Recently I was looking through my photo archive and saw the batch of photos taken in March 2013. It was the month I travelled alone to Berlin, my first trip to Germany. My husband joined me later in Berlin and then we went together to Spain and Portugal. Looking at those photos made me search for the little notebook I carried back then. My daughter and husband always tease me about making notes the traditional way, carrying notebooks and using pens to record information and events. They think it’s a practice so out of date and too old fashion for now. There were many jokes and incidents involving the books and we always had a good laugh on those occasions. Even as recently as last week, they tried to make fun of it. What happened was I was having a hard time keeping up with my daughters travel this month. She’s working as an intern for a software developing company in London this summer. As they’re ready to launch a new app, as part of her job, recently she’s required to travel often. Besides work trips, she has been going on weekend trips to visit her European friends in Sweden, Luxembourg and France. So I got a bit confused about her departures and destinations. So I wrote a message on our WhatsApp chat group with the wrong information about her whereabouts. So again, the notebook became the subject of our conversation that led to picking on me. Both of them asked me I should write her movements on the book and refer to it every day so that I wouldn’t get confuse in the future. Anyway, back to the small book that I had made notes on my first trip to Berlin and a recollection of that trip is what made write this post.
I flew on Emirates Airlines from Male’ Maldives to Frankfurt, Germany. On that day, at the break of dawn, the aircraft was descending towards Frankfurt International Airport. I was looking out of the window and saw a burst of early morning rays of sunlight on the horizon. I could see the snow patches on the ground as the aeroplane continued to descend for its landing. As we approached our destination, hundreds of windmills came into view, a sign that the city uses green energy. Soon, the aircraft touched down and the passengers disembarked. I had three hours to kill in Frankfurt airport before taking an Air Berlin flight to Berlin. Even though my final destination is Berlin, I was cleared by Immigration in Frankfurt. Immediately after immigration and security clearance, I waited for the departure gate to open. Time passed quickly as I engaged myself in reading and texting to my husband.
Upon landing at Berlin airport, I found it to be a much smaller airport than I expected. But it is one of the most efficient airports I’ve ever been. Luggage handlers were so prompt; I collected my bags within a few minutes after arrival. As I came out of the arrival hall, one of our German friend, Teresa and her brother-in-law was waiting outside to welcome me as a pleasant surprise. She doesn’t drive but her brother-in-law accompanied by her drove me to East Berlin, to Mitte, where I had book the hotel Best Western Hotel for my stay. On the way to my hotel, they drove around town and showed me some historical places. We stopped for a quick bite and walked a bit afterwards until the hotel check-in time. Since I was staying in Berlin for only three days, they thought it would be a good idea to show me around. But having taken a long journey and the March weather in Berlin being too cold for me, I couldn’t go on as far as they had planned on taking me. After having flown from a tropical region where the temperature was warm to the cold European weather that I was so unaccustomed to made me uncomfortable. The layers of cloth I had on were not enough to stop my teeth from chattering.
The weather did not improve the next day either. On the second day after breakfast, I went out alone to discover the neighbourhood where I was in East Berlin. It was still early morning around 10 or so. I stepped out of the hotel to find the sky was grey and dark and the air was cold. Few people were rushing back and forth, bundled in their clothes to keep them warm. Some had winter caps or hats while others wore jacket and scarves. Their hands were either in their pants or coat’s pockets. They walked hurriedly looking at their feet. I had my coat and scarf, but no hat or gloves. Only after a few minutes on the road, I started to feel the cold on my head, at the tip of my nose and my eyes became watery. By then I was shivering too. When I looked at the others, some of them seem to be suffering from cold weather as much as I was. I continue to walk rapidly, no wanting to go back to the hotel so soon. Then, one of the most magical thing that I’ve experienced happen. A few flurries of snow began to fall and I felt like a child in a wonderland. It may sound very childish to be so excited to see mild flurries of snow falling, but it was the first time I saw it happens. So it really felt magical and an exciting experience for me. But then, after some time I felt it was unbearable to continue walking and to be interested in any place before my eyes. So I quit walking and took shelter in an Italian restaurant. I had a huge pizza for lunch, ate it slowly all by myself. By the time I arrived at my hotel, my friend has left a message to meet up later that day. I took a cab to West Berlin where Theresia lives. After exploring her neighbourhood, we then went to Kurfürstendamm or Ku Damm. It is a very stylish area in West Berlin where the famous department store Kadewe is in. The mall has a history of its own, opened in 1907 and expanded over the years. Today it’s housing many world famous brands of clothing, cosmetics, accessories, restaurants and a supermarket. Since I’m not a shopaholic, we only made a quick round and left the building. In the same neighbourhood as Kadewe, there is an old church where we went. My friend told me it’s actually two churches opposite each other. One of the buildings had ongoing construction or work in progress to preserve the building. The old church is the Kaiser Memorial Church built between 1891-1895 by Kaiser Wilhelm II, to honour his grandfather; Kaiser Wilhelm I. Part of that church was destroyed during a bombing raid in the World War II. The ruins were going to be demolished in 1956 to build a new one, but the Berliners protested against it. Therefore, the remaining’s of the old church were integrated into the new church, that was built between 1959-1961. It was extraordinary to see the remaining of the old church preserved, as it is said to be the only surviving building in the square spared by the air raids and bombing during the World War II. The new church building’s walls are built in the shape of an octagon. It has extraordinary walls made of stained glass.