There’s a bit in an old episode of Absolutely Fabulous where Edina goes into her kitchen and selects a bottle of champagne from a chiller cabinet, only for it to be replenished like the machine that replaces the pins in a bowling alley. It’s pretty much like that with our freezer and Ben and Jerry’s at the moment. I get rid of one, only to find Paul has managed to go to ASDA, restock and be sat back down on the settee without me blinking. Peculiar. Well it is Christmas…back to Germany!
We woke up the next morning with a tightly packed schedule and we were mincing down Karl Marx Allee in no time at all with a view to visiting the Videogame Museum. Paul tried to engage me with tales of socialist architecture and other nonsense but he possibly assumed from my glazed over eyes, deep sighs and putting a hand over his mouth, that I wasn’t interested. We had an agonising problem of where to have breakfast, given there was only a McDonalds (reasons to decline: not on holiday! Never on holiday! We have to eat somewhere local, we’re on holiday and we’re not that type of tourist!) or an art gallery café (we’re not hipster enough! I don’t have pieces of lace in my beard! They’re going to serve our coffee with a side of scorn and the toast will be organic carpet-toast spread with derision!) – we settled on the café. Breakfast in Germany is amazing – you essentially get all of the fat-bastard level of the food pyramid in one go – bread, meat, jam and cheese. She did put a token bit of rocket on the side but we ignored that – we’re on holiday, if I’m not having mild palpitations by 11am then something is wrong.
The Videogame Museum was great fun, full of interactive old computer systems and rare controllers. It will sound as boring as all outdoors to someone who isn’t into gaming, but for us two fatties it was smashing. Only thing was, it was overrun with children, which immediately creates two feelings – rage and worry. Rage because I’m a selfish adult who has forgotten he was a child once and immediately starts scowling and hissing at the children pressing the wrong buttons with their sticky hands, and worry because I’m always terrified that the parents will think I’m a nonce if I’m loitering near their children with a barely disguised grimace on my face. On top of that, I have an irrational dislike of anyone playing computer games ‘incorrectly’ – I once had to go for a lie down after trying to explain Tetris to my nana who was waving around the DS like she trying to land a failing Messerschmitt at sea.
At the videogame museum was something called the Painstation. Essentially, it’s a two player game of Pong, where you hold a knob (steady) and keep your other hand on a small metal plate. If you lose a ball on Pong, your other hand either gets an electrical shock, a small burn (the plate heats up) or whipped by a strap of elastic. It’s sadistic, cruel, unusual and, worse than that – it was out of bloody order! I was gutted. Paul wasn’t, because he knew I’d kick his arse at Pong and he’d end up with a tiny hand from the whipping.
After the museum it was a short hop, skip and a jump – well, meander, struggle and chafe – to the DDR museum, where we spent an hour or so examining the exhibits and pondering thoughtfully on the challenging existence in East Germany. Paul did, at least. I spent an hour picking up the big black phone on the desk and pretending I was on Deal or no Deal and then tutting at people for climbing inside the model Trabant they had on show. Honestly have these people got no respect?
A donut and coffee followed then we were off to the Sealife centre and in particular, the giant Aquadom nearby. We spent a good ten minutes being complimented on our English by the German lady on the counter and then forty minutes or so trying to get a good picture of a stingray. Are we the only people who come back from these places with hundreds of shite photos of fish that get deleted on the plane home? I’m not sure what makes me think I’ll need an encyclopaedic collection of blurred photos of marine life on my phone but I’m always compelled to snap away whenever I’m somewhere like that. My photography skills are shit – it looks like Ray Charles has been on photographic duty. I might take a course – but I probably won’t, I’m lazy. Anyway, the Aquadom is a giant aquarium in the shape of a tube, and you get in a great glass lift and travel up the middle.
I was a bit disappointed, I’m not going to lie. It sounds great fun, but in reality, you’re looking at about two thousand fish in a tank whilst riding a lift. Meh. We almost booked the hotel surrounding the aquarium but I’m glad we didn’t – the last thing I want is someone peering out the glass lift and seeing me drying my arse in my hotel room, the size of which is all distorted thanks to being viewed through water.
We broke our rule of eating ‘local’ afterwards, taking a late lunch in a place called Andy’s nearby, which promised German/American food at decent prices. It was packed, and at least I had a German beer and sauerkraut with my meal – Paul inexplicably ended up having an entirely not German nor American pork gyros with fried onions. Delicious meal and thanks to the pickled cabbage I barely had to walk to our next destination, instead choosing to hover gently down the street.
Next, the Berlin Dungeon. I was expecting little, but it was actually pretty decent, as long as you like seeing rough looking women pitching around in the dark with blood on their face and sores on their legs, with the scent of faeces and death in the air. Well, I’m from Newcastle, it was just like being at home. The whole experience was made brilliant by the Scottish women who were with us, who, when the lights dipped, shouted loudly ‘AH’MA GONNA SHITE MYSELF’. Even the actors cracked up at that one. Also, I’m not sure ‘YOU’LL CUM BLOOD’ was supposed to be on the script during the plague section, but everyone’s eyebrows raised in a very British unison. Actually, that’s an aside – I’ve always associated Germany with sheer, unadulterated filth – it was always the German couple who used to get their hairy tackle out on Eurotrash back in the day, for example – but there was zero hardcore pornography on their TV channels after 10pm. I was very surprised!
We finished off the night by enjoying a meal in Nocti Vagus – a completely dark restaurant – you eat in the pitch black and are waited upon by blind or almost blind waiting staff. It was…unique! You choose your menu in the bar upstairs, do a veritable conga down into the dark, and then spend two hours enjoying your meal in the dark. I’m far too suspicious that people were pinching my food in the dark, and the temptation to hurl a meatball in the dark was strong, but we were on our best behaviour and came out of it feeling slightly dizzy (because you have nothing to focus on for two hours) and satisfied we’d enjoyed ourselves. The show that comes after the meal was a bit ropey, but…you’ve had a meal in a pitch black restaurant! At least that’s cool.