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Day 4 Berlin: A null day as far as research went. Wandered around town, sorted some photo's and put my feet up.

Day 5 Berlin: I went to the zoo, today. It's undergoing some recontruction/remodelling, so the big cats and some other stuff were off the card. However I did manage to track down the aviary and spent some time there. I also went off and got some photo's of penguins, as ordered. In the aviary I found a pair of white-backed magpies who weren't looking happy. So I called them over and got them singing, which got me some strange looks from the locals. The female started mucking about at my feet, as if she was trying to dig her way out. No chance of that- it's sandstone under the soil. Still, it was good to hear the magpies' song again, even if it was only for a couple of minutes.

8 September (changes in red are changes made to the trip- sometimes between stations)- Train- Berlin to Hannover then Uelzen Soltau and finally Munster (Örtze)- home of the Deutsches Panzer Museum.

The last 2 legs are on a regional train, so I've made arrangements to drop my main bag off at my hotel, the Crowne Plaza Hannover, on the way through. Just as bloody well.

Day 1 Lüneburg (no, I don't know why the town and station have different names): Today has had knobs on. Deutsche Bahn decided to cancel ICE 1682- I got the email about 45 minutes out of Hannover. The cancellation email had a link directing me to their booking site, where I was supposed to go through my connections, sort out which train had been cancelled/delayed/derailed/forgotten about. Then I could book a new ticket and, perhaps sometime in the distant future, I’d get a refund for the tickets I hadn’t used.

Fk that- I learned my lesson when they cancelled the 2nd leg of this trip last week. The nice lady at DB office in the Berlin Hbf explained that, if it happened again (nah, never happen again...) all I had to do was go to the station DB office, and they’d sort me. I dropped off my bag at the Crowne Plaza and went back to the DB office where, after a very short talk to the bloke behind the counter, I got new tickets. So, at 1600, not 1448, I got here- nice try, DB, but I did get here. No taxi, so walked to the hotel, feeling very happy I wasn't dragging the luggage. Saw a taxi, but he must have been heading to the festival, because he ignored me.

I’d got another email, via Lisa (Steph’s stand in) telling me how to open the night safe and get my room key about the same time as the DB one, because everyone in Lüneburg, including the hotel staff, were at some sort of festival. Got that sorted, went off to the DPM (1.6km walk). It was shut, special event and only ticket holders allowed in. Confirmed with the bloke at the gate that they were open tomorrow, came back here.

Anyway, here's a few piccies. A couple from Berlin and the rest from the trip to Munster.

Then, of course, there's my main reason for going to Munster in the first place:

Arnhem Day 1 (11 September). Getting to Arnhem proved just a bit tricky, as once again DB cancelled the train for the second leg. I got there on time, thanks to the help of the DB platform staff who were able to sort out the changes and issue me new tickets. And there, after about 23 years of knowing each other from various history boards, was me old mate Walter "Zedman" Zaagman. He had volunteered to be my guide around Arnhem and Oosterbeek. On more interesting matters (for some) we had a bloody great meal at an Indonesian restaurant in town, after checking into the hotel. I had an Indonesian spring roll for starters with chicken satay sticks, sticky rice and spiced potatoes for main, and it was really excellent. 

So we set off after breakfast and did a tactical walk around the north end of Arnhem Bridge. Most of the original buildings are gone, having been destroyed in the fighting, but we could still see where Frost's HQ and the RAE blokes had their main possies, despite new buildings and bridge approaches. Arnhem is set to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of Operation Market-Garden next week, so I thought that the Pegasus flags flying all over the town were for the 75th Anniversary, but apparently Arnhem flies them all the time, to remember the efforts of the British Empire, Polish and US troops who tried a stunning coup de main to end WWII.

Zed also had a surprise for me. Last night Robert Kershaw, author of The Snow Never Falls in September, was giving a talk about his book and the changes from the mid-80's first edition. We had tickets and, to my delight, Robert signed my copy of his book (I wore the first edition out years ago). Then we took the train from Arnhem Centraal to Oosterbeek and walked to the hall for the talk. The book is a study of the battle from the German perspective, and is an interesting counterpoint to Cornelius Ryan's A Bridge Too Far. Robert served in 2 Para and got a bit of a surprise when I spoke to him- what's an uncouth Aussie doing at a talk in the Netherlands?

So now I'm in Belgium, after two cancelled trains and another train breaking down on the high-speed track between Antwerp and Brussels. I eventually got here, just in time to miss the last post at Menin Gate. I'll be there tomorrow, though. As for piccies, I'll have a look later. I'm buggered.


12 September- Train- Arnhem to Iepre (Ypers) via Nijmegen.

Day 1 Ieper: Ieper is a small place, but it's full of history and wonderful old buildings- which have been rebuilt since 1918. The cathedral-looking structure is actually the guild/council hall, and was pretty well destroyed in WWI, but was rebuilt using the original plans. It's now the Stadts Museum, or State Museum.  Ieper (Ypers) is also the home of the Menin Gate. Anyone who has seen Midnight at Menin Gate in the War Memorial will know what I mean when I say the Gate send a shiver through me. The interior and some exterior faces of the gate have been inscribed with the name of every British Empire soldier who went MIA in Belgium 1914-1918. Aussies, Canadians, Indians, Ghurkas, Chinese, New Zealanders, New Foundlanders- all are listed by unit, rank and name.

Tonight's Last Post ceremony was accompanied by a British cadet unit's fifes and drums, who did themselves proud. I'll go back tomorrow, when I get back from Ghent, to pay my respects again.

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