I’ve gotten a bit behind in updating the travel diary, it’s the problem with being in one place for a while! You’d think we’d have found a good routine for publishing things but no, somehow it’s all easier when we’re on the road.
Sometime over the past few weeks, we reached the halfway point of our time in Berlin — and now we only have another four weeks here! We’ve been busy enjoying the city and making plans for the future.
We’d spent the weekend in Wustrow with our friend Anna and her family, and her dad (who’s a doctor) had offered to remove some of my moles. So we spent part of Monday morning in a doctor’s surgery, and I now have three holes in my back — very attractive! Afterwards, we had breakfast with Anna and her brother Paul, then caught the bus back to Berlin.
The rest of the week was pretty ordinary, we spent the days working and the evenings relaxing. On Friday an ex-student of mine, Vazz, came over for a few drinks; it was great to catch up. He still has photos on his phone from the camps we were at together nine years ago — I looked so young!
On Sunday we joined Holger for one leg of the enormous hike he does every weekend, the 66 Lakes path. This route circles Berlin and is made up of 17 sections, each 22-28km long — the perfect length for a day walk. Plus the start points are all accessible by public transport, so it’s a great weekend activity. Along our way we saw a small festival involving an outdoor church service as well as five of the 66 lakes. It was a great day!
That night we rented Cloud Atlas from iTunes, which I really enjoyed. I missed quite a lot of the connections, though, so we watched it again on Monday night and it all made a lot more sense.
On Tuesday Craig went to a Tenacious D concert with Vazz, which he really enjoyed, and our fellow blogger Peter Parkorr came to stay for the night. He headed off again on Wednesday, and I went to the airport to collect our next set of guests, Ana and Diego. We Couchsurfed with them in Jerez and have become good friends — it was great to see them again! By the time we got back from the airport it was after midnight, but we had to catch up a little… It was a late night.
Ana and Diego spent Thursday and Friday exploring Berlin while Craig and I worked. We also managed to find a well-priced flight from Europe to Kuala Lumpur, so we bought tickets after some wrangling with the bank. The flight goes from Rome, so it looks like we’ll be spending some time in Italy!
On Saturday we decided to visit Potsdam, and spent a lovely late morning walking around the Neuer Garten before having a beer in a beer garden then a Vietnamese lunch in the centre of town. However, our plans to explore Sanssouci Park were scuttled by the fact that it was closed for an event, and the security people wanted to charge us €48 for entry! We decided against it and caught the train back down the next day after spending the morning at the Mauerpark markets. But once again the world was against us, as it started to rain just as we got off the bus — and walking around a large park in the rain isn’t really our idea of a good time.
What a week! It started with a trip to the immigration office, for an appointment I’d made three weeks before. Unfortunately it turned out my appointment was with the wrong department, so we were sent upstairs and told to take a number. I thought we’d be waiting for hours, but within five minutes I was explaining my case to a friendly older woman, who seemed surprised that I wanted to stay such a short time in Germany — I only needed a six-week extension to the three months I’m allowed to spend here as a New Zealander.
She took all my carefully prepared and copied information and told us to wait in the waiting room again, and soon we were called in to talk to a very nice man who I didn’t understand at all, but who decided that it wasn’t worth going through the full residency process and instead wrote a short letter granting me permission to stay until the date of our flight to Ireland at the end of next month. Victory!
In the evening we left Ana and Diego at home and headed out to meet some other bloggers who are in town, including Peter, Steve, Sebastian, and Conni. We had to be home early so Craig could manage a promotion that was running on Seriously Board, but we saw most of them again on the Thursday when we met up at Street Food Thursday at Martkthalle Neun in Kreutzberg. In the meantime, on Tuesday evening Craig and I met Ana and Diego’s friend Selma, who introduced us to a great sushi restaurant and took us to a fantastic bar/ballroom (Clärchens), where we drank wine and watched other patrons tango. And on Wednesday we met Alexis (who has written some reviews for Indie Travel Reviews) and her boyfriend David. We decided to eat at the Dicker Engel, a restaurant near our place that Holger had highly recommended, and it was well worth it — fair prices, good service and delicious food.
Ana and Diego left on Thursday and on Friday we had a small party at our place — Holger and Claudia were there, as well as Steve and Michael. It was still warm enough to sit outside but autumn is definitely approaching.
On Saturday Craig and I slept in then made a pilgrimage across town to Ikea; we’d completely destroyed a chopping board and needed to replace it. And then on Sunday, I headed to Austria and left Craig behind. I hadn’t flown by myself for quite some time, and I found that I really enjoyed the experience of solo travel; both on the plane, and on the three trains I caught to get to my final destination of Mattersburg.
26 August — 1 September
During my six days in Mattersburg, I spent the mornings working and the afternoons exploring. My contact Gina was amazing, she organized wonderful excursions to various places, including a tour and wine tasting of the winery her husband runs. I visited a reconstruction of the Iron Curtain and spent an afternoon wandering around Eisenstadt — I even visited Haydn’s house (because I haven’t been to enough composers houses this year!). The food was amazing: Wiener schnitzel, Hungarian goulash, a delicious meat-and-cheese plate at a heuriger — I felt completely spoiled!
Craig met me at the airport on Saturday when I flew back to Berlin and took me down to Turmstrasse for a surprise: a street party. While I’d like to think the authorities put it on just for me, I think that’s quite unlikely; we had a great time regardless. We didn’t go on any of the dozen or so fairground rides, but we did stop to listen to the bands that were playing, and (of course) ate copious amounts of street food. Mushrooms, shish kebabs, quark balls, mango lassi… It was all delicious.
We spent Sunday afternoon with Craig’s ex-student Momo, who’s from Berlin but is living in Zurich. We went for a wander around the street party after having kebabs for lunch, then stopped into an Asian supermarket I’d never noticed before, and where we bought some Asian beers to drink back at home.
In the evening, Craig and I watched the Shipping News, which Frankie had on DVD. Unfortunately the disk was corrupted and the movie was unwatchable after about an hour; we were enjoying it though, so we rented it from iTunes so we could see the end.