The Monthly Newsletter of Chelmsford YHA Local Group
Culture and Currywurst
The first shock was that we weren’t in Scotland on the Whitsun Bank Holiday, in fact we weren’t even in Britain. Having got up absurdly early to catch our flight to Germany we arrived in Berlin late morning, just in time for a quick wash & brush up and our first sausage of the holiday. About ¼ mile from the hostel we found a hip beach-bar on the banks of the Spree for lunch. As we settled down for beer and currywurst the thumping cool tracks were replaced by something much closer to easy listening – our influence, perhaps?
With a whole week stretching out in front of us, we thumbed through our guide books with ambitious plans for all the museums, bike rides, walking tours we were going to fit in.Very ambitious plans as it turned out. Home to some of the best museums in Europe, fabulous art galleries, plus its very own complex history, Berlin had enough to keep us busy for a month – and we had only a week.
Day 1 we walked round the city in scorching heat, taking in the sights. From the instantly recognisable, like the Brandenburg Gate, to the avant guard, like the new Chancellery and the Hauptbahnhof, there was a lot to see. Aching feet took us back to the hostel for a quick turn-around before heading back out for dinner. This proved to be a pattern we repeated practically every day.
Day 2 some of us headed to Checkpoint Charlie, the former US checkpoint between east and west. There is a labyrinthine museum on the history of the partitioning of Berlin and I think everyone visited it at some point in the trip. It was full of photos, stories and escape memorabilia, bringing home the full horror of a divided city. It was a tough job getting round the museum before we had to head back to the Reichstag for our lunch booking in the swanky restaurant on the roof. It wasn’t a cheap meal, but delicious, and worth it for the view alone.
Days 3 & 4 were the wet days, so most of us took the opportunity to bag some of those museums. The DDR Museum showed you what life was like in East Germany pre-1989. The Stasi Museum showed the lengths the authorities went to keep tabs on their citizens. The Pergamon Museum showed you classical antiquities on a colossal scale. The Neues Museum had the most beautiful sculptures, including the famous bust of Nefertiti. It was exhausting.
By Day 5 we were ready for a break, so we headed out of the city to Frederich the Great’s country palace at Sans Souci. Having been museumed-out for the last 2 days, it was now our turn to be roccocoed-out. There were enough gold covered scrolls and curliqueues to last a lifetime.
By the end of the week we were racing to fit in all the bits still on our to-do lists, so I guess we’ll just have to go back.
YHA 3rd Gear Road Test: Trabant 601 Cabriolet
Engine: 2 cylinder 2 stroke, 600cc, 26 bhp 0-60 mph: eventually Top speed: don't know - speedo doesn't work.
The first impression of this paragon of communist engineering was of a nest of angry lawnmowers in a cloud of blue smoke. Moving off was easy once I found first gear on the column shift. First gear was a bit like Brigadoon, making intermittent appearances during the drive due to its lack of synchromesh, so it was an adventure at the first few sets of traffic lights, would the car go forwards, backwards or at all?
The test route was predominantly in East Berlin, starting from Checkpoint Charlie, and including such sights as Unter Den Linden, Alexander Platz and the East Side Gallery with its mural of a Trabant bursting through the Berlin Wall. This was good job as the test car's Lady-Penelope-Pink paint was fetching, but would not go unnoticed by the dopiest Grepo (Border Policeman).
In car entertainment was basic, a radio with a single channel where the main programme consisted of "C'mon pink, give it some gas", and which doubled as a sat-nav giving turn by turn instructions in German and English.
Cabin space could be euphemistically described as cosy for 4 people, and there is probably adequate boot space for a few jars of Spreewald gherkins, and some Currywurst.
In summary, driving this icon of the end of the Cold War was very enjoyable, and a high point of a great week in Berlin.
Please send any comments on these pages to Dave Plummer