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Off to Berlin Print E-mail
October 30-31, 2010
Off to Berlin

Because of the ridiculous transportation problems I had last week, I left an exorbitant amount of time to get to the train station. I ended up being an hour early to the station. Since I had an hour to kill, I bought some snacks, a Time magazine (one of the few English titles at this shop), and a coffee. Then I wandered aimlessly for a half hour, went to the platform, started reading the magazine, watched two trains pass (to £od¼ and Kraków), and stepped in something sticky.

Then the train came, clearly marked as the "
Berlin-Warszawa-Express", and I was herded onto the train. I found my seat (total guess work since I didn’t know the word “seat” on my ticket), got nice and comfy, and continued to read and finish my magazine. It feels good to pretend I know what’s going on in the world again; I’ve been horribly disconnected for a month!

I was on the train somewhere in Poland when I started writing this. The trip feels like a more-comfortable-and-laid-back-close-as-it-comes-in-Europe-without-a-car-road-trip. The landscape resembles southern Indiana, but more beautiful and with better architecture. It feels great to finally be out of Warsaw. I felt like I was finally getting to see Poland.

Between looking at the country pass me by and getting lost in my music, I wrote most of my personal statement for my graduate school applications. Hooray! I definitely feel like I made some progress. I knew I wasn’t going to get any more work done when I realized I’d gotten nice and distracted by an internal dialogue trying to convince myself that I was not a nut job. Then I realized I was having an internal dialogue to convince myself I wasn’t insane. Definitely lost that one.

Some things I hadn’t thought about when I’d gotten on the train was crossing the border into Germany. In Poland, I was greeted “Dzien dobry”, and then showed the porter my ticket. I knew I was in Germany when the porter greeted me, “Guten tag.” I found it quite hilarious.

Berlin, I got very turned around at the ENORMOUS Hauptbahnof station. I eventually found the tourist information center, got my transit card, and wrong directions to the Friedrichstraße station. I was instructed to go to Platform 15 and take the train one stop. I did, and it definitely wasn't Friedrichstraße. I went two more stops, ended up near the zoo, got off that train and on one going back the other way. If I had been going the other direction to begin with, the directions would have been spot on. Oh well. It wasn't the end of the world.

From Friedrichstraße, I followed the walking directions to the hostel. Fortunately they were spot on! :) Got to the hostel, flirted with the guy behind the desk, found my room. Hilarious story: two of the girls I am sharing a room with are also from
Warsaw in Berlin for the long weekend. I sort of love it. 

Now I need to find dinner, and all shall be well. 
Wandering in Berlin on a Friday night
I have decided that I love Berlin, and I haven't even had a chance to really explore it! I went for a walk to find dinner, and discovered part of the city in the process. I went wandering! :)

My wandering included a fun and random store with hilarious shirts and souvenir type things, walking past seven different hookers, crossing the river three times, walking in circles, and eventually finding dinner at the Curry Stop. 

The menu at the Curry Stop was all in German, so I asked the guy if he spoke any English. "Ehhh, a little." Ok. Awesome. I asked about a menu item, and he said, "That's a burger. Like this!" And he skewered a burger and held it up for me. It was really funny. I grabbed a Cherry Coke to go with my burger, and had dinner for less than €4. YEA! Great success. And, it was delicious. 

So, some details I forgot earlier:
- I didn't need my passport to get into Germany on the train, but I did need my passport number when I checked into the hostel.
- The guy working the front desk is totally adorable and has an awesome accent. 

I am off to bed now. Good night,
Berlin! I look forward to exploring tomorrow!

A day with no plan! 
My day started with a mediocre breakfast at the hostel. They had a lame breakfast buffet consisting mostly of different bread. Over my bread, I met some guys from Spain and a girl from the Netherlands; they were all very nice, but it wasn't the same sort of epic bond that I had in Costa Rica with Adrienne when we met Carlos and Julia. After breakfast, I set out with no destination. I just hopped on the S-Bahn and went from there.

After twenty minutes on the train people-watching and seeing
Berlin, I decided to make a plan. I whipped out my handy-dandy guide that came with my tourist transit card, and started to plan and figure out where I was. I successfully switched trains and got on the U-Bahn to head north toward the city center. (The U-Bahn trains are the ugliest trains known to man. They are circa 1970, yellow with ugly decals on the outside and horrendous pink/gray/purple leopard print seats on the inside.) I got off the U-Bahn at Potsdamer Platz and went in search of Checkpoint Charlie.

I didn’t find Checkpoint Charlie, but I did find a market and an open-air exhibit featuring pieces of the
Berlin Wall. The market was great! They had a mobile snow-covered hill for sledding, and a bunch of art and food vendors. It was so German! I loved it! After wandering the market (alas, no sledding), I crossed the street where I found an exhibit with graffiti-covered pieces of the Berlin Wall. At this exhibit, there was a man dressed as a soldier stamping all seven of the visas one would have needed to cross from East to West Berlin between 1961 and 1989.

After I had my stamps, I figured out how to get to the remaining section of the
Berlin Wall. From Potsdamer Platz, it was about a ten minute walk to "Topographie des Terrors Open-Air Ausstellung", the remnants of the Berlin Wall. The Topohraphie des Terrors exhibit gave the history of Berlin from World War I through the 1990s. Between seeing the Wall, getting the visa stamps, and thinking about the history of Berlin, I really felt overwhelmed thinking about what it must have been like just twenty-one years ago. I am still digesting the experience.

After visiting the Berlin Wall, I started wandering again, but I was definitely thinking “lunch” somewhere in the back of my mind. I headed back toward the hostel/Museum Island, walked through a market that felt like the world’s largest garage sale, and ended up at a place a few blocks from my hostel called the Orange Café. The menu was entirely in German, the waitress couldn’t translate enough of it for me, but she said something about vegetables in cheese and I was sold. I still don’t know what it was called, but it was gooey and deliciously cheesy.

After my delicious lunch, I went to the Deutsche Historische Museum. The entrance was free today, which saved me €6! The Deutsche Historische Museum has an amazing collection! It is pretty much everything German for the past 2000 years. The museum also has an exhibit running on Adolf Hitler. The Hitler exhibit was interesting, but between the crowds and my inability to translate German on the spot, I lost a lot of it, which was disappointing. Overall, I was impressed with the Deutsche Historische Museum. It has now been added to my list of awesome museums.

After visiting the Deutsche Historische Museum, I went back to my hostel. I rolled in around 5:00p. I’d been out for eight hours!! I relaxed for two hours at the hostel, and then went in search of food. I was really tired, and made it to the kebab place four blocks away by the train station. German kebab kicks Polish kebab’s ass.

Yep, that was pretty much my day! I get to do the same sort of mindless wandering tomorrow! It’s a surprise where I’ll end up! :)
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