Berlin and Barbara

On Monday I got up at the crack of dawn (actually well before it got light…) to catch a flight over to Berlin for a conference. Like any conference the schedule was hectic with days spent manning our booth and nights spent networking with clients and partners. So by the time the conference ended Wednesday afternoon I was completely exhausted and not looking forward to getting up early for the flight home Thursday morning. Despite that, the conference went really well and it was good to meet up with a number of clients and IBMers that I’d previously only spoken to on the phone. It looks like Ephox should get a fair bit of business as a result which is promising.

Lagoon in the Tiergarten.On Wednesday night Tracey, Ephox’s sales exec for Europe, and I finally managed to find time to get outside the conference hotel and take a look around Berlin.  The hotel was just down the road from the tiergarten – a massive park in the centre of Berlin. It was nice to get out and the first signs of Autumn were showing in some places. Definitely a change from Australia which pretty much just skips over Autumn and Spring.

We basically just cut through the corner of the park but still managed to discover it had permanent ping-pong tables in one part and some unusual art installations.  The first bit of art we found was a bunch of polished rocks. Apparently the artist had sailed around the world stopping off at various different countries, including Australia.  In each country he found two rocks that best symbolized the country and weighed at least 3 tons. The first rock he polished and left behind and the second was brought to the tiergarten – presumably not on his sailing boat. The pairs of rocks were then arranged so that at midday on the 21st of June the rocks from the original country reflect the light around the world to meet its sister stone. Not quite sure how they get light to bend around the earth like that, but the idea is at least a good one.

Strange art installation showing a video of two guys kissing.The second art installation was significantly more weird. It was a great big grey brick sitting by itself and at one end had a small window. When you looked through the window you saw a short looping film showing two guys kissing. The photo on the right is of the view into the window, with Tracey and I in the reflection. We weren’t quite sure what to make of it, but seeing two people peering into a hole in a big grey brick seemed to attract interest as anyone who was heading past stopped to find out what was so interesting.  Not sure what they thought when they found out – probably best not to know.

From there we went on to the holocaust memorial which is a vast grid of grey bricks of varying sizes – but no strange videos. I don’t think the two are at all related, grey bricks must just be “in” right now. It’s actually quite eerie to walk through the memorial, in the middle the bricks are twice my height so you can only see straight down the row you’re in. Every so often someone would suddenly appear from one of the side rows and cross in front of you, only to disappear again. You could hear other people talking and kids playing hide and seek, but not see them except for occasional glimpses. The different height bricks are unexpected as well, when you first see it they look the same height but the ground isn’t level so you actually walk down slopes as the bricks get taller. There’s a small information center underground, but nothing else that tells you what the monument is for.

Then we headed off to the Brandenburg Gate and along the way found a group of people on a meeting bike. It’s a bike that lets about 8 people sit on it, facing each other and all of them peddle. I’d seen videos before, but it’s something else to see it in real life with a group of Germans giggling away and screaming at each other to stop at the traffic lights. The Brandenburg Gate was impressive, but it was getting too dark for the camera so didn’t get many pictures. The Berlin wall ran right in front of the gate and had cells for trespassers (those that weren’t shot outright) which still exist in the new Academy of Arts building. They’ve cut and moved a number of pieces of the wall, completely covered in graffiti, as part of the memorial program so we found a block of wall sitting by the roadside and a few blocks with historical information at Potsdamer Plats.

We wound up finding, of all things, an Australian restaurant in Potsdamer Plats and for a laugh and to introduce Tracey to questionably authentic Australian food we had dinner there. The menu bared little resemblance to the true traditional meal of Australia, the burnt BBQ sausage, but was full of Kangaroo and Crocodile. We both wound up being adventurous and having the “Corroboree” featuring Kangaroo, Crocodile and Blackened Chicken served with “Australian Cut Fries” which turned out to be potato wedges. It was very nice but we actually had some trouble telling the difference between the crocodile and the chicken and the kangaroo wasn’t much different to regular steak so I doubt I’ll be searching it out again in the future.

Finally we headed back to the hotel to get an early night and be ready to fly out the Thursday morning. I picked up a cold along the way somewhere so I was pretty out of it. Thursday night though was the only chance we had to catch Barbara and Keith as they passed through on the way from Ireland to Turkey, so after failing to find time for a nap between work calls Thursday we headed in to the city to have dinner with them. Janet’s got a cold at the moment as well so we were both fairly out of it, but it was still great to get to see some family again and catch up. Plus while we’d briefly met Keith before, it was a great chance to get to know him better. We met in Trafalga Square and went off in search of a pub with a view. Finding no pub with a view we reduced our search to any pub and finding them full of people enjoying after work drinks finally found a seat at The Coal Hole. It seems that’s the standard place to meet up in London because we went their with the Grasso’s as well. We stayed there for a couple of drinks and then went off in search of Asian food. After failing to find Asian, we wound up settling for an Italian place and Keith’s son Chris joined us for dinner. Chris works for a bank so has been working long hours and dealing with all the current financial fall out but doesn’t seem too concerned by it all.

We had a great time, but eventually had to head home. We could barely keep our eyes open on the train home and were even less keen to get out of bed for work on Friday. Needless to say we both had a big sleep in this morning and that’s helped us feel better.  Hopefully we can have a quiet weekend and be fit and ready again for Monday. Janet has some school work to do and there’s a great pile of washing but otherwise it should be a pretty relaxing weekend.

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