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Published: February 28th 2007
It seems like the cold and flu season as finally caught up with us--or maybe we just caught up with it. Last night the thin walls of our hostel in Berlin echoed with the sick hacking of Derek, my roomates, and other people in other rooms and on other floors. Everyone on the street and in the stores is riding themselves of phelm, and nooooo one is covering their noses or mouths. Derek just coughed. So did the girl beside me. It's only a matter of time before I succumb too..... Ahh!
Well, Nelly Furtado was pretty fun. She puts on a big show, and it's kind of fun to think that someone who once walked the same halls as me, had the same teachers and musical training (Sandy King, haha) as me, and sat in the same student council office as me, is now sooo big all over the world. Belgium LOVED her. The arena was packed and people all around us were chanting, "NELL-Y! NELL-Y!" Still, though, I didn't really feel like she gave herself to the crowd as much as other artists I've seen in concert have. Derek and I both felt that at times she was just sort of 'going through the motions.' Oh well, maybe she was just getting a bit burn out of touring. Plus, I have a theory that she's pregnant again. Her first dress was EXTREMELY unflattering and totally made it LOOK like she was pregnant, but what really tipped me off was the way she kept putting her hand on her stomach, in the manner in which all pregant women do. We'll have to wait and see if I'm right...
We had a few pre-concert adventures. We got on our train to Brussels and checked in to our hostel without too much trouble (although it was pouring rain). Then we bought a transit day pass and took the tram to the stadium to pick up our tickets. I'd looked in to the route ahead of time on the stadium website (I love online translators!) so it wasn't very hard. What WAS hard was finding the front door of the place, because it was very strange and had no real front entrance area and there was sort of a Cost-Co style store built right in to it. When we finally found a staffed window, we were told that we were in the wrong place. Oh no. But he just meant that we should have been at the window around the corner, which wouldn't open until an hour before showtime and we should come back then. OooooK so it was back on the tram and back to our hostel area. We had some missions to accomplish, anyway. First of all, we wanted to make a big sign for the concert, so we needed to find posterboard and a big jiffy markers. Derek also wanted to find a Canadian flag. However, it turned out that Belgium banned posterboard in the great revolution of '96. OK, I made that up, but it was NOWHERE to be found, no matter how hard we tried. So, we improvised. The guy at the desk of our hostel found an Ikea box in the basement that was the perfect size for a sign, then we bought wrapping paper and turned it around so that we could cover the cardboard in white. We bought tape to attach the paper and a big, thick, permanent blue pen to write our message. Then we popped the whole thing into a big orange garbage bag I had to protect it from the rain. Perfect! (A Canadian flag was never found, but I didn't really expect to anyway)
Now we had to decide what message would grace this amazing, and rather costly, sign. After much debate, we finally settled on "Yah Mount Doug!" The words "Mount Doug" were huge, with the "yah" being smaller and secondary. We were CERTAIN that if Nelly saw it she would give us a "shout out" (as Derek repeated over and over again. Haha he was all about the 'shout outs') We thought that we would have terrible seats since we bought our tickets less than a week before the concert, but it turns out we had standing room spots in front and were actually able to secure ourselves a pretty good space. Nelly would see our sign for sure!!! We were stoked. We had to explain the sign to about a million nearby standees, since noone had any idea what Mount Doug was, but that was kind of fun. Plus, the ones who didn't speak English very well left the conversation thinking that they had just met someone who was friends with Nelly Furtado in highschool. Hahahaha. Well, alas, that was the most fun we would get to have with the sign. We kept it down until we felt the time was right: she was standing at the front of the stage, doing a sing-along song with the crowd so there were lights up on the audience, and she was surveying her fans. She kept missing us, though! We would put the sign down whenever she was looking away, then pop it up when she glanced in our direction, but to no avail. Then, at the end of the song, security came over and, after trying to speak to us in French, the Flemish, then finnnnally English reprimanded us and told us to put that away because the people behind us couldn't see. Darn! We were being really good about it, too! And tons of people at North American concerts have signs. Plus, there was someone else with a Portugual sign who snuck his way to the front and popped up his sign, and she saw it. Ohhhhhh well. We had to try. I left the sign at the edge of the stage afterwards in hopes that it, or its message, might eventually make it to her, but I think it was more likely that it just got thrown in the garbage. She never mentioned Canada once the whole concert, so mavbe she's less proud of her roots than I thought.
The next day we checked out of our hostel, had a bit of time to pick up some sandwhiches from the grocery store, then hopped on our comfy, comfy intercity express train to Köln (hey, I can actually spell that the German way since I'm on a German keyboard!). Those trains are so nice, but they're usually pretty busy so it's always a bit sketchy whether or not we'll actually get a seat. The first car we walked through was 100% booked, but luckily there were a number of non-reserved seats in the next car. We got of at Köln and then debated about whether we should take the longer and less nice InterCity train to Berlin from there and be assured a seat, or take our chances and go for another ICE train that would be a shorter ride and a lot nicer--if we got seats. In the end we picked the ICE because we were already going to be arriving in Berlin after 7pm and we didn't want to get there any later than that. We had half an hour to kill so we set off in search of benches. The most annoying thing about German train stations is that they have something against public seating. WHAT are you supposed to do when you're waiting around for ages for your connecting train? I hate it. We walked downstairs and discovered a Starbucks. I haven't had Starbucks since leaving Victoria because it is outrageously expensive here, even more so than at home, so I've been able to pass. On this day, though, I was somehow sucked in to its allure and decided to buy a caramel macchiatto under the pretense that it would allow us to have seats for our wait and we would be allowed to use their bathroom. That was totally just a coverup though because we only had half an hour to wait---we thought (foreshadowing)--so I paid over $6CAN purely due to lack of willpower.
I sucked my coffee back (which was way stronger and less milky then back home) and we headed up to our platform, only to discover that our train was going to be "about 90 minutes delayed"!!! I had hopped that there was some error in translation, but no, 90 minutes was the correct delay. Brutal. It might not have been so bad if there had been benches or a warm area to sit in, but there wasn't and we just gave up our Starbucks seats. Sooo we sat on our bags in the cold on the platform for an hour before we could catch another train.
We had a brochure for the hostel we wanted to go to once in Berlin that had really good bus directions from the trainstation, but unfortunately it didn't have directions on how much the bus cost or how to get tickets. After asking a few train info people that definitely didn't understand enough English to realize that we wanted bus, not train tickets, we finally just got on the bus and hoped that we would be able to communicate our request to the driver. We were, thankfully, but we were horrified to find out that it cost 2.10€ each!!! That's over $3 and we were going like 4 stops. Brutal. I would have walked but Derek wasn't feeling well and it was getting late, plus we were already on the bus at that point, so we just had to suck it up and pay. It's OK, though, because our hostel is quite cheap and we got 50% off our first night since we registered after 7pm and we get an amazing free breakfast during our stay there (that brochure really came through!). No free internet, but we just happened upon this place a block away that's only 1€ per hour, so that's pretty good.
We're just taking it easy for today. I'll do some internet research on transit passes and points of interest. We might move to another hostel after our three nights here because they're so booked up we have to move to a new room every day, which is a bit annoying. Other than that, the hostel is quite nice, so we'll see what happens in the end.
P.S. I don't have any Nelly Furtado pictures because I didn't take my camera, but Derek does so maybe he'll let me borrow his so I can upload some.
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