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Published: October 14th 2006
From the Bundestag
My flight from Dublin to Berlin on Ryan Air was due to leave at 5:55AM on 9/26. It's not possible to get to the airport early enough, using public transportation, to check in for a 6am flight. So, I made the decision to sleep at the airport thursday night.
I expected to be one of only a couple people sleeping there, and I was actually a bit concerned that I would not be allowed to do it, since I've never done this before. However, when I arrived I found that the only waiting area outside of security was absolutely packed with people. This is at 10:30 at night no less. Hoping that things would clear up after the last few flights came in, I took a seat. Sure enough, after about 1.5 hours of waiting, most of the people who had been standing around met the people they were waiting for, and left. However, I had been counting on people leaving the seats too. This, unfortunately, did not happen. As it turns out, there were about 100 other people doing exactly the same thing I was. Wonderful. So, I tried to sleep sitting up in the chair, but that wasn't
I'm there somewhere.
going anywhere, so around 1 am I decided to find a spot on the floor where I could lie down. I grabbed a corner away from most of the noise and stretched out.
Having never slept on a stone floor before, I quickly realized that not only are they hard, but they're COLD. They sap the heat out of your body and make it impossible to sleep. So, I dug my sleeping back out of my pack and arranged my stuff so that I was essentially sleeping on my bag to make it harder to steal. I did manage to get about 2 hours of sleep (thank you earplugs!) before waking up around 4:30 to check in for my flight. Aside from being exhausted, the flight over to Berlin was painless, even if the ryan air seats don't recline!
After landing, we had to follow a roundabout path through the airport to get to the passport control. The entire walk I was rehearsing the three or four phrases of German I had gone through on the plane. When I reached the checkpoint, I got in the non-EU line behind just one person (I love non-assigned seating -- I
sat in the second row on the plane). When it was my turn, I stepped up to the booth and said "Guten Tag" (Good Day) and handed over my passport. The first thing I noticed about the man looking at my passport was the large handgun strapped to his waist. This was a bit of a change from heathrow and my experiences in the UK and Ireland. The second thing I noticed was that he wasn't saying anything. He just kept looking at my picture and at me. Picture. Me. Picture. Me. He did this five or six times, and I was starting to get a bit nervous. Finally, he started flipping through the passport and then he stamped it. He handed it back, and I was off. He didn't say a single word to me. Not even a reply to my hello. It was intimidating, but I was just happy to be in without playing 20 questions.
I grabbed my bag, and set off to get the train into Berlin. After about 30 seconds of trying to figure out the ticket machine, I was approached by a Berlin volunteer who was actually really helpful. He got me the
day pass I wanted, and I went and found the train. I knew that I had to validate the ticket, but I was trying to find the machine on the train, and I just couldn't seem to locate it. I asked someone and she didn't speak any english, so I moved on to another person who told me it was a red box by the door. Hmm. I looked and couldn't find anything, but by chance I looked out the window and saw a red box near the entrance to the platform. Bingo. I stamped it and jumped back on the train for the ride to Zoo Station.
I had a couple of hostels in mind when I got there, but there were ads for the A&O hostel in the train station so I decided to check it out. I got there, and they had a 16(!) bed dorm for only 10 euros a night, so I was sold. The dorm itself wasn't too bad, but the beds had an awful tendency to squeak whenever you moved on them. Try and imagine a symphony of squeaking beds all night long. Oh well that's what earplugs are for. I got
Not quite american, but bonus points for the flags!
settled in and set off to find food because I was starving at this point. I walked around a little, but I was feeling really nervous about not speaking the language, so I ended up going to McDonalds. For some reason I was really in the mood for a quarter pounder, but it was nowhere to be found on the menu. They did have a
which made me think of the line in Pulp Fiction where Samuel L is talking about McDonalds in France and he says that they have the
because of the metric system. Note that Jay pointed out that it was not Samuel L, but Travolta who said the line, and it was Amsterdam not Paris
So, it made me smile to see the royal in germany. Anyway, I was just happy to be able to order in english and get some familiar food. I think I may eat McDonalds as my first meal in each new country just for kicks to see how it differs from place to place.
The food settled me down a bit, and I spent the rest of the day walking around seeing the sights. I met up with an Italian girl (Silvia) in the afternoon and we went to the Bundestag and then walked to Alexanderplatz, stopping for dinner along the way. We ended up going to an
, which was an interesting attempt at american cuisine. I got a turkey club, and it was close enough plus the american flags were a nice touch!
I'm running short of time, so I'll post at least one more Berlin entry. I know I'm a bit behind, but I'm trying to catch up this weekend. We'll see.
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