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A typical Berliner?
Well, because you are reading this you will know that we didn't plummet out of the sky (we never do), and I have to admit that in spite of the chaos on the plane I felt a lot better when we arrived at Berlin Schonefeld. There was some question as to whether my friend Jenny, with whom I was to stay, would be able to meet me as she had an afternoon meeting, but fortunately she was able to get away; and a great pleasure it was to see her again, not least because it meant that I would not have to navigate my own way across half of Berlin. And I was able, I think, to make some moderately intelligent conversation.

We were heading for Jenny's flat on Innsbruckerstrasse in the Schonefeld district, a couple of miles south of Berlin's city centre, and en route stopped to buy some food for dinner. When we finally arrived she made one of the most welcome pots of English Breakfast Tea that I have ever had in my life, and I realised with a sense of euphoria that my hangover had completely disappeared. After our meal she took me on a walking tour of Schonefeld, which is quite a compact area of residential and commercial buildings, and there are also some interesting shops. However, it is mostly known for its imposing Rathaus, or Town Hall, which was the political centre of West Berlin from 1949 until 1990; and as dusk fell I gazed at the balcony from which, in 1963, President Kennedy announced to a great crowd of West Berliners Ich bin ein Berliner - I am a Berliner.

Or at least, he thought that he did, but ever since there has been a vast amount of discussion as to whether what he actually said was I am a doughnut, the supposed problem being the presence of the article ein which, some contend, he should have omitted. The majority opinion seems to be that he got it right, although the phrase might have carried a double meaning in some parts of Germany, but the story is too good to lose, and bakers' shops catering for tourists still display the jam-filled Berliners under a little sign saying Ich bin ein Berliner.

And so back to the flat, to commune with my green-haired punk friend. No, not Jenny, but the rather fetching lass on the cover of my guide book, which I had bought solely for the pleasure of carrying her around in my pocket. In fact it turned out to be an excellent guide book as well, full of good photographs, but I did not need to make a great deal of use of it because my friend Jessica, who was born and brought up in East Berlin, had given me many suggestions for things to see and do, all on three sides of A4. This was as helpful as it was thoughtful, and saved much time over the next few days.

Finally, I needed to investigate the bathroom facilities, for Jessica had warned me about German toilets. (If you don't know what is coming and are of a delicate disposition, you should stop reading now and proceed to the next entry.) In fact, when she told us at College there was general hilarity and disbelief, but my recce showed that it was absolutely true: German toilet bowls, or at least the traditional ones, have a little shelf jutting out at the back just above the water line, and on this you deposit your ... er ... droppings. They can then be inspected for whatever you want to inspect them for before being flushed away. This, apparently, allows the early detection of many diseases and accounts for the excellent health of the German nation.

After the shock of that, there was nothing to do but retire for the night and enjoy that relaxed refreshing sleep that normally follows a really, really bad hangover.
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A typical Berliner?
A typical Berliner?
photo by: CFD