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Balls To The Baltic - Latvia or Bust



Stealing the Gate

Next stop Berlin. It's an interesting thing driving into Berlin from the Western side of Germany, because the motorway is still 'shielded'. That is to say that the motorway to West Berlin was still considered to be a part of West Germany, even though it was effectively within East Germany’s borders. Because of this it has huge walls down the side to keep the two separate. It's odd that no one has got round to taking these walls down yet, but it was interesting to be reminded of what it must have been like in the old cold war, even if it did kind of spoil the view. We didn't spend a huge amount of time in Berlin which was a bit of a shame as from our quick glance it looks to be a beautiful city. However, we were trying to get to Latvia in twenty four hours, and it was going to be a bit tight in a transit van when we had no idea what weather we would be driving into.

We drove to the centre of Berlin, passing Jonathan Borofsky's 100ft aluminium creation 'Molecule Man' as we drove over the River Spree (You have to love the internet - I had no idea what it was when I first saw it other than it was hugely impressive). Then guided by the massive television tower which stands like a beacon over the city, and looked awesome as the lights from the top bled through its foggy shroud, we headed for the centre. We stopped for a quick photo opportunity, and then drove around for a while marveling at all the other buildings. It's funny, sometimes when heading round London I sometimes forget to even look at the architecture, and just take it for granted. It’s nice to be a tourist for a while, even if we were rushing things.

Then we found our way to the Brandenburg Gate, and made another stop. You can't help but appreciate the huge sense of history that is here. It's around three in the morning by now, and we pretty much have the place to ourselves except for a couple of policemen who are standing off to one side. We have a (quiet) laugh about how in their huge capes they remind us of some form of super hero's but then we agree, that just standing around, they actually remind us more of something by Terry Pratchett. "We're just guarding the gate govner ... to make sure no one steals it". It's interesting to think that amongst many others, Napolean (the short French dude) had stood where I was then, and also to contemplate that it's nice to be able to just visit these places, without having to invade. The wonders of civilization that we sometimes take for granted.

Then we spent an age trying to find somewhere open at that time of morning that would be willing to sell us coffee. We eventually found a small Lebanese coffee house. I remember being shattered as we pulled up at the side of the road, and Jonathan said, "what about there" as he pointed at a large neon sign that said "Girls Girls Girls" or something similar. "Not what I'm really after right now mate" I replied. The coffee house was the next shop down, and I'm quite impressed that he'd managed to spot it all things considered. Of course he may have been pointing at the ‘night club’ all along, and the cafe was purely a coincidence, but he ardently denied that afterwards. So we sat in a coffee house in Berlin and had coffee while vaguely watching a documentary on the TV about kamikaze pilots. I couldn’t help but think of John Cleese screeming “nobody mention the war!” Of course, being English, I didn’t like to say anything..



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