The snow is deeper out towards Tegel. The pale late afternoon sunset has quickly given way to darkness and the bus swishes cautiously through the icy streets.
I arrive at the airport with more than enough time to spare. The flight, it turns out, will be delayed by around twenty minutes, so after I've checked my suitcase in, I go outside to take in the night air.
There's a decent view of the hexagonal air traffic control tower from this side of the taxi rank. The text on the side of the building says "Berlin Tegel" with "Otto Lilienthal" written underneath. Lilienthal was a German flight pioneer, whose glider flights near Berlin and in other parts of Germany in the late 1800s served as a major inspiration to the Wright brothers.
I go through security just before 7 and everyone boards just after half past. A truck arrives to de-ice the plane before take off, a robotic arm extending out to spray the wings with a thick goo, which spreads across their smooth surfaces and drips slowly to the ground.
The plane turns on its departure from Tegel, giving a dramatic view of the city below, the light of the streets and buildings interspersed with the dark of winter clouds. I peer out through the window, searching for familiar landmarks and eventually catch sight of the ferris wheel of the Christmas market and, for a brief moment, the television tower.
The route to baggage reclaim at Heathrow Terminal 5 takes me down what seems like a maze of escalators, before arriving at a small station. I don't remember having come this way before and the whole thing feels a little like the kinds of things the Stasi created to disorient people. The train then goes through a short tunnel and arrives in another station. There's then a further maze of corridors and escalators, through passport control and into baggage reclaim. I can't help thinking of Hannover airport, where if you looked carefully through the hatch at the end of the conveyor the bags were coming through on, you could see the man on the other side throwing them through from the baggage truck on the airport apron outside, the plane not too far away. Tegel's system doesn't seem a whole lot more complex either. There's something quite attractive about the simple solution...
The pilot said the conditions in London were similar to those in Berlin. That wasn't quite true; it's raining here and distinctly warmer. Still, I'm back from another adventure...here's looking forward to the next time!