A visit to the Luftfracht

Berlin, Day 6

Excitingly, today was the day we got to trek out to the northwest of the city to Tegel airport to retrieve the boxes we’d shipped. I was sure the message had said we were to collect them from the “Luftwaffe”, but Adrian thought this was unlikely. After a friendly German in a luminous yellow vest had escorted us to airport customs and back through various lugubrious airport underpasses, we eventually discovered we were aiming for “Luftfracht”, the air freight yard.

Luftfracht turned out to be a delivery dock-type area, teeming with 18-wheeler trucks and Germans with clipboards, a 20 minute lope from the actual airport itself. We eventually clambered up onto the dock, tried a few doors and ducked in one that claimed to lead to a “treppenhaus”, a stairway. Opening a door that looked like it lead to a broom cupboard that hadn’t been in use since 1962, we found an ant warren of dim, brown passageways with doors every 50 feet or so. Germans do not believe in bright lighting.  Bulbs futter into life, dim yellow, and settle into a mopey sepia when, after a few minutes, they realise that nobody is going to turn them off again. It feels like living in a slightly dusty print of a late 60s movie. While atmospheric, this is unhelpful when hoping to be reunited with belongings before night falls. It took visits to five separate offices, including one featuring an emphatically made-up shipping company official (only the dim lighting here could explain that amount of blusher) and another starring a jolly Customs man, plus five separate “links, recht, links, links, recht-type” instructions and a lot of ducking out of the way of a determined fork lift trucks, before we were allowed into the vast cargo hangar. Another 18 signatures and 36 official stamps later, we lugged our possessions out and home.

I’d been excited to get warm clothes and perhaps some night attire from my box, but was simultaneously pleased and dismayed to find that while I’d packed none of either of those (or of pretty much anything else useful), I had packed an extensive supply of knitted animal finger puppets. I guess I’ll use them to communicate with the locals.

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