Saturday, October 04, 2014

Is That a Currywurst, Or Are You Just Glad to See Me?

I was a little worried about German Customs, since there's been some history around Germans jealously guarding their borders while playing a little fast and loose with others.  Add to that, the last time I had been there was during the kidnap, shoot 'em up and bomb their institutions we don't like seventies.  Then the reaction to guards in the airports was generally; oh my gosh, that looks like a machine gun.  Today; is that all they have, a machine gun?  Where are the tank offensive weapons?

German Customs are fast, professional and efficient and none of the officers on duty had a cocaine pinky nail like the Spanish fellow in Madrid.  This was appreciated in knowing that getting past the review desk had nothing to do with how much nose candy you were willing to share.

And if you happen to be traveling the national airline and if you happen to be connecting to a sister flight and if your flight out of the USA happens to be delayed through no fault of the airline, the airline will none the less muscle it's resources and do backflips to get you to your final destination.  In our case, this involved a bus for thirteen on a tight layover schedule, a speedy ride in the tunnels under Frankfurt International, our own private customs check through and an escort through secured corridors right to the airplane door.  Thanks for flying with us, sorry for the inconvenience.

Really?  I couldn't get that kind of whisk to the destination service if I were a spy hiding behind diplomatic credentials.  And I'd like to emphasize that I only write about spies.  I am not a spy.

For an airport meant to serve one of the largest cities in Europe and indeed, the capital city of the continent's largest economy, Berlin's Tegel is in a word:  A bus stop with a lot of pretensions.  Seriously?  I could sooner cold start a nuclear reactor than I could figure out the "check yourself in" self serve kiosks.  Signage to ground transportation might as well be in vernacular Arabic and options for food would make the Port Authority on 8th Avenue blush.  I know they're building the airport of  Berlin's future just down the road in Brandenburg now that all the MiG's have been cleared, but it's five years behind schedule.  They seem to have caught our public works development bug.  It's late, it's way over budget and it will be obsolete before it opens.  Sound familiar?

The rest of the city is in contrast, one pleasant surprise after the next.   The Brandenburg Gate, once the poster child of the Cold War, is a pedestrian mall where you can get your picture taken with ersatz American and Soviet officers, or living statues, or whatever other kind of public fruitcake fits your bill.  The subway system works and works well once you figure out the instructions on buying a weekly pass which are written in half German, half Latin and I'm convinced, a few key Klingon phrases.

There's been an awful lot of rebuilding.  We had dinner outside at the Pariserplatz, just across the street from the city opera.  An impromptu string quartet settled onto one of the benches and suddenly my pasta dish came with a soundtrack.  In 1978 this place looked like the war had ended the Tuesday before through the windows of the tour bus in a hurry to get us to a place without bullet holes.

Potsdamerplatz, a death zone beach before 1989, is now home to skyscrapers housing large international banks and brokerages.  Hasn't really changed much, in other words.

The hotels are first rate and not expensive and the locals are actually not too unfriendly save for the Volksinger we had to endure in the only restaurant open on the Feast of the Assumption, a forgotten  religious holiday dedicated to boisterous and vocal beer consumption until the early hours just outside of my hotel bedroom.  Like our hippie blowin' in the wind city plaza strummers, this Von Trapp wannabe was about as appealing.  They ought to reserve Volks to wagens.  It makes sense there, no where else.

And then there's Currywurst.  Tasty sausage smothered in a chili-curry sauce concoction that goes well with a cold beer and a stand up table facing a young woman with a delicious bust.  What more could you want?  When the bread and cheese breakfast wears off on this depraved carnivore, say around eleven or so, you can have alcohol and a delicious fleshy snack while you consider the fleshy snack that's just pulled up a chair in front of you.

We spent a lot of time in outstanding art, history and science museums but were always mindful of that mid afternoon need for beer.  In fact, as much as I abhor doing it on vacation, we set an alarm to remind us.  What we didn't do was shop or explore much of the nightlife since I don't like to buy shit and I couldn't find Club Alte Farte, the only space catering to me, on the hotel guide map.  Instead I caught up on all the German dubbed episodes of "Big Bang Theory" I had somehow missed at home.

Next up:  Donde esta en Espana

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