Travel Blog – Berlin

8 11 2009

To recap quickly from the previous post: we arrived in Berlin on Sunday evening with me needing to head to work in the morning. The evening drive in was the most stressful time of the trip with the car having to be delivered in time so the rest of the day was spend with a very deserved beer and a very deserved rest. In particular we strolled around Schönhauser Allee and tried some pizza by the slab recommended by the guide books.

Because I’m not sure if I’ve already mentioned it here, part of the plan for this trip was three weeks of holiday followed by one week of work for me at a company called Ableton, who are based out of Berlin. The weeks work went well and there isn’t much to talk about in that regard so I’ll stick to the interesting stuff. As such our time in the city would be based in the same hotel for an entire week (the longest time in the same place the whole trip) and was a bit more settled.

We had picked a place called the Circus Hotel which was both cheap and by far the best rated hotel in the area where I would be working. It wasn’t far from the city, shopping, and transport so Alyona had things to do during the day and it turned out that the hotel even provided free wifi and free rental of a little netbook she could use during the day.

The first night Andreas and his wife Yvonne took us for a tour of the city to take in the major sites around Berlin. It turned out that this opportunity was perfect as there weren’t many others where we had time out to look around. First we drove around Berlin Mitte crossing the border between East and West Berlin several times and it seemed the most impressive buildings where the old governmental ones near the wall that were probably used as displays of strength between the two sides.

We didn’t stop too often but did get to see the major sites of what looks like a very interesting city, a couple of which are shown here:

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Brandenburg Gate (f4.0 1/640 24mm)

First off is the Brandenburg Gate. Built in the 18th century it is probably most famous for its use as a symbol during WW2 both by the Germans and afterwards as a symbol of victory. It also seems to be one of the only structures to have survived the war intact.

Berlin Wall / Potsdammer Place (f4.0 1/400 24mm)

Berlin Wall / Potsdammer Place (f4.0 1/400 24mm)

The other big symbol of Berlin is of course the Berlin wall, of which there is a surprising amount still standing when you get a bit further out of the city (although obviously not the checkpoints and major fortifications). In the major centers there are more memorial-esque portions as is fitting as they were coming up to celebrating 20 years since it’s removal.

NB: Weird coincidence but the anniversary is in fact tomorrow (9th November)!

After our trip round the city Andreas and Yvonne treated us to an authentic German dinner at a place a bit further out from Berlin Mitte with marvelous spätzle (egg noodles) and beer from Southern Germany. It pays to know the locals :-)

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Dinner with Andreas and Yvonne (f4.0 0.4s 24mm)

Unfortunately I wasn’t really paying attention and didn’t check the photos after taking them so those of our dinner party didn’t turn out the greatest. But it was a really cool evening and introduction to Berlin so deserves a photo!

On Wednesday night we decided to go out to dinner as a date with just Alyona and I and as such we decided to go up the Berlin TV Tower which is much like the Sky Tower in that it has a revolving restaurant at the top and great views over the city. Where it differs however is that there have been no changes to the decor or, it seemed, staff since it was built by the Russians and East Germans in the 70s. Afterward we went for a walk around some of the other monuments nearby and through Museum Island which is supposed to house amazing exhibits including rebuilt sections of the Parthenon. It was unfortunate we never got there during the day but it still looks impressive enough at night.

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Berlin Dom and TV-Turm (f4.0 1/6 24mm)

I like this shot with both the (kind of) modern TV tower and the Berlin Dom (Dome Cathedral).

Now comes the incredibly coincidental part of the work portion of the trip. It turned out that while we were in Berlin it happened to be Ableton’s 10th Anniversary Party so we got a chance to go to this auspicious event. Any other week in the year and it wouldn’t have happened. And no, I had no idea when we were organizing the trip!

The bus picked us up from the company’s offices and brought us the 30 min drive to the party. The venue was an old East German radio station of which part had been converted into a music venue with one of the most amazing sound systems I’ve heard. It was one of those where you can feel the music in your body, pick out every cymbal and high note, and yet wasn’t so loud you couldn’t have a conversation with the person next to you. I seriously believe that there isn’t one like it anywhere in New Zealand. And all this in quite a cool/grungy venue.

The party started outside at the obligatory beach bar with a few quiet drinks by the river. It was a good way to relax and change attitude after a day working before a catered dinner and heading inside for a bit of a dance and drink till the early hours of the morning. Was quite cool as the artists playing were split between our software and Ableton’s own. Pretty sure it wasn’t intentional either ;-)

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Outside at the Ableton Party (f2.8 1/200 3.85mm - taken with my phone)

Most of the time we spent hanging out with Jan and Andreas and their respective partners and it was good to get to know them a little better and hang out in a social context.

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Jan and Alyona (f3.8 1/60 7.3mm - taken with the Powershot)

The lighting wasn’t the most flattering so this one had to be made B&W. Sorry about the weird straw in the middle of everything!

The final shot I have from Berlin is of the crew that I was working with at Ableton. Great people all and especially Jan and Andreas whom I worked most closely with.

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The Ableton Crew (f4.0 1/30 24mm)

It was a shame to leave and I think the work portion of the trip was a real success. I worked till 1pm on the Friday morning then we got in a couple hours of last minute gift shopping before catching the train down to Frankfurt to leave for Sydney. And of course this leaving of Berlin marked the end of the European portion of our trip which was a bit sad.
But this is supposed to be an adventure and all that was WAY too easy and relaxed so we needed something to put us back on our toes. Turns out that the German rail system (Deutsche Bahn) was horribly unreliable and despite being on the express train destined for the airport it was 1:55 min late. Yes, that 5 minutes is important as otherwise they would be liable for some of the trip costs and this is Germany so there is no budging.

Almost everyone on the train missed their flights and were scrambling to make alternative plans. I was only lucky that we had planned 3 hours for check in so arrived with less than 1 hour before the plane was due to depart. But huge props to Qantas for their service and allowing me to board and huge poos to the people at DB who had no idea what was going on and refused to update us on the progress during our journey (we were always going to be ‘only another 15min late’).

It meant that when we arrived there were very hurried goodbyes with Alyona, as she was staying for another couple weeks to spend time with friends and family, then on to the plane for the long flight back to the Southern Hemisphere

Oh, and further props for Qantas for upgrading me from Economy to Premium Economy without even telling me. Great surprise when I came to my seat :-P




One response

10 11 2009

I can see Air NZ may have a challenger for your custom. Long haul in premium economy would definitely be the way to go – especially to relax after such pressure. Also sounds like Germany could be a cool place to work.

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