Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Blind booking #4: Berlin! Part 5

Yesterday was our last day in Berlin.  Our flight did not leave until 5:55pm, so we had all day to spend in the city.  The Adina Apartment Hotel Berlin Mitte is very accommodating.  We were able to leave our bags at the hotel while we visited Berlin's TV Tower.  I have visited Stuttgart's TV Tower twice so far.  I expected that Berlin's tower would be similar.  Actually, it was a bit different in that the whole thing is enclosed indoors.  There is a restaurant and a bar and if you pay extra, you can reserve a table in the Sphere restaurant.  Naturally, it costs more to sit on the outside.  We were going to do that, but the first available reservation was at 4:15pm and that was too late for us.

We took the tram to the tower, which allowed us to see more of Berlin's inner city.  As we were passing the neighborhoods, it occurred to me how much we were going to miss on this trip.  Bill and I will have to try to go back and see more sometime, if we stay in Germany.  Berlin is a very impressive city.

A bike messenger stopped near us while we were waiting for the tram.  I liked his vehicle.

The tower was somewhat crowded when we got there, although it's possible to skip the lines and book tickets online or purchase them from vending machines.  We walked around the sphere, looking at the very spectacular views of Berlin that would have been even nicer had the sun been shining.  After a few looks at the city, Bill, Parker and I stopped by the bar and had a drink.  

The many scenes of Berlin.

Part of the bar area.

The whole inside of the tower is like this.  You can't venture outside.  But the weather was crappy anyway, so it was no big deal.

Time for a beer break.  They had local craft beers available, which made Bill happy.

After our pit stop at the bar, Parker and I went to the ladies room.  I was not surprised to find a line, as there had been a line when we first arrived.  This time, it was two women, one of whom was pregnant.  As we were waiting, I happened to notice that the first three of the five stalls were open.  I could tell by the white display on the lock.  If the door had been locked, it would have been red.  

Just at the time I was about to point out the availability of the stalls to the chattering women, they noticed the first open stall.  They went to the first one, which had a changing table in it that apparently made it unavailable for normal use.  I went to the one next to it, but just as I was about to enter the stall, one of the women said, "Sorry!" and quickly jumped back in front of me, thwarting my attempt to pee.

I swear, I must be turning German, because my reaction was decidedly pissy... it was the kind of response I've gotten myself from Germans.  I then pointed out the other normal stall, which the other woman quickly took.  

Parker said, "Aggressive!"

My response was, "No, it's stupid!  Pay attention and fucking go!  Luckily, I don't have to pee that badly."  

Even I was surprised by the sharp tone of my response, although I think those two women both kind of deserved it.  Both of them lit out of there pretty quickly.  I don't even think they washed their hands.  Normally, I try no to be bitchy in these situations, but I was feeling exasperated and spoke too soon.  We left the tower and decided to have lunch across the street at the Block House, which is a chain steakhouse.  We've eaten there in Stuttgart and knew the food to be decent.  

I had a cheeseburger.  This was ground beef sitting on a piece of baguette with some kind of tomato relish and covered with Edam cheese.  It was pretty good, although I really wanted a proper burger.  I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the stretchy cheese, though.

Bill's mom had a small steak with a baked potato and bread.

And this was Bill's lunch.  

Block House has a lot of American appeal.  It reminds me of American chain steakhouses.

A few more shots near the TV tower... and another Christmas market.

By the time we were finished with lunch, it was mid afternoon.  We took the tram back to the hotel, picked up our bags, and headed for the airport.  Our cab driver was very helpful and knew exactly where we should be when we told him we were flying Eurowings (which was Air Berlin last night).  We checked into the remarkably primitive looking terminal, breezed through security and hung out until it was time to fly out of Berlin.  While we were waiting, I took notice of the very sexy voice coming from the woman doing the announcements.  Apparently, I am not the only one who's noticed that.

Seriously... she's quite the sexpot.  Reminds me of Princess Aura in Flash Gordon.


We enjoyed another uneventful flight back to Stuttgart and arrived home at about 8:00pm.  While we were gone, Bill's custom made kilt finally arrived from Scotland.  Tonight, he will model it for us and I will take pictures.  Stay tuned for that!

As for Berlin, I will declare it a successful trip, despite the weather.  The blind booking flights worked out really well and we were very happy with our accommodations.  There's a lot to see and do there and, when the weather isn't horrible, you might just find some good food and shopping.  I think I liked Hamburg better because it's prettier to me, but there's no denying that Berlin has a fascinating history.  I feel like reading more about it now that I've seen it in person.  

Blind booking #4: Berlin! Part 4

By the time we got back to the hotel, the weather was getting pretty crappy again.  We had a pretty disagreeable mixture of rain and snow that made venturing out for food unappealing.  We decided to go back to Alto, the restaurant's bar.  Awsam, the bartender, greeted us warmly.  Again, I wrote a lot about Saturday at the bar in my main blog.  That piece is a bit political, though, so for those who would rather skip my rantings, I'll just say that we enjoyed some wine, some bad pop music, and watched videos from the early 80s.

We also tried kumquats for the first time.  I must admit, although I had heard of kumquats, I'd never actually tried them.  They're basically tiny oranges.  You're supposed to eat the rind, which none of us did.  I wasn't aware of this, but apparently kumquats are pretty popular in Germany.  My friend Susanne says she likes to eat them when she's feeling sick.  They're supposedly pretty healthy.

Lemons, limes, and kumquats!

After a couple of hours in the bar, we went back to our room.  It was so yucky outside that I decided I just wanted a pizza from the Domino's we passed on our first night in Berlin.  Yes, I know it's ridiculous to seek out Domino's Pizza in an international city, but it had been years since I last had one and I was craving comfort food.  Parker was game, although Bill rolled his eyes at us.  So he went to the nearby Domino's in the shitty weather and picked up a pizza for us.

Domino's Pizza in Berlin.

It's been awhile since my last Domino's pizza and even that was in France (of all places).  We were pretty shocked by how small a "large" pizza was from the German Domino's.  It was about the size of a small in the United States.  Bill ordered us a Hawaiian style pizza with ham and pineapple, although I really just wanted a pepperoni pizza.  Pepperoni, as we know, is not the same in Germany as it is in America.  Here, pepperoni refers to peppers, not sausage.

After a good night's sleep, we rose to sunshine on Sunday.  Bill, Parker, and I had a special errand to run for some Americans in Stuttgart who were hoping for souvenirs from the Hard Rock Cafe in Berlin.  We also wanted to see Checkpoint Charlie.  We headed for Checkpoint Charlie first, hopping on the underground train just a couple of blocks from the hotel.

A couple of ads I spotted on the way to the subway.  They drive home how important it is to keep safety on the brain while driving.  Slow down and don't use your phone.

On the way to Checkpoint Charlie, I was intrigued by an ad on the train.  They're looking for healthy balding men to take part in research.

Below are some pictures from Checkpoint Charlie.  We stopped by the very extensive museum there, which was well worth the time.  I don't usually get that excited about museums, but this one is well worth a visit, even though it can get rather crowded and there's a lot to read.  Headsets are available.

A piece of the famous Berlin Wall.

A very famous sign.

Actors portray guards in front of the replica of Checkpoint Charlie.  For a fee, you can have your picture taken with them and get your passport stamped.  We didn't bother with that.

The one picture I took inside of the huge museum.  Seriously... if you visit Berlin, I highly recommend visiting the museum by Checkpoint Charlie.  It's fascinating and extensive.  I learned a whole lot about the former German Democratic Republic and the people who risked their lives to leave it.  

After we visited the museum, we got back on the underground train and headed for Charlottenburg, the area of Berlin where the Hard Rock Cafe is.  I didn't have any particular desire to visit there, but I got requests from three people in Stuttgart who were hoping for shot glasses and such.  Since I definitely don't mind the occasional American food, we went there for lunch.  

Bill smiles for the camera as we try to decide what to eat.  I was tempted by the burgers, but I can get those in Stuttgart.  Ditto on the ribs...

One thing I don't necessarily like about the Hard Rock Cafe is that they have all of this memorabilia on the walls.  I know that's the draw, along with the music, but having that stuff on the walls creates a museum effect.  We happened to be sitting near Janis Joplin and Keith Richards exhibits, so people would come stand by our table to check it out.  It was a little annoying.

Bill had a pulled pork sandwich with some very tasty fries.

Parker had a cheeseburger sans bacon.

I went with combo fajitas, which arrived sizzling on peppers and onions and came served with pico de gallo, guacamole, and cheese.  They weren't the best fajitas I've ever had, but they were probably the best I've had in Germany.  Unfortunately, that isn't saying a whole lot.  

For dessert, I had an Irish kiss, which was like hot chocolate with whiskey and tons of whipped cream.  It was good and not too big, as I could see the other desserts were.  I didn't need it, but it hit the spot.

After we ate, we went to the gift shop and picked up the requested souvenirs.  The lady who rang us up was Brazilian and said that a lot of Americans from Texas visit the Hard Rock Cafe in Berlin.  Although Bill and I came to Germany this time from Texas, only he and his mother are from there.  I am from Virginia.

Cool "bus" outside the restaurant.

And the facade.  It had gotten cloudy while we were having lunch.

We decided to check out another Christmas market and this cool looking church, which we didn't have time to explore.

We stopped for the obligatory Gluhwein...

Good to the last drop?

By the time we had walked through the Christmas market, it was getting dark and threatening to snow.  We decided to take a cab back to the hotel.  We considered staying in and ordering room service, but somehow I was cajoled back down to the Alto restaurant.  Parker stayed in the room and watched TV.

Bill and I shared a nice gray burgundy.  He had pumpkin soup because he was still full from lunch.

I had penne carbonara, which was covered in fresh basil and Parmesan cheese.

It snowed furiously while we were enjoying dinner.  I was surprised to see how quickly the white stuff accumulated.  By the morning, most of it had melted.  I heard Stuttgart got hit with a lot of snow on Saturday and Sunday, but most of it was gone by the time we arrived home last night.

Part 5