Quote of the day

This just popped up on my ‘You’ve posted your’ bit and I thought it was fairly relevant given my dreamy mood. I blame the rain and exhaustion if it seems to mushy but I do quite like it.

Dreams are illustrations from the book your soul is writing about you. Marsha Norman

Also it means I get try another feature on this blog. Now I’m definitely going to bed!

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Recovery and the wonders of nature

Apologies about the delay in the last holiday post – I wasn’t fully connected to the airport WiFi when I was trying to upload it. Yesterday was tiring. We left the hotel not long before ten am (Berlin time) and I arrived home in Newcastle just after eleven pm (UK time). Needless to say it was a long day but everything went smoothly. So smoothly that I had nearly two hours to wait before my train back! I struggled to stay awake but I’m pleased I did – I spotted a den of foxes as the cubs were out playing! They were adorable and made me a little weepy because we use to see the foxes around our fields all the time when we walked our dog Betty. I still miss her but I was chuffed to have spotted the foxes. It’s amazing what technology is stopping us from seeing, as I could have been completed absorbed in my tablet rather than watching the rain pour down the window and have missed them. My dad picked me up from the station and it was lovely to see him and just have some one to chat to. I don’t even know how much sense I made as I rambled on about the trip I was that tired. Once I got in the house I ate the tea Mum had left me, waited for them to come back from dancing, gave them their gifts and fell into bed.

It was a real struggle to get up this morning, I could’ve slept for hours, but I would have felt dreadful for it and more importantly I was back at work. My next day off is Sunday and I’m looking forward to my lie-in! Once I was on my bike it was easy enough to slip back into the routine. Good news is that my contract has been extended by another week as they need me to cover more shifts. I’m not complaining – the job is different every day and quite enjoyable for something that isn’t teaching history! On my way back home, I interrupted a kestrel’s snooze and it flew alongside me for a bit. Another wonderful glance of nature’s finest.

As I’m writing this (trying desperately to stay awake), I can hear the rain pattering outside and it’s made me realise that most of the nature I’ve spotted recently have been in the rain. Maybe everything is trying to absorb as much of the rain as possible after the insane heat we’ve had for the past few weeks. Mind I’ve not been in the UK for a week and I know the weather has been patchy at best up North. However when we landed in Manchester yesterday we flew some pink clouds, which baffled us until we turned the corner of the runway – we’d landed in a rainbow! They’re one of my favourite things about the rain – even if you end up drenched to the skin, there’s still some colour in the sky and a fresh smell in the air. It’s not all doom and gloom!

Starting from tomorrow I’m going to try to complete one of my summer to-do items – an alphabet blog a day. So tomorrow’s blog is hopefully going to be a selection of photos and tourist stuff from my Berlin trip. I fully intended to do that tonight but I got side-tracked by the rain and I need my energy sleep. I may even have worked out how the gallery format works by then…

Day 5: From one extreme to another

I’m writing this the next morning because we were all so exhausted by the time we got in last night that we literally fell into bed and zonked. Basically yesterday we did a ‘things we’ve missed’ trip. We had pastries from a vendor by the train station for breakfast (I don’t want another mccies for at least two months) and then went to the Berlin Airlift Memorial. By the time we arrived at the memorial it was starting to rain. We’d all packed our waterproofs/brollies as the weather was due to significantly drop. The memorial was quite interesting and I practised at being a history teacher by recalling AS Level knowledge about the airlift for the guides. We then went to an artisan market which was a bit of a let down as it was mainly food and not really what the guides wanted. We tried a currywurst from a chain that the tour book recommended. I had to order them in my best Geordie (apparently its quite close to German, which is good seeing as I’ve never studied German in my life). It seemed to work, although I was a little confused with the difference of big and little. The currywurst was pleasant, a bit like a sausage from the chippy minus the batter. The three of us adult leaders tried a German beer which was vile, but then I’m not a beer drinker anyway.

We then spent ages trying to find the book burning memorial by the Berlin Cathedral. We knew we were looking for a glass panel in the ground but we couldn’t spot it. By this point the rain was properly chucking it down and even with our waterproofs on we were swiftly drenched through. We spent nearly an hour trying to find it, walked around in a huge circle and found it pretty much where we started! It was certainly symbolic of the destruction caused by Nazi policy. In fact we spent a fair of time over the course of the day trying to locate things. For lunch we eventually located the mall and spent an hour wandering around there. Once back at the hostel everyone packed and go dressed for our evening meal as we decided the treat the girls for making the trip feel more like a holiday than we thought it would. We had emailed back a confirmation for the Hard Rock Cafe but it hadn’t gone through the system so we ended up waiting an hour and a half for a table and then another half hour for our food. While we were waiting for our table we took note of what the girls wanted for food so as soon as we sat down I placed the order. The meal was lovely and I bought some memorabilia including a special cocktail glass. We all had such a giggle as we gave out the gifts we had made for the guides and they gave us our gifts in return -they got me a giraffe figure! The other diners didn’t seem too impressed by us but it was a brilliant way to conclude the holiday especially as one of our guides is moving from Liverpool. When we left though the weather had changed once more from glorious sunshine to sheets of rain and nobody had a coat! We were running across the streets trying to limit our contact with the rain but looking like shrieking loons!

I’ve loved this holiday and it’s made me feel more confident as a leader/first aider. All we have left of the holiday now is two planes and a train until I’m back in Newcastle. The next guiding adventure is going to be Christmas camp which I’m supposed to be running to gain my overnight licence.

Day 4: Summer lovin’

Purely in devotion to my guides. All will be explained in due course. This morning we were all lulled into false illusions as it thundered during the night and was still raining lightly when we woke up. I stuffed the rain jacket in my bag but still slapped on my sun cream. It was a good job I did mind as the temperature rapidly crept up to 38° again.

Breakfast was once more in mccies (catering for the fussy eaters) then it was a walk down from the station to the DDR museum. The museum was really fascinating but it wasn’t in an obvious order! The guides had a worksheet which they had to try and complete, but the lack of order made it quite difficult to answer. It didn’t help that the museum was pretty busy and some bits weren’t working. After the museum we went on a river cruise and we melted! It was quite informative, although there were a couple of translation issues – such as thinking the lady said tellytubby instead of territory.

Lunch was once more in the station. I tried a cheese pretzel but it was huge – I’d say about a third of it was melted cheese – and a dunkin donut. From the station we got the bus to the Nivea shop but had to jump straight back on as the shop was shut. We got off at the Brandenburg gate stop and had to use the public toilets there. It was very weird as it disinfected itself after each use. From the gate we visited the Jewish Memorial site which was both intriguing and moving. At least for the history student! We didn’t spend too long there though as we were all exhausted. We spent a bit of time outside the station at a fun fair – I swapped my prize of fancy water paints for a posh pen with one of the guides.

Once back at the hostel, we played ping pong until tea, then went swimming for a bit. Now we get to the heading. Basically, I was sitting at the side of the pool with one of our guides when a lass about my age came over and asked to sit and chat with me. I thought she was a guide but she was backpacking with her friend. We chatted for a bit and then she introduced me to her mate. He was very nice and we chatted quite a bit. My guides ribbed me for it a lot, to the point where they even sang ‘Summer loving’ to me after the briefing tonight!

Obviously I’ve reduced today’s events down a lot because I’m knackered and don’t want to sound too pathetic over managing to hold a conversation for an hour with a cute boy. It was simply an achievement marred by over active nosey guides!

Day 3: Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to promise to do your best…

That’s right, today was the Checkpoint Challenge for our Adventure in Berlin. We arrived early at the train station and had breakfast in McDonald’s (super healthy!). Toastie and scotch pancakes was just what we needed to set us up for a day of trekking around Berlin. Safe to say if you were in Berlin today I can guarantee that you’ve seen at least one guide. We literally took over the city! Each group was given a bag containing a passport of challenges, a mini teddy bear and a selection of unusual items. They made the challenge into a spy mission with six challenges at various tourist points (most of which we’d done the day before) and five questions about other tourist sights.

Most groups did it on public transport, but seeing as we had already walked most of it yesterday we decided to walk it again. Overall we did nearly ten miles of walking in temperatures between 33 – 38°. Safe to say we melted. I did make my promise as an Adult Leader standing over the line where the East/West Berlin wall was near Potsdam Platz. Quite fitting for a history student I thought. We completed all but one of the challenges, and the one we missed was purely because we didn’t understand the German phrase we had to find and it wasn’t obvious on our map. We had a bit of a dash towards the end of the activity as we didn’t stop for lunch until after two pm! We spent the day bribing some spies for stickers or coming up with German phrases/knowledge. Despite the heat we all enjoyed it and I’m gutted my county doesn’t do trips like this. Thankfully the closing ceremony, which was held on the old American airfield, did not last the intended two hours and I think that perked everyone up a bit.

Once we got back to the hostel, we spent an hour in the ice cold pool, had a buffet at the on site restaurant (including nutella pizza which was very sickly) then back in the pool. I swam sixty laps but had to dodge the prats who kept deliberately jumping in my way. Later this evening they were banging on the windows and making threatening comments towards our guides but we sorted them out.

Not a bad day overall, despite the heat. It would have been a little more interesting if we hadn’t seen it yesterday. Tomorrow we intend to go to the DDR museum and possibly a trip along the canal. We would also like to see the Jewish Memorial sites that we missed today and dine in the Hard Rock Cafe. Tomorrow will definitely involve more public transport and less walking. We hope!

Day 2: Sight seeing and chocolate

We had a slight dilemma this morning as we forgot that the mobiles hadn’t changed to the Berlin timezone. This meant we only had ten minuted for us both to be washed, dressed and present for breakfast. Safe to say I was a tad late but I didn’t miss much with the buffet breakfast – all I had was two bread buns, a slice of cheese and some cake. Super healthy but when on holiday! I needed the sugar energy though as we have done a great deal of walking today, nearly nine miles according to my fitbit.

We started off on the Berliner Stadtbahn (urban rail) and then we caught the number 100 bus to Brandenburg Gate. The 100 bus does a similar route to the official tour buses, but its at least ten euros cheaper. It doesn’t have a tour guide on it, but if you just want to see the sites of Berlin I’d recommend this bus as you can buy an all day ticket which can be used on the buses and rail services for no more than five euros. I think we got off a bit too early for the gate, but we went into a Nivea shop (one of three in the world) as another guider had recommended the toilets there. I got a lovely gift for my mum there, as for an extra forty cents you could get your photo (taken there and then) and select one of their messages put on the lid of the moisturiser. The other leader was right, the toilets were very posh in comparison to most restrooms and naturally the hygiene products were all Nivea.

From the shop we walked to the gate, got a few photos and continued onto the Reichstag building. Now as a history student who’s spent at least three years studying various elements of modern German history, it was good to be able to put an image to the knowledge. We hope to book a tour of the glass dome bit before we go, but it depends on the weather because it’s not something I’d fancy doing in 35° heat (expected on Sunday) as we were all melting in today’s 30°. It would be much worse inside a glass dome! We wandered down to the river Spree and left the girls watching the boats while we tried to locate a place to book for a river cruise. After about twenty minutes of walking we eventually found one so wandered back as we are going to complete prices tonight. When we returned to the guides, they all showed me pictures they’d taken of a boat with my name on it (spelt correctly too!). We then jumped on the U-Bahn (metro) but we had to get off and walk a bit as part of the purple line wasn’t working.

For lunch we stopped off at McDonald’s next to Checkpoint Charlie and we then went and did the touristy bit of taking photos without having to pay for the privilege. Mind we got swindled a bit in Mccies as the cleaner heard us chatting in English and made us pay fifty cents to pee! I have to say I was a little disappointed in Checkpoint Charlie as it wasn’t as rustic as I’d imagined it, nor how I remember it looking in textbooks. The art work decorating slabs of the Berlin Wall were eye-catching and made up for the disappointment of Charlie. We’ve also spent the day playing spot the guide units. We are quite obvious with our neckers!

From there we walked back up to the chocolate shop, Ritter Sport, as the guides were booked in for a chocolate workshop. If you have kids, again I’d highly recommend this as an activity, as we paid six euros per guide and they were taken downstairs for nearly two hours making two bars of their own chocolate and decorating the boxes. I know it probably doesn’t sound that impressive but all the guides thoroughly enjoyed it and we paid nearly four euros to make one slab of chocolate. We simply picked what went in the bar, whereas the guides melted the chocolate, mixed it all up individually and then got it out the moulds. It looked like great fun and we really wanted to have a go! Instead we went to the shop cafe and I had a mini ice cream sundae which came in a fun face bowl. I made a white chocolate bar with rhubarb, rose pepper and biscuit pieces in. I’m going to save mine for when I go home as I know my mum will try some.

It was a short walk to the urban rail and once we were back at the hostel, we had tea once more in the restaurant on site as we were in time for the happy hour deal – drink, pizza and dessert for ten euros – so some girls shared a pizza and a portion of chips. I went dead boring and had a tomato spaghetti dish but it was delicious. Once our tea had settled we went into the pool but it was freezing! The sauna was refreshing though.

It’s another early morning tomorrow as we are participating in the county wide game across Berlin. I’m really looking forward to that activity and we are breakfasting out so I may even try a proper pretzel. It’s set to be another scorcher of a day – 33° and quite a high humidity.

Day 1: Drama, delays and fussy eaters

Today was a long day. I was up at 5.40 this morning to get ready for the train. Everything went smoothly this morning for our train trip (although two were pushing the time limit) but there was an accident on the motorway which delayed our main leader a fair bit. They still made it with plenty of time but it caused a slight panic. Originally we were getting a direct flight from Manchester to Berlin but the company changed our flights to Manchester – Munich – Berlin. The flights went well, we got a snack on both sets of flights and only had a fifteen minute delay in Munich which we made up. I was asked for my age on the flight as I asked for a glass of red wine – only to then forget how old I was – but it turned into flirtation which was amusing and a grill way to start the holiday.

Once we had our luggage, we were greeted by a member of the North West county team who took our group photo (we looked a bit more awake by then I imagine) and directed us to our hostel. It took an incredibly hot bus and train trip to get to the hostel, and then we had to walk around the building a while as we tried to locate the entrance. The hostel itself is wonderful – I’ll put a link up later on as I would highly recommend it – with spacious rooms and en suites. We couldn’t be bothered to venture too far out for tea so went to the restaurant on site. Everyone enjoyed their meal (the calzone was a bit of a let down as it was just ham and cheese, no sauce!) so much so they were selecting what they wanted to order tomorrow!

Tomorrow is going to be a day of getting to know Berlin, so we’ll be on a tour bus and doing a historic walk. I hope to make my promise at some point over the trip and I’d love to do it on a historic site to make it even more memorable. In the evening we are going to a chocolate factory which sounds ace. It’s another earlyish start tomorrow so it’s off to bed for us now.