Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Ein Guter Tag



When the Berlin Wall went up, I was only a child, and it passed me by as one of those unfathomable things that grown-ups got up to, and Germany was impossibly remote and foreign.

When it came down, I was much older, much closer, and I'd not only learnt German, but had been to Germany - yet it all still pretty much passed me by. In my defence, the First-Born was little more than a week old, and I was in such a fog that everything outside a very tight little circle was passing me by.

I do recall sitting by the fire watching it on TV with the First-Born in my arms thinking "Wow, this is big", but not actually able to summon up the energy to get excited about it.

I've never been to Berlin. After all those years of learning German, and living for 17 years just across the Channel, I've only spent 3 days in Hamburg - but the Baby, who wasn't even thought of 20 years ago, has been to Germany on exchange for two months, and visited Berlin, and Munich, and even Neuschwanstein, which I had a poster of on my wall for years.

But Hamburg was fun: we stayed at a B&B with a nice lady whose spare room had the BIGGEST BED I've ever seen, before or since - honestly, you could have fitted an extended family in there - and wandered around the city centre admiring all the wonderful old buildings that somehow escaped the Allied bombs (the landlord of our local pub, an ex-RAF pilot, said he'd never been to Hamburg "but I have seen it from the air"). We had a delicious meal at a restaurant where the starter was so tasty but so filling that we weren't able to do justice to the main course, and the chef came marching out of his kitchen when the plates were cleared to ask what was wrong. It was a chilling moment, but I was proud to be able to explain to his satisfaction what the reason was.

Unfortunately, our other restaurant experience was more shaming: we had taken the ferry across the city's pretty lake (impressed by the efficiency and brilliance of using electro-magnets to moor the boat at the jetties) and wandered around the leafy suburbs before having another lovely meal. We were into our last few hours in Germany, and after spending the previous couple of months working our way back to the UK from NZ through about 16 countries, it had become a game to be left with as little local currency as possible. So we chose our courses carefully and chortled when we worked out that we would have no change left over this time. Except, sitting there with the bill and a pile of notes and coins, our nicely full stomachs sank as we suddenly realised that we hadn't factored in the tip.

So we ran. Another dark day in the history of Anglo-German relations.

And the photo? An Irish wall - so much prettier than that ugly concrete thing.

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