Friday, 25 May 2007

Köpenick, Rahnsdorf, and Aldershof

(Not one of my photos but by German Wikipedia contributorAndreas Steinhoff. It is of the Köpenick Rathaus.)

Today we learned a new word; Ersatzverkehr, or replacement transport.

We started the morning in Alt Köpenick, me with a delicious 'Becher' of walnuts and ice-cream. Today we had two properties to view with estate agents, but first we wanted to check out this South Eastern area of Berlin on the opposite banks of the river Spree. The Altstadt has the charm of a sleepy seaside port, whereas Köpenick itself is a busy bustling town. What we should have paid attention to were the roadworks along the tram-lines, because our plan was to take our time going from Köpenick, up North and East alongside the Müggelsee, to our first viewing appointment at mid-day in Rahnsdorf. Normally, that wouldn't be a problem, but today the roadworks were causing disruption to the transport system big-time, and we didn't know where to catch the correct Ersatzverkehr laid on to replace the tram service.

Miraculously we made the appointment only a few minutes late (though a few minutes late to a German is important!). Neither the estate agent or the owner spoke anything more than a few words of English, and our German is pretty poor, so it was rather a pantomime of trying to explain ourselves in sign language and pointing at things. But they were both utterly charming, and they showed us around their beautiful, but small, house. The owner said (I think!) that he'd lived there for sixty eight years, which to put it in an historical persepctive, meant he'd witnessed the devastation of Berlin towards the end of WWII, and lived most of his life under Communist DDR.

The house in Rahnsdorf is in a great location, with forest and lakes around. And it has a beautiful garden with a pond well-stocked with giant koi that the cats would have liked, but ultimately it was too small. Perhaps it would be fine for just the two of us, but the layout and size wasn't conducive to having family and friends stay over, of which we expect a lot of.

The next house to see was in the south of the city, towards Alt-Glienicke and near to Schönefeld airport. We figured that this would at least be handy for people visiting us. We made our way down by S-Bahn to Adlershof and caught the airport bus service, which should have taken us right by this house. Well, Ersatzverkehr would have been welcome, because the bus got stuck in an almighty Verkehrstau (traffic jam). Not fun at the best of times, but with the heat sweltering on the bus, and an appointment to keep, we despaired as the bus inched forward.

We eventually made it, and only a few minutes late, but we were getting rather frazzled. Again the owner and the estate agent couldn't speak English, but we managed to muddle through. Actually, the house sold itself. It is very well laid out over three floors, with exceptional build quality and amenities. The owner told us he is Elektriker von Beruf, and it showed with the impressive lighting and sockets in every room.

What let this house down though is that it is rather too close to the main road. Apart from the noise when sitting outside on the otherwise very nice terrace, we wouldn't trust the cats not to try and cross the road; the same road that was snarled up with traffic trying to get to the airport. Also, a larger garden would have been more appealing.

Anyway, after the tour of the house and a chat in the garden we tried to get back into Berlin centre. We waited for the airport bus service, but after half an hour it was obvious it had got bogged down in the Stau. Either that or it had been withdrawn on health & safety grounds after one too many passengers had collapsed with heat exhaustion. So, Ersatzverkehr, we walked to Altglienike S-Bahn. On the way, we took in the local neighbourhood, and if the house we had seen had just been set a few tens of metres back from the road it would have been almost perfect.

That evening we went to an excellent Italian restaurant we know of in Prenzlauer Berg near the Kulturbrauerei (Culture Brewery - only in Germany!), and one we'll happily take you to when we have moved to Berlin for good. After that we did some window-shopping on the trendy Schönhauser Allee, then caught what we thought would be an S-Bahn to Alexanderplatz to finish up with cocktails. After going backwards and forwards to the next stop on the U2 in the opposite direction from Alexanderplatz, we realised that the announcement on the train was saying 'alles umsteigen' (everybody off!) and that dreaded word again, Ersatzverkehr. Yes, there had been work on the S-Bahn's as well today, and the S-Bahn service into the centre had been replaced with a bus. Well, stuff trying to find where the bus was leaving from, we piled into a nearby cocktail bar (The Chillout Lounge I think), and finished off the evening sipping ice-cold Caipirinha's. Himmel!

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