Round The World and other travels

A frequent flyer's collection of trip diaries

This is: Round The World 2015

Three capitals

RIGHT: The sumptuous lobby of Berlin's new Waldorf Astoria

I stepped off the X9 airport bus, crossed the multiple traffic lanes of busy Hardenbergstraße, walked a short distance along the street and slipped through the front door of Berlin's new Waldorf Astoria hotel. It could have been a portal to another world. The chilly night air of November and the relentless flow of traffic were instantly left behind, the hustle and bustle of a major European capital giving way to a soaring modern atrium with luxurious furnishings and a soothing aura of imperturbable calm. Oh yes, I had truly arrived.

And it felt good, for although a journey from Scotland to Germany is about as straightforward as it gets for a seasoned globetrotter like me, it had nevertheless felt like a long day. I had made my way from home to Edinburgh Airport, flown first to London Heathrow and then onwards to Berlin Tegel. Now, at around 8pm local time and with the winter darkness long since fallen, I had finally reached the first on my list of destinations for this round-the-world trip. I quickly settled into my excellent 11th-floor corner room. I have always regarded an end-of-corridor hotel room as a bonus and this one was better than most, the main part of the room being situated along an internal passageway and separated from the corridor by my bathroom. I suppose there was one tiny niggle: the front-desk clerk had told me that my room overlooked one of the city's landmarks - the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. Actually it didn't; I was located at the opposite end of the building and my view was of Zoo Station. Not really a problem, but just as well that I like trains!

ABOVE: The Gedächtniskirche (Memorial Church), which includes the ruined spire of the old church, left standing as a reminder of war

I set out in pursuit of some kind of meaningful evening sustenance, having had quite enough of airline nibbles for one day. Walking in a southeasterly direction, I quickly passed from Hardenbergstraße into Budapester Straße and found myself standing beside the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche - the building that I thought was going to form the centrepiece of the view from my room. This striking structure (or more accurately, collection of structures) had imprinted itself on my memory during my first visit to Berlin in 1982, when the Cold War was still very much ongoing.

The original building, dating from the 1890s, had been severely damaged in a 1943 bombing raid. It was rebuilt in the early 1960s to a modern design in concrete and coloured glass, which used geometric shapes for both the new church and the separate belfry. With the other side of the site being on the Kurfürstendamm, better known as "Ku'damm" and once the very heart of the former West Berlin, a decision was taken to leave the bomb-damaged tower of the original building standing, so that it could act as a reminder of the horrors of the Second World War. Berliners soon came up with a nickname for the ruin, dubbing it Der Hohle Zahn ('The Hollow Tooth').

ABOVE and LEFT: Evening meal in a familiar local venue

Directly across the street, I spotted a popular-looking eatery that seemed to be promising healthy, fresh and tasty food. It was called Bagyard, and while the unusual name meant nothing to me, the location and layout of the restaurant definitely seemed familiar. I felt sure that I had eaten breakfast here during my last visit to city, just fifteen months previously, but this now appeared to be a different business in operation. I ventured inside and enjoyed a light-ish supper of chicken salad and wheat beer - oh, and a portion of fries somehow got ordered as well.   A member of staff was able to confirm my suspicions: the premises had changed hands since my summer 2014 visit, and this new venture had been running for only three months.

LEFT: A civilised end to the day in the Waldorf Astoria's Lang Bar
ABOVE: And now it's time for bed

Arriving back at the Waldorf Astoria, I reminded myself that there was a welcome-drink voucher burning a hole in my pocket, and decided to seek out the interesting-sounding, 1920s-themed Lang Bar. I could tell at first sight that it was going to be a wonderful venue, and was further delighted when the barman informed me that my voucher was valid for a whole list of possible drinks, including champagne. The pondering ended right there! My glass of bubbly was served with popcorn, which was a much nicer combination than it perhaps sounds.

It had been a long day to come a relatively short distance, but things had certainly ended very nicely indeed.

Tuesday 10 Nov

Next Day