Out From London and On To Berlin

  

My brief visit to London finally has drawn to a close. I rose early, showered, packed, and headed out to the Borough Market, near London Bridge, stopping only briefly for an English Breakfast. 

  

I went to the market on the recommendation of L, but unfortunately got there at 10 am when they opened, only to find that not all of the stalls were set up. They clearly have a large assortment of food vendors, and I imagine the place is bustling later in the day.

  

The ironwork here is beautiful, as it is at many places I have visited here in London. 

  

There are numerous locales, such as St. Pancras that date from the Victorian Era, when wrought iron was truly an art. These structures manifest exquisite grace and beauty; ethereal structures of iron and glass that defy the imagination. We just don’t have its like back in the States.

After making one small purchase at the market I returned to the flat to pick up my bags. My host was awake. And dressed, which was definitely a change. I hadn’t seen him much during my stay: the morning when I arrived he greeted me in a bathrobe and returned immediately to bed. Later that day, he was still in the robe. Yesterday I didn’t see him until late in the evening, when he still wore the robe. And now – he finally had real clothes on. I wonder if the robe felt rejected.

Some thoughts on Air BnB. Its not bad way to stay, and can certainly make a lot of sense. For me, for this visit, it was a relatively inexpensive way to spend a couple nights in London, where hotel rooms can be quite pricy. It has the advantage of getting a traveler away from major thoroughfares, although there can also be disadvantages to that. The truth is, however, that you never know quite what you’re going to get. I chose a host with many reviews and would definitely go back, but would still always be cautious about future bookings. When I consider future travels I will definitely consider this as a reasonable option.

  

I took the train to Heathrow where I checked in on my flight to Berlin. I am flying Germanwings. As such, I had access to the Lufthansa lounge (this is via a little bit of chicanery on my part) which was a pleasant place to spend a couple hours. It can’t compare to the Virgin Atlantic lounge, but still it was decent.

The flight to Berlin was good. Berlin Tegel airport appears to be made (or covered in) a retro modern orange plastic laminate. I passed through passport control and collected my bag and was on my way. I caught a taxi, driven by a driver who doesn’t speak more than a word or two of English. As we passed through Potsdamer Platz, he pointed out where the Berlin Wall had stood. Other than that I rode in silence.

  

Leaving the Platz, we were in the East, and our trajectory continued further Eastward. The architecture was more functional here, and less vibrant. Eventually we stopped at my hotel, well into the former East Berlin.

My hotel is very modern, having opened just one year ago. It is clean and contemporary, standing out of place in this neighborhood. I went to my room, cleaned up, and shortly was met by S for dinner. She is here with her brother M, and we had a fantastic time.

First we had to figure out where to eat. She proffered two options, and I chose the one closer by, but it turns out it was still a mile a way. They had offended their taxi driver (who threatened to call the police on them!) so I suggested the subway, just at the end of my block. We descended the steps to the station, stepping back into another era. The light was anemic, the yellow tile was decades old, and the station was an anachronism. We had stepped into a time capsule, of sorts: one of the Geisterbahnhöfe, one of the ghost stations. When the Berlin wall was erected in 1961, some of the Western subway lines that passed briefly through the East continued to run, but the Eastern stations were closed down, staffed only with guards of the DDR. Passengers riding on the trains from West to West could look out the windows and see these ghost stations passing just beyond the walls of their carriages. I can only imagine how eerie it must have been. (NB sorry no photos yet. I promise you – you will want to see them!)

We found the ticket machine, selected English, but when time came to complete the transaction it reverted to German. Only at the last moment did I have the silly revelation to pay with cash. We boarded the train that took us to Alexanderplatz. I’m not certain S and her brother were as confident of my sense of direction as I was. And I’m not certain I had the right to be so confident.

  

Still we found our way to the Hofbrauhaus, where I at this beast: a crispy pork knuckle. The skin was like the worlds crispiest pork rind, and the meat was succulent, oozing molten fat all over the plate. I overate, but have no regrets. I don’t know what to say about that rubbery ball of something on the plate. It was largely inedible. But the sauerkraut was nice.

With that we returned to Alexanderplatz and were on our ways, they braving a cab to take them back to their hotel, whereas I hopped on the U-Bahn (subway). This time, the ticket machine made me look good. Three women, native German-speakers, I think, couldn’t figure out how to work confounding creature. They offered to let me go ahead, and then watched, fascinated, as I fed it the necessary Euros to get my ticket.

Two stops later, I was at my ghost station and steps from my hotel and sleep.

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