The Berlin Diaries

 Not a child care in the world

 Not a child care in the world

Day 1

11:00 a.m.: I pick up my girlfriends H and E on the corner near our school, at the intersection of 'Kid Life' and 'Everything Else in the World .' We head to the airport north of London where there's only one terminal and you can arrive fifteen minutes before your flight and still expect to get on the plane. Nonetheless, we manage to get separated in the security area. We find each other again in Boots, a big chain drug store, because we're all keen to buy miniature toothpaste and deodorants. On the way to our gate I purchase three enormous Toblerone bars for twelve dollars, and hope to get at least one of them home to Z.

12:00 p.m.: We're flying Ryanair, which isn't so bad ever since the duty free people convinced them to stop being such carry-on Nazis. Now you can take your luggage AND an enormous shopping bag full of perfume and vodka. The only thing I don't like about Ryanair is they can't be bothered to put pockets on the back of the seats. So you have to hold all your reading material, water bottles and chewed gum in your lap. 

3:00 p.m.: When we touch down at the airport forty minutes outside Berlin, we decide we can spare ten Euros each for the cab. We feel justified because we got this trip, two nights in a four star hotel with round trip flights, for about $200 each. The hotel, like a lot of Berlin, is blocky and full of neon lights and molded plastic furniture. After getting to our room, we politely negotiate which of us will share the queen bed and who will get the pull-out double. H swears she might snore and relieve herself more than once during the night, so we give her the couch. We unpack our bags and someone breaks into one of the Toblerones while I'm in the bathroom.

The sober-ish evening

The sober-ish evening

6:00 p.m.: We are ravenous so we head to the hotel bar and eat peanuts and drink wine. After an hour, the place is mobbed and we leave, each thinking the other has given the bartender our room number to pay for the drinks. Outside, even though it's still light out, every few feet there's a woman in iridescent tights and short shorts made of a form-fitting petroleum product. I can't stop looking at the way their legs shimmer as they stroll in their platform shoes out to the street to chat up a men in cars. We turn the corner and stumble upon a restaurant that takes the shabby chic rustica theme to an extreme.  They seat us on an overstuffed couch in front of a crumbling wall of brick, underneath an unfinished ceiling that looks as though an electrical fire ran through it a few days ago. Nonetheless, the food is lovely. We split a carafe of red wine and no one even thinks to mention the kids.

9:00 p.m.: We head to bed early in anticipation of a big day in the morning. We consume more triangles of Toblerone. Everyone pretends to go to sleep but in reality we're all so high on Swiss chocolate not even the alcohol can put us to sleep. 

Day 2

10:00 a.m.: After pretending we slept well we head to a restaurant called 'Einstein's' housed in an enormous old mansion, once owned by a Jewish family. A small plaque embedded in the sidewalk out front tells us so. This makes breakfast feel somber. We order two of the house specialty, a two-tiered plate of savory and sweet finger foods, like high tea in England but much heavier on the salami. H's old boyfriend from twenty years ago arrives with his new girlfriend. He appears preternaturally youthful and she looks as though she spent a few too many years walking naked around India. They will be our tour guides for the next few hours. 

Enough fuel to power a small posse of moms

Enough fuel to power a small posse of moms

12:00 p.m.: We walk to the Holocaust memorial, a disorienting labyrinth of twelve foot high concrete columns. If I stand still and look in any one direction, other humans appear and disappear from sight. 

Lost amongst memories

Lost amongst memories

2:00 p.m.:  The enormous image of a smiling American G.I. greets us at Checkpoint Charlie. What used to be a no-man's land between East and West Berlin is now an urban beach with an acre of white sand and canvass-covered lounge chairs. We nosh on the leftover croissants we took from our brunch basket. I go for the addition of a custom-made ice cream, flash frozen with liquid nitrogen.  After that, I lie back on my chair feeling like a beached sea lion.

4:00 p.m.: We thank our friends for showing us around and keep walking. It's warm and gorgeous and we decide we should be drinking a beer at a sidewalk cafe like everyone else in Berlin. H orders a weird concoction of Jagermeister, beer and green food colouring that she used to drink when she lived here in her twenties. E and I have a taste and tell H she must have been stoned the whole time to have drunk such shit.

There's no excuse for the things we did in our youth

There's no excuse for the things we did in our youth

6:00 p.m.: After three pints each we decide we can't possibly walk back to the hotel so I decide to try out Uber for the first time. All the Berlin Uber drivers are running a super discount for the week in protest of the government's impending ban on their service. Taxi drivers are sitting on their hands and half of Berlin are hopping into unmarked cars with Uber drivers. Our driver is a student from Tunisia.  He convinces me that if we stop halfway to the hotel, end one trip and start another, he'll get paid twice as much and I won't pay any more. I hand him my phone and while he's restarting the app, he rates himself five stars.  The trip costs us three Euros.

9:00 p.m.: We sober up a bit, eat more Toblerone triangles then head out for dinner. We find a super hip restaurant on Trip Advisor and muscle our way up to the bar.  The bartenders look like Tom Cruise stand-ins for the movie 'Cocktail.' We order olives and fried potatoes cooked in goose fat. The dreamiest bartender makes my gimlet as though he were conducting a science experiment. It's the best damn gimlet I've ever had. After three, I ask him if he'll make them for me at home.

12:00 a.m.: After more yummy food we leave the restaurant and get our second wind. We don't walk far before we find a suitably divey bar and head in. Berlin's indoor smoking ban is apparently relaxed after midnight so we make our way to a table through the haze. There's only one guy tending the bar and running the soundboard at the same time. After two more drinks, I convince E to ask the guy to let her have a go with the music, since she used to be a DJ.  I start chanting for William Orbit. E probably thinks she should have cut me off hours ago.

No focus required

No focus required

3:00 a.m.: The bartender starts piling chairs upside down on the tabletops and sweeping around our feet. "Are you closing already?" I ask.  "Not enough people to stay open." he says. We look around and realise there is only one other occupied table, a couple who look as though they're trying to pull oxygen through the filters of their cigarettes. We drain our glasses and wobble to the door. The clear air outside feels like taking a big breath after having been held under water for a minute too long. I can't focus to use my cell phone so H hails a full priced taxi. Everything else from this point on is lost to my conscious memory. 

Who-the-hell-knows a.m.: I wake up face down on the bed, fully clothed. Someone has abducted E and left a snoring person in her place. Oh wait. It's E.  I hit 'record' on my cell phone because E swore to me she didn't snore. I find a half-eaten piece of Toblerone on the bedside table and my pyjamas neatly folded on the floor beside me. I stumble to the toilet with my head in my hands. When I make my way back to bed I curse all the flippin neon on the hotel's facade blazing through a crack in the blackout curtains. When I get close enough to close the gap I realise it's not neon. It's daytime.

Day 3

Noon: after the front desk informs us that it will be thirty Euros to stay another hour in bed, we frantically pack our bags and go, leaving behind the detritus of two jumbo Toblerone bars. Tin foil litters the carpet like goose down after a pillow fight. We walk again to Einstein's but this time we nurse our double espressos while wearing sunglasses. I find a pack of cigarettes in my purse and H & E just shake their heads at me.

2:00 p.m.: We take the streetcar to a section of the Berlin Wall where hundreds of different artists have painted murals on both sides of the concrete. Our hangovers allow us to fully appreciate the unique message of each panel since none of us can move very quickly.

Leaning against not just any wall

Leaning against not just any wall

4:00 p.m.: Since we have a few more hours in Berlin before our evening flight, I suggest we visit a store near our hotel called LSD.  It stands for Love, Sex & Desire. Since Berlin is considered the capital of kink, and since I'm there with my mom friends and not likely to get to The Kit Kat Club, I want to see if a Berlin sex shop has anything more outrageous than a London sex shop. Not really. What LSD does have is the largest collection of dildos and vibrators I've ever seen in one place, all displayed on the wall like wedding registry cutlery at Macy's. They also have huge bins of discounted lingerie and fetish wear which I hunt through for so long that, by the time I want one of my friend's opinions, they have left the building. 

6:00 p.m.: In an Uber car for the airport run. The driver tells us he's going to avoid the heavy traffic of the motorways and takes us the back route. Pretty soon we are driving past fields of alfalfa and grain elevators. I start to wonder if the driver has another plan for us. He won't be getting five stars.

8:00 p.m.: Finally on the airplane. H & E manage to have a conversation for most of the way home. I'm still hungover and sleep deprived. I put my jacket over my head and lean against the window. We've done it. We've managed to leave our kids at home with dads in charge and only call them once. We've done things we can't do back in St. Albans: stay up until 4 a.m., drink like fishes and eat out for every meal. We've laughed a lot and we still really like each other. In fact, we might like each other even more than when we started the trip. So on the drive back home, we brainstorm where we will go next on our annual girl's weekend.