Monday, 1 September 2008

Round Berlin (for a fridge)

It shouldn't be possible, but today we managed to drive across the centre of Berlin, West to East then East to West, twice. I say this because just imagine trying to go across London or Paris. Not fun, not easy. But in Germany, crossing the capital city (population 3.5 million) was a bit of a cinch.

The reason for our grand traverse was that we had a couple of tasks to try to achieve today before we got on with the business of being tourists. Firstly we had to go to Steglitz to try to get our MacBook fixed - it's developed an annoying line down the middle of the screen. This meant an 8am departure from our campsite in Potsdam in order to be there when the shop opened at 10am. Now our experience trying to find glass for Sheena should have taught us a thing or too about how chains work. We had been to the Mac store in Amsterdam who had told us, after examining our laptop, that we needed a new hard disk, which would take a week to order. As we were leaving Amsterdam the next day this wasn't an option. However, we struck on a plan and with the help of my German friend Franzi, we had telephoned the Mac store in Berlin a week ago with this information, asking them to order in the relevant part ready for us. Unfortunately the store assistant (who hadn't seen our laptop) we spoke to decided he knew better than the technician in Amsterdam (who had seen our laptop), and said it wasn't a disk problem. Be there at 10am Monday and we should be able to get it done by Thursday. We were there at 10am Monday. "Oh it's probably a disk problem. This may take between a week and ten days." We should have known! Anyway rather than faff around any more, we've decided just to put up with the line - it only really impinges on our ability to watch films.

Our second task - to find a new fridge for Sheena, our previous one having expired in Lubeck - was succesfully accomplished. After a quick, google in German - an interesting experience, rather like attempting to buy clothes for somebody you've never met - we found a likely looking caravan centre. The extreme opposite side of the city. It being 11am we decided to go for it. We were there by 12pm. Driving in Berlin you see is simply a matter - based on one day's evidence - of surfing a massive green wave down long, straight 6-lane streets with amazing names like Karl-Marx Allee and Strasse Parisienne Commune, full of Eastern Bloc block housing. Once we got there and bought our new fridge (or rather, electric cool box) we realised that the campsite we wanted to go to was back the other side of town, in Spandau. Back we drove, this time going right past the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag and through the Tiergarten. Amazing.

You couldn't do it in London. In fact, 20 years ago, you couldn't have done it in Berlin. Perhaps that's why it's so easy now - the Germans are making up for all those years when you couldn't go West-East without passing Checkpoint Charlie (which I think we drove through) and are now determined to make it as easy as possible to traverse Berlin. It's bizarre to think the journey we did today in just a couple of hours would have been inconceivable 20 years ago. A strange notion for all, I suspect, excepting perhaps the residents of Jerusalem.

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