I might use this title for a book!
I arrived in Berlin last Monday from Istanbul. The airport bus is the cheapest and quickest method to get into central Berlin and usually it’s easy to find a taxi. I gave the taxi driver the address of my new accommodation in English, as he had spoken to me in the same language. He then proceeded to drive me to a different address.
He said. “This is it.”
The look on his face was priceless when I said in German.
“No, it isn’t. This is not 20.”
On arrival I was greeted by Jurgen the owner of the apartment who informed me that the previous guests (English!) had set fire to the bathroom. They had thrown a towel over a light and it had caught alight. The smell of burning pervaded the room but it cleared when I opened a window. He told me I’d have to find another place because it wasn’t up to standard, but if I paid him 1000 Euro in cash then I could have it. He would cancel the booking so he didn’t incur any commission from the company.
Has this happened before? Yes, in India. I made a deal with a guy who owned a guest house so he wasn’t subject to commission charges. However, India is somewhat different to Germany. I was tired, and I thought what choice do I have? I can’t find another place at 4pm. Jurgen actually marched me to the ATM, so he could have the cash immediately.
I decided to go to the hairdresser. Yes, after the last experience in Vienna I was concerned, but I thought if I check out the reviews on Google then it should be ok. I made an appointment with an English-speaking hairdresser who was covered in tattoos. I explained in English and German how I’d like my hair cut and the colour I wanted. She nodded. In the mirror I watched a woman my age having her hair dyed a bright vermillion. She left with an extremely short haircut which didn’t suit her.
The hairdresser said. “I love being creative.” Warning bells rang. I said in German. “Not too short please.” She smiled and plastered the dye on my hair.
Fast forward one hour. The colour wasn’t what I asked for. I think it’s too dark. Then she proceeded to cut it very short at the back and sides. I can’t imagine any hairdresser in NZ doing this. Otherwise they would be very short on customers. When I paid she said, “Women love coming here because they leave with something different.” Too true, I thought as I paid 150 euro.
I had decided to take the train to Zurich which involved a long 9 hour journey. The reason why I did this is because my protagonist Nikki Sinclair does. The journey wasn’t too bad. I thought I’d see stunning scenery but sadly not. No matter as I thought of another plot and wrote the outline on my phone.
The hotel was a short walk from the station and in the middle of the Old Town. My friend who comes to Zurich every year recommended it and it was a great place to stay, not cheapbut I could walk everywhere.
The next morning, I visited the Museum of Art on an extremely wet Sunday. Do go if you are in Zurich. The collection comprises of three of Monet’s water lilies and I think they have seven Van Gogh’s. Just before he took his own life, he painted a self-portrait, if you look into his eyes you can see the hopelessness, despair and sadness.
I spent the next two days researching locations, and all of them I’d chosen were perfect. This doesn’t happen very often. I took the train out to the airport for my flight back to Berlin. I’d received a reminder from Expedia on Sunday. I looked at the board for departures and couldn’t see my flight. I went to the information desk.
“Air Berlin? I’m sorry but they went into liquidation two weeks ago.”
“Can I use my ticket with another airline?”
“No. You must buy another ticket.”
Swiss Air had a flight at 3.30pm. I looked online. Thank goodness for cell phones and good data roaming and I bought a one way ticket for 153 pounds. I was furious with Expedia and they still have Air Berlin advertised on their webpage. I sent an email asking why they hadn’t informed me.
Here’s Expedia’s response.
“We apologise for the inconvenience caused. Contact your credit company. We seek your understanding in this matter.”
My advice would be don’t use Expedia. I planned to book my tickets to NZ with them. I won’t be doing that now. Will I be reimbursed? I don’t think so. Another experience of travelling which I could have done without.
Anyway, next time – Dresden.

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