Day 14 – Mon 19 Apr 2010 – A Kafkaesque Experience

Went into the city and registered at the Australian embassy; just in case the volcanic plume thing extends for a long time. What a ridiculous experience! Their security appears to use former East German border guards. Had to open up all my pockets, open up my rucksack contents, and go through a metal detector system. Having done all that I then walked no more than two metres to the receptionist and filled in a form.

Another view of my hotel room in Berlin

I asked if they had any Intel on the situation with the volcano. They didn’t and seemed shocked at the suggestion they had any role in doing so. I mentioned that I was fine, but at the hotel I had met an Australian couple (the wife with a broken ankle) with two children who were planning to hire a car and drive to Rome for just the remote possibility of a connection with a Qantas flight. I mentioned it purely for interest. The embassy staff response was astounding. The woman gave me an annoyed look and said almost angrily “Well, Australia can’t do anything about that”. I was gobsmacked.

Heaven help you if you ever needed real assistance. They go on and on about how you should register with Smart Traveler. Can’t see much point if that’s their idea of service! What is it exactly we pay taxes for DFAT to do?? There’s one Australian government department that really seriously needs to have a good hard look at itself. No-one expects miracles from them, but they could at least express a mild level of interest. What a pack of losers!

The hotel in Berlin was delightful. This was on the breakfast room wall. It says, Man does not have to understand the world, just find his right place in it.

I checked accommodation in Hamburg and Cologne, which earlier was booked out. Both now report they’re OK, except for those places near airports. (By the way that info was given to me, very courteously, as a response within 15 seconds of making a single phone call to each city’s tourist office.)

The arty deco of the breakfast room and the ‘self-serve’ bar.

Deutsche Bahn and Lufthansa have really impressed me. I’ve gotten used to the German rail system by now and it’s obvious that they’ve put on many more services, brought in extra staff, and attached more carriages to trains to cope with the extra workload. They also did a deal with Lufthansa whereby their airline tickets are ‘good for train’. No fuss, just show up with your air ticket and get on board. The lines I saw earlier at Berlin Hauptbahnhof have disappeared within only 24 hours. Are you listening DFAT?

The airline have apparently also threatened to sue the government for losses on the basis of imposing vague blanket shutdowns of airspace instead of ordering test flights and basing their decision on actual scientific evidence. Those test flights are done and soon flights are running again. Way to go, Lufthansa!

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