With only a couple of days in Berlin to go, there was still much of the city to see. So what better way to cover ground than tour Berlin in a Trabi! Trabi? You know…the famous German automobile that filled the streets in the 60’s and 80’s. Don’t worry, we’d never heard of them either!
We made our way to Trabi World and waited for our group leader. This was no ordinary tour. The leader drove a Trabi upfront and you followed in your very own Trabi. You drove round the City and he would communicate with you via a radio with lots of useful information. Great in theory. It was cheaper the more people you had in your car but for Stef and I, it cost us €39 (£32) each for the East side tour.
There was only us and another group so the leader got to spend longer with us explaining how the car works. We were told to bring our driving license along to prove that we could drive but no one checked! We got to pick our own Trabi out of what seemed like hundreds. Stef chose a leopard style paintwork which stuck out like a sore thumb! We got in our car and we were told how it worked. For you see, it is not like a modern car. It has no power steering, no ABS brakes, no airbags, no air-con, and no electric windows. The gear-stick was on the steering column, however, it wasn’t automatic. To change gears, you had to pull the stick towards you a little, then down to get 1st gear and up for 2nd. Sounds easy. However, for 3rd and 4th, you had to pull a little further towards you. There wasn’t a click or any indication as to what stage you were at and the tour guide told us the chances of putting it in a wrong gear and stalling were pretty high!
So when everyone was ready, we pulled away and out of the Trabi World yard. Together with the dodgy gears, a clutch that was pretty much useless and brakes that to activate, felt like your foot was going to go through the bottom of the floor, it sure was going to be an adventure!
As we started driving, we could hear the faint speaking of the tour guide coming out of a small speaker on the dash. We turned it up as much as possible, however, the sound of the engine was so loud, we could barely hear each other! As we drove around the streets of Berlin, he would rabbit away. I’m sure it was very interesting information, however, I was just grateful that I hadn’t crashed the car! One little thing that caught me out EVERY time was that the indicators didn’t turn themselves off when you went around the corner – Stef was assigned to indicator watch and told me when I’d left it on!
We stopped at a petrol station and popped the bonnet. It was here when I found out that it was powered by a 2-stroke engine. They’re not used much now apart from in model airplanes, lawnmowers, chainsaws and weed whackers! After filling up with part petrol and part magic liquid that came from a bottle, we were back on the road.
These cars were not the fastest things, however, at no point did any of the German motorists get angry with us and use their horn. I guess they are just used to the tour groups. We did get quite a few friendly people waving at us.
We drove around the city for about 30 minutes, seeing all sorts of buildings and even went past the East Side Berlin Wall Gallery to see famous dictators kissing.
As we went to pull into the yard, the other group missed the turning. “That’s okay” said the tour guide, “Just drive around the block”. Well, I’m guessing they also couldn’t make out his talking either as they just slammed it in reverse and went up the curb. They were literally diving fully on the pavement for about 50 metres! Crazy.
To finish our Trabi adventure, we were both given a Trabi driving Licence as a souvenir!
Right next door to the Trabi World base was the Berlin Balloon. For €19.90 (£16) you could float up 150m in a tethered helium filled balloon! I couldn’t wait to do it, Stef on the other hand, with her fear of heights, decided to sit this one out. I think it also had something to do with the big “DIE” on the side of the balloon in 10ft high letters…
It took a few minutes to get to maximum height and when we did, the views were amazing. The viewing platform was a big circle, and you moved around freely (not like the seats in the Observation Tower in Cancun). It was the perfect place to get out the zoom lens…if my one worked…
It had gone past lunch and we were absolutely starving. Which worked out perfectly as we had booked a table at the Berlin Television Tower (the Fernsehtum). The tower is 368m tall, built in 1969 and has a revolving restaurant at the very top which would complete one revolution per hour. We’d obviously paid for the fast track and window seating. There’s no point in going there to not have a view! After a short walk through the scenic city, we made it.
We were shown to our table and the view was amazing. It was a cloudy sky but the visibility was brilliant. Our waiter came and collected our drinks order. I went for a manly Berliner Weisse (it was raspberry beer). Stef went for a nice large glass of red wine. The menu had no pictures and when I saw our waiter carrying probably the campiest glass, I knew that was mine. Why couldn’t they have just put it in a normal pint glass???
For starters, Stef went with the beef carpaccio with the parmesan, rocket salad and Szechuan pepper ICE-CREAM! I went with the prime boiled beef consommé with wasabi and black pudding. They tasted absolutely delicious. After we’d finished starters, Stef decided to entertain me until our next course. How did she do that? Well, she knocked over her nearly full glass of red wine. It went all down the wall, over the table and on her lap. It was like the corridor scene in the film The Shining! Amusing for me…not so for Stef as she had to sit in red wine soaked jeans for the rest of the meal!
For mains, Stef had the beef tenderloin, with ratatouille, potato rosti and three pepper sauce. I went for the roast saddle of lamb with mustard crust, with creamy polenta and orange slice. Neither of us wanted the course to end. Every mouthful was out of this world.
Looking out of the window, in the distance, we could see a massive rain cloud. You could even see the rain coming down in a very selective area. It didn’t take long before the cloud made it to us, resulting in multiple rainbows scattered around the area.
If we had left after the main course, we would have got soaked. So we just had to stay for dessert. I’m sure the chocolate sponge cake and the black forest gateau were sugar and fat free so it was alright.
Thanks to the dessert, the rain had passed before we had to leave. We made our way down the extremely fast lift and headed back to the hotel where we rested our slightly bloated bellies!