Guten naben. Or whatever part of the day it is where you are. I hope it’s guten.
Well, I made it to Berlin, the City of Lights. Oh, right, that’s Paris. As I mentioned, I’ll be here for a few days at the IFA Berlin tech trade show.
The flight was fine, though, Air Berlin did not reach the level of Most Accommodating Airline. Nothing major, just consistent small niggles. Though my ticket receipt made note about checking in online 30 hours beforehand, when you go to do that you’re oddly informed that that option is only available to people who used a travel agent or tour group. (When is the last time you even know of someone who used a travel agent…?) Then at LAX, when I went up to those Self-Check consoles, Air Berlin wasn’t listed – you had to stand in line, even if you’re not checking anything. And then when checking in, it turns out that the seat I had picked out wasn’t…well, picked out. It was seemingly only “reserved, that I could have paid for. And it was no longer available. And the flight was pushed back 30 minutes. Lots of small things, as I said, nothing major, but they count.
What counts more, though, is that it was a non-stop flight (hubba!), and I got an aisle seat with no one next to me (double-hubba)! The entertainment console kept having small glitches, but it worked pretty well. Entertainment consoles on international flights are quite terrific, compared to domestic flights. Touch-screen monitors with a massive array of choices – about 40 movies, plus TV shows, and a huge amount of music genres, where you can pick from a range of albums, not a pre-mixed selection, as well as games. The “sports” options were oddly week –you could choose a special on cliff-diving or surfing. By the way, if it counts for anything, it looked like the big fave of passengers was the comedy “The Internship” with Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson.
Tiegel Airport is a poorly organized, small-ish place, though it will be replaced soon with another airport being built. What’s quite noticeable, though, is how easy Customs is compared to the U.S. They looked at the passport and stamped it, and you’re in. No questions, no forms to fill out. Nada.
I do like that Tiegel has an express bus that heads into the city pretty close to where I’m staying, not far from the Brandenburg Gate. Though Berlin isn’t my favorite of cities there are some sights which I do like, and this is one of them. It’s in the middle of the Paliser Plaza and looms up wonderfully.
Because I stayed nearby here last year, I had my bearings reasonably well in hand. It was a short 10-15 minute walk to the hotel. Not to get too clichéd, but the sense of following orders stood out on the way over: at one point, I stopped to look at a menu out front of a restaurant. A fellow coming from the other direction stopped, as well – I assumed he wanted to look at the menu, too, so I didn’t linger and moved off. However he didn’t stop for the menu at all, but walked on. He had stopped because I was blocking his way, and patiently waited – except that there was a wide sidewalk he could have simply stepped past and gone around. I can’t believe that would happen all the time, mind you.
The group that’s organized this is putting us up at the Grand Hyatt, and no complaints there. It’s an absolutely gorgeous place that I would never stay at otherwise because I like to be able to pay my rent every month and buy groceries. Hugely expensive, but thank heavens for this trip being all-expense paid. Last year they gave a stipend which covered just a portion of the bill, so instead I chose to stay nearby at a Novel hotel, a budget but nice European chain. The Hyatt is, of course, far more luxurious, though among their many amenities is a whopping 30 minutes of free Wi-Fi. Novatel only gave you a mere 24 hours of it a day…
The group went out together for dinner. I’m a little tired at the moment, but doing okay with the jet lag. For the past week, I’ve been going to sleep (and waking up) earlier each day, so adapt more to the time schedule here. I don’t recommend that for everyone, providing they want to have a life, but it did help. I went to sleep reasonably close to Berlin time and got up the equivalent of 9 AM. So…I should be okay. We’ll see. And that’s it for now. Tomorrow, it’s on with the show
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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