After seeing the Baumhaus, a quick glance at Google Maps revealed that I was quite close to the station at Ostbahnhof, so I walked there.
Ostbahnhof is a station which I have visited multiple times, although I have never hung around for long, preferring to head straight for a train. I had some time to spare (I thought) so mooched around for a bit, thinking I could maybe grab some lunch from one of the many food outlets. I didn’t get anything to eat, but on the concourse, I discovered yet another coin-operated model railway. Naturally I had to put in a couple of coins to watch a train go round in circles for a few minutes.
Found another model railway in a station! This one is in Ostbahnhof. pic.twitter.com/Z2OeoJdm3P
— Robert Hampton (@Hampo) November 11, 2019
I took an S-Bahn train to Alexanderplatz, where I knew there was an even wider selection of eateries. I’m sorry to report that my adventurous spirit deserted me at this point, and I ended up with a cappuccino and panini in the Starbucks next to the Fernsehturm. I took a seat by the window and watched the world go by for a while.
It was at this point that things went a bit awry. I had checked the train times to the airport the previous night on the very useful Deutsche Bahn Navigator app. If I caught the 13:40 train from Zoologischer Garten, I would get to Schönefeld Airport at 14:10, giving me over an hour to get through security and to the gate. I knew from experience that was more than enough time for someone with only hand luggage.
However, in my head, this somehow got confused, and by Monday morning I had convinced myself that 13:40 was the time I needed to head back to the hotel to get my bag. The result was I loitered in Alexanderplatz for longer than I should have, posting silly tweets.
Had to squint hard at this before I realised it said “Gum” (especially with that logo) 😦 pic.twitter.com/tklT0YXLa5
— Robert Hampton (@Hampo) November 11, 2019
This confusion over times only resolved itself when I was sitting on the U-Bahn train back to my hotel, and I realised there was no way I was going to make the 13:40 train. The Airport Express runs every 30 minutes – the next train at 14:10 would deliver me to Schönefeld for 14:40, which should still be enough time. However, I wasn’t sure I would reach Zoo station in time to catch that one, either.
I don’t know whether it was real or just my perception due to being in a hurry, but the U2 line seemed to be on a go-slow that afternoon. In normal operation, it is twenty minutes from Alexanderplatz to Wittenbergplatz. Normally, Berlin U-Bahn drivers do not hang around – they will happily close the doors in the face of people running for the train, and accelerate fast enough to knock standing passengers off their feet. My train, however, seemed to be going at a much more leisurely pace – we stopped for extended periods at several stations, and ambled gently through the tunnels.
Finally we reached Wittenbergplatz, where I sprinted up and out of the station to my hotel. I didn’t even wait for the green Ampelmann at the pedestrian crossing.
I needed to get my bag from the hotel’s left luggage cupboard, but hopes of a quick exit were dashed. There was only one person on the desk, and a guest was making the check-in process as slow and complicated as possible. Do you really need all those tourist information leaflets?
Having successfully retrieved my bag (should I have tipped the staff? Oh, who cares?) I sprinted back into the station. The “2 min” on the departure board seemed to count down very slowly, but eventually a train roared into the station for the short hop back to Zoo.
Helpfully, Zoologischer Garten mainline station was undergoing renovation work, which meant that all the signs in the U-Bahn actually pointed to an entrance which was closed. Thus another sprint was required, to the other end of the station, where I emerged, wheezing and aching, onto the platform for the Airport Express train.
The time? 14:08. Two minutes to spare.
Thankfully the journey to the airport, unlike the inward journey on Friday, was uneventful, and I arrived at the airport dead on 14:40. Another dash through the airport was required – the Liverpool flight seemed to be on the most remote gate in the entire building.
By the time I arrived at the boarding gate, it was already open and the staff had started scanning boarding passes. I was a sweaty mess by the time I gratefully clambered onto the plane.
This was all rather unlike me – I am normally super-organised when it comes to travel plans, and extra careful when it comes to flights. I often take the train or bus an hour earlier than the one I really need to. One time, I arrived at Liverpool Airport so early that my flight wasn’t even listed on the departure board yet.
This all comes, I think, from my memories of watching the old ITV series Airline, which was supposedly a behind-the-scenes look at the operations of EasyJet, but really people only ever watched it to see flustered passengers losing their shit after missing their plane.
There but for the grace of God go I. That “Gum” tweet got barely any engagement too.
Perhaps, after three days in the city, Berlin was starting to affect my mind. Maybe the laid-back “anything goes” attitude had seeped into my brain a bit too much. Perhaps a part of me didn’t want to come home and wanted an excuse to stay in Berlin for another day.
And really, who wouldn’t want to stay in Berlin for another day? Yet again, the city and its environs had delivered a wonderful long weekend of experiences. Regular readers will not be surprised to hear that I am already anticipating my next trip.