high above Berlin
All pictures taken with: Olympus Pen E-PL3 and Panasonic Lumix 20mm f/1.7 ASPH.
On Friday I travelled from San Sebastian back to Berlin. Honestly, it was a journey from hell. I was supposed to land at Tegel airport, but just as we were approaching Berlin the pilot made an announcement that Tegel was closed due to an emergency landing. We were being diverted to Schönefeld airport which is in the far south of Berlin, at the other end of town. I already saw myself trying to figure out trains and wondered whether I should take a cab from somewhere, so that I wouldn’t have to deal with luggage on the subway. However, I was being rather optimistic there. It turned out that Schönefeld airport just didn’t have enough ground crew to deal with all those extra planes from Tegel. For one hour they couldn’t even get stairs to the plane to let us get off. The planes to the left and right from ours were in the same predicament. My thoughts of trains and cabs inevitably shifted to the evacuation slide. Finally after one hour the pilot made another announcement. Apparently the best solution would be to refuel and fly to Tegel after all, because it would take at least another 1 1/2 hours to get us off the plane, not even thinking about luggage or transportation to Tegel yet. The announcement caused quite a bit of laughter. Imagine your plane lands at an airport and nobody comes to let you out! It’s almost like a rather absurd hostage situation. Ironically for safety reasons refuelling is only permitted with the stairs in place, so after half an hour escape seemed finally possible. However, since there was nobody there to handle the luggage or even let us into the seemingly abandoned airport building, we were stuck anyway.
The whole situation was somewhat ridiculous and surreal, especially since the only food I had left was half a raw courgette meant to go with my dinner that apparently was still ages away. Then finally …
“We welcome you to our flight from Berlin Schönefeld to Berlin Tegel. [-applause-] The flight-time will be approximately 15 to 20 minutes. Please switch off your electronic devices now …”
[-20 minutes later-]
“… We are delighted to FINALLY have managed to bring you to your destination [-applause-] … and thank you for your patience.”
In Tegel it was the fastest I ever got my luggage – it was basically already waiting for me when I entered the building – but of course that couldn’t make up for lost time. And just as my thoughts started to revolve around cabs instead of the courgette one big problem manifested itself. There were no cabs and the queue for getting one looked about half an hour long. Swearing I made my way to the bus stop and waited another 15 minutes, while pondering why the 10°C lower temperature in Berlin seemed like it was approaching freezing. By now my mood was rather subterranean and the [expletive deleted] guy eating a kebab on the bus while my stomach was grumbling definitely didn’t help matters, even though I would never eat kebab! Ah, believe me, there is no more appropriate way of arriving in Berlin than hearing a youth shouting Turkish insults into his mobile phone for 10 minutes followed by having someone else stink up the bus with kebab and then finally watching this same person drop something on the floor and eating it anyway.
Another 20 minutes later I finally arrived at the bus stop near my house. You can’t imagine how very long a 10 minute walk can stretch when you’re absolutely exhausted and have to drag two suitcases behind you while you’re freezing off your bum. The first thing I did when I came home was to sit down on the sofa with a big sigh. And that’s exactly where I stayed for the next hour or so, because I just couldn’t face the thought of getting up on my feet again. At around 12pm I finally managed to drag myself to the kitchen to prepare some dinner and soon later I devoured a chicken leg with … dun dun dunnn … half a roasted courgette.
Well, the silliest part of the story is probably that the plane that had caused my journey to take 13 hours instead of 9 or 10 actually had no apparent fault at all. There had been smoke in the cockpit, which is why the emergency landing happened, but when the firefighters arrived, it was gone. They checked with heat sensors, but apparently there was no problem whatsoever.
You see, this is a story of absolute and utter incompetence, which one nowadays can easily associate with Berlin’s airports after the disastrously failed attempt to open a new one last year – with some luck it might open 2015, but at some point I also heard talk of possibly tearing it down again because of its dismal fire safety arrangements. Oh the irony! Not without cause one of the stewardesses joked during one of the many announcements that we must have landed at the yet to be finished airport instead of Schönefeld.
Ah, Berlin, it’s good to be home. (Translation: “I think it’s time to move.”)
PS: No, your eyes are not deceiving you, these pictures are actually in colour [Space for sufficiently exasperated gasps here]! In my defence, although it might seem rather out of character, this Stalkeresque display actually strikes me as a rather appropriate fit for this surreal experience.