Well first off, I know I’m a little behind. Due to some interesting events involving Lufthansa and scheduling, I ended up not getting back into London until late last night. By the time I got a train back to my flat I was dead to the world and pretty quickly fell out. But enough of that, this week has been a lot of fun including a parade at the beginning to enjoy the peace of Berlin at the end. I had almost forgotten how much I like traveling and discovering new places and Berlin was a joy to travel to.
SUNDAY, BERLIN I woke up a few hours before everyone else this morning. I only managed to get a few hours of sleep thanks to the sun hitting my face and lost an hour the night before thanks to Europe finally going on daylight savings time. After rousing everyone, we set out to the airport to catch our flight.
Berlin airport is rather odd. You can walk in and head to your gate without hitting security. All of the security checkpoints are at the individual gates. Now, this seems like a rather inefficient system, but who am I to question. The airport also seemed to be lacking in the air conditioning department as well. Then our flight was delayed by what felt like at least two hours. I was not the happiest of campers by the time we finally got on board and left the capital behind.
FRANKFURT We missed our connection to Frankfurt by a pretty healthy margin. The airline was nice enough to give us food vouchers to grab dinner while we waited for another flight into London. After grabbing some McDonalds, I boarded our flight home.
LONDON When we touched down, about 4 hours after we were supposed to get back, I can say I’ve never been happier to go through customs. We rode the train for an hour and a half before I finally jumped into bed and didn’t move for the next 10 hours.
SATURDAY, BERLIN Woke up pretty early this morning and grabbed breakfast with the guys down at the restaurant in the lobby. We decided to hit all the sights we could in the one full day we had in Berlin so we set out first to the last remnants of the Berlin Wall. Now I’ve seen pieces of the wall scattered around the world but I’ve never seen a whole section of the wall where it once stood. It was less impressive than I thought it would be but still interesting. We then visited the other main cold war attraction – Checkpoint Charlie. The place was such a tourist trap. I did find it amusing that on the American side there was a McDonalds and Starbucks right there. I guess a few decades of occupation leaves a mark.
We then hit up the central area of Berlin. We took the necessary pictures in front of the Brandenburg Gate and strolled through the main park in the city. We passed the Reichstag and the Soviet War Memorial before walking over to the Holocaust memorial. The memorial was massive and must have taken up a city block or two. It was also hard to grasp the meaning until you descended into the rows of concrete pillars. The deeper you get in the harder it is to have perspective. You have no idea what’s around the corner and who might be there with you. It swallows you whole until you’re completely lost, just like the Holocaust did for the nation.
By this time, we’d probably walked a good couple of miles and were getting pretty hungry. I found a traditional beer garden and restaurant on maps and we set out through the park to get to it. The park in central Berlin is wonderful. It’s like walking through a forest. It was also the first time I’d been in nature in months and it was so refreshing. We got to the place and all ordered the same meal on accident – BBQ nachos. It was the best thing ever. Honestly, I think British cuisine has crushed my taste buds to the point where almost all food is fantastic. Our waiter got fed up with us, however. I don’t think he liked the fact that all we spoke was English.
After lunch, we headed over to the museum island and toured a few of the museums in Berlin. They were all quite magnificent and I was impressed. When we finished we ended up “quad sitting” in front of the most beautiful building in Berlin, the Berlin Cathedral, because the sun was finally shining. We went back to the hostel to charge phones, eat, and then headed out for the clubs. It was a fantastic day.
FRIDAY, LONDON HEATHROW Skipped my classes this morning to take the train out to Heathrow. Now I’m personally a fan of Heathrow, however, I’m not a fan of it being on the other side of the city from my flat and an hour and a half trip by train. Flew through security and waited a little while until Taylor, another UNC student I met over here showed up. We chatted for a while until they called us to board. Lufthansa is a pretty good deal. They actually feed you pretty well on the flights and there was decent legroom. I cracked open a book and sat back and enjoyed flying to the continent.
MUNICH Well somewhere and somehow our flight got delayed for a bit. That meant it was yet another fun transfer time. Taylor and I bolted off the flight and sprinted to the Domestic terminal. It was almost Boston all over again expect, thankfully, it wasn’t as far. Thankfully customs was fast and we made it to the gate in the nick of time. Well, gate would be a generous term. It turns out for our flight into Berlin we were going on a small, regional jet. So, they loaded all of us onto a bus and drove us out a way onto the tarmac where we boarded the plane. It was a cool little experience I’m not going to lie.
BERLIN Roughly an hour or so later we landed in Berlin. After deplaning we headed out into the city. Now one of the first things I found out was Berlin’s transit is radically different than London’s. For one, it’s pretty darn cheap in comparison. Second, they never have a place to scan your tickets so you can basically use the system for free. We took a bus and then the subway into central Berlin where our hostel was. The hostel was pretty nice. Cheap, clean, and it had a bar and restaurant in the lobby. We locked our bags away and head down to the lobby to chat and wait for Montana who got in a few hours after us. The three of us then explored the city for a little while before calling it a night.
MONDAY, SOUTHBANK Finally grabbed my most beloved of meals today with Mitchka, another study abroad student from California. Yes, that’s right I finally got brunch. It’s been way too long. We went to this hipster pancake shop south of the river. It’s the first place I was able to get American style pancakes since I’ve been in London. Here everything is crêpes, which is fine and all, but sometimes you just want a nice fluffy stack of goodness. Mitchka and I chatted over our overpriced meals and exchanged the usual West Coast v. East Coast, STEM v. Humanities banter I’ve come to enjoy in the last few years. If there is one thing I need to start doing more here and when I get back, it’s getting brunch with people. It’s just a perfect meal.
SUNDAY, PICCADILLY CIRCUS For some strange reason, London decided to hold its St. Patrick’s Day parade on the day after St. Patrick’s. I’m not complaining however as it was snowing on Saturday and I’m not that big of a parade fan to endure yet another Siberian snowfall. I showed up to the parade route about 45 minutes before it was going to begin and met up with Alexis, a friend I’ve met who’s studying abroad from Michigan. By the time the parade finally started, I was frozen solid. Yet another example of when packing light somehow manages to backfire.
The parade itself was pretty good. It wasn’t anything special. It had your typical parade elements, clubs, civic groups, firetrucks, etc. What was funny was all the construction companies in the parade. I feel like every contractor in this town has to be Irish somehow now. We stood out there for the first hour or so before hypothermia started to set in and we decided to call it. I spent the rest of the day buried under my duvet watching Netflix and attempting to regain feeling in my hands.
Some final observations about Berlin: Every German I met somehow knew and spoke almost perfect English. It was kind of weird if I do say so. Berlin was also so much quieter than London. For a city of 4 million, it felt like no one was there which was a nice relief from the crushing amount of people here in London. No one seemed to be in charge. Here in London, just as in the States, there is an unwritten code and everyone falls into place and there is order. In Berlin, everyone does their own thing and there doesn’t really seem to be anyone in charge of anything. It all just kind of flows together.
Sorry about the delay again, but travel is what travel is. I’m going to get back to work now. The strike ended Thursday and I finally have classes again even though LDOC is this week. Well, I’m going back to writing my paper, I’ll see you next Sunday (this time for sure).