Our man [formally] of Amsterdam


Stopover in Braunschweig
January 15, 2010, 15:36
Filed under: Germany, Travel

I met Evelyn in 1988. She was waiting for a friend at London’s Victoria Station, having just arrived from her German home town of Braunschweig. I too was waiting for a friend at London’s Victoria Station, having just arrived back in England from Spain. We both had big backpacks and each of us noticed the other standing around, staring at the crowd in search of someone known. I think it was she who offered first to ‘watch’ my pack while I went looking for my friend. Not sure this would happen in our more security conscious times today. I must have accepted, failed in my search, and then returned the favour. We did this several times during the afternoon for each other, all to no avail.

That’s how we met. We have caught up many times since, both in Europe and Australia. And we are still in touch 22 years later. She is married with children and that is her and her youngest boy, Finn (below), getting some very fresh air late in the day in snow covered fields just beyond their back fence.

The bird in the picture below was one of many that were feeding in a tree in their yard right outside the window, so I grabbed the Nikon and snapped a few hundred shots during the course of a morning, while we sipped tea (Germans don’t do coffee well at all) and ate divine cakes in Remembrance of Times Past.

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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.