You'll perhaps remember me mentioning Tegel when I wrote about Platz der Luftbrücke. The runway was built during the Berlin Airlift in the French sector in 1948, on the site of what had been Racketenflugplatz Berlin (Berlin rocket flight site) between 1930 and 1933. At 2,428 metres, it was the longest runway in Europe at the time.
It wasn't until 1960 that commercial flights began, the first being run by Air France. Because of West Berlin's occupied status, only French, British and American airlines could fly to and from Tegel (and Tempelhof). The airport was an attractive destination for airlines at the time, because the runway made it better suited to the new jet airliners which were becoming increasingly commonplace. Pan Am began operating a service from New York JFK in 1964 for this reason.
As Tempelhof became more overcrowded, more airlines began operating flights to and from Tegel. As its usage grew, architects Gerkan, Marg und Partner were contracted to create plans for a new airport. The hexagonal terminal building design is quite striking, something which earned them international acclaim (and more contracts in Germany - Berlin Hauptbahnhof and the renovations of the Berlin Olympic stadium are two more recent examples of GMP's work in Berlin).
We're left waiting for a while before the baggage comes through on the conveyor.
It gives a good chance to look at the ceiling, though, which is actually more interesting than it sounds.
The architects have carried the hexagon motif right the way through the building. Everything, from the air traffic control tower to these pillars, is hexagon shaped. It's difficult to get a picture that shows the shape of the building (or at least it is when you're dragging a suitcase and don't want to spend the whole day wandering the airport looking for the perfect spot), but this shot of the taxi rank, which is on the inside of the hexagonal-ring shaped main terminal building, should give some idea:
It's a wonderfully compact design - with the taxi rank on the inside of the hexagon and the gates on the outside, the distance from aircraft to taxi can be under 70 metres. It's not a whole lot further to the buses either, which stop right in front of the hexagonal building.
I get on the X9 bus into town. A certain Mr Dedicoat sits opposite me...perhaps the BBC has sent him as a spy to trail me? The bus's heating is turned up high, but a brief waft of cold air comes in every time the doors open.
It's not as cold as I expect when I get off the bus outside Zoologischer Garten station. There's a definite chill to the air, but the combination of sunlight and a thick winter jacket help ward off the bite the air normally has when the temperature gets into minus figures. Cold is different in Berlin to in Britain anyway, a dryer cold that doesn't creep its way right into your bones in quite the same way.
I make my way towards my hotel. I'd not normally choose to stay in this part of Berlin, mostly because there's less in the area that interests me, but a very cheap deal made it impossible to resist. It's worth shopping around for places to stay when you come to Berlin - there are so many hotels and apartments that you can quite often get something for a very reasonable price (sometimes not much more than you'd pay for a hostel; in fact, sharing a large flat with several people can work out cheaper than a lot of hostels). Do make sure you know exactly where the place you're booking is, though - some places which look like a good deal are actually a very long way from the city centre, or are in areas you'd really not want to stay in!
Time to settle in for a bit, before heading on back out (like I already hinted in the last post!).