A Weekend in Berlin - Jul 13, 2017. Place:

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An early flight from Luton was surprisingly busy, not only on the flight but also at the airport.

The flight itself was uneventful but surprisingly swift and we touched down around 25 minutes early according to the pilot which was extremely good going considering it was one hour forty minutes flight time!

The weather forecast was not too good but we arrived around 0830am to a fine day and after negotiating passport control we headed to the city center via the Berlin rail system to our hotel.

After dropping off the bags and being allowed to check in early we were given our complimentary free transport pass for our duration (seems to be common practise on mainland Europe in the tourist areas but as usual not in the UK where it seems we would have to pay for fresh air if the tourist industry could get away it).

Heading out of the hotel we set off towards the Reichstag with Tony, having previously been to Berlin taking the lead and giving us the 'Guided tour’ we then moved on to the Brandenburg Gate to take a few photos before heading down towards Friedrichstrasse. We decided to stop off for a coffee on the way down and had one of those moments which make you smile for years afterwards. It turned out that the authentic German snackbar was run by an Italian who acted like he was in a New York Diner. A little abrupt without being rude he struggled to understand our order and then when he did he then started to turn other customers away as what turned out to be his brand new coffee machine only installed that day and which he told us cost him a small fortune decided to take an eternity to produce only one cup of coffee at a time.

We ended up changing our order otherwise we’d have been there all day while he kept leaving his stall to walk over to another stallholder waving his arms about and cursing in a mix of German and Italian, priceless.

We then set off towards our destination passing taking in the sights, including museums before arriving at Friedrichstrasse and having some traditional Curryworst for lunch. The weather was glorious so we decided to do a river tour before Tony and I decided to head back to the hotel for a break and the girls continued the sightseeing (Cathedral) before joining us back at the hotel.

 

Later on after showering and changing we took public transport to the historical Potsdam Plaza now known as the Sony centre where we had a nice alfresco German meal before indulging in some local ice cream. We caught the bus back to the railway station and had a nightcap at the hotel before retiring for the night.

 

Up early next morning we had breakfast in the main railway station which like most large stations in Europe was full of eateries of varying descriptions before taking a Berlin guided bus tour. There was a choice of two and without realising we paid for one but jumped on the bus for the other tour. This only became apparent as we were getting off at the end as it took half an hour longer than expected but was worth it advise were taken through various districts of interest including 'Checkpoint Charlie’s and the remains of the Berlin wall.

 

Tour over we then used our free transport passes to take the train to the old Olympic Stadium, now home to Hertha Berlin where we would be watching them play Liverpool in a pre season friendly. Both teams were celebrating their 125 year anniversary and we planned to get there a little early to have some lunch, a beer or two and soak up the atmosphere in what as another glorious day.

 

Now for those who travel in Germany it's easy to keep track of time given the time difference and we were no different apart from getting it 100% wrong and getting to the stadium a couple of hours early, which given the weather and the facilities just gave us more social time (as well as the ability to drink more beer in the lovely warm weather) so much so that by the time the game got underway there was a bit of a carnival atmosphere particularly in my head anyway. The reds didn't disappoint and showed off some of the attacking potential they were to unleash this season with Continuous, Mane and Salah charming the crowd on the way to a comprehensive win. Only a friendly though so no harm in enjoying it. Once the game finished we headed back into the city and found a bar / restaurant under the railway in the Friedrichstrasse district where we enjoyed a local delicacy 'Pork knuckle’ which to be honest slayed the three of us that ordered it (Sal plumped for the Wiener schnitzel) there was so much meat on each one it was hard to imagine how you could finish one in one sitting. We helped it down with a nice drop of red and a nice brandy before heading back for the night.

 

Final day arrived and flight back was scheduled for 10pm and last flight from Schoenfeld one of the two main airports in the city (another legacy of the cold war) so after checking out and leaving our luggage in  a secure room in the hotel we had breakfast in the main station and headed into the city. Sally and I visited the GDR museum which was a fascinating glimpse of Berlin  life before during and after reunification (well worth a visit) before heading by bus to see the remains of the Berlin  wall with all the moving graffiti before travelling to the Berlin Holocaust museum (I’ve visited quite a few over the years and this was just as moving) check this link for a better description than I could give you)

 

We then made our way back to meet Tony and Sandra and indirectly came across the Soviet memorial gardens which were quite impressive before finishing off our trip enjoying a few beers in the German equivalent of a beach bar (set up on the banks of the river Rhine)

 

We picked up our luggage and set off to the airport using our free transport passes via the train station and arrived there around 8pm, checked in and went straight through passport control. We had a bite to eat (not all that impressive) and struggled to find somewhere to charge our phones which were all pretty low. The few charging stations available were all taken by youngsters watching videos.

 

We sat in departures waiting for our time and noticed our flight had been delayed by an hour or so, such is life we just sat and waited and waited some more until five minutes after the last but one flight departed and it was announced that our flight was cancelled. Passengers were advised to return downstairs from departure gates to the easyJet desk which we did to find a long queue snaking back from the desk. We had no further news as more and more disgruntled and confused people joined the queue so after 10 minutes of no movement I walked to the front of the queue to find there was no one at the desk and the mood was getting a little fractious. easyJet weren't responding to emails, phones or social media attempts to contact them.

 

It was sometime after midnight when local German employees turned up (two people) and advise passengers what to do. Everyone needed to go online using the easyJet app. Register for flight disruption and a hotel for the night (if you couldn't arrange alternative flights home) you would then be placed in a queue while easyJet arranged accommodation. It was up to the passenger to arrange alternative flights home via another carrier or rebook on another easyJet flight. Seems logical apart from the following, No easyJet flights were scheduled until the Tuesday and there was no way it would have enough free seats, most people had little or no battery life in their smartphones due to the extended delay so had problems trying to access the easyJet app, there were a number of elderly people travelling who were left to their own devices, alone and confused by the whole episode and it was left to other passengers to offer help, the authorities in the airport were trying to close parts of it and certain passengers who had found electrical charging stations were evicted so the areas could be locked. Some passengers lost power on their smartphones before easyJet had found them accommodation and had to find ways and means to start the process from scratch. I eventually found flights at the Berlin Tegel airport to London at 7:30 the following morning, but they came at a premium price, it was also to London Heathrow which meant we had to get from there to Luton to pick up the car but we could see no alternative. I asked the easyJet advisor whether there was any limit on the ticket price and she could only answer me with 'there shouldn't be’

 

We decided it wasn't worth trying to get a hotel as it was after one o'clock in the morning and we would need to be at the airport for at least two hours before the flight as well as having to get over the other side of the city to the Tegel airport so we took a cab and set off.

 

Tegel airport was open but there was no cafes or any waiting rooms other than banks of seats which we used to try and catch a short sleep, we noticed a few other passengers from our original flight arriving in dribs and drabs, it turned out that some were using Luton as a stopover and were using different airports to try and reach their onward destinations. As it happened, we got the last seats on the Eurowings flight whereas one family group of eight Asians of varying ages had ended up finding a circuitous route via four different flights across Europe before landing at Luton.

 

Checking in for our flights was a little bizarre as the announcements were all in German and they changed lanes from the original designated ones but eventually we boarded and had a nice uneventful flight to Heathrow where we then caught a bus to Luton to pick up the car and drove home.

 

We said our goodbyes before Tony and Sandra set off home to Sheffield and we started to think of getting back to work. The other process we had to think about was getting back what we were owed from easyJet who despite being incommunicado so far had already returned our flight costs for the cancelled flights. I then found out the online process for claiming our expenses (within their guidelines) and possibly compensation (EU guidelines).

In simple terms you use an online form using your flight reference, a list of claim items and copies of receipts to back each claim item.

We did this and within 28 days received our expenses back but we're denied compensation as in their words, the cancellation was due to an Air Traffic Controller dispute which was out of their hands.

All in all it was a really enjoyable break and Berlin is well worth another visit, in fact I couldn't find fault with it and know there is much more to see and do and if I ever have the misfortune to experience another cancellation with Easyjet I will know exactly what to do, That said, I believe Easyjet Customer service left a lot to be desired to put it mildly. I mean, how difficult is it to have a fact sheet pre prepared at each easyJet airport desk outlining steps to take upon flight cancellations. 250 or so people including children and the elderly left to fend for themselves is a shocking indictment of their 'Customer comes first’ philosophy.

 

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Category: Europe | Posted by: The BabelCopter

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Mr BPosted by LiddelRed on 08/14/17
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