The last time I visited Berlin was in the summer of 2008. Before that, it was in 1983, as a pimply-faced teenager with a full head of hair. My, how things have changed. Back in 1983, I was studying German at HSC level. In 2008, despite the twenty-five year difference, I was amazed at how much of that HSC German came flooding back.
Arriving in Berlin this afternoon, I quickly realised those German language skills have pretty much disappeared. When I went to order a sandwich for lunch this afternoon, I actually began speaking in Swedish. Suddenly, from the depths of my subconscious the phrase, “Ich möchte” (I’d like) suddenly re-appeared, along with “Vielen dank” (many thanks), and “Bitte schön” (in response to Danke schön). But that’s about it. Even as I tried to remember something as basic as “counting to ten”, I found the Swedish kicked in at about six.
In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t really matter, as most Berliners (like most Stockholmers) speak excellent English, and they’ll jump in as soon as they realise you’re struggling. But I like to be polite, so I try.
That was particularly so with our AirBnB host, Ronny who speaks excellent English. Ronny was there when I arrived a little later than expected at the apartment Sue and I are staying in for the next five days. His directions from the airport to the apartment were excellent. The only thing I’d forgotten was the housing numbering system in Germany differs somewhat from that in Australia, and so when I arrived this afternoon I headed off in the wrong direction. Thankfully, somewhere in the back of my mind was a vague memory of how the house numbering system differed, and so once that memory came flooding back, I was also back on track.
The apartment’s excellent. Very lovely. And Ronny has been an excellent introduction to Berlin, with lots of helpful advice, particularly around public transport, and also with some useful hints around supermarkets and restaurants in the area. Apparently we’re in what was West Berlin, and only about 400 metres from The Wall.
I wandered in to Alexanderplatz this afternoon, as I was keen to get my bearings for the conference I’m attending, Radio Days Europe on Monday and Tuesday. I’ll go for a proper bit of sight-seeing in the morning, ahead of Sue’s arrival tomorrow. So tonight I’m spending the evening at home having a bite to eat, enjoying a bit of relaxation, and probably doing some reading. And of course updating my blog.
The one thing that’s surprised me so far is how much snow is still on the ground. Given the lack of snow and ice in Central Stockholm, I wasn’t expecting to see any in Berlin at all. I wonder what else will surprise me about this part of my trip?