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  • Ashleigh Ogilvie-Lee

Blog 3 - My new hair and my three legged bag go to Checkpoint Charlie!

I woke up at 5am in my very small room where Sammie and I won't be able to pass each other at the end of the bed, so one of us will have to walk over it if the situation arises. The wardrobe is small and there are only three hangers. I have worked out that Sammie can have one shelf and can put things like knickers, socks, etc. in the safe. I learned to use a Nespresso coffee machine for the first time. I wrote for a couple of hours, but Berlin is calling me. I stepped outside and then inside to get a coat as it is very cold. I have two important missions today: to get rid of the patch of grey which looks like a small pet mouse that travels with me and to find a wheel for my Samsonite suitcase, which is preparing for a long train trip to Gare Est.

I have been directed to the Alexa shopping mall, which is about 200 metres down the road and looks like a faded Disneyland building. It is 8 am, and the centre opens at 10. I go looking for cafes, but most of them have little Nespresso machines and pastries with jam and hard black bread sandwiches like Peter the Goatherd in Heidi ate to sustain him all day. There are a lot of Starbucks like in China. I eat the sweetest bircher muesli and apple strudel because the strudel sounds German, although I think it's Swiss or Austrian. When I say sweetest, it is sweet in a way we don't sweeten things anymore. But the Germans love sweet stuff, and every time I turn around, they are popping big white sugar lumps in their drinks. I look away, but they keep staring. Germans are big starrers, and their eyes never change this sort of blank look, even if they are smiling or angry. I sit in the window with my strudel and coffee, never daring to ask for oat milk in a tulip cup half full, and watch the bicyclists who are such happy people and so in tune with their bikes. They are like little ponies. They lounge on them, push babies and pets on them, talk to others with one leg hanging languidly over the side, and the "like it or leave it" no helmets policy is reassuring as it means running over cyclists is not a national sport like it is in NZ. Rules seem lax in certain areas, and Jamie says while in Australia and NZ, lifeguards at pools are compulsory even when grown professional water players are playing, there's not a lifeguard in sight in German pools.

There are not many cars on the road as it is easier, friendlier, and more environmentally kind to share trams, buses, and trains.

I find a hair salon, and a boy who looks about Wolfie's age and is called Carl examines the mousey grey in my hair. He has braces. His English is perfect. He speaks English, Spanish, and German perfectly, all learned off Tube and school, and French learned from being born there. His co-worker, Florina, arrives, and she does my hair, and I do Duolingo as she doesn't speak a word of English.

After my hair, I go back to the hotel for my poor old bag as I have found a bag repair shop. The taxi drops me at the repair shop, and it is shut. The shop lady next door says it's been shut for 3 years, and I must go to the Berlin Mall, which is beside the Berlin wall. My bag and I have an unsuccessful trek through the mall. The only thing fun was meeting a small cowboy in the key cutting shop. I go into another bag shop, and a girl takes me aside, gives me a piece of paper, and whispers, "Go here at 12 pm on Friday, and they will fix your bag." I'm not sure if I will as it sounds like a sinister and underground sort of arrangement for a missing wheel. I'll see if Jamie is playing water polo.

I take my bag to Checkpoint Charlie as we are right in the Checkpoint Charlie district, and some tourists say, "Photo," and I thought they wanted to take a photo of me with my bag, but then realized they wanted me to take one of them, so I did and then made them take one of me and dear old bag. It is hard to believe this wall was started in 1961 and demolished in 1994 and that people just let it happen, but I think we all learned from the pandemic that we just do what we are told by our leaders. There were a lot of people there, mainly young people, and it was awkward getting close with my bag, but there was one particularly sad photo of such a pretty young girl. The words under it said, "Soviet forced laborer in a Siemens factory around 1943." Forced laborers from the Soviet Union were identified by the label "Ost" (east) sewn on their clothing. They had to work in gangs and were housed in closely guarded camps. After the war, Stalin said they were traitors and would not allow them to return to the Soviet Union. I feel so sad for Leo and understand why he cannot come here. Jamie says he doesn't think they had it too bad, and it would have been worse to be on a gulag. I say, "Jamie, these children were stolen from their homes at 15 and never saw their families again." He says that wouldn't be too bad either, but I think he's joking with me.

I return to my hotel with my bag still with 3 wheels and have a Caesar salad and go to sleep, which I shouldn't as it's only 4, but I can't stay awake. I awake two hours later and feel hot and a bit sad. I go downstairs and tell the man at the desk that my doesn't work, and he is so apologetic and upgrades me to a big room where Sammie and I will be able to pass each other easily at the end of the bed. The bar lady smiles at me with her staring German eyes and says I will like the gazpacho soup, and I am sweetly touched that she is making a small effort with this lonely woman who sits at the bar drinking wine and staring at the menu. I eat it with the compulsory Turkish bread and tell her it is delicious, which it is. I go and organize my new room quite noisily, and a short-haired frau waving a beer glass opens her door and scowls at me.

I haven't caught up with Jamie but am cycling around Berlin in the morning and then hopefully seeing him as I haven't really talked to anyone much since I arrived.

Enjoy the photos:

Me and my three legged bag!

Markt, home of the best hairdressers in Germany.

How cool is this guy!

German female shoe fashion:

What is this?!

The sweetest breakfast.

The Berlin Skytower.

Checkpoint Charlie

228 views7 comments


May 09, 2023

We just love your blogs Ash, we can’t wait for the next instalment ❤️. You sure have a great way of viewing and writing things, keeps us in fits 😂. Waiting for No.6 🙏.


May 06, 2023

Keep the blogs coming. Where is blog 4??? The suspense is killing be!!


Rebecca Macky
Rebecca Macky
May 06, 2023

Hi Ash, Peter’s phone no is +4917653243827. Try calling him, he‘d love to hear from you! Rxxx


May 06, 2023

How refreshing to find whimsy and irony in a travelogue, looking forward to each episode. Tonight will not be watching simpering Charles and Hipkins, but going to bed with the crossword. Hope Mother's Day catches up with you! XXWG


May 05, 2023

Hi there Asele, I can't believe you are sharing a room with Sammie - poor Sammie, does she know what'll happen if she makes the tiniest annoying noise at any time of day or night? Her future will be in peril! Your stories take me back to frightening memories of trying to find a coffee that I can drink and something that I can eat without making a fool of myself when I am in Spain. The little things can be so challenging. And our little routines from home become very important. We are at Pakiri on a very grey drizzly day with a wood splitter to cut some very big logs into usable wood for the fire. …

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