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canoeing, kayaking and other adventures

canoeing and kayaking adventures born in the Southeastern U.S. and now centered in Scotland...

Friday, December 07, 2007

Berlin, Germany - 22/11/2007 - 25/11/2007

After spending the beginning of the week in Frankfurt am Main with my DLL at the European Conference on Monitored Natural Attenuation and In Situ Remediation, she and I returned to Berlin just in time for Thanksgiving. Brian joined us Thursday afternoon.

Sarynna took the Thursday afternoon off. I spent the morning exploring the organic shops near their house and practicing my German phrase of the week. "Ich sprechen kein Deutsch." The kein is important because it was important that they knew that "none" was the extent of my German. Babelfish says that wenig is "a little" and that might make them keep talking to me in German. We collected Brian from the airport and twice missed the Confederate flag among the gardens along the rail line. We never did see it, but my life is complete enough.

Thursday night is their German class, so we wandered down to the city centre and spent a few hours lost there. The museums were free and we found a couple of interesting collections, including the Ishtar Gate at the Pergamon Museum and other relics stolen from the Middle East and brought home by the Germans. We had dinner at a nice Indian restaurant and spent some more time lost in Berlin before heading back to our borrowed couch for the night.

On Friday, Chase and Sarynna worked as usual while we joined the largest November tour on record for Fat Tire Tours. The rain was with us for much of the day, though it was more the mushy, damp Scottish kind than the committed New Zealand kind. Thankfully. Our Australian guide wound us through the streets of Berlin showing us the historical and otherwise interesting sites. I say otherwise interesting because fabric fake buildings aren't really historical. Most of the tour focused on the Second World War and the Cold War with more emphasis on East Berlin than West Berlin. We saw Checkpoint Charlie, remnants of the Berlin Wall (ironically, these now need protection), the Fuhrer bunker, improperly-sized Soviet war monuments and other sights. Bicycle was a great way to tour Berlin, much more interesting than a bus, although that would have been drier. We enjoyed our special €1 ponchos very much.

We finished the World War II stuff and lunched at the beer garden in the Tiergarten. After four hours of (albeit leisurely) cycling in the city, the break, meal and alcohol were much appreciated.

We finished the tour with the more modern buildings such as the Reichstag, the Chancellor's house and the museums that we explored on Thursday night. After the tour, we stopped at a hotel bar for drinks and a rest after our originally-intended bar wasn't open for business just yet. The hotel bar was at the entrance to the AquaDom, so we watched the fish overhead while enjoying our drinks and rest. We met up with Sarynna and Chase at a favourite African restaurant for dinner.

On Saturday, Sarynna and Chase took us to Potsdam for the day. We had yummy falafels for lunch and spent the afternoon wandering the park and palaces of Sanssouci. We did the official tour of the "guest" palace, which consisted of reading the English card and shuffling through the German tour in our special slippers. Ornate, garish, take your pick. If this was the guest house, I couldn't help but wonder what the main palace looked like. Brian appreciated the cold and not only zipped up his jacket but also put his hood up, except when the cameras came out to document the moment.

We took a coffee/tea/warmth break at a cafe and caught our train home. The American Thanksgiving holiday was Thursday, but for work schedules and the rest of the world's failure to observe this holiday, we celebrated ours on Saturday night. We had stuffing, pumpkin and sweet potato pies and a curry that I improvised for my disinterest and inability to eat in stuffing. Our meal was wonderful. Sarynna captured the moments for posterity but thankfully put the camera away when our mouths were full.

Sadly, Sunday was time to return home to Edinburgh. We spent the morning exploring the Reichstag and the Fernsehturm in the City Centre. With Sarynna not feeling great, it worked out well that we had those plans. We caught up with her and Chase to say our goodbyes and left for the airport. The trains didn't exactly work as expected so we needed all the time we had to get to the airport. The train announcements in German were eventually helpful telling us to get back on the train because the airport train at a different station that day. We made it, made it on our flight, got good seats due to our German queuing skills and got back from Glasgow a bit after dinnertime.

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