50 minutes for the next bus, I got a taxi. I gave the cute Cypriot driver one of the roses and he almost teared up as it was the first time a woman had ever given him a flower.

Back in the room, I poured myself a glass of wine and settled in for some (probably) classic NYE entertainment, German style.

Yes, it was just as scary as it looks.
Yes, it was just as scary as it looks.

At midnight, I watched the supremely baffling German favourite “Dinner for One” and wished myself an excellent 2016. All in all, it was the perfect day.

The next morning, I woke up full of the joys and, after another walk in the forest, fairly skipped to the bus stop. I made my way to where I thought the bus to Berlin went from with a song in my heart and feeling all kinds of goodwill towards mankind.

Me: Tra la la la la are you going to Berlin la la la?

Random stranger: Can you speak in English?

Me: Sure! Is this where the Berlin bus goes from?

Random stranger: I am not ticket.

Me: Yeah, clearly the English thing is working out great for you.

And, just like that, I was back.

Until we meet again, trees.
Until we meet again, trees.

The mother of all visits

The day after Cecil flew out (hopefully fully clothed), Mammy O’Grady landed at Tegel Airport for her first visit to Berlin. Now, I’m sure most people’s mothers can visit and have a perfectly normal, totally drama-free trip, but well, this is me, so let’s begin, shall we?

She thinks she probably saw the gigantic TV Tower but can't be sure.
She thinks she probably saw the gigantic TV Tower but can’t be sure…

Mammy O’Grady’s flight was due to land just after my evening lesson ended which gave me enough time to make my way across the city to meet her at her hotel. My sister had stayed at the same place a few weeks earlier so I knew exactly where I was going. In fact, I was a bit early so I circled the block looking for likely places to eat. MO’G likes her food…

I walked into the hotel lobby just as some guests were leaving in a taxi. I was a bit surprised at the way the receptionist looked at me; OK, so I’d worked a 12-hour day, but I didn’t think I looked like a complete hobo. I turned away from him and started discreetly scrabbling in my bag for a hair brush, just in case.

Receptionist: Can I help you? 

Me: Um, no thanks. I’m just waiting for my mother. She’s staying here.

Receptionist: This is not possible. 

Me: (Harumph – you can call me a hobo but not Mammy O’Grady…) No, she is. She’s just not here yet. She’s at the airport. 

Receptionist: NEIN. The hotel is closed. 

At this point, I took a look around. The reception was much darker than I remembered – and empty. The roaring fire was no longer roaring and the lifts had been cordoned off. Hmm, maybe there was something to this hotel closure he spoke of…

Me: But, but, it can’t be closed. Mammy O’Grady is staying here. 

Receptionist: (taking pity on the confused hobo in front of him) What’s your mother’s name?

I gave it, he tapped at his computer for a few seconds and informed me that MO’G had been rebooked into another – even better – hotel just around the corner.

I managed to get MO’G on the phone, tell her the odd news and redirect the taxi to the new hotel. Thankfully, she was travelling with a friend or I think this would have sent her straight back to the airport.

Receptionist: I’m really sorry about all of this. I wish I could offer you a drink but the bar is closed too. 

Me: (Dammit) What happened here anyway? 

Receptionist: (with a (probably imagined) haunted look in his eye) There was an accident… The hotel has been closed while an investigation is being carried out.

Curiouser and curiouser. Anyway, I didn’t have time to ponder just then, so I marched around the corner and got to the door of the other hotel just as a confused MO’G and friend were pulling up in their taxi.

Fart with earth gas
Taxi

Greetings, hugs and vague explanations and theories out of the way, we  made our way to reception. The super-cute receptionist flirted with my mother outrageously while checking them in, keeping up a machine gun-like flow of verbal patter like a German Don Juan on speed.

So this was what 4+ star service was like…

We walked away from reception, with MO’G glowing from her first exchange with a handsome, young German gentleman.

MO’G: If I were ten years younger…

LO’G: TEN?? Jesus. You’d still be old enough to be his mother. 

We stepped into the lift and in a scene vaguely reminiscent of Zoolander, MO’G hit 4. Then her friend hit 4. Then MO’G hit 4. Nothing happened.

(Image taken from asianefficiency.com)
(Image taken from asianefficiency.com)

Me: (with only moderate, daughterly eye-rolling) You need to use your card.

Much giggling later, we arrived at room 4034. MO’G swiped the card. Nothing happened. Her friend swiped the card. Nothing happened. MO’G swiped the card. Nothing happened. Her friend swiped the card. Nothing happened.

Me: Oh, for God’s sake. Let me try it. 

Nothing happened.

Me: Are you sure that’s a 4? Maybe it’s a 9?

So we traipsed to room 4039 and carried out the same procedure. Nothing happened. Back to room 4034 for several more attempts and a lot of handle rattling. Suddenly, the door opened, not because the card had worked, but because a ridiculously attractive older man had opened it, from the inside. I wondered how long he’d been watching the three mad women through his peephole before deciding we were probably harmless.

MO’G: (getting the hang of German directness in record time) You… you’re in our room.

Sexy stranger: (with a smile on his lips) No, this is my room.

It was true; he did look rather comfortable in his hotel slippers. After a rather confusing, amusing conversation (and an invitation to join him), I called reception from the phone in the hall. It seemed the receptionist had been so busy flirting, he’d written down 4034 instead of 4043. Mystery solved.

When I got home later that night, I Googled the first hotel and “Unfall”. It turned out that a 37-year-old Finnish man had died of smoke inhalation in the sauna there, following a fire. It also emerged that the fire alarm system hadn’t been operational for weeks in the run-up to the fatal accident. No wonder there was an investigation underway. While the irony of a Finn dying in a sauna was probably lost on the Finn, it wasn’t wasted on me. To the best of my knowledge, the hotel is still closed.

Anyway, not one to let a hotel closure, a fire, a dead Finn and an attempted break-in stop her, Mammy O’Grady ended up having a ball. She loved Berlin and has decided she will come back for another visit in the spring.

I guess I should start preparing myself now.