My trip started off with a gong. I went through customs twice.
So here I was, all proud of myself getting to the airport early, checking my bag, getting through the crowded customs without a pat down… and then I misread my ticket.
I thought the gate number was 15D, so I followed the signs for D. However, once I found myself outside, I discovered D stands for domestic. 15D was my seat number. 30C was my gate number. So, I had to go all through customs again.
When I finally got to my seat, I found my neighbour was a little baby. The parents were trying to find an empty seat so the baby could have its own place to sit – but they didn’t ask me! Once I figured out what it was all about, I switched seats.
Condor Air had a terrible selection of movies – nothing worth watching. Anything remotely interesting was 4 Euros – I could go to the theatre for that! (However, they partially made up for it with complimentary vodka and Campari cocktails)
I tried napping, but I found myself watching the reflections of the light on the cabin through the open window instead. It was incredible how it would flash with such brilliance, then dance across the curved ceiling and walls of the cabin. It was beautiful.
I must have slept, but I didn’t feel like I did. The highlights of the trip were the airline food – particularly the breakfast. I ate my meal of cold cuts, cheese, and bread while listening to Philip Glass’ biography on my iPhone. It was then I noticed the interesting behaviour of my glass of water. My water was swirling around like the rings of a tree. When I grasped my glass, it returned to a flat surface. This like these are fascinating – especially when you have nothing else more engaging to do.
The transfer from Frankfurt to Berlin was painless despite me getting terribly lost again. Customs and checkin were a breeze – nothing like in Canada or the U.S.! My plane arrived 40 minutes late and I was surprised at the arrivals by Brett, Nicole’s brother, also in Berlin on his way to Nicole’s wedding – like me!
My First Hours in Berlin
I was very happy to have Brett there. He showed me how to purchase a 5-day transit pass from the automatic machine (note: it does not take 50 Euro bills) and then stamp it in the little yellow box next to the machine to validate it.
We took the bus from the airport to his hotel. I was shocked by all the trees and cute dogs. There was also this attractive young woman who kept smiling at me – I had no idea why. I smiled back and nodded goodbye when we left.
I dropped my bags at Brett’s hotel, then he and I walked to the nearby park, which is apparently one of the highlights of Berlin. We stopped in a corner shop where I picked up a coffee and he a beer – and to my shock, the coffee was more expensive than the beer! Not only that, but it’s legal to drink beer in the streets! It’s the equivalent of drinking a Coke Cola.
We walked around the park for quite some time, discussing urban design of European cities in comparison to Canadian cities. We headed back to see if his family was awake from their midday nap, but the room was silent (note: hotel rooms only give one key card here) so we went back out.
This time we went for food. Brett told me that the most German street food was in fact not German, but kabobs! We went to a nearby stand and got two shawarma sandwiches and a juice for 4 Euros. It really hit the spot.
When we returned, Brett decided to knock more loudly on the door. His wife, Crystal, opened the door and when the curtains were drawn, their baby Bernie was bouncing in his cribs, all smiles.
I’m not one who particularly goes ga-ga over children, but I find Bernie a joy. I enjoyed hanging out with the family, making faces at Bernie to see his smile grow, and dance with him, toddler style. However, I couldn’t stay long as I was meeting my AirBnB host at 5:00pm.
As the subway ride was half an hour, I decided to get comfy and take off my bags. It’s bit complicated and painful to get my big backpack back on after my bicycle accident, so I tend to wince during the transition. The woman sitting across from me leaped up when I was struggling to get it on and helped me out – no words at all! I was totally in awe of this kindness and thanked her in German multiple times. I feel like that would have never happened at home!
All in all, I was amazed at the kindness of Germans – they are actually happy to help, and don’t mind communicating in English. It’s made navigating a breeze! All I do is approach an unoccupied person with my map, and bamb – smiles and advice pursue!
I first discovered this at the strawberry stand at the metro by my AirBnB (yes, there are strawberry stands everywhere in Berlin). After much zooming in and out on my iPhone, girl pointed me in the direction of my accommodation. I bought some strawberries from her and went on my merry way (and they are extremely juicy strawberries at that).
Once at my AirBnB, I discovered I had no idea what number to buzz. I knew my host’s name was Marleen, but I did not know her last name. I buzzed one person with M. preceding their last night, but no answe. There were a few people with ‘M’ first names. Fortunately, I thought to check if AirBnB’s iPhone app had any offline data stored – and SUCCESS! Yes, my bookings were accessible in offline mode and I was able to find my host’s full name through her profile.
When I finally buzzed the right person, Marleen answered the door. I was in awe of my rental – it was better than than the pictures. It was HUGE! An entire wall was glass, and it had its own separate entrance!
Marleen have me a brief tour, then I unpacked, had a shower, and went grocery shopping. The shower was a handheld shower head in the tub. This prompted me to have a very short shower – probably a good choice for North American guests who are used to cheap utilities.
I had intended to check out Berlin’s nightlife as I had been recommended some good places from a friend-of-a-friend, but I was zonked. I curled up in the big bed a little after 8pm. I awoke a little after 10 with the street lamp shining in my window. I checked my email and found the most wonderful news – even as I write this, I tear up! I had gotten the apartment at Greenwood Stn I had applied to the morning I left for Germany. I finally had my own apartment in Toronto – and a beautiful one at that. I had been looking since May, and now I finally had a home of my own!
My social media posts were a burst of “OMG Berlin!” and “OMG apartment!”. I was able to get in touch with my mum over Skype and we talked until 12:30. Then I tried to sleep, furniture layout plans and colour schemes flowing around in my mind.
I awoke around my regular time in the morning – to a rooster crowing. A rooster… in a densely inhabited residential area of a major city… A rooster. Now, I am familiar with urban farming, but I’ve never actually encountered it. I was shocked, and then annoyed because it wouldn’t shut up for hours.
Anyway, so that was my flight and first hours in Berlin. This city reminds me a lot of Montreal, but is also quite unique. Here are some differences I’ve observed since my arrival:
- Not only do you flush the toilet here, you need to press the button to turn it off too!
- You need to open the doors yourself on public transit
- There are no turn stiles > just intermittent friendly ticket checkers
- Everyone walks around in the streets drinking beer at all hours
- Nightclubs are pumping out the tunes well into the morning
- People are extremely friendly and helpful > even if you don’t speak German!
- You have to pay to use the washroom at the train station (1 Euro! That’s more than the beer)
- Cars drive slowly here (great for someone like me who is still jumpy after a bicycle accident back home)
- The bike lane and pedestrian walkway are similar, but don’t mix them up! (or you will get ringed at)
- Refrigerated milk is hard to come by – it’s more frequently seen in a box on a shelf in a tetra pack!
PS: my Canon pictures aren’t posting – only my Instagrams. Any idea how to remedy this? Size perhaps?
See more photos from the trip on Flickr: Nell’s Photostream