Ich hab noch einen Koffer in Berlin

Photo of Berlin Skyline, showing TV Tower, Reichstag and other buildings

This is another catch-up post from last year.

My third trip to Berlin, and I had three days to squeeze in as much as possible. What did I do? Read on…

IT’S THAT TOWER AGAIN – The Berliner Fernsehturm looms large over the city, a glorious relic of the 60s, erected by the old Communist regime to show off to its neighbours on the other side of the Berlin Wall.

Photo of the TV Tower in Berlin, looking upward from the base

I had visited before, in 2012, but that time I had only visited the viewing deck. This time, I ventured up to dine at the Sphere Restaurant (advance booking recommended).

I felt a certain amount of smugness as my friend Boris arrived late following flight delays (my train was right on time) but was slightly worried that we would lose our dinner reservation. No worries, as it turns out having a native German speaker with you helps smooth things over, and we were shown to our table 20 minutes late.

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I think I’m Cologne now

As mentioned in my previous post, I stopped off in Cologne for a couple of days en route to Berlin. So was my visit a success, or was it a North-Rhine-WestFailure? If that appalling pun hasn’t put you off, read on to find out…

THE ENGLISH SHOP – after eating at the Hard Rock Café (shut up, I was tired and it was open and convenient), I headed back to the hotel. En route, I passed The English Shop, whose TfL lawyer-baiting logo had a poignant improvised addition: “Britain might have left the EU,” it said, “but we’re still here. So a little part of Britain survives in the EU!”

Photo of the shop window of the English Shop, Cologne

For someone who was (and still is) grieving the tragedy that is Brexit, this was a bit too much, and I returned to my hotel feeling gloomy.

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ICE ICE Baby

Photo of Hohenzollern railway bridge, Cologne, Germany

It’s another travel catch-up, from September 2016!

Back in 2014, I used the (now sadly withdrawn) DB night train from Berlin to Paris, an experience so exquisite that I managed to get a blog post and a YouTube video out of it.

Two years on, September 2016, and I felt Berlin calling to me again. It was time to repeat the experience in the other direction. The sleeper is no more, but there are still plenty of high speed trains zooming across the Continent. It was time to sample some of that action.

European train travel offers a myriad of high speed train options, each with their own fare structure. Sorting out your ICEs from your Thalyses can be a tricky business. Fortunately I was armed with knowledge from the Man in Seat 61, a one-man treasure trove of information about such things. His website should be the first stop for anyone planning a similar voyage.

Reiseplan (German timetable leaflet)

For travel to Germany, however, booking is quite simple. Just go to DB’s website, Bahn.com, and enter your journey details. The 10.58 Eurostar gives a convenient connection at Brussels, and is also a good departure time for people like me, who need to travel from the provinces.

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A Gran Week Out

Photo of sign reading Maspalomas 25C

I remember vaguely promising, at the end of the old blog, that I would continue writing my travel blogs. For various reasons, that didn’t actually happen. So this is another catch up post, from April 2016.

It started, as so many things do, in a Wetherspoons.

September, 2015. I was in the Metropolitan Bar in Baker Street, London, in the company of my friends Mark and Peter. As I scoffed a greasy burger, the conversation turned to holidays. Mark mentioned that they were heading to Gran Canaria in April next year, that it was a fun place to visit, and I should come with them.

I made a vague statement of agreement, then came home and promptly forgot about it, until a few weeks later when I. Next thing I knew, the hotel was booked and I had bought train tickets to Gatwick Airport.

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Flat Out

Photo of Henry Kelly hosting Going For Gold

As Henry Kelly might say, if I were a contestant on Going for Gold in 1990: “Robert, you’re playing catch-up.” So, what has been going on in the 20 months or so since I last blogged?

Back in August 2015, I had taken the plunge and rented a flat. Finally, a place to call my own, except it’s not really my own, it belongs to a landlord who didn’t allow any redecorating or hanging pictures on the wall.

I’ll be honest, I was scared. The life experiences of my first 32 years on Earth had conditioned me to believe that I couldn’t cope with being an adult, and all the boring things adults have to do for themselves: pay council tax, read electricity meters, cook, clean, maintain basic personal hygiene standards. It was a big adjustment, and it took some time for things to settle down.

OK… now what do I do?

A post shared by Robert Hampton (@hampo) on

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Hampo 3.0

It was 20 years ago today that I made my first foray into the world of web publishing.

I was 14, and had taught myself HTML from a series of articles that appeared in Acorn User magazine. AU had also given away a CD-ROM packed with internet software for Acorn computers, including an early web browser called ArcWeb. With that, and the Zap text editor, my journey into the wonderful world of web design began.

Animated GIF icon "ArcWeb WWW Browser NOW"*

A minor detail like not having an internet connection didn’t stop me from putting together a basic website. I was perfectly happy browsing files on my 210 megabyte hard disc. I couldn’t put anything online, however, until the end of August 1997, when I got a 33k6 modem and a dial-up account with ArgoNet. On 31st August 1997, while the rest of the world was mourning Princess Diana, I was busy uploading my first website.

Screenshot of "FABland", showing my old home page
My old website

FABland (there’s a long story behind that name, and don’t ask me to tell it) was mainly a repository for some little freeware programs I had written and wanted to share, together with some terrible jokes I had stolen from the Internet. However, I also had a “my viewpoint” page, which I updated occasionally. Yes, I still have those writings archived, and no, you can’t see them because they are mostly embarrassing sub-Adrian Mole teenage angst and some really bad opinions. That was the first time I exposed myself online (not that anyone was reading).

Two decades have passed. Acorn has disappeared into the annals of computing history and I have swapped my RiscPC 600 for an Apple iMac. I’m an anxious adult instead of an anxious teenager. So why am I talking about my first website now? Because I want to explain why I have chosen this seemingly random date to trumpet my return to the blogosphere.

I ended my old blog in December 2015 because I had limited time to devote to writing. When I did have a moment to write something, it felt like a chore. The former condition still applies for the moment, but the latter doesn’t. I can’t say I’m terribly sorry to have missed 2016, the year when all hope died, but more recently there have been times when I’ve been itching to write something long-form – threading fifty tweets simply won’t do.

I thought about picking up on my old blog as if nothing had happened. However, I’ve decided to go for a completely fresh start and a slightly different focus. The old site will remain online as an archive, but all new stuff will go here, the third incarnation of my online presence.

Over the previous 20 months, an awful lot has happened (emphasis on awful), so I’m looking forward to catching up with you all. Follow me on Twitter to make sure you don’t miss anything. If you’re old school, subscribe to my RSS feed. I am also on Instagram and Tumblr.

* This site is not best viewed with ArcWeb.