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New Europe

Day One Hundred and Twenty-two: Berlin

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A DC-3, used in the Berlin airlift of 1948, flies me over Rügen Island. Running along the shore below me is Prora, Hitler's dream of a holiday camp for the Third Reich. It's just too big for anyone to know what to do with it.
Michael Palin - New EuropeAnd I will indeed be in control. There's no dual steering here. I'm given the briefest of briefings by my instructor, a fair-haired young man of Slavic features called Mischa. Even without the engine running I find it hard to understand most of what he says, so I'm not at all a happy boy as I lower myself into the driver's seat. Somehow I'd expected the interior to be more like a ship's bridge, or at least a flight deck, with two or three seats, control panels, even a cup of coffee and a biscuit. Wrong. There is no room at all beside me, and barely any behind. There are cables and all kinds of incomprehensible entrails of which, I realise, I'm one.

The technology is more farm tractor than armoured cavalry, with a brake, accelerator and clutch pedal and no wheel, but two vertical levers on either side with which to steer.

Mischa starts the engine for me, then climbs out to sit on top. Through the narrow letter-box slit in front of me I can see the small sandy hills, then a green field and some houses in the distance. Mischa shouts something incomprehensible, which I take to mean let the brake off, and we move ponderously forward. His voice rises.

'Guess,' he shouts 'Guess.'

'Guess what?' I want to shout, but don't have the German.


The engine rumbles and dies.

Mischa's face appears and points at the accelerator and the RPM counter beside me.

'More guess,' he says, and now I can hear him I know what he's actually saying is 'more gas'.
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  • Series: New Europe
  • Chapter: Day One Hundred and Twenty-two: Berlin
  • Country/sea: Germany
  • Place: Berlin
  • Book page no: 283

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