After booking a short break to Berlin and then leaving for said destination not more than 32 hours later, there was little time to do much except pack and leave a short note to you estimable readers. As a consequence my vast knowledge of the German language (zwei – which it turns out is pronounced with a ‘T’ at the beginning – and danke shöen) came in very handy. In a sense that freedom is both delightfully intimidating and extremely liberating, as who wants to have an identikit holiday to all the other tourists?
Before hitting the city Tom and I found ourselves at the unmanned airport railway station that expects everybody to not only know where they are going but to handle the unfamiliar ticket machine interface at speed as the queues are massive and the commuters impatient. Our station wasn’t anywhere to be found of course but eventually after fruitless wanderings we happened across a machine that had a relevant sticker on it telling us what to get for our area of the city.
All this wouldn’t have been so bad had the directions to the hostel not been so shockingly vague but it was worth it, I find that it’s the adversity which makes conquering obstacles that much sweeter. Interestingly despite buying tickets nobody ever asked to see them, making me wonder if the entire rail network is paid for by gullible tourists, the trains were really good though and ridiculously frequent so we still won.
The part of the city we called home was away for the touristy areas and had nice wide quiet streets with plenty of street art from the local talent, this was also in evidence as we left the station along with two huge wire mesh men fighting on a river like something out of Jason and the Argonauts. The main streets on the other hand were something to get used to (and quickly) for the newcomer, there are cycle lanes on the pavements but they aren’t really signposted expect at major junctions when they also run into the road near traffic lights, so you need to stand further back from the road than usual.
This wouldn’t be too bad but keeping an eye on errant cyclists and then crossing roads in which cars and bikes take every advantage to turn despite the green man (who sports a jaunty hat) being on, it’s like a more mercenary American system. Horns constantly go off everywhere and its amazing that it’s not carnage on the roads. High-powered taxis are a strange and welcome sight and nothing like the clanking Hackney cabs from back home.
The second day with adjusting done and rules learned, I took the time to look around – and up – more and found it fascinating to see that the city seemed to be being built, or rebuilt everywhere. It’s a strange juxtaposition of old and new rising, squeezed together as if the city is trying to force a new identity or perhaps shake off its recent past whilst at the same time respect it as an important lesson for all.
You won’t be surprised to read all the new buildings seem to be the glass and steel structures so beloved of architects and people with no sense of context, that don’t lend to any cities heritage or character. The building feel jarring, modern in a city that blighted by its troubles struggles to reinvent its identity, it may be a healing move in some respects but their seems to be little in the way of an overall vision.
There is the feel of a small city here, teeming with many nationalities but with easy transport links and plenty of restaurants, historical buildings, tours and such it meant that even for just the three days that we had, you can fill your time or just mooch around and see the unexpected. souvenirs seemed in short supply but I was amused by the postcards purposefully wrote in bad English, who says Germans don’t have a sense of humour!
tick around for some historical sites and sights coming up in what will probably be a further five or six posts, with odd stop for a book review should the fancy take me and it will be doing so. More immediately though, next stop is your blogs tomorrow.