Tag Archives: Visit

The Russian does Berlin

When Anna first visited me in Riga, I delighted in trying to poison her with the local Black Balzams. So, when she said she wanted to come to Berlin for more torture, I wondered what fun and games we’d get up to. Her wishlist was, thankfully, pretty straightforward. Do a boat tour, go to a couple of Christmas markets, see the Berlin Wall and, most importantly, go out and meet people or, more specifically, men.  I had absolutely no problems with that.

I briefly considered trying to hook her up with my new half-naked, opera-singing Asian neighbour. I hoped that it might shut him up for 4 to 7 minutes. Then the thought that he might get louder put that idea out of my head.

When Anna arrived, like most tourists, the first thing she wanted to do was visit the… post office. Yup, it seems that in Russia, you can’t post something and expect it to actually arrive, so good old Deutsche Post would have to step in.

Lovely, reliable German post office...
Lovely, reliable German post office…

She decided she would like to use DHL and was just about finished filling in the form when we got to the top of the queue. It was the wrong form and she had no envelope. So we left the counter, picked up some envelopes and rejoined the queue. We got to the counter again, but she should have taken the envelopes out of the packaging, filled in all of the information, and then brought it to the nice lady. So we left the counter again. Anna filled in the form, I lost patience at the thought of having to queue a third time and went outside, and Anna rejoined the queue.

I needed a drink
I needed a drink

After a massive glass of wine for me and a tiny cappuccino for Anna – the waiter actually brought her a free second cappuccino as he must have felt sorry for her with her puny drink – we set off for Gendarmenmarkt. Pretty lights, a beautiful backdrop, oodles of ridiculously cute tat, little wooden huts, sausage and Glühwein – Anna was in heaven. In fact, when the choir started singing, she even shed a few tears. Normally, this sort of behaviour might result in a slap but, even I have to admit, there is something pretty magical about Gendarmenmarkt at Christmas. (Don’t judge me.)

We hit the town where Anna was horrified to see that Germans keep their children out so late.

Me: It’s 7.30…

The next morning, we were up bright and early for breakfast. Not really. We made it in time for brunch though. I was manhandled away from my food so that Anna could take a photo of it first. As everyone knows, “if it isn’t on Instagram, it didn’t happen”. I wondered what I’d been doing for the last 37 years.

Massive German portions
Massive German portions

We’d lucked out with a truly beautiful day so it was definitely boat tour time. We arrived with seconds to spare before the 2pm tour and hopped on the boat. While I wondered what the hell was wrong with my headset, Anna hopped from side to side, photographing everything to within an inch of its life. Because, you know, if it’s not on Instagram, it didn’t happen…

Watching someone else run around like Usain Bolt on speed can be thirsty work, so it was off to try the Feuerzangenbowle at Charlottenburg Palace. As I’d really liked it, I thought Anna would feel the same. Judge for yourselves…

Brave little Russian lamb
Brave little Russian lamb
Uh oh...
Uh oh…
Is she going to puke?
Is she going to puke?
She can't puke in front of a palace, can she?
She can’t puke in front of a palace, can she?
Breathe, breathe, little one...
Breathe, breathe, little one…

I think we can safely say Anna will not be trying that again.

After a night spent drinking vodka with a bunch of Russian men, there’s nothing I like more than getting out of bed and going sightseeing. And so, off to the Berlin Wall we went.

Anna: Is that it? 

Me: Yes. 

Anna: Oh. 

Like my mirror image that day
Like my mirror image that day

Anna had also mentioned that she quite fancied seeing some street art (more of it), so I escorted her over to my old hood, which is quirky to say the least. I’m not sure what kind of pretty, fluffy street art she was expecting but, well, this is Berlin.

Um...
Um…

Anna: Oh my god, oh my god, what IS that?! Why is it all so scary and creepy? What does that baby have no head? Why is that little girl trying to kill her cat? Why did you bring me here? I’m going to have nightmares after this…

Me: Heh heh heh.

I brought her to a local restaurant before she passed out. I guess Moscow is fluffier than Berlin. Who knew? After finishing the buffet  her meal, Anna decided to treat herself to a cocktail. Why she ordered a Swimming Pool I’ll never know, but it prompted the barman to point out where the bathroom was, just in case. Then again, he also said that Russian men looked like East German lesbians, so he may have had a couple himself. I would never insult East German lesbians like that.

Soon, it was time for the pièce de resistance of the weekend – the ice slide at Potsdamer Platz. We met my favourite German-Venezuelan couple – Engelbert and Enrique – filled up our Glühweins with rum from Engelbert’s illicit hip flask, and it was time. The slide was a lot bigger than I remembered but (Scheiße) in for a penny, in for a pound.

You can hear the German cackling in the background. Thanks for the support, Engelbert…

So, Anna’s now back in the land of smiles and fluffiness. Thanks for visiting and I hope you had fun apart from the TERRIFYING street art…

Happy Christmas and New Year to everyone!

 

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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.