We spent a long weekend in Berlin. I’ve been several times before but always in winter. It’s a completely different city in the summertime… I didn’t realize there were so many different parks around, and we saw a lot more street art and many different neighbourhoods since we weren’t always rushing indoors to get out of the bitter cold.
We stayed in a great hotel for very little money. (It’s weirdly low season right now and I had a bunch of Expedia points that helped with the room rate.) It was such a nice change to be in a bright, modern hotel with daily maid service, air conditioning, and working wifi!
Some highlights were:
• A sidewalk cafe where the cost of the cheese was based on how many centimeters you ate:
• Taking several dance classes
• A pop-up rooftop wine bar, which was a promo for a local winery. You paid €3 for the wine glass (which you got to keep), and then they poured as much wine as you wanted. (They had 22 different varieties, and no, we didn’t manage to try them all.) At the end of your visit, there’s a barrel for you to leave some money at your discretion – it’s up to you to decide what seems fair based on how much you drank. The night we were there, there was also someone selling raclette. So basically, wine, cheese, and sunshine – what’s not to like?
A local friend showed us a car service called Drive Now. You can use your iPhone to find a car closeby, unlock it, and drive off. It charges you by the minute for the time you use – no reservations needed. Then you just find a parking spot on the street and tell the app you’re done with the car. The best part is that the company has some arrangement with the city so you don’t have to worry about paying for parking – just find any available spot on the street and leave it! He quickly demonstrated as we walked past a convertible Mini on a sunny day – such a great service!
I had a very easy time finding great vegetarian food in Berlin, we had nothing but sunny skies, and I finally made it to the Bauhaus Museum (which was closed the last two times I was there). So all in all, a really great time…
… until the day we were trying to leave. Maybe it was Berlin’s way of telling us to stay longer, but we wound up with a huge mess at the train station. We had tickets for 3 different trains, which included a stop at dinnertime so Stefan could see an old friend, and ultimately getting to his hometown around 10pm.
When we got to the train station, the DB app said the first train was an hour later than we thought it was. We chalked it up to time zone confusion with Calendar, even though The German is usually pretty meticulous about things like that. (Its not as though we are inexperienced in this department.) Next up is a flurry of messages, telling his friend and parents we’d be an hour later than expected.
This is the massive entral station for Berlin, yet there were probably only 4 benches in the whole place. There were piles of luggage and groups of weary travelers everywhere… no wifi, terrible cellular connectivity, and nothing but McDonald’s and cheap coffee chains for entertainment. (First world problems, I know).
After 2 hours of boredom and a little bit of sitting on the floor, we looked at the signage in the station to see if our first train was on time and realize that we’ve somehow missed our first train. What?! As it turns out, the time listed in the official train app was wrong by one hour, and we didn’t realize it until 6 minutes after the train departed. Sigh.
So now it’s time to stand in line to (hopefully) exchange the tickets. We bought them at a huge discount so we were expecting a problem. Stefan was wise enough to show the girl the DB app and let her go through the same exercise he did. After a lot of confusion in trying to find the train status, she chalked it up to being a software bug with their app. They didn’t have any real excuse nor apology, but gave us new tickets for Train 1 and 2 without any hassle. Train 3 would hold at the original time. This means less time for dinner and another series of texts with Stefan’s father, who is certainly confused about when we are showing up.
At this point, we park ourselves at the platform to make sure we don’t miss New Train 1. Assuming all goes as planned, we have 11 minutes to change platforms for New Train 2. This seems like it should be plenty of time, but we are dragging heavy bags with us and this day isn’t going well.
So of course, New Train 1 leaves late, the platforms at the interchange are far apart, and some of the elevators aren’t working at that station. This means we have a pretty big distance to go, and have to use the dreaded stairs.
As I’m trying to heave my 45 lb bag up this huge flight of stairs, some nice German man in suit takes it from me and carries it up. (This would only happen in the US if someone was stealing it from you.) And that’s when everything turned around – the rest of the trains were uneventful, we had a great time for a few hours with Stefan’s old friend, and we made it to Duisburg just fine (albeit sweaty and tired).
We each expected some sort of trsnsit mess to happen at some point in this adventure, but we didn’t expect it to be in a place where one of us spoke the language fluently, let alone Stefan’s home country. He is very disappointed with his country. 🙂