FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Tegel Touch and Go

Posted in Berlin, Germany by folkestonejack on May 6, 2014

On my outbound and return trips I had plenty of time to kill so on each occasion I headed up to the observation deck at Tegel to watch the world go by. It seemed like a good opportunity to get one last good look at the airport as I am sure that by the time I come back it will have been shut down, replaced by the troubled Berlin Brandenburg airport which lies to the south of the city.

On Borrowed time - Berlin Tegel

On Borrowed time – Berlin Tegel

The impressively spacious viewing terrace at Tegel covers the entire roof span of the airport’s distinctive hexagonal terminal A, allowing you to get a good view of the entire runway and most of the gates from this terminal.

I wouldn’t normally expect much from any time on an observation deck, but seemed to have timed my visit exceptionally well on both occasions. On my outbound leg I managed to see the arrival of two Bundesrepublik Deutschland aircraft that are used for official travel and diplomatic business – the first was Airbus A340-313X VIP ‘Konrad Adenauer’ (16+01) whilst the second was the Airbus A310-304 VIP (10+21) that used to bear this name.

Bundesrepublik Deutschland Airbus A340-313X VIP ‘Konrad Adenauer’ (16+01)

Bundesrepublik Deutschland Airbus A340-313X VIP ‘Konrad Adenauer’ (16+01)

Bundesrepublik Deutschland Airbus A310-304 VIP (10+21)

Bundesrepublik Deutschland Airbus A310-304 VIP (10+21)

On my return trip I saw one of the smaller Bundesrepublik Deutschland VIP jets, a Bombardier Global 5000 (14+01), take off after a couple of black limousines had delivered some passengers. Other notable sights included a BMW Gulfstream G550 and a classic liveried Lufthansa A321.

Bundesrepublik Deutschland Bombardier Global 5000 (14+01)

Bundesrepublik Deutschland Bombardier Global 5000 (14+01)

As if this was not enough excitement, the next flight to come in was a Deutsche Marine Lockheed P-3 Orion (60+01) named ‘Friedrichshafen’ (in the 100 Jahre Marineflieger livery that she was painted for last year’s celebrations) which proceeded to touch and go (landing on the runway and taking off again without coming to a full stop). I assume this was a training exercise as the same procedure was repeated just ten minutes later! It was like having a mini air-show before the flight home.

Deutsche Marine Lockheed P-3 Orion 'Friedrichshafen' (60+01)

Deutsche Marine Lockheed P-3 Orion ‘Friedrichshafen’ (60+01)

In all the excitement on offer it was easy to forget that I still had to get through security and on to my own flight. Luckily, I made it through just in time and my reward (c/o British Airways) was a 15g bag of crisps, which has to be the most miserly snack that I think I have ever seen on a flight. Nevertheless, I was very happy to have made it on board and be heading homewards!

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Underground Berlin

Posted in Berlin, Germany by folkestonejack on October 5, 2008

At some stage in my travels I became aware of the underground tours run by Berliner Unterwelten e.V., the organisers of the Mythos Germania exhibition that I saw a few days ago. Although it wasn’t originally part of my plans I made a trip out to Gesundbrunnen and booked a place on their Subways, Bunkers, Cold War tour at 1pm.

The first part of the tour concentrated on a civil defence shelter which was originally constructed in the 1930s and served as a bomb shelter in the Second World War, although it wasn’t actually bombproof… in the tour we got an insight into the way the shelter would have functioned, including the hand operated controls that were essential to keep things running. It quickly became clear that the place would be pretty inhospitable in a real emergency with temperatures of 40 degrees and 100 percent humidity. Essentially, its purpose was to keep a panic stricken public off the streets so that the roads could be kept clear for the military…

The second part of the tour took us to U-Bahn to Pankstrasse station. I think this was all the more remarkable than the first shelter as the rooms we visited were all accessed from within a working station – which we entered through an airlock. Our guide showed us round the rooms and then out onto the station platforms to show us the markings that would be used to line up carriages in the station during a civil emergency. It was amazing to think that so many elements of this were right in front of us – but as good as invisible until they were pointed out by an expert guide.

I can honestly say that booking a tour with Berliner Unterwelten e.V. was one of the best moves in my entire trip as it was absolutely fascinating from start to finish – a truly remarkable experience. Indeed, I rather regretted that I didn’t have more time in Berlin to enjoy their other tours. Still, at least it’s one more to add to the list for a return visit…

The east side

Posted in Berlin, Germany by folkestonejack on October 5, 2008

A quiet Sunday seemed like the perfect time to take a walk on the east side, so I headed over to Treptower Park to take a look at the Soviet war memorial. It’s an impressive sight – the moment you pass through the portal gates you can already see the twelve metre tall statue of a Soviet soldier with a sword holding a child, captured in a moment of extreme bravery. It doesn’t get any less impressive the closer you get – it is certainly a fitting tribute to the tens of thousands who died in the battle for Berlin.

After leaving the park behind I took a route past the last remaining watchtower from the old border, across the Oberbaumbrucke and on to the East Side Gallery. Finally, I made it back to the Ostbahnhof and my fascinating morning walk on the east side was over.

Nature-Park Schöneberger Südgelände

Posted in Berlin, Germany by folkestonejack on October 4, 2008

I took a morning walk at the Nature-Park Schöneberger Südgelände, which is a rather wonderful green park on the site of a long vanished marshalling yard (Rangierbahnhof Tempelhof).

A few traces remain of the vast complex, such as a water tower, turntable and overgrown tracks hidden amongst the trees – though I thought the most appealing touch was the use of tracks as paths themselves. Other elements in the park have been created to evoke a connection with the past, such as a freshly re-painted class 50 steam locomotive. The modern railway still runs alongside the park and helps define its long narrow shape of the park, literally following the tracks.

The park was quite a contrast with my encounter with the steam survivors of the previous day but as a tranquil morning walk it couldn’t be bettered.

Tag der Deutschen Einheit

Posted in Berlin, Germany by folkestonejack on October 3, 2008

After leaving Tempelhof behind I headed to the Tiergarten and the Siegessäule (a column originally designed to celebrate victory in the Danish-Prussian War with later additions recording victories in subsequent wars). The view from the top across the Straße des 17. Juni was quite spectacular, particularly with crowds building on the closed road to celebrate the Tag der Deutschen Einheit (day of German unity).

In the evening I headed east to Frankfurter Tor to meet up with a friend, but as ever I arrived way too early and spent my extra time wandering along Karl-Marx-Allee checking out the fascinating information boards that explained more about the socialist architecture all around me.

After my friend arrived we headed off to the Dritte Ohr (the Third Ear), a friendly kneipe on Matternstraße, where we spent the evening drinking. My friend thought it appropriate that I try every kind of local speciality that I had never encountered before, resulting in a rather odd array of drinks including Berliner weißbier (green) and kirsch bier. All good fun.

Amongst our conversations my friend told me about some of the absurdities of the Stasi grip on the east, such as a competition for kids in a West German school to release balloons with their address on – to see which landed furthest away. One landed in East Germany and the resulting exchange between two kids guaranteed the westerner a stasi file!

At the end of the night I somehow managed to navigate my way back to Frankfurter Tor and caught a late night/early morning train west and fell into my bed having felt that I’d made use of every second of the day.

The last days of Tempelhof

Posted in Berlin, Germany by folkestonejack on October 3, 2008

After leaving the giants of the steam age behind I headed out to Berlin Tempelhof, another legend soon to pass into history. Tempelhof opened as an airport in the 1920s and feels like it belongs to a different, more glamourous era of aviation even whilst it is in use today as a commercial airport. Indeed, most of its peers have long since vanished – such as Croydon airport near me.

If I had any regrets about my trip it was that I didn’t think to arrange my itinerary so that I flew into Tempelhof and that chance has pretty much gone now – the airport is to close at the end of the month. I don’t really understand the logic of the closure, but then maybe I am biased as I am a complete convert to the benefit of small city-centre airports like London City.

Anyway, I had to settle for a walk around the perimeter instead – walking to the gap in the apartment blocks that landing planes descend through on their way onto the runway. It’s a spot that has seen many iconic photographs from the time of the Berlin airlift (such as the shot of Berliners watching a C-54 land at Berlin Tempelhof Airport, 1948). I stood on a small mound and felt a tingle of excitement as I watched a passenger jet approach through the gap, pass overhead and land.

I made my way round to the main entrance and took a look inside the near deserted terminal building. I wasn’t alone in soaking up the nostalgia of the last days of Tempelhof as a functioning airport. I had followed the progress of the campaign to prevent the closure (see: Apathy dooms plan to save Tempelhof, site of Berlin airlift – Independent, 28th April 2008) and felt rather sad that no means had been found to retain some element of active aviation. I don’t think it would feel quite right without the sound of a plane – in the same way that the banking at Brooklands only really comes alive when cars return to the small surviving section of the circuit. Maybe time will prove me wrong.

My wander took me round the other notable elements of the area – the famous Tempelhof eagles and the memorial to the Berlin airlift – before I headed back underground.

Eisenbahnfest Schöneweide

Posted in Berlin, Germany by folkestonejack on October 3, 2008

After seeing the photographs of the Eisenbahnfest Schöneweide organised by Dampflokfreunde Berlin in 2007 I made up my mind to visit – planning this holiday around the date of the 2008 event. In many respects it seemed to be a lower profile event than the previous years event, in so far as I could tell from comparing the footage. Nevertheless, it was worth coming to see a variety of locomotives close up and in steam – particularly on the turntable in front of their roundhouse.

A whirlwind tour of Berlin

Posted in Berlin, Germany by folkestonejack on October 2, 2008

A whirlwind day of sightseeing took me from west to east and across a bewildering number of time periods. My first stop was the rooftop of the Reichstag with its wonderful fusion of old and new, certainly well worth all the hassle that you have to go through with security. It was a fabulous first look across the surprisingly green heart of Berlin. After this leaving the Reichstag behind, I moved on to the Monument to Soviet Soldiers in the Tiergarten and then through the Brandenburg Gate.

The German flag flies from the Reichstag in Berlin on 2nd October 2008

The German flag flies from the Reichstag in Berlin

I took in a fascinating exhibition Mythos Germania: Shadows and traces of the Imperial Capital which provided a fascinating glimpse into the way Berlin might look today had the war worked out differently and the ambitious scale of the changes that were planned (with a fair amount of disregard for what was already there). It was interesting to learn how much had been started and still remains today in its embryonic state.

After this look at what might have been I headed from Unter den Linten to Hackescher Markt (via Friedrichstrasse) for a look at what has been and gone at the Pergamonmuseum, followed by a short visit to the Berlin Wall Documentation Center on Bernauer Strasse. Finally, I wrapped up the day at the Berliner Fernsehturm with a view across the city as night fell…. time to get some rest after a frenetic first full day!

An unexpected detour

Posted in Berlin, Germany by folkestonejack on October 1, 2008

I am never very good at arriving just on time. Instead, I can usually be guaranteed to arrive anywhere far earlier than I need to. Today was no different – an early start got to me to London City airport with oodles of time for my 9.25am flight to Berlin Tegel. Or at least, it would have been oodles if there was still a flight to catch! Instead, I found myself ambling over to the Lufthansa desk to see what the options were now that my flight had been cancelled…

…and then dashing to catch an 8.40am flight to Dusseldorf on a two-leg re-routing that would get me to Berlin a couple of hours after my scheduled arrival time. It was a relief to be able to sink into my seat and relax after all that unexpected activity. Nevertheless, I have to say that Lufthansa organised my re-routing very efficiently and it certainly gave me confidence to fly with them again in the future.

After landing I headed to my hotel in Schöneberg by a combination of bus and u-bahn, checked in and allowed myself some time to chill – knowing that I have six days ahead of me in Berlin. The plan is to pack in a few sights, exhibitions, tours and get to see the Eisenbahnfest Schöneweide. Hopefully, I’ll have no more need of a Plan B after today’s diversion!