I ventured on another epic five hour journey to the North of Germany, ending up right by the Baltic Sea. The point of the journey was to attend an interesting week of seminars and team training which are required by my contract as a Federal German Government Bundesfreiwillingendiest Volunteer (told you it was a long word in my last blog!).
The site where the training takes place is quite nice and I got quite lucky as my three bed-room only had one occupant, me. Unfortunately I did have some bad luck as, instead of the first session being at 8:30 am in the centre, we were rushed through breakfast so that we could go on a two hour coach ride. I of course had no idea where we were going but I had my Kindle and my goal of finally finishing Dracula to get me through it!
We ended up on Germany’s largest island, Rugen, where we were greeted by a stunning vision of three miles of enormous brutal buildings, all in different stages of collapse. Apparently this (I hesitate to call it a building due to its enormity!) is known as Prora. They were built in the 1930s by the Strength through Joy campaign. Due to the war it was never finished and its original purpose of a holiday camp for workers was never quite realized. It ended up being used by various military groups from different countries until the 90s when different blocks were auctioned off to private companies.
On the Thursday of my programme everything was going well. I’d had a nice slow start to the day, delicious breakfast, seminars 8.30am – 11.30am then a break. But then, everyone seemed to rush off and I wondered what the panic was? I chased after someone I knew who could understand English and asked what was going on. She said, “have you got everything done and ready to go home as the bus to the train station goes at 12pm?”
Given we weren’t due to go home until Friday, I thought this was a German joke. Alas, this was no joke, there were staff shortages and we were going home a day early! That was what that letter in my pack was about!
So after mad dash to my room I managed to strip the bed, clean the room, pack and be out the door with a few minutes to spare. I got the bus and was at the train station waiting for the first of my four trains. Happily I caught the first train, caught the connection easily for the next train and settled down to read a book.
Two ticket Inspectors boarded the train with two armed Police Officers and seemed to be taking a lot of interest in passengers and their tickets. At this time my pulse started to quicken, my palms started to sweat as I realised my ticket was invalid as it was for the next day! As the two Transport staff neared me I was becoming more anxious, one asked to see my ticket, the other asked to see my passport as the two Police Officers looked on. They then asked to see my BDF photo ID and at this point I envisaged at best a fine and at worst being marched off the train under armed escort. When the Train Inspectors smiled and said “danke” I thought that word was the best one in the German language! At the next station I was able to check my ticket for the next two trains and found travelling before the date would usually be OK not after, phew what a relief!
Aside from the travel and seminars, I managed to fit in two trips to the Cinestar in Potsdam alongside Sindhiya. We went to see the films Tomb Raider which, aside from its inconsistencies in the story line, did have an interesting idea with the plague angle. Also we saw Ready Player One, I loved the idea of the oasis but again the plot had more holes than a leaky colander. But despite the quality of the movies I still had quite a fun time chatting and laughing over scenes in the movies. What do you guys think anyway, did you enjoy those movies?
I made a new friend at the “Japanese Kirschblutenfest - Hanami in Berlin” his name is Iman we spent the day learning about each other’s cultures as he is Syrian/Romanian while I am English/Irish. Annoyingly it was a kerfuffle and a half just getting to the festival as the S bahn nearest me was up the chute and I was going from the north edge of Berlin right across town to the south east end which is quite a trek even with transport.
The festival itself was lovely; we saw loads of cool Japanese stuff, heard lots of different music and smelt interesting food aromas. There was also quite a bit of cosplay to admire, so much effort had obviously gone into each of the costumes. The scenery was also stunning due to the cherry blossom trees which were in full bloom; we ended up walking five miles underneath the beautiful tree canopy. What’s interesting is that this area is where there was a border control with a section of the Berlin Wall separating East from West Germany just 30 years ago. On 9th November 1989 this area was opened up fully and a fundraising initiative was set up via a Japanese television show whereby they asked the viewers to donate to plant cherry blossom trees along the route to celebrate German reunification. The Japanese donated 1000 trees and see Cherry Blossom Festivals as the highlight of their year, transient yet celebrating the beauty of life.
TOP TIPS FOR BERLIN
1/ Dussman bookstore has great free talks and concerts https://www.kulturkaufhaus.de/veranstaltungen/
2/ The State put on interesting free Library etc. Building Tours http://staatsbibliothek-berlin.de/en/about-the-library/guided-tours/
3/ Bikini Shopping Store in Zoo is great to either take a picnic or grab a drink and watch the animals in the Zoo for free inside on the ground and outside on the top floor https://www.bikiniberlin.de/en/exhibitions/