There’s a reason why Berlin hotels offer attractive room rates in January and February. Nobody wants to go. It’s cold. Colder than anywhere you’ve ever been. Think about how cold that is, then make it colder.
Did that stop me and my beloved from booking a fancy schmanzy hotel and first class travel to the once divided German capital? “We’ll wrap up warm,” I said. Prices like this are too good to miss.
On a Friday morning at the start of February, we boarded the aptly named ICE train at Amsterdam Central. Fellow passengers wore the sorts of fur-lined coats, hats and boots favoured by Cossacks and those used to sub-Arctic conditions. It was the first hint we might have it wrong.
Six hours later, Berlin’s Hauptbahnhof loomed. Thrilled by the architecture, we rushed into the open air. Iconic buildings everywhere. OK, it was a tad chilly – bone-numbingly cold, in fact. But what the heck, we’d get a nice warm taxi to our nice warm hotel then find a nice warm bar for dinner and a few beers.
But back to the main event. I can’t stress enough.
It was cold.
On our first evening, searching for somewhere, anywhere to eat, we walked miles. “Please can we go in somewhere, anywhere,” I begged, as all feeling below the waist vanished. Eventually, we did what all good culture vultures do when in Germany. We ate Greek. I fought back the start of a sniffle.
Our cunning plan to beat over-enthusiastic central heating by opening a window, left our room feeling like a fridge. I ran a hot bath. I got into the hot bath. I noticed the bathroom floor was two inches under water – as was our room. I heard loud explosion of travel iron fusing entire wing of hotel followed by angry hammering on door.
We were moved to a room that had all the charm of a wrestler’s spittoon. ‘It’s the only room left,’ snapped the fräulein on reception, who was already miffed at having to deal with a queue of disgruntled guests. Guests who found themselves without water or electricity. They knew whose fault it was, she’d told them.
The next morning at breakfast, conversation stopped as we walked in. People nudged each other and muttered in the hotel lobby. In shops, I’m certain fingers were pointed. I swear a woman in a Cossack Hat said, ‘That’s the pair who fused half the lights in the city.’
And it was still cold.
By Sunday morning, a sniffle gave way to flu. Not man flu. The real thing – throwing up, shivering, aching all over, unable to get out of bed flu. ‘Rooms must be vacated by ten,’ insisted reception. The implication being that their pet Alsatians wanted their beds back.
The train journey back was miserable. The carriage was like a mobile chest clinic, with fellow travellers coughing and wheezing and groaning into Amsterdam, where I took to my bed and vowed to never again book anything that seemed too good to miss.