I had a grand plan for transiting three different cities across Europe on consecutive days. Sure, I’d sleep a couple hours each night, but I was also going to spend most of the 20-ish hours on the ground at each stop exploring the town, eating their food and drinking their booze. It was a grand plan, alright, but the execution was a bit lacking.
My first stop of the hopping was Berlin, a city I’d heard great things about and one I was quite excited to visit. I even sortof knew what I wanted to see while I was there. Sortof. OK, other than the Brandenburg Gate and the Holocaust memorial, nothing at all. But I’d figure it out, right? After all, I always have.
The bus in from the airport was incredibly easy (except the ticket machines don’t make change for bills larger than 10 Euro) and 20 minutes or so later I was in front of the beautiful, towering, modern Hauptbahnhof. I knew my hotel was just a stop or two away from there so I headed inside. Sure, I spent the next 20 minutes or so wandering around lost in the enormous station, trying to find the appropriate S-Bahn train, but I didn’t mind at all. The station truly is beautiful.
And then, after dropping my bag in the hotel I was back out. I had only an hour before I was due to meet a friend for drinks and dinner and that really isn’t much time in a city as grand as Berlin. But I knew the two things I wanted to see and they were only about a 10 minute walk from the hotel; I was doing fine.
The Gate is pretty. They light it up lovely at night. And I even got a couple photos of it that I don’t particularly hate, which is somewhat impressive given that I had no tripod, the exposures were painfully slow and it was pretty darn cold outside so I was shivering a lot.
From Brandenburg Gate I headed around the corner to see the Holocaust memorial. It is beautiful. It is amazing. It is rather intimidating to walk into when it is dark outside. The photo here is a VERY long exposure, making it appear reasonably light outside. Truth is that the sky was the same darkness as the Brandenburg Gate photos above. Still, thanks to the miracles of modern technology I got the pretty cool picture below.
And then my hour as a tourist was up. I had to race to the U-Bahn to meet up with my friend. I found the station, figured out which track and caught the next train going my way. I was rather confused 2 stops later when they made the "Last Stop" announcement (though at least they repeated it in English). Apparently there were track works in progress and I was supposed to find a replacement bus to the next major station. At this point I became acutely aware of just how hard it must be for the tourists in New York City who are forced to navigate the constantly changing construction projects we have, all without the benefit of any communication in their native language. Even with the little bits of English on the signs it was a challenge. I made it, eventually, but it wasn’t easy.
I also had grand plans for the morning, to see more of town before my noon-ish flight onward to Munich and then Ljubljana. Alas, when I awoke I discovered that there had been a schedule change at some point previously and I was now faced with a 5 minute connection in Munich rather than the originally booked 30 minutes. The airport is easy, but not that easy. A panicked phone call to the folks at Continental (this was an award ticket) got me booked on the next earlier Berlin-Munich flight which meant I’d make my connection. It also meant scrapping my plans for a morning in Berlin.
And so, the entirety of my tourist time in town was an hour (plus an awesome dinner with an old friend). I definitely saw a lot in that hour and had a blast, but it also would be a disservice to Berlin to say that I saw the city. Guess I’ll just have to go back.
- In flight: Stockholm to Berlin on SAS
- Checking in: Hotel Eurostars Berlin
- Maximizing award redemption value. Sortof.
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