Well, that’s me and the husband back from the land of sausage and beer and hyper-efficiency. Germany was amazing, there’s really no two ways about it – and I’d heartily recommend anyone sitting on the fence to climb on down and give it a go. Now, whenever I go away, I always end up prattling on about things way too much – but I like to write, so here is part one of our trip. There’s a lot more to come…recipes/weight loss is coming back online next week, as this is my holiday time! So imagine us, bleary-eyed and staggering out of bed last Wednesday morning and on our way to Germany!
We did all the usual pre-holiday activities – giving the cats strict orders not to crap on the living room carpet , turning off all electrical sockets because everyone knows that the electricity will leak out and start a fire….Luggage into our old car (Black Betty – I wouldn’t take the new car because I’m super-paranoid about it getting scratched by some blind old duffer getting out of her car), house locked up, cats giving us fuck-you-looks in the window, and we were away. Almost immediately I’m tutting and sighing like I’m on a respirator because Paul wanted to drive. I’ll admit it – I’m a terrible passenger when I’m being driven – I spend most of the journey plucking fitfully at my seatbelt and hanging onto the roof handle like I’m on a rollercoaster, wincing and sucking air through my teeth every time a car appears on the horizon three miles ahead. Paul’s actually a really good driver – I just like to be in control of the car. I wouldn’t care, I drive like I’ve got a bomb stuck up my arse but what’s good for the goose…
We arrived at the Holiday Inn Airport only to note that we were actually next door to Edinburgh Zoo and there was the small matter of no airport being in sight. Upon wheeling our fey little cabin-suitable suitcase/rucksacks into reception, we were told (somewhat icily, for a bloody Holiday Inn) that we were in completely the wrong hotel. Paul dropped the rucksack down the steps of the hotel with an almighty bang as he left. The temperature in the car dropped a mere five degrees afterwards. After a short diversion over the tram lines, we checked in, promptly fell asleep, and woke up refreshed and ready to go early Thursday morning. We nipped down for the all-you-can-eat breakfast expecting to fill our bellies with half a pig and a billion eggs, only to be met with a lacklustre continental offering and pursed lips from the Breakfast Manager (!) because I couldn’t use the rotary toaster. You know, that’s one thing I can’t stand from hotel staff – attitude. It’s entirely pointless, because all it does is put me off returning and creates a bad atmosphere. Plus his badge said BREAKFAST MANAGER, for fucks sake. What do you do to become a breakfast manager, a training course in arranging Weetos? A day course on the importance of correct grapefruit juice presentation? The knobber. We departed, left poor old Black Betty in the long-stay carpark and headed into the airport.
Edinburgh Airport isn’t the most thrilling place we’ve ever been, but we managed to pass the time by having to rearrange our hand luggage to comply with Easyjet’s admittedly fairly generous cabin policy. We didn’t bother taking a suitcase but instead packed six days worth of clothes (each) and a change of shoes into our rucksacks. As it happens, a call went out for bags to be put in the hold in exchange for speedy boarding, so we took full advantage of that, giving pitying looks as we were whisked onto the plane ahead of everyone else. I don’t see the point of speedy boarding – all it actually means is that you can sit and nurture your deep vein thrombosis ahead of everyone else. After all, everyone will get a seat on the plane – it’s not as if you’re going to be turned away at the door or blocked getting on by a stewardess brandishing a metre long Toblerone like a bizarro version of Gladiators.
I do have a weird relationship with flying. I’m not scared that we’re going to crash – I rationalise in my head that if the plane does decide to smash into the ground at 600mph, I’m not going to have too much time to consider my options. So if it crashes, it’ll be quick. Instead, I spend the few hours before my flight worrying that I’ll have a panic attack on board and need to be strapped into my seat with a couple of belts from other passengers and a sock in my mouth, or that I’m going to have a picture of my jeans-clad arse lumbering down the aisle used in a ‘TOO FAT TO FLY’ farticle on Buzzfeed. IThe flight is always fine, although I usually spend a good hour or so desperate for a piss but stricken with the knowledge that as soon as I squeeze into that tiny metal coffin/toilet and set him away, the plane will immediately nosedive and I’ll come tumbling acrobatically out of the netty with my cock flapping about and piss in my hair. As it happens, the flight was smooth as brushed silk and the only downside was Paul having to sit next to someone who smelled like she’d brushed her hair with the toilet brush. The flight took an hour and a half and it felt like we were no sooner in the air than back on the ground. I can’t fault easyJet – the flights were cheap, the cabin was clean and the staff were marvellous (same coming back, too). Despite it feeling a bit like I was flying inside a tangerine, it was a perfect flight. We were in Germany in no time at all!
After a quick mince through border control (where the lady in the passport booth looked at my passport, then at me, then at my passport, then at me again, then showed it to her colleague, who then looked at me – all that was missing was for my moon face to be projected on a screen behind her and an applause-a-meter set up to gauge reaction) we were down into the underground/overground rail system of Berlin, called the U-Bahn and S-Bahn respectively. Despite the fact that the underground map looks like a lunatic has used every crayon in his box to draw an approximation of an cockfight and then chucked a bag of Scrabble tiles at it, we were on our way in no time at all. Costs are very reasonable, around €7 for an all day pass for both systems, although we ended up buying five tickets after I lost the original two in my coat, pressed the wrong button the third time and had to buy ticket 4 and 5 as replacement. No accounting for dimness.
Our hotel was near the Zoologischer Garten metro stop, a mere five minutes away through a very pleasant but entirely too hipster shopping mall. The hotel itself – 25Hours Bikini – was more of the same – very cool, exceptionally unique, but a bit too ‘trying too hard to be zany’ for my taste. But that’s because I’m not cool, never have been, never will be. We were checked into our Jungle XL room (so-called because it overlooked Berlin Zoo) and whisked up in the speedy little lift, which rather cleverly had video panels in the wall which displayed random bits and pieces like a cat in a hat and David Bowie. Delightful. The corridor, with the room numbers suspended from the ceiling in bright neon and padded walls, made it feel a bit like a knocking shop, but it was unusual enough to be fun rather than intimidating.
The room itself was a treasure, though – spacious, clean and full of little secrets and toys, like a suitcase nailed to the wall with a hole on the side which, when peeked through, had a load of tiny German models queuing up for bread. The bath had one of those fancydan electrical systems which fills and heats the bath to the correct temperature, but I’m always slightly concerned that it’ll protest under my weight and electrocute me as punishment for me straining the metalwork. There was the usual flatscreen TV, which displayed a disappointing lack of blisteringly hardcore German pornography, but it was only 3pm so they had to get the kids TV scheduling out of the way first. A powerful shower, comfortable bed and a free bike in the room (which it may amaze you to know did not get used) completed the setup. Everything looked high-end but kitsch, and it worked well. Paul sandblasted the toilet, I took off my flight socks, and out we went to make the most of the evening.
And that comes tomorrow…