Category Archives: travel

The 10 Places I loved visiting (and would love to go back to!)

Carrying on from Sunday’s blog post, here are ten places in the world that I truly loved visiting and, in a heartbeat, would run back to if money, time and common sense were chucked out of the window. I have only been to 35 countries but I have seen a fair few sights which really should be shared with the rest of you. So without a do, here are my top ten places that I have visited and would definitely visit again in a heartbeat:

10) Seychelles.

I know I have a bias towards the Seychelles as it is my mother’s country, but I have to be blunt. I really do love this country. I also love Sri Lanka, my father’s country, but due to its security situation, I really do not want to go back there for pleasure. You see, Seychelles attracts me, not just for family, but for the islands themselves. There are over 100 islands in the archipelago, and I have only seen four of them. And it is not just beaches. Great wildlife, a steamy hot and mountainous interior and wonderful old colonial architecture give the islands one hell of a lot of variety for such a small place. Plus, the culture, a polyglot of the islanders’ ancestery means that this is a fascinating place to see and meet people. Yes, the Seychelles are expensive, they are a pain to get to but it truly is one of the most beautiful places on Earth.

(Last visited 2008)

9) San Francisco.

I love America, and I jump at the opportunity to travel there. The country is so vast, and is naturally blessed with some of the most spectacular landscapes in the world. America’s cities are also some of the best that humanity has ever built. New York, Philadelphia and Boston are wonderful places that were launched on the backs of their old colonial past. But for me, San Francisco is the place to get to. A wonderful city in probably one of the most naturally beautiful places on Earth. And it is not too big or small, San Francisco is just that right size where you can explore and relax in equal amounts. A city steeped in history but also at the forefront of modern technology, this really is one of the happiest places on Earth.

(Last visited 1994)

8) Mexico.

All right, I know this is a big one, but Mexico is one hell of a country, and I have to return here one day. From the magnificent ruins of Chichen Itza, to the wonderful beauty is Chiapas and the frenetic capital of Mexico City itself – which I have to point out as one of the best cities I have ever visited!

I saw a hell of a lot of this country, but a visit back is a must for me. I loved my time here, and would happily go back and this time see the north of Mexico as well has head to the coasts for a bit of R&R.

(Last visited 2002)

7) Budapest.

One of three European cities on my list – and surprising, as I have only really begun to explore Europe in the past two years. But Budapest is truly beautiful. Split by the Danube you have the flat and fun Pest on one side of the river and the hilly, snooty but really beautiful Buda on the other bank. One thing, the Danube really shapes this city and its history. I am probably biased to this city, and I have a lot of fond memories of the place, which is also why I do want to hedd back here. But genuinely, memories are not the only thing. Budapest has tons of stuff to see, and has awoken from its communist stupor with vigour. Check it out when you have the chance, you will not regret it! I will certainly be heading back there.

(Last visited 2011)

6) Meghalaya.

The wettest place on Earth may seem like a strange place to recommend, but Meghalaya is truly a cultural gem of this world. Its unique hilltop location on a ridge overlooking the Gangetic plain both isolates and links it to the surrounding country in one fell swoop. Three unique cultures dot the state, and its pristine environment truly makes this one of India’s great surprises. I have never felt do relaxed and refreshed in my life as I have in Meghalaya. Whether it is the excess amounts of water, the wholesome food or the really cool locals, Meghalaya is a place I could visit time and time again.

(Last visited 2009)

5) Yunnan.

One of China’s true gems, Yunnan has it all. Great food, spectacular countryside and a culture that intertwines South East Asia, Mainland China and Tibet all rolled into one easily accessible destination – no small feat for a country as difficult as China. From the border with Burma to the fringes of the Tibetan Plateau there is something for everyone. Dotted with the famed backpacker hangouts of Dali and Lijiang, it is easy to be an independent traveler or to mosey in and relax with the crowd. It is definitely a part of China that I would not hesitate to visit again!

(Last visited 2001)

4) Krakow.

Wow, wow, and wow would be the best three adjectives to describe Krakow.

I know, it is surprising to include this city here, but really, my Poland bias aside, I really have to recommend Krakow and it is a city I would run back to in a heartbeat. To simply put it, there is A LOT to do in Krakow, and Poland’s piss-poor marketing skills means that it is a destination that flies far beneath the radar. Without the crowds you get in other European hotspots (unless it is a stag-do summer), you can feel a little like a pioneer coming here with all the ease of mainstream European travel. There is so much to recommend about Krakow, go on, treat yourself, and take some time out over here.

(Last visited 2011)

3) Xinjiang.

China’s biggest province is arguably it emptiest as well. Yes, there are a hell of a lot of tensions over here, with a separatist movement that is far more bloody than Tibet’s. And it is hard work to travel across here. But it is a culturally fascinating area. Plus it is a desert, now that counts as a huge amount of kudos for me. I have spent an inordinate amount of time here. It really was the first place that I experienced ‘independent’ travel, far cut-off from family, friends and anyone else, having to survive on my own with my interactions meaning the difference between food or nothing. I also crossed this vast area by foot (took me two months and lost a third of my body weight) which drove me slightly nutty.

Xinjiang is definitely a place with strong emotional ties, but I can also safely say that this is a part of the world that has a hell of a lot to give to the outside visitor. And despite beinfg in China, it is ironically the easiest part of Central Asia to visit, and that is a spectacular region of the world to taste…

(Last visited 2003)

2) Berlin.

Surprised? Well, you really shouldn’t be. Berlin has it all. An all encompassing history, easily accessible tourist spots, all at a reasonable price. Whether you are looking for cool bars, great food or simple fun, Berlin has something for everyone. London and Paris may get all the glitz and glamour. Barcelona and Milan get all the cool kids. But Berlin itself is simply magnificent. There is far too much to see and do that can be simply described in a short paragraph. There is so much I have left to see. I will be back here, and probably sooner rather than later.

(Last visited 2012)

1) Assam.

There really is not an order to this list, and while Assam currently takes the number 1 spot, I would go back to any of these destinations if I had instant access to cash. But the reason I value Assam so highly is multiple. Firstly, it was my first destination in India, and so I will always have an emotional attachment here. Secondly, it is so big, and so the variety is there. Thirdly, it is undiscovered; despite its huge size and obvious attractions, foreign tourists are few and far between, partly as it is so cut off.

But Assam is truly a stellar destination. It is easy to get round, once you get there! It is also really friendly, with a shockingly competent Tourist Office that will go out of its way to give you information. With a wide variation in Geography from lowland plains to mountainous, I just did not have the time to see all there was. There is a magnificent history, one of Asia’s great civilisations nestled here in the fields. Lush forests and wildlife that will make your jaw drop (I saw my first Rhino here!)

I will go back to India again, and while there is so much of the country I have not seen, I will have to make a beeline for Assam.

(Last visited 2009)

So that is my top ten of places I have seen, and ideally, would love to go to again. Any comments, drop them in the box below. And have you been to any of these places? Agree with me and what would be your top ten?

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under fun, places, travel

Wishlist – The Ten Places I would most like to see in my lifetime

For those that know me or regularly check back to this blog, you know that I love to travel. I have been to thirty five countries in my lifetime, which is a fair few in my short time on this Earth. But there is a lot more that I want to see, and so, here is a top ten of places I would really like to see before I die. From the impossible to reach to the high tourist footfall, here are the places that I have not yet visited that I really want to get to sometime in the near future.

10) Prague.

I thought I would start with a simple place. Even though I have been to the Czech Republic, the reality is that I drove through the country in the middle of the night. For me the Czech Republic provided toilet breaks, a small fine for not paying the motorway tolls and lots of crazy driving. I hope to rectify this in the not-too-distant future, and visit what is regarded as one of Europe’s prettiest capitals.

9) Bolivia.

In fact I would like to visit all of South America. I have never stepped foot on this continent and so anywhere on here would be great for me. But for me, Bolivia really stands out due to its combination of natural beauty and spectacular culture. In particular, I would really love to see Salar Uyuni, the largest salt flats on Earth.

8) Ethiopia.

Oldest civilisation on Earth after China, this is one of the world’s great cultural treasure troves. In fact the whole of the Horn of Africa is culturally rich. After all, humanity itself evolved here. Next door Somalia also holds a great allure, but that is not looking like a place I could visit anytime soon.

7) Ooty.

India is going to feature heavily on my list. Officially my new favourite country to visit, I have only been here for a few brief weeks and really only saw the North East. I would really love to see more, and Ooty has the combination of all that is magical. An old steam train puffing up the mountains, stunning scenery and a romantic edge that makes it popular with honeymooners the world over. Out of all the destinations on this list, this is probably the best combination of exotic and ease of travel.

(From Pratheept2000)

6) Tokyo.

What can I say. Cute gadgets, cute food and cute chicks. But behind all the cuteness, Tokyo really is one of the world’s great cities, and out of the ‘Big 4’ Global Cities, Tokyo is the only one I have not visited. It is big, crazy and expensive, but it is still worth a look in. One day…

5) Easter Island.

Well, the remotest place on Earth, one of the real outposts of civilisation with a fascinating Archaeological story. There is so much to learn from Easter Island, and so much tragedy too. The planet in a microcosm, and it shows on one small spot the great achievements of humanity and also the worst ravages of man. Expensive and hard to get to, but this is definitely one of the more likely destinations to reach.

4) Aksai Chin.

Yeah, right. The likelihood of getting here is about as good as me becoming a world class sprinter. At this moment in time, all entry is virtually impossible. But for me, it is the perfect combination of my two favourite types of scenery – desert and mountain. I have always been fascinated by the Himalaya, both from a scenic and cultural point of view. But, out of all the places on my list, I doubt I will see this place in my lifetime.

3) Istanbul.

Out of all the places on this list, Istanbul really should have been one that I should have arrived at sooner, but have so far been thwarted at every turn. I did once have a flight booked here, but, yeah, Easyjet changed the flight days, and so I plumped for the refund. Maybe I should have just jumped, but with my work being impossible to work around, it is one that is on my ‘to-do’ list.

2) Madagascar.

It may have been popularised by the cartoon, but for me, this island in the Indian Ocean really has it all. Exotic wildlife, a spectacular fusion of Polynesian and African culture and a landscape that is simply divine. For me, this destination is more about money and time rather than anything else.

(From Frank Vassen)

1) Arunachal Pradesh.

Again, this is one place I really should have visited sooner than I did. Arunachal Pradesh in India’s far North East is simply divine. Nestled in the slopes of the Himalaya, this is where the mighty Brahmaputra gets its power. All of India’s North East is fascinating, which is why on my two journeys to this great country, I focused my efforts here. Arunachal Pradesh would be the jewel in the crown, and it is just a case of getting round the bureaucracy. Unfortunately, it is Indian bureaucracy…grr…

(From Rajkumma1220)

So there you have it. Ten places in the world that I have not yet visited, but would so love to. What do you guys think, and have any of you been to anywhere on this list?

And what would be your wishlist of places to visit? And anything you think I should have included on this list but missed out (and trust me, it was hard to compile). Answers in the comments below!

2 Comments

Filed under Goals, Hopes, places, travel

Lubiąż Abbey – a little walk round

On my last trip to Poland, I happened to visit Lubiąż Abbey, one of the largest Christian Complexes in the world and while today its Holy functions no longer exist, it is still a significant tourist draw in this part of Silesia. Of course, the day I went Siberia had decided to camp out in Poland (although it was still October) meaning that it was…well…cold when I visited the former monastery on the banks of the Odra.

A little history (my usual Wiki-Quote). The first Christian functions on this site were established around 1150. Like many parts of Silesia, its history is intertwined with the political wrangling that this part of Europe has found itself in. Lubiaz Abbey has come under the control of the Prussian States, the Polish, the Bohemians and even the Habsburgs of Austria-Hungary.

But it is during WWII that Lubiaz’s history come closer to the history in the UK. While occupied by Nazi Germany, Lubiaz’s vast underground complex was home to the engine factories for the V1 and V2 rocket bombs. This vast slave labour camp existed until the Red Army invaded. The Abbey itself fell into decay until 1989 and the fall of Communism. Restoration started and it is a process that continues today.

One little titbit about the Abbey was that in 1997 Michael Jackson visited Lubiaz. Rumour has it that his helicopter tour and stop-off was to see if he could buy the Abbey. Well, his offer was rejected. However, according to the guide who took us round, the visit was meant to be kept a secret, but the whole village (and most of the surrounding area) turned out to greet the King of Pop! Given the traditional Polish welcome of bread and salt, Michale Jackson was in Lubiaz Monastery for only 20 minutes. It is reported that he was astounded by the lavish interiors. Yes, I did go inside, but we were not allowed to take photos inside of the Abbey 😦

Yeah, I think you noticed it was snowing like crazy that day. Of all the days to see a top tourist attraction, I had to pick the one day in October where Siberia decided to decamp. Snow was everywhere, but luckily, having been bitten by the famed Polish cold earlier this year, I came fully wrapped up.

One little extra you will see at the abbey is an exhibition on old German trains. I do not exactly understand the reasoning behind it (other than the fact that Lubiaz was a hot tourist spot when it was called ‘Lubies’ and a part of Germany). Although I could not get exactly what everything was about, it was fascinating to see the old cultural links that used to exist between Silesia and its big neighbour to the west (something that is more evident in Wroclaw).

Getting there and away:

One word – car. It maybe only 40 miles or so from Wroclaw, but Lubiaz is a small village and it is difficult to get to. There are local (and infrequent) buses from the two nearest railheads in Glogow and Wroclaw throughout the day, but really, unless you have your own transport (or speak brilliant Polish), it is a pain to get here.

Accommodation here is non existent too, and the restaurant in the Abbey keeps limited opening hours, so plan your trip accordingly…

Leave a comment

Filed under europe, places, poland, travel

Flirting with the Polish Border at Frankfurt am Oder

Last month I was in Poland for the 8th edition of the Quest Europe film festival. Due to its location in Western Poland, Zielona Gora can be a bit of a pain to get to from its nearest Polish cities, but is surprisingly easy to get to from from Berlin across the border in Germany.

This is normally the way I go. Land in Berlin, take the train to the Polish/Germany border, walk across the border then head on a coach to Zielona Gora from the Poland side.

And of course, this being me, I have an illicit fascination with borders. And this point of the German/Polish border is one of the more fascinating parts of Central Europe, as well as one of the prettiest. Well, at least on the German side.

Germany has two Frankfurts. The first one is in Hesse in the west of Germany. Seat of the Euro, centre of the financial power of Europe’s largest economy. Big, brash and flash. The second Frankfurt is right on Germany’s eastern border in the impoverished state of Brandenburg. Frankfurt am Oder is small, shrinking and while rather pretty does not really have much to it. However, it serves as a very useful gateway to Poland, particularly if coming via road or rail. The Autobhan links with the Polish Highway network just outside the city. There are direct trains between Berlin and Warsaw that stop in the town. And, being across the border from the Polish town of SLubice, it is very easy just to take a walk over the Odra river, which also acts as the border in this case.


(Frankfurt Oder from the Polish (Slubice) side of the border)

Before the second world war, Frankfurt Oder covered both sides of the river. But after the border changes of 1945, the eastern portion of Frankfurt Oder became the Polish town of Slubice.

Slubice is, well, interesting. It is an ugly town, but it is very vibrant. People are utilising the border everyday, Germans are coming over all the time for cheaper goods, the Polish (and even some Germans) are crossing the border to work and study. And Slubice is definitely on the up. As soon as you arrive in Poland there are money changing shops, neon lights, bars and restaurants telling you to come over here. It may be the smaller of the two towns, but Slubice definitely has a sense of excitement about its border status, even if there are no longer checkpoints between the two countries.

However, on entering Frankfurt, you do not feel like you are on some border with another country. In fact, it seems like Frankfurt Oder itself decides to purposely ignore Poland as some rather embarrassing friend. If you did not know any better, this would just seem like any other impoverished Eastern German town with a shrinking population and not much else to do in town. It is quiet. And with 60,000 residents, Frankfurt Oder is small. But Frankfurt Oder is surprisingly pretty. Many parts of the town, particularly the area towards the river has been beautifully restored and like everything in Germany, Frankfurt Oder is shockingly clean.

Now while I would not make a beeline for Frankfurt Oder, it is worth spending a few hours here while waiting for a train or vice versa. It is a rather nice place to stop for a cup of coffee and because the town has been so beautifully restored, there are a lot of very nice places to wander through. And if you are in the town centre, there are a few hawker booths that serve cheap fare such as kebabs, pizza or…frankfurters…hehe…

As I said previously, there really is not much to warrant a special trip here. But for those looking for a cheap (and relatively easy) way to and from western Poland, going via Frankfurt Oder and crossing over to Slubice is a pretty good way to do so. If you have the time, the walk is not far. In about one hour you could probably walk through Frankfurt and Slubice and see everything that needs to be seen, or if you take it leisurely, it can be done in three or so hours, including a stop off for a coffee. Really, the two towns are quite small. I have regularly crossed between Germany and Poland this way and will be doing so later this year when I go back to film Great Brytania. And while I have seen all there is to see, I always like venturing back and forth to check out any details I might have missed.

Frankfurt Oder, getting there and away: Trains leave twice an hour from Berlin and take around an hour, costing €9.40. You can also hop on the Berlin/Warsaw express which call at the station. The rail station is around 15 minutes walk from the riverside/centre of town.

Poland/Germany Border: The Friendship Bridge links Frankfurt Oder with Slubice on the Polish side. It basically goes from town centre to town centre, and as there are no border controls, you can walk over it as many times as you like!

Slubice, getting there and away: The rail links to Slubice are terrible, and the only way is by coach. All the major places in Lubuskie are linked by coach including Zielona Gora and Gorzow. If you need to take the train, the town of Rzepin is a few miles away, reachable by taxi, and there are regular rail links all over Poland from here.

2 Comments

Filed under europe, places, poland, travel

Auf Wiedersehen Schonefeld? Not quite yet…

Well, this airport was not meant to be, but due to the oft delayed Brandenberg Airport project, good old Schonefeld is still operating and I was there last month when I went via Berlin to get to Poland. And even when Berlin’s new airport is opened, Shconefeld will still have a use, as the new airport is basically an extension of this site. A massive extension. New motorways and railway lines as well as a (massively planned) new Terminal building will take over from the funky, almost retro feeling airport that is currently Berlin’s secondary airport.

Berlin Schonefeld, being located just outside the eastern part of Berlin was the old East Berlin Airport. Built before the outbreak of WWII, it was the main airport of the old East Germany. As with everything in Berlin, there has been a hell of a lot of history with it. Also it was the hub for Interflug. Interflug? You know, the old East German airline offering quality flights to Czechoslovakia and Mother Russia! All right, enough old Communist jokes, but honestly, Aeroflot is the only major flag carrier to use Schonefeld. While Tegel is the place for the so called ‘Quality Airlines, Russia has insisted that history remains paramount and that it still uses good old Schonefeld, the airport it commanded for X-amount of years.

However, most of the sane world uses Schonefeld, not for the retro-Commmunist experience, but as it is the place that the ‘no-frills’ airlines use to fly into and out of Berlin. When I first went to Berlin in 2006, I flew in and out of Schonefeld, and it was my first taste of Germany. As I have been (now) a frequent visitor to Poland, I have used Berlin as my gateway to that country, and it is almost always Schonefeld that I fly into. In fact, I have used Schonefeld Airport more than any other European airport outside the UK.

I like Schonefeld. It is a small, simple airport that is very well connected to the city centre. Twenty minutes by the airport express or about 35 mins using two S-Bhan trains. And at €3 for a single ticket, it is relatively painless on the wallet as well. It can be a bit daunting at first, as the airport’s lack of bells and whistles makes for an unusually simple experience, especially when compared to the airports of other European cities. But that is what I like about Schonefeld, the fact that it is understated and simple to navigate. Although it was not really built to any great design, the airport does its job very well, and has handled the recent boom in low-cost European travel relatively well.

So what will happen to Schonefeld airport next year? Well, as Berlin Brandenberg airport will use most of SXF’s facilities, a lot of it will remain open, just transferred to the other side of the site. The old terminal buildings will remain in place for a bit, but they will be eventually knocked down. No loss there unlike the unusual Tegel which, although not practical for today’s travel, surely must rank with some architectural merit.

So that is that. I have to write up some travelogue of my time in Berlin this month, as I went to a couple of really excellent museums, and I have had a great time visiting this city recently. Ah, I must get onto the task!

Leave a comment

Filed under europe, places, travel

The Epping and Ongar Railway

Normally, my trips out every month involves a cinema visit and a look at how funky it is. However, this month’s cash was spent on what I would have to call one of my best days out ever! Really, I have never had so much fun as I did visiting the Epping and Ongar Railway, a Heritage Line just outside London that opened up in May this year. Really, I am proud to all myself a geek and I was so chuffed with the choo-choo trains on offer, so read on about a proper steam line running from Epping to Ongar.

There is a lot history on the internet about this. Here (with part 2) and here are probably the best two bits on the internet about this former stretch of the tube. Originally built by the Eastern Counties Railway as a branch of their lines from Liverpool Street station, this single track piece of railway was taken over by the London Underground as part of the New Works Program in the 1930’a.

However, the introduction of Green Belt legislation that effectively halted the outward expanse of London meant that this branch was never heavily utilised. It limped on as a poorly used branch of the Central Line before shutting down in 1994, couple of years before the introduction of new trains onto the Central Line.

It has to be said that this is the easiest (and cheapest) Heritage Railway to reach from London. Being on a former branch of the tube, you hop on the tube to get there, with the nearest station being Epping, on the Central Line. You can purchase your ticket when you get to Epping and is £13 for adults and £7 for the little ones, with a slight discount for online booking. The ticket is a rover pass which means you can travel as much as you like all the time. Get in early, as the first bus to the railway leaves Epping Station at 10am every weekend. During the Olympics, the Railway will be open daily.

The railway line is absolutely tiny, only 6 miles in length, with only two stations, but that does not matter. There are big choo-choo trains around, and anyone with kids (or geeks like me) will absolutely love travelling here. The first part of the experience are the incredibly ancient buses that trundle up and down from Epping Station towards North Weald, connecting travelers between the tube line and the railway itself.

These buses will take you through the rolling Essex Countryside to North Weald Station, which serves as the hub of the heritage line. From North Weald station there are two trains. The firt (and less significant of the two) is a train that goes to nowhere. It runs for the fun of it towards Epping, but never reaching there. From North Weald, this train will take you to Coopersdale, a tiny Hamlet outside Epping. As there are no alighting facilities, you have to remain on the train, but the railway hopes one day to punch through their line through to Epping proper to connect with the tube network. This part of the day can be considered a taster of the main attraction on the heritage railway…

Oh yes, the choo-choo train. From North Weald towards Ongar, right at the end of the branch runs the steam train. Normally. You got to give these guys a break, they have only just started up, so while they try to out on a steam service, it may not always be guaranteed. So or us, on the way towards Ongar, the train was steam, but it broke down by the time we had lunch, so we had to be hauled by disels on the way back. That is the luck of the draw, as this is a new railway, steam cannot be always there.

The flip side is that the staff are incredibly friendly, they have not been jaded by giving up their every weekend in the name of smoke and soot (and yes, even as a passenger, you will be filthy by the end of the day out). Plus, they day out is reasonably priced. The snacks are on the cheaper side of rip off (and try the locally sourced ice creams – absolutely delicious – my choice was honeycomb) and all in all, the day out is one incredible amount of fun!

You know, there are a ton of things I could go on about. How everyone is so friendly, how much fun it is to see the preserved buildings, or the trains waiting for repair. Trundling old buses through the country, and of course the steam trains themselves. You do not have to be a transport buff to enjoy the Epping and Ongar Railway – anyone and everyone will, young and old alike. One of the best days out I have had in years, and there is so much fun and history around, it is unbelievable.

The only thing is that Ongar and North Weald are not really designed for the influx of tourists. The facilities at both these places are limited, so bring a picnic (although I will recommend the Cock Tavern in Ongar for the child friendly bar staff, but stay away from the hideously lazy Mogul Curry House in the same town). This is very much a new attraction, so over the coming years, expect the local area (and the railway itself) to change beyond recognition, as this, London’s very own heritage steam line comes rolling into full service…

(Official website – here)

2 Comments

Filed under london, places, travel

Auf Wiedersehen Tegel? Not quite yet…

Yesterday was meant to mark the opening of Berlin Brandenberg Airport. One of Europe’s grandest construction projects, and at a price tag (so far) of 3 Billion Euro’s, Berlin Brandenberg possibly one of the more expensive construction projects currently happening on the continent. But, the airport is not open. And what was meant to be a not-so-fond farewell to the venerable Tegel Airport, is now, well, a mini-travelogue about my last two trips to the continent, both of which required me to going via Berlin’s Tegel Airport.

Tegel is a funny old airport. It is very much a child of the 1960’s and it feels like a mini LAX. But its roots lie in the Cold War, and in particular the Berlin Airlift. Located in what was then the ‘French Sector’ of West Berlin, the French government built the first part of the airport in 90 days, with the first flights landing on November 5th 1948, as part of the airlift.For the next six months until the lifting of the Soviet blockade, Tegel as well as the legendary Templehof in thr American Sector and R.A.F. Gatow in the British sector of Berlin kept the West Berliners supplied with everything.

And so for the next sixty years, Tegel became a mainstay of Berlin’s aviation reality. It was never as grandiose as Templehof, its more famous cousin in West Berlin, but it was far more useful, by having longer runways and so it was able to adapt to the jet age far more effectively. In the 1970’s, Tegel became West Berlin’s main airport, a title it has held even since reunification. Despite the larger Schonefeld Airport to the south east of the city of Berlin, the airlines that had established themselves in the Cold War decided that they wanted to stay put at Tegel.

Which was a shame, because, to be blunt, Tegel is an a**e hole of an airport. Tegel is small, poky, and very hexagonal while Schonefeld works well, albeit in a crowded fashion. And while Tegel is close to the centre of the city, it is not on a train line or on the U-Bhan. In fact, Tegel is a ride in not-too-much traffic on bus or you can fly around in a Mercedes Cab, if you have the desire.

So, to be honest, I was actually looking forward to the opening of the new Brandenberg Airport, as I was planing to use it in August when I head off to the Quest Europe Film Festival (I am a jury member for a second year in a row…). But it looks like I am to be denied that pleasure as Tegel, the great survivor, continue to serve the German Capital.

And serve it does. Tegel has 4 (or 5) fairly small terminals. Terminals A and B are the main two buildings, while Terminal C was built as a temporary structure. Five years later it is still going strong. Terminals D (and E) are in the same building, D being the departures and E being the arrivals. They are al interconnected which means if you arrive in one part of the airport, you should be able to walk to another part. But I was holed up in Terminal A for my experience of the 1960’s, and, well it was an interesting experience. The food is overpriced, and the selection is poor, but as Tegel never really gets too busy, the airport is actually quite relaxing. Also, in the modern-day jet age of ultra hyped terrorism, having individual security lanes for each gate (it is forced to do so by the hexagonal design of the airport) means that passport control and personal/baggage checks are actually pretty painless and quick.

The one thing that Tegel fails is in public transport. You can only get to Tegel by Car or Bus. I have done both, but as I drove on Easter Monday to the Airport, the lack of traffic gave me a false sense of security on just how easy it was to get there.

For those without their own transport, you can get a bus to Central Berlin, but it will be an interesting ride on the Tegel Bus (numbered TXL after the airport’s code). Exit the arrivals hall, and find the bus stop. Use the ticket machines, or if you are lucky, there is a man in a booth For those wanting just a single ticket, the ride costs €2.30 into town. Or (as Tegel is in the city limits) get a Zone A+B Travelcard. Do not forget to validate the tickets when on the bus. On the was you will ride through the bredth of Turkish Berlin, and the bus will innevitably get crowded as it also serves as a regular commuting route for the locals. In the end, the TXL bus will drop you at all the important bits in Central Berlin, allowing you to transfer onto the tube or rail network. But, as there still is another nine months or so until the New Berlin Airport opens up, this is going to be the classiest way to get into the German Capital…

2 Comments

Filed under places, travel