We had breakfast at the hotel today, just took it easy and finished up about midday. We had a 6pm flight so that meant we had about 4 hours to fill up. So first up we stored our bags in Hauptbahnhof and then got the S-Bahn down to Potsdamer Platz, a big CBD type area with a large dome/sail type structure over a big square. It was okay, I can imagine on a sunny day it would be really nice with blue sky and light streaming in...but today it was grey and cold so I think it lost something. So we went back to the central part of Berlin and went to Hackescher Markt, a busy shopping area that isn't all up market labels, but stalls and boutiquey type shops. It was nice just to wander around through the leaves on the ground, taking in the area. The difference between Berlin (and most European cities) and Sydney is that people actually live in the city. Sydney is built around a CBD and on the weekend it's a ghost town because everyone is back in the suburbs. In Europe there's no real distinction between residential and commercial/business. So people live above and next to offices, restaurants, shops. The advantage is that you walk out of your house and you're in the thick of it straight away.
We did a big loop back to Hackescher Markt station and did the only thing we hadn't done in Germany that we had wanted to do: sit down and have Bratwurst with a beer. So we sat outside with a Bratwurst roll from a street vendor and downed a Berliner Kindl. We decided we should head back to pick up our bags from the station as we had a train to catch in 20-25 mins. Within 4 minutes of making that decision, we had already got to the platform, caught a train and then travelled the 2 stops to HBF station. Berlin transport is great.
We flew to London Gatwick and I was expecting the worst from the UK Immigration, but I think my frequent UK Visa stamps (and subsequent exits from the country) may mean that they finally trust me. The first few times they didn't mind grilling me at all. So we got the train to Victoria, then to Streatham Hill where Kenan (Andy's cousin) was waiting for us. It was great to see Kenan again after only a year and I finally got to meet his fiancee Karolyna (or Kaz) for the first time. She joked that she thought I might have been Kenan's secret lover because of our previous dinners/beers together and her lack of introduction to me! Last but not least we got to meet their son Benjamin for the first time, his 1st birthday tomorrow. It was really good to be with family again, and to just catchup, talk crap and have a few drinks over a nice homemade curry.