Berlin, 05 May 2004... h's Diary
In 2004 we published some extracts from h's diary. This is a day spent in the German capital...
Woke up around 10.00 and made my way to the front of the bus where Paul Rowlston was already sitting. It was a beautiful blue day as the bus edged its way along one of Berlin's main boulevards (Strasse des 17 Juni – yes, I know it's French – apparently something to do with cannon that were captured from Napoleon) towards the Brandenburg Gate. We chatted and Paul filmed the interesting monuments that passed on our way past the B Gate and the 'new' Reichstag on our way to find the hotel.
Today is a day off so I agreed to meet up with Paul and Jayce for an interview later. We decided to do it at the famous Berlin zoo. I said I'd call Paul when I was ready... When we arrived at the hotel we were told that rooms weren't ready so I sat myself down in the hotel bar and ordered up coffee while writing this diary. Time passed and Quinner kept appearing to say that my room still wasn't ready but it didn't really matter as I had much catching up to do with the diary anyway. Around 2 pm I finally entered room 427 and took a much-anticipated shower before trying to find something in English on the TV. The choices were CNN News (American propaganda channel) or BBC World (something approaching the truth with anything too contentious edited out). Incidentally, I'm told that most Americans consider CNN to be dangerously left wing... Most consider Fox News (or George Bush TV, as it's better described) to represent the 'balanced' view. I relaxed for a while on the bed but in the end I didn't really have time to sleep as I'd arranged to meet Paul and Jayce at 3.00pm.
We took the train to the zoo station and walked through the corridors with U2's song of the same name buzzing around in my head ('I'm ready, I'm ready for the laughing gas... I'm ready for what's next...'). Just outside the station was a stall selling fresh fish. Paul wondered whether they might have some 'fantastic plaice'...
Berlin zoo came as a pleasant surprise – it's really beautiful – a big late-nineteenth century park full of flowers and trees. Many of the animals aren't caged, but simply separated from the public by wide deep ditches. This gives the place a very natural atmosphere. The dangerous cats are caged, of course, but one look at the Jaguars and Leopards and I was very grateful for the bars. I marvelled at the Indian Rhinoceros – bigger and more heavily 'armour plated' than its African counterpart according to Paul and Jayce... and they should know – they’ve seen 'em coming up the street (or so they said). Not long after we arrived, the weather took a turn and it began to rain pretty hard, so we retired to the restaurant where I ordered up what turned out to be bright-green beer and sour-cherry ice-cream. We set up under a parasol outside by the duck pond and I was interviewed by Paul as Jayce rolled the camera. The green beer tasted of beer with a slight undercurrent of pickled onions and asparagus... Hmm. The ice cream was better. While Jayce changed tapes, Paul returned to the restaurant to buy me something more conventional and returned with a bottle of Pilsner lager that tasted slightly of fish!
The weather gradually improved during the interview so we went for a wander through the zoo. I don't think I've ever seen a panda before in the flesh. What an amazing creature - a look of pure madness in its eyes (I don't suppose I'd have been too sane in put in the same position.) We passed flamingos so orange-pink that they glowed in the daylight, and on past American bison (more U2 imagery – you can tell they recorded Achtung Baby here all right).
Around 6.30 it was chucking-out time so we made our way back to the station and then took another train back to the hotel. I returned to my room and decided to have a snooze. Big mistake, I woke at 10.30pm – too late to eat, too awake to go to bed, nothing on the telly except Intolerable Cruelty – a Coen Brothers attempt to make George Clooney funny. They failed. I turned it off after half an hour of staring at that Welsh woman trying to look attractive and intelligent. Yuk.
Went downstairs and found Ian, Mark, Quinner and Ian Bond, just finishing dinner and hung out with them for an hour over a beer and then ordered a hot chocolate to try and get myself back in the mood for going to bed.
Returned to the room and wrote the diary for another hour before forcing myself back to sleep. Days off on tour are always a bit of a struggle.
First posted on the Web UK website in 2004.