Friday, April 12, 2013

Day 1 in Berlin, Curry Sausage & the Berlin Wall 4/12/2013

I left Amsterdam on the 7:00 am train to Berlin, a six hour train ride.  I woke up around 5:00 am to be sure I had time to be sure I had packed everything and make it to Amsterdam's Central rail station on time.  I checked out of the hostel and went to the Tram Station, a short walk down the street.  The tram arrived a few minutes after 6 am and the woman collecting fares did not charge me for the ride, my second free tram ride in Amsterdam.  I have met some of the nicest, kindest people in Amsterdam during my Europe trip.

I got to the train station around 6:20 am, my train to Berlin was not yet listed on the board. I went to get a croissant from a shop open at the station, I sat in the shop and read my Kindle, planning what I would do in Berlin.  I went out to check the board to see which track the train for Berlin would depart from, I found it & went up and waited.  The train arrived on time, I asked the conductor which car my ticket was for, I have gotten in the wrong car before, it is easier to ask the conductor, instead of finding out later.

The German train had one first class car, divided into sections which seated 6 passengers.  I found my seat among a group of 4 Germans who appeared to be close friends, the rest of the compartments were either empty or had one person, I decided to move compartments.  The group of Germans I was initially seated with were nice, but it was early, I wanted my own compartment to sleep.   My compartment began to fill up as the train made more and more stops on its way to Berlin.

The train ride was uneventful,  I talked to an older German couple who boarded the train in the middle of the trip to Berlin.  There was a language barrier but we were able to communicate, they told me about their daughter who has lived in Berlin for 20 years, the husband told me when we entered what was once East Germany.  He emphasized it has been over twenty years since Germany reunified.  I told the Germans about my trip, where I planned to go, the husband said I am a strong, courageous woman traveling all these places alone.  He also advised me to be careful in Budapest, Hungary, there is racial discrimination against people who look like me, my color, the German man said.  This is a rough interpretation, there was a language barrier, but we were able to communicate.

Me on Train to Berlin 
I arrived at Berlin Hauptbahnhof Station a little after 1 pm this afternoon, Berlin's central train station is huge, I followed the signs for exit and went to the information booth to ask where I could catch bus #142, the bus to my hostel.  I debated buying something to eat at the Berlin station, there were many choices, many American, including Vapiano.  I have not eaten at Vapiano since I left DC, I was tempted but decided to find my hostel, get checked in, and eat later.  I went to the tourist office near the exit where my bus stop was located and bought a Berlin Museum Pass for 19 Euro, hopefully I will get my moneys worth out of it.  There are a ton of museums in Berlin, I am not sure how many I will see in the three days I am here.

Me at Berlin's Central Train Station 
I got on the bus to my hostel, I had no problems finding it, I followed a couple of backpackers who I knew were headed there, we got off at the same bus stop.  The hostel is nice, I would say the nicest hostel I have stayed in yet, it is almost on the level of a hotel.  I checked into my room, none of my roommates had arrived, last time I checked I still did not have anyone in my room, will I get a private room for the price of a dorm tonight, we will see. 

I went down to the lobby to use the WIFI, then an American I met in Amsterdam walked in, saw me and we decided to go get German sausages for lunch.  Always nice to see a familiar face in a new country, someone to get lost with, a temporary travel companion.  I don't mind exploring alone either, Berlin is a huge city, so nice to have others to read the map and find destinations with. 

We got a recommendation from the hostel staff for a place to get good sausages and set out to find the place, we were both starving after our six our journeys to Berlin from Amsterdam.  The sausage place was located at a subway station, there was a crowd, we knew we had found the right place.  I ordered the curry sausages with fries, I got the large menu for 5.40 Euros, it ended up being too much sausage for me, they were delicious but I did not eat them all. 

German sausage stand recommended by Hostel Staff
It was still early, we looked at the map and decided to go to the Berlin Wall or what is left of it.  I believe in maximizing time on my short stays in the countries I am visiting across Europe, the sun was still out and the weather was warm, a walk to see where the Berlin Wall once stood sounded like a good idea to me.  We started walking towards the Berlin Wall, it was not as close as we thought, the map we had was deceptive.  The distance from the sausage stand to the Berlin Wall look close on the map, in reality it was a longer walk, maybe a mile and a half or two miles, I am not sure.  

When we neared the location of the Berlin wall, we noticed people looking at exhibits, there were signs in German without any English translation.  There was an enclosed area with three bells, we never figured out what these were were, there was no English translation.  We finally found the area where the Berlin Wall once stood, it is always powerful for me to see these historic places in person, my reaction, wow, this used to be East and West Germany, people died trying to escape the East, families were divided by the Berlin Wall.  
Memorial with Pictures of People Who Died trying to Cross the Berlin Wall 
We walked further, there were portions of the wall left still standing, there was a watchtower, across the street was a museum. We went to the park, I looked at the memorial with pictures of those who died trying to escape East Germany, people had left candles and other mementos.  I stood where the wall dividing East and West Berlin had been, one foot in the East and one foot in the West, not long ago the Berlin wall stood there.

Me crossing from East to West Berlin Where the Berlin Wall once Stood
We headed back to the hostel after visiting area where the Berlin Wall stood.  I spent the evening hanging out in the lobby using the WIFI & later moved up to the bar area to hang out.  Tomorrow, a full day of exploring Berlin.

Berlin Day 1 Photo Album:

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