The site is on an old Olympic pool site. While the indoor pool is still full (and us active travellers took it upon ourselves to swim some laps one day), the outdoor pool has been emptied and surrounding area turned into a campsite using all the old pool facilities; the showers are the showers, the snack bar is the bar/café and the kids’ pool, the beach volleyball court. Bad graffiti in the pool and lots of barren concrete and in general adds to that shabby/chic East Berlin thing that the kids love.
Campervans, they said, were not allowed on the premises but could park in the car park and use their facilities – we recommend it to anyone travelling through.
Our friend Seamus is living in Berlin on some sort of artist’s grant. We hooked up with him at Kottbusser Tor station on our first afternoon and went for a beer. Staying with him for a time is everyone’s favourite publican after Sammy from Cheers, Dom from the Crix. He was meeting up with another Australian chap, who was meeting up with some other Australians so we all ended up ‘on the sauce’ in Kreuzberg, eating Chinese food and drinking at the Anchor Bar, a hip little sailor joint looking over the Urbanhafen (canal), on Kottbusser Damm.
Day two had us pull the bikes off the back and cycle through Berlin. Liz’s new(ish) bike courtesy of some thieving prick stealing her previous Amsterdam one and the kindness of Erica Lossie donating this one meant ‘the Diamant’ could return home to its place of construction, the GDR. Easily the best way to get around a city like Berlin, with cycle-paths everywhere, we cruised up to Prenzlauer Berg via the Hackescher Markt for a delicious gozleme and a peek at the Lustgarten and Berlinerdome.
Later that evening we met up with Seamus and Dom at Soul Bar, a sweet little bar in Kreuzberg that played a bunch of soul and rock n roll on vinyl in front of us until a lady about 45 played originals and Stray Cats covers. Though good, she messed with our conversation. Contrary to the music, the soul reason for meeting up there was the West Indian restaurant next door – sadly no jerk chicken but my fish dish was delish. We popped back to the Soul Bar for a few more.
The next day, Friday, we caught up with Seamus in the Turkish markets outside the Anchor Bar and picked up goods for a dinner back at theirs; olives, cheeses, stuffed peppers, fresh vegies, fresh mushroom tortellini and other bits and pieces were all collected.
A sashay of hipsters and low-level squatters had formed at the end of the markets like seagulls at the end of a fish-scaling trough, as if snapping up what morsels poured out. They sat on the ground and yapped and dipped and double dipped at humus, tzaziki and other Mediterranean finger foods washed down with cheap Berliners.
We, however, had a date with the petanque courts. We adopted nom de plumes best suited to the stoney arena. Seamus was ‘Gravel Pit’, I was ‘The Rock’, Liz was ‘Betty Rubble’ and Tom, another Australian living in Berlin for four years was ‘Heavy Duty’ (I think). Van, one of the chaps from the first night joined us too, with his German lady friend. Dom came a bit later and we all switched names dependent on the boule we had. It was a right laugh with some on-point shots and possibly the next cover of PM (Petanque Monthly) going to Dom in the guise of Betty Rubble.
On Saturday we met up with friends Brendan and Fi who are currently living in Berlin working for the Australian Embassy. After a ride along the East Side Gallery we met them at a bar on the river, inside the Wall with a pirate theme. Fi had just taught her 14 month daughter Scarlett how to cheers while Brendan and sister Stacey were catching up with an old mate Lachlan. Rain stopped play and we headed back to Brendan and Fi’s place. Not only do they work in the Embassy but they also live in the Embassy. Once inside the gates you’re on you-beaut Aussie soil where the taps flowed with Fosters, the temperature is an always-balmy 31 degrees and you can be as foul-mouthed and racist as you like – all with a view of Berlin’s bastion to Rusky socialism with a 1984 ‘Big Brother is watching you’ feel, the Alexanderplatz TV tower.
Still without our own dictator to really answer to, Lachie and I photographed ourselves with the last great commander and chief the nation has seen, Mr Paul Keating, before saluting the Roo and Emu with pride.
From there we ventured back to Prenzlauer Berg’s Prater, a very large beer garden for a meal with fellow expatriates, Jorge, Ingrid and others. Many got the shnitzel, I got the beef, Liz – the fish.
Sunday saw Liz and I return to Prenzlauer Berg to get the most important souvenir from Berlin – a picture in the fotoautomat that seems to collect not tourists but plenty of local kids shelling two euros for the last photo they may ever hold in their hands rather than upload to Facebook. After a few failed attempts we got it to work. We looked really good.
After picking up the new and improved navigational device Heather II: Now With Eastern Europe, we returned home, cooked up the mushroom tortellini – a dish yet to be topped as campervan meal of the trip, and watched a dance club soft shoe shuffle to swing music about the empty pool while a wedding went on in the bar area.
The next day we were Poland-bound.
Sorry this took so long… It was a Colin story.