A recent study trip with Avinet’s “corporate mother”, Asplan Viak, took me to Berlin in the company of about 60 merry colleagues. Following a similar experience in Turin, Italy, last year my expectations were split. Happy, as always, when thinking of the opportunity to enjoy evenings out in good company – but at the same time fearing the quality of the food which usually suffers greatly when traveling in groups.
My doubts were however put to shame and I had some of the most enjoyable evenings out in a European city ever accompanied by good, solid German food. My thanks go out to Pål, chairman of the board of Avinet (and on other occasions excellent drinking pal), for urging me to come along.
Hotel California and the Hollywood Media Centre
The base of our operations was a hotel centrally located on West-Berlin’s Kurfurstendam. The hotel carried the rather dubious name of “Hotel California” which inevitably sprouted a large number of semi-identical and rather obvious jokes.
Despite the slowest elevator I have ever seen the hotel was very agreeable indeed. Good location and ok rooms. I never got to sample the breakfast but I was told, by those of my colleagues who managed to get up in the morning, that breakfast was good!
Naming the trip a “study trip” sadly required us to camouflage the party as a corporate learning event. This meant living though a few plenary session lectures before we could split up in more navigable units and get down to some real sight-drinking.
The “business-part” of the study trip took place at the Hollywood Media Center, a few blocks down the road from the hotel. Tacky wall displays informed visitors, whether they wanted to or not, about nearly six decades of film-making that hitherto had escaped most of us without our quality of life being poorer for it.
Kings Pub, a Russian on Ku’damm
Straight across the street from the hotel colleague Yngve and I found the best watering hole we had both encountered for a long, long time, Kings Pub, a hole-in-the-wall alcohol-consumers delight with room for no more than 12-15 people.
Kings Pub was run by Russian barmaid Irina on the two nights we were there. Irina knew how to charm pub guests into giving up their cash in exchange for dark beer and vodka. As a result we spent no less than € 100 each night on drink alone, which is much considering that one beer cost no more than € 3.
Warmly recommended, go there.
Afternoon breakfast at Hackescher Markt
For reasons unknown, I had agreed to aid Yngve in coming up with some entertainment for the gala-dinner of the study trip. Simultaneously I had been asked to give the final speech of the dinner, thanking the hosts.
The evenings being what they were time was suddenly running short if I was to both contribute to the entertainment and think a little about what to say in my speech. It was Sunday afternoon by the time we settled down at Hackescher Markt in East-Berlin to start writing.
Eating breakfast in the afternoon while watching street entertainment, drinking beer and writing comedy at once is far from unagreeable. Inspiration even came to us eventually.
Dinner at the roof-top restaurant in the Reichstag building
On Sunday night, the night before departure, our gala-dinner event was scheduled at the roof-top restaurant in the Reichstag-building, a truly magnificent location in the company of equally magnificent friends and colleagues.
Food was good, I got the biggest portion of Foie Gras I have ever seen. Either the goose was genetically manipulated or more than one had to die to fill my plate alone. The wine was better, borderline excellent, and complimented every course in an excellent way.
More surprisingly, entertainment was also good. Both the speeches and two additional “entertainment acts” plus an ingenious Asplan Viak-song were well-received. Even to the extent of praise.
As usual, the party didn’t stop in time for the following day to be an altogether good experience. I woke up with a start, hearing the bus I was meant to take to the airport 3 minutes later hum in an impatient way. 5 minutes later, in no fit state to travel, I was on my way to Schönefeld by bus.
Eight hours later I parked my car outside my house in Sogndal, walked in, crashed and fell asleep, fondly remembering the past days events.