Guten tag meine Freunde! At least that’s how Google tells me I should say, “Hello my friends!” Really though, I speak zero German. It’s something I’d like to work on while living within walking distance of Germany.
I’m back in Strasbourg after all my Corsican adventures followed by a fun long weekend in Berlin. I arrived in Berlin and made my way to over to Potsdam where my lovely friend, Jess, is now living. I was tanked from my long travel day.
Protips: Charge your electronic device prior to long voyages. Better yet, know where you are going, write down instructions, check train schedules in advance, have a map. I failed to do every single one of these reasonable steps in getting to Berlin in an attempt at “whimsical, non-planned travel.” Turns out, that just isn’t my style. Also, don’t lose your train ticket….I realized I lost mine and started sweating bullets of fear as the train conductor walked by randomly checking people’s tickets.
Potsdam: Very lovely city about 45 minutes by train from Berlin. It is quiet, elegant, and has a massive park with FIVE palaces + palatial gardens. We walked around and managed to see one of the five:
Also, nice pedestrian streets, excellent local markets, lots of German people.
Berlin: Way too hip for me. Huge. It’s an incredibly interesting city, both historically and socially. Jess and I made it to a performance at the Berliner Philharmoniker (small group of phil musicians who decided to form a jazz/bolero ensemble), did a walking tour,
met up with some other Colorado friends at Mauerpark,
and spent a day thrift-shopping for a vintage wedding dress (for Jess).
Things I did not know about Berlin before:
- It was almost completely destroyed (>90%) at the end of WWII by Allied forces bombing the city to smithereens. So the many of the buildings are newly built or re-done since the 1940s. Very odd compared to most other European cities with very old buildings.
- Berlin’s symbol is a bear, and the city’s name is Slavic in origin.
- Soviet architecture and city planning tended toward large, block-y, and open (space-wise, not culture-wise).
- There are more Turkish people living in Berlin than any other city in the world outside of Turkey. We ate some ridiculously tasty Turkish food in the Kreuzberg district.
- Everyone speaks English. Almost. I learned the phrase, “Do you speak English?” in German, and out of the many many people I asked in the course of my basic purchasing or direction-seeking endeavors, I only once got a “Nein.” Usually, the response was, “of course,” and then the person proceeded to speak extremely fluent, mildly accented English.
It was really wonderful to spend time with friends, and Berlin is definitely a city I’d like to re-visit.
To get back, I went the cheap and somewhat painful route of Flixbus, a European bus company with very very cheap bus rides all over. The trip from Berlin to Strasbourg was supposed to take 11.5 hours (including a 1.5 hour stop in Frankfurt), however there was bad traffic outside of Frankfurt, and so the trip took 12.5 hours. I didn’t think this would be so bad after my 20+ hour bus rides in Argentina, but long-distance bus rides are relatively new in Europe, the South Americans are the pros in this instance (i.e. way more comfortable seats for long-distance bus rides). But I did spend only 1/6th of the price of a flight, and I got to see a whole lot of central Germany (from the highway)! Bathroom on the bus was surprisingly clean, and perhaps a smidge larger than the typical airplane bathroom. Overall, I’d recommend if saving money is more important than comfort and time.