AA on the road: Day 1 – Buying the car in Berlin

Day 1: August 27, 2015
Time: 04:30
Location: Copenhagen, Denmark
Destination: Berlin, Germany

The dawn is about to break. Despite catching just 4 hours of sleep we wake up fresh as morning dew hyped from joy and the anticipation of the wide road that lay in front of us. After months of dreaming, worrying, planning, drawing, reading, searching, and dreaming again our big adventure is about to start.

Rewinding a few hours into the evening before, Andreas, the packing-master did an impeccable job of cramming our month’s of travel essentials into two medium-sized The North Face duffle bags. As he pulled the zipper shut on the bags in the late hours of the night, I had two thoughts:

1. Andreas is the Yoda master of packing! Seriously. Every inch of what to me seemed a rather small bag, was masterfully utilised. Every nook and cranny was neatly packed. Every single item we wanted to bring found a home. If there was ever a championship for packing, he would with no doubt win the title. You will discover more excellent proof of this later on as he artfully packed all the goodies of Armenia from lavash, peach, grapes to jams and wine into a 20 kg suitcase.

2. How on earth did I go from doing a weekend travel with a fully packed North Face bag to the same fully packed North Face bag rationed for one month of travel! Insane. I must say at that moment I secretly felt rather proud of myself for developing traits that helped me to exercise self-discipline on my urge of packing ah these 3 cannot travel without dresses, and oh that absolutely essential t-shirt collection, and 3 pairs of shoes… Don’t be fooled, it was a darn hard struggle, firmly led by the packing master, Andreas. After a month on the road though as I was unpacking the bag I found that there were even clothes I simply didn’t manage to wear throughout the trip. Ah girls…

Back to the morning after. We have a flight to catch. We are going home. To Berlin. Our home for a year and a city that has become the site of our annual pilgrimage since then. Quite symbolically Berlin is what we chose as the start of our road trip.

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This oh-so-familiar corridor at Tegel airport in Berlin. Magical city, here we come!

One hour on an AirBerlin plane, and we are taxiing to the gate of TXL. This airport is not one of the world’s most glamorous, but oh it is so efficient. 5 minutes in and out the door and you are on your way to a TXL airport bus taking you into the city that has so much to offer, to amaze and to make you fall in love with.

Our mission for the day is to locate and secure our ride. A rather important mission, given a car is an absolutely essential attribute of accomplishing a road trip. After many hours of online search Andreas had already shortlisted three potential candidates for us to check out. We naively thought that it would not be such a hard task buying a used car, after all it is civilised, law-abiding Germany we are talking about. But oh no… Berlin car dealers. Many pages could be dedicated to this particular segment of the city’s population. We will suffice with only a brief summary of probably the most intense day of our trip.

Around 11:00 we arrive at the first address, a huge impound, somewhere in Neukölln to check out the first candidate, an old Mitsubishi. After just a few seconds on the site we already felt like we were in Turkey. After some Turkish/Arabic exchange of screams among the various dealers, we are finally shown the right car dealer who possessed the Mitsubishi from the online ad. But the first attempt is almost never a success. Voila the car miraculously broke down yesterday and of course the dealer did not even bother to remove it from the online system or even try to fix it. Disappointed we leave the impound, off to the second location.

This one is half-way across Berlin somewhere in Südkreuz. This time the impound, or rather the car yard, was a much smaller site, with only a few exhibits. The dealer – another Turkish member of the Berlin car mafia, constantly on the phone and constantly screaming. In between those calls he showed us the car – a scratched, beaten up, plastic parts broken off Land Rover. Test drive did not make it better. After futile attempts to try to say thank you and good-bye to the dealer, who did not even bother to interrupt his 20 min and counting conversation, we left the premises to find the third car place.

Seems like we arrive at the hornet’s nest run by a Lebanese familia. Ali was the man who was juggling around a couple of bosses. He had many cars for sale, and among them with a dead battery parked behind a couple other cars, stood our beauty, an old, very old Land Rover Freelander. For Andreas it was love at first sight. His eyes were set on it and only on it.

After 3 hours spent walking around in the impound, being called kollega left and right, witnessing many phone calls, negotiations, Polish buyers, money flying around, and observing firsthand a closely tied network of dealer-car workshop-paper fixer, we were finally taken to a werkstatt where cars were piling on each other. So Andreas’ dream car was deemed unfit to pass the TÜV test, the German car test that is needed for obtaining a car registration. We drive back to the impound, and after some more hours and many more phone calls and a brief meeting with the Big Boss himself we negotiate a price and a plan to make the car ready for us by Saturday, the day we would like to start our drive towards Czech Republic.

After a total of 5 hours on the impound, feeling exhausted, hungry and dusty we were released to enjoy the evening in Berlin.

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Exhausted. 5 hours with Gebrauchtwagen händler in Neukölln finally paid off. Maybe? Awaiting TÜV test and Ausfuhrkennzeichen.

Every time we visit Berlin, there is one special place that we always return to: Sony Center & Potsdamer Platz. If you have been to Berlin, you will probably say just about now, but that is so touristy, why, oh why? Well, yes it is. Potsdamer Platz is quite popular amongst the crowds of people visiting Berlin. The Berlin Wall once ran here. We love it for two reasons: #1 it houses the Sony Center, a beautiful piece of architectural mind. We have our beloved spot, lying on the metal benches under the center’s colourful roof, surrounded by all the life passing by, and gazing dreamily at this sky… And that is exactly what we did to release the long day’s exhaustion.

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There is no place like this – Sony Center

#2 is the sight of the three skyscrapers of Potsdamer Platz. Somehow standing there on that busy sidewalk, at the crossroads of Berlin’s turbulent history, looking up at these three buildings, you think back on the past and look forward to the future.

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Potsdamer Platz in evening light.

So here we where, in the midst of enjoying pizza at our usual pizza joint on Potsdzmer Platz, when Ali the car dealer, tracks us down to sign some papers for the car registration and receive cash, of course more than initially agreed for the broker’s service, another guy in the familia, to handle the registration for us with a small price bump along the way. After a really long day, we say good night to Berlin, hoping that the morning after will come with good news…and hopefully no more last-minute pricing surprises.

Photos © Andreas Eriksen & Ani Movsisyan

Tisvilde Hegn – where the forest meets the beach

Zealand is so much more than its pretty capital, København. It is castles, cliffs, small and picturesque towns… It is also vast forests that suddenly open up into wild waters of sea. This latter kind of landscape is what I associate with Denmark most. Forests-turn-beaches!

If we didn’t live in the era of Google Maps and well maps in general, I imagine the surprise we would experience when under our feet the mushy soil of forests transforms into sand of Danish beaches… when the pine trees disappear into sand dunes… when the green forest veil is lifted up and blown away by the undulating waves of the sea. This scenery amazes me every single time.

Tisvilde Hegn, nested on the northwestern shores of Zealand, is one such place. Well it is actually more, to the perfect forest & beach union it also adds a touch of history, with fortress ruins and lost villages.

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Asserbo Slotsruin – here once stood a fortress and a monastery, in the 1100s. Some 600 years later it surrendered to the mighty sands blowing from the beach.

Into the deep, deep forest

Forest elves holding a meeting

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Stillness of nature

Love in the forest – our Lithuanian friends, Karolis & Aiste

Believe it or not here once stood a small village with rich and not-so houses. But there came the sands again and took control. Pity for the owners, true, but on the other hand, the beautiful forest now stands intact.

Feels like a Game of Throne’s scene, but thankfully it isn’t, otherwise the flocks of fans would have already attacked this peaceful forest. It is a typical viking grave site.

At the end of this mushy forest path a surprise awaits…

… the wild waters of Kattegat! It was crazy windy, incredibly beautiful and peacefully deserted.

Embracing the wildness!

Feel the power!

Looks like we are searching for something…

The sea is bathing.

 

Harmony

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Sunset on the beach – looks very idyllic, what it doesn’t show is that we were quite close to being blown away by the frosty winds of the sea.

Photos © Andreas Eriksen & Ani Movsisyan

On the road in Southern Zealand – Vallø Slot

Flatness and prettiness are not mutually exclusive. Hard to imagine, but in flat as a pancake Denmark dramatic landscapes, pretty castles and beautiful nature are abound. I have not had a chance to travel extensively in this little country yet, well except from my postcard-perfect Bornholm and Zealand, but there is a lot to explore, especially if you have a car.

Somehow travelling in Denmark is not very attractive when you start doing the math of the crazy high transport / hotel / food prices. It has always been easier, read cheaper, to explore another European country, than venture out into the Nordic landscapes. Despite that, Zealand, where Copenhagen is perched onto, holds many day trip destinations.

Yesterday was one of the exceptionally beautiful winter days, when the sun was shining brightly and the winter air, though chilly, was refreshing. Carpe diem! Stevns Klint here we come :) But before we reach the beautiful cliff that made it onto the UNESCO World Heritage list just a few months ago, we took a picturesque route to get to our destination.

Margueritruten – my favourite road sign of all!

Margueritruten – remember this word and keep your eyes open for this sign when you want to turn your road / bike trip in Denmark into a beautiful experience. It is my favourite sign to find on the roads and whenever we are driving by I have made a funny habit to say “Oh look Margueritruten!”. This little flower will guide you to the most beautiful sights in Denmark taking you through small country roads, seaside drives, fields and just pretty nature. There is an iPhone and Android app and Politiken has made a travel guide for all the routes. So take your pick.

Following our Marguerit of the day we set the course towards Stevns Klint, but took a small detour by Vallø castle.

Beautiful scene from the Danish countryside

Vallø Slot is not one of the big landmarks of Denmark and up until now we did not really know about its existence. But just one look at it put this castle on our beautiful-Danish-castle list. Yes, we do keep such a list, albeit in our memory :) It is not very imposing such as Kronborg or Frederiksborg, yet it has such a charming composition. Red bricks, round tower, moat running around, small bridges are all charmers.

Vallø Slot – main entrance

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The castle dates back to 1579. The verified rumour has it that it has been built to house Danish noble women, very posh indeed. When you walk into the inner courtyard, take a moment and observe the main entrance door to the castle. The luxury looking golden plate has resident names on it. Yes! Some people get to call this castle home today. Certainly a fancy address to have.

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Our royal portrait :)

Sød som jordbær, aka Hanne, and I posing in the park :)

I love round towers. This one here immediately went to the top of my favourite list. Just look at those faces gazing at you. I have never seen such a combination before. I wonder who these people are, but they definitely give a certain charm to the building.

The lonely balcony – charming from afar, heart-pounding when you come closer. Not sure how firm that structure is.

Small pond by the castle

It is a very nice detour and definitely provides for a quieter experience than the usual trio of Rosenborg – Frederiksborg – Kronborg. Though by the castle there is a park, which has become a favourite with dog owners, so expect to see much commotion in that area.

Next up is Stevns Klint, a beautiful piece of nature that is many million of years old. To be continued…

Photos © Andreas Eriksen & Ani Movsisyan