Last weekend I braved the night train to Berlin!
When you book a couchette on the night train, you get to sleep in a triple decker bunk. Well, “sleep”. I didn’t do too badly – I was really glad to be in the top bunk, and got a solid 4 or 5 hours sleep on the 10 hour journey.
The best thing about the night train is how early you get into the city – I was at Berlin Central Station by 7am! I certainly saw a different side of the city as a result. Walking through the Tiergarten at sunrise was a great experience. The holocaust memorials feel completely different when you visit them alone, rather than when they’re surrounded by tourists.
I’m the first to admit that my history knowledge isn’t the greatest, and in Berlin there are remnants of the city’s past everywhere you look; The Komponistendenkmal is still scarred by WW2 bullets (despite much reconstruction). There are pieces of the wall throughout the city, and Checkpoint Charlie is a major tourist attraction.
During the day, I managed to make it around a lot of the traditional tourist sights (The Reichstag, Brandenburger Tor, and Tiergarten, among others). I took some time to look around the Jewish Museum too, which is not only historically interesting, but is also a beautiful piece of architecture by Daniel Libeskind.
As any regular readers will know, I will take any excuse to go gallivanting off to a new city. The excuse on this particular occasion was a Father John Misty show at Heimathafen in Neuköln (an apparently trendy area of Berlin which is the title of a Bowie song) and it was 100% worth the journey.
I’ve been listening to his new album I Love You Honeybear on repeat lately, so when I found out he was coming to Berlin I had to go. The atmosphere was great – the gig took place in the Rixdorfer Ballroom, a beautiful old hall with an elaborate moulded ceiling, and a theatrical stage set quite low. Low enough, infact, that a number of young women had climbed up onto it while waiting for the show to start. A member of staff came to shoo them away, “you don’t want to be sat there when he comes out girls, he’ll be in your laps.” at which they retreated, giggling. It was a fair warning though – Father John Misty is certainly not shy…
The set was long and full of energy. Many tracks – notably True Affection – seemed to make a lot more sense live, while old favourites like I’m Writing A Novel had the whole room moving. His stage persona is part cabaret act, part Mick Jagger; he climbed on top of the drum kit three times that evening (I counted.)
Sorry for the lack of posts lately (this apology is becoming a habit I fear…)
BUT! I’m writing this from Schipol Airport in Amsterdam – true dedication in my opinion! I’m glad I’ve made it this far.
I flew out of London Heathrow this morning, and my flight made it into Schipol at midday (half and hour early – yey!), which meant I had plenty of time to explore Amsterdam itself before coming back to the airport for my night flight to Shanghai. This was a really great way to break up the journey – I’ve never been to Holland before, so I was glad of the chance to visit.
Schipol airport has it’s own train station, so after getting off my flight, I left my baggage in a locker and went down to the platform. They have DOUBLE DECKER TRAINS HERE – but disappointingly the one I got was a boring old single decker one. The trains are really frequent (seven an hour, I think?) so I didn’t have to wait too long for it, and by 1pm I was in the center of Amsterdam. I think I’ve been lucky with the weather today, it’s well over twenty degrees; luckily, I thought to apply suncream this morning, or I would have some impressive sunburn to sport on my next flight.
Despite it being a pretty touristy thing to do, I’d had numerous recommendations for the canal tours that run from outside Amsterdam Centraal Station, so I went for it. It was great fun! People are right when they say that Amsterdam, like Venice, is best seen by boat. The tour took an hour, during which we got to see plenty of the city’s distinctive architecture. Before the tour, I never even knew what a gable was – I definitely do now! The tour guide managed to be super sassy in three different languages: as we were going through the rainbow district, he announced in Dutch, English and German that “This happens to be where the gay people like to go out. The locals tell me that even the houses aren’t straight round here.”
After the boat tour I still had a few hours to wander round Amsterdam. I grabbed a cone of “frites and fritesausse” – when I have a better internet connection I’ll upload photos of some of the joys I came across!
So, after a super fun afternoon, I’m hanging round in Schipol Airport (which is the coolest airport ever, by the way) until my eleven hour flight to Shanghai at 9:30pm. I’ve made it this far – next time you hear from me, I should be at my hotel!
Did I miss out on anything exciting in my afternoon in Holland? Let me know in the comments!