Our man [formally] of Amsterdam


Closed on Monday
January 11, 2010, 20:11
Filed under: Germany

The arctic blizzards eased just enough for flights into Berlin, and when the plane finally came to a stop 50 metres from the terminal, its front wheels were buried in a pile of snow built up and left by the snow-plough as it fought full time to keep the runway clear. There was a walkway for passengers alighting planes that was carved across the tarmac but had turned to mush and ice, so you had to tread carefully all the way as the air froze your face and burnt your ears, and small children swung from the outstretched arms of their parents as they slipped and slid on the icy surface.

This is no climate for spectacle wearers as they either become streaked with sleet if outside or fog up with condensation on entering anywhere warm indoors. Laser eye surgery inquiries must rise this time of the year in this part part of the world, especially in weather like this.

The train from the airport to Berlin centrum was delayed, like many around the country that day, as were my intended rail connections heading south west, but I boarded anyway and about an hour later, with darkness approaching and temperatures plummeting, I sought refuge at a little town where I had to change trains. But the station at Lutherstadt Wittenberg was a long way from the little town and the walk was slow, treading carefully again, this time over ice or knee-deep in snow, and with a backpack weighing about 20 kilos. Found room at an inn and eventually slept contentedly with a belly full of beer, though not more than twenty.

Berlin airport, Sunday 10 January

A maximum of -5 degrees today, they say, and my hardiest shoes were hardly suitable. Wittenberg has remarkable UNESCO-listed sites, but they are all closed on Monday. So in cafes I read and write, and realise that in a week’s time I’ll be heading to Rio where the weather is a cloudy and sultry 35 degrees, the thought of which helps thaw my feet and melts the ice that’s nestled on my ‘unsuitable’ shoes, leaving a wet patch on the cafe’s wooden floor when I leave. Welcome to Germany; mind the freeze.

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