By the time we land (itself a bit hairy, with a few crosswinds), I am totally not in the mood for the next bit of the journey. I’d read a bit about Berlin Tegel airport in advance. It all sounds so strange, and I was already annoyed by the fact that the Germans - the Germans - have not got trains or tubes to the primary airport serving their capital city. But Kevin had told me the express bus was a piece of piss, so let’s see if I can manage it while drunk.
First, I’m stuck in a queue still on the airbridge. Immigration and customs is done literally at the departure gate area, with men in booths taking a seemingly dilligent look at each passport, then the passenger, then back to the passport. Then the baggage carousel is right next to that, so it’s a bottleneck of people. But the good news is there’s no huge walk to get landside - once I’m done queueing it’s a matter of seconds. I get out €80 and fail to buy a Coke Light, then follow signs to the bus, which seem to lead me to a central hub from which the terminals emerge as spokes. Past gate A0 - wait, you have a gate zero? - and outside, the bus stop is obvious - especially because there’s a bus at it.
I don’t want that bus though, because it’s way too crowded and anyway I need a ticket. The machine is mercifully simple to use, and I join the queue for the next bus, all the while staring at the minibuses to Szczecin and wondering if I could’ve sorted out a parkrun after all. But such stupid thoughts are extinguished by the arrival of the next TXL Express, which carries us all towards Alexanderplatz.
Once sat down I change my hat, and plug my phone into a USB brick becuase fuck you iPhone SE battery life. The Express bus proves not very Express, since it has loads of intermediate stops, and I decide to get off at Berlin Hauptbahnhof instead of Alexanderplatz. Citymapper told me it’s a short S-Bahn ride from here to Ostbahnhof, which is just a couple of minutes walk from my hotel.
Oh dear. I have so much fail at Berlin Hauptbahnof. I find a platform with some trains to Ostbahnof, but they’re not S-Bahn - I don’t think my ticket is valid on them, therefore - and anyway nothing for 20-odd minutes. I walk around, and around, and around, failing dismally to spot anything which I can definitively identify as an S-Bahn despite the large letter S in a few places, and eventually give up and get back on the next bus to Alexanderplatz. Somehow, throughout this idiocy, I lose my pen. How the fuck did I lose my pen?
The route to Alexanderplatz is a mix of touristy stuff and a great deal of scaffolding. Google maps says it’s a 20-odd minute walk from here to my hotel and I’m not in the mood to try the S-Bahn again so fuck it, let’s go on foot. Taking the wrong turn immediately is not the best start, but I’m only slightly wrong, taking the second best route, and I repair it fairly quickly. The walk is solely on huge busy roads, away from shops and life and next to some tower blocks and latterly some strange arty-farty anarcho-syndicalist coffee shops and bars, or something. Or perhaps not. Maybe in the sober daylight I’ll discover what they really were, I anticipate Kevin will be interested anyway.
Finally, I’m at the hotel. It’s a good job Kevin had decided against meeting me in lieu of getting more sleep, given it’s taken me almost 2 hours to get from the airport to here. Should’ve got a heavily regulated cab. But it’s all behind me - I’m at the check-in desk and, um, what? The lass is asking me for “the voucher”. I have no voucher. I have no print outs. I hardly ever print things out, and it’s rarely needed. But she’s insistent she needs “the voucher”, and points me at the computers over the way where I can print. OK then.
German keyboards and Windows. These are things with which I have very little experience. I now have a little more, that experience being “what the fuck is the QWERTZ layout all about?” and “how the fuck do you type @?”. Never did work out the latter, resorting to cut and paste just to type in my email address. Turns out it’s AltGr+Q. WHAT IS THIS MADNESS.
Eventually I’ve printed out the receipt from the booking site I used (Rocketmiles, for extra Avios) and she’s content to let me in. Phew. Room 235, the elevators are that way, and breakfast is served at different times on all the three mornings I’ll be here. OK then.
There’s no Coke Light at the vending machine. My room has a single bed, not a lovely luxurious hotel kingsize bed. AFC Wimbledon are losing two fucking nil to the dirty Franchise back home and there’s a map of the Berlin marathon in the hotel lifts.
I’m back at the bar about half hour later, drinking an Augustiner and eating 2 pretzels. Then another. Reception is constantly busy, with slim marathon runners checking in with their fat spectator friends and family, plus a lot of wheelchair bound folk. AFCW miss a penalty and lose the game. The three loud besuited men next to me are having a right old giggle about Kim Jong Un. Perhaps it’s time to put this day to rest.