Hitting the Ground Running

Trip Start Sep 15, 2006
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Trip End Oct 10, 2006


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Flag of Germany  ,
Sunday, September 17, 2006

MOOD: Chipper
TIME: 2:19pm
DATE: Sept 19
PLACE: In a train sitting at Juterbog station, on my way to Prague via Dresden
SONG STUCK IN MY HEAD:
LAST FOOD I CONSUMED: Ham and cheese sandwich which I made at the hostel's free breakfast buffet this morning and which was sitting in my big pack at Berlin Hauptbahnhof's (train station's) left luggage room.

[The following is about my day Sunday the 17th, which began in Frankfurt and ended in Berlin. It's amazing to think that was only two days ago. But that's the joy of traveling, where every day can seem like a week spent back home. (Especially when you're like me and you've been unemployed all summer watching TV.)]

I woke up Sunday around 6:45am, after having gone to bed around 11:30. Peer had warned me to expect lots of commotion what with Baby Celina crying in the night, but I slept well. I was eager to enter my first journal entry on TravelPod, and since I wasn't able to access Peer's WiFi using this POS computer, he said I could use the laptop in their office, as long as Hisae wasn't using it. Sure enough, when I went in there early that morning, Hisae was breastfeeding Celina. I said sorry and closed the door. I wasn't that embarrassed, not having seen anything, and I hope she wasn't, either.

After that I went out on their balcony and composed a note on my POS to my house sitter Mark, a friend of my upstairs neighbor Cornelius who suddenly needed a place to stay, and since he was willing to pay me a bit of rent, it worked out for both of us. It was nice out there on the balcony, hearing the suburbs of Frankfurt waking up.

At 10am it was time for me to go back to the airport for my flight to Berlin and, typically for me, I was late and had hurriedly packed. I hugged Peer and Hisae and sent fuzzy thoughts to Celina before hauling my pack onto my back and entering the elevator. When I opened their lobby door, Hisae called down to me fro above, saying that I'd forgotten my shoes. I looked down at my sandals, thought to myself, "What does she mean, I'm wearing... oh shit." I'd forgotten my newly bought North Face walking shoes with the Superfeet liners that were half the cost of the shoes themselves. I had almost left what I consider the most important items for traveling -- shoes that don't give you blisters. Peer threw the shoes down one at a time, I shoved them in my bag and then ran off. I'm still kicking myself at this near tragedy. (Pun intended.)

[Train interlude: I just bought tea on the train for 2.70. 2 fuckin' 70! That'll be the last time. Especially since, as per usual for me when I'm tired, the caffeine and sugar made me much more tired.]

I made it the airport just fine, having had plenty of practice the previous day, but when I got to the Lufthansa terminal I encountered utter chaos. There was a giant line of passengers waiting to check-in -- on a Sunday morning! -- and my flight was in less than an hour and I hadn't gone through security. As I've learned that there are usually ways to avoid huge lines if one is late for one's flight (which I almost always am), I first tried the computer check in terminal, but to no avail. Then I talked to a Lufthansa representative who was passing by and seemed to have been sucked into the maelstrom on his way to something else, and he tried to help but couldn't. I was about to give up when I saw another bank of check-in terminals, except these were surrounded by velvet ropes, which were guarded by a small female bouncer. She made me stop my luggage cart and explain my situation, which I did, and apparently I said the right things as she presented me with a golden ticket -- access to the priority check-in line! I felt like Charlie on his way to the chocolate factory! (Okay, it wasn't that special as I'm sure the next flight to Berlin was in an hour, but still, I'd bucked the system.)

At the priority desk, it looked bad -- they had no record of my electronic ticket. She asked if I was sure my ticket was an e-ticket, and I told her that, yes, my travel agent had told me that only my Air India flights were paper tickets. The lady at the desk was nice and was making all the right calls on my behalf, but to no avail. Then she asked to see my Air India ticket, and sure enough, there was the flight to Berlin. Crisis averted. Security gave me a rough time, but soon enough I was airborne, and I was even able to move to a window seat.

At Tegel Airport in Berlin I bought a SIM card for my everywhere-but-the-U.S. cell phone, got on the bus, found my way to the S-bahn platform and bought a Tourist Card good for all public transportation in Berlin. Though I was wearing an enormous pack (it's gotta be at least 50 pounds), I saw that the Messe Nord/ICC station was only two stops away, and the ICC was one of my sightseeing goals. So I decided to forestall finding a room for the night and begin my Berlin sightseeing immediately.

ICC stands for International Congress Centrum, a convention center completed in 1979, and the main location for a favorite bad movie of mine, The Apple. The movie is more or less about two aspiring singers who meet Mr. Boogaloo (aka The Devil), head of the BIM Corporation, which controls the police, the press and the entertainment industry. The Apple begins with a concert in a large theater, and I believe the ICC's main meeting room was used as the theater. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get inside. Though what I really wanted to see was the location of the big dance number in the enormous lobby of the BIM Corp. This might have been inside the ICC, though it's always looked like an airport to me.

After walking around the ICC one and a half times (again, all the while wearing a gigantic back pack) I decided to head for the tower across the street, which apparently is a radio tower built in the 20s. My Tourist Card saved me 2 Euros on the 4 Euro admission, and up I went. I always try and get up above a city for a lay of the land as soon as possible, and so another one of my objectives was accomplished. Though the ICC is far from the city center, and the TV tower at Alexanderplatz is a much higher and central viewing platform, I was quite happy with the view and the photo/video taking opportunities.

From the tower I spotted a nice park with a lake, so I headed there next, and indeed, it was nice. I spotted a large group of sunbathers across the way and was tempted to ascertain whether anyone would be bold enough to be sunbathing nude, but I was really exhausted at that point and headed for the Generator Hostel, across from Landsberger Allee station.

*************

After showering and doing some laundry in my dorm room, I headed for the Generator bar's happy hour, where I consumed a black beer, a bloody mary and a hefeweizen in just over an hour. This only set me back about 4 Euros, so I was proud of my budget-minded drinking. While at the bar I chatted it up with an Aussie named Brenton who was an actor back home. Indeed, he was a good-looking and extremely gregarious guy with a beard, so I can see him doing well for himself. He had attended LMU in L.A. on a tennis scholarship, so we talked California and American sports, all while watching an all-important Manchester United/Arsenal match on the tube. Though I almost never watch soccer back home, I love watching it while abroad.

Back at the room I met an Israeli named Tal (sp?) who wanted to go to dinner, so we went around the corner and had Doner Kebap, which is the same thing as shawerma. I seem to have a tradition of eating non-native food upon getting to my destination -- in Frankfurt I had Italian, and in Berlin it was Middle Eastern. However, these days Doner Kebap is about as native as it gets to Berlin. It was very tasty, especially the bread, which was spongier than pita and toasted.

Having had another beer with dinner, I was buzzed enough to decide to hop on a tram, which had just pulled up at the street station across from the kebab place. But I wasn't able to figure out the tram routes on the transport map I had, so I went back to Landsberger Allee, got on the S-bahn and headed for Alexanderplatz, which I knew nothing about, but had heard it mentioned enough at the hostel that I decided that was the place to see.

As it turns out, Alexanderplatz was an important area of East Berlin, home to Communist-run shopping malls and a large plaza where rallies were held. It's also where the TV Tower looms over uber alles. The bottom of the tower has some pink hexagons painted on it in soccer ball-like fashion, which I assume were for the World Cup held in Germany this year. It was a neat place to be at night, with lots of photo taking opportunities.

But that day was but a warm-up for Monday's excursion and video excursion. Hopefully I'll be able to get my photos up on TravelPod soon.

Ryan
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