Sunday, September 23, 2012

Day 4 - Part 2 (Hamburg to Berlin)

From the coffee shop, we took off on foot to explore Hamburg. And to find somewhere to eat. Hamburg is a pretty cool old city. We found the main city square, just past a lake. Lots going on there-performers, etc. One nice thing Iearned hamburg: they actually have a larger red light district than Amsterdam!

Pavol really wanted some German food, so that is what we were set on finding. We walked and walked and walked. Aaandd walked. We did find a cool old church, but no restaurants. I guess there was some sort of holiday or event going on, and everything was seriously closed. Every restaurant. Every grocery store. Everything.

We eventually convinced Pavol to give up and just head back to the square to find something. Things were open there, just not a German place. So we thought. We walked all the way back and found a little place called Cafe something. Ha, I forgot. (That's what I get for not keeping up with writing this afternoon. I was just too tired.)

The boys all three got weinerschnitzel and loved it. I had tomato soup and a mozzarella panini. Yum! Kind of been on a soup kick over here. It's been pretty chilly out and soup has just hit the spot!

Loving my tomato soup and cheese!

Since we wasted so much time walking around (and eating on "Europe time" took forever), we didn't have much time to catch our train. The train to Berlin ran every hour, and we had already missed the one we wanted to be on at 3. We had about 25 minutes to walk to the train station, buy a ticket, and get to our platform. We all thought we would be okay.


The train station was a little farther away that we thought. It was a solid 15 minute race walk from the restaurant. I was on a mission, really booking it. Matt and Denzil were struggling and dragging behind, only catching up at the stop lights.

So we got to the train station, and panic was starting to set in. I really didn't want to wait another hour. It was a 2.5 hour train in and I wanted to be there before dark and maybe see a little of Berlin.

So, 10 minutes. As soon as we walked in, Pavol spotted the big electronic board and found our train on Platform 8. Perfect. We just had to figure out how and where to buy a ticket.

We found the kiosks and started he process. We typed in Berlin, and there were like 8,000 options for Berlin, including more than one airport. So we had to arrow down, on a very slow kiosk, down to the S's for Schoenfeld. Holy cow. Talk about nerve racking, with a clock right on the screen, watching the second tick down to 4pm.

So we got to the last screen after getting everything else set, and tried to pay. With a credit card. Because we've been out of Euros for like a day now. And same story as the last train station. You have to have the special credit cards with the little chip. Stupid little chip...

We don't have a chip. Or cash. And there is an anxious line behind is. And our time is ticking away. We were both kind of irritated by that point. So Denzil has a 100 Euro bill. Done. He hands it over and I give him USD.

NOPE. Machine doesn't take anything over a 50. So we start frantically asking around for people to give us change. No one has it. Matt and I stand there and state at the machine while Denzil takes off running through the train station asking for change. In the mean time, the machine times out and we have to start all over. Arrowing down again all the way to the S's. Oh. My. Goodness.

Three minutes left, and Denzil comes running back with change. He's such a great guy and totally saved the day! He even grabbed our bags and took off for the platform with them, while we shoved the money in and waited for our tickets to print.

We were both agitated (no sleep didn't help) and beyond frazzled. But, somehow, we did make it to our train on time. It was a miracle.

Since we were so late, we didn't have a chance to figure out which train car we needed to be on. We just hopped on the closest one. And low and behold, an entire car full of kids got on right behind us. We about strangled all of them.

Found two seats in car 2 and just hopes they weren't reserved seats. We're cheap and bought 2nd class, which we've learned is basically a free for all. No such luck. About 5 minutes in, we got the boot. Reserved seat. And the whole next car was full of kids. No seats. We were so over it all by then, we just sat (well, I layed) down in the aisle between cars. Right in front of the bathroom. And was NOT pumped about having to sit on the floor for two hours after the ordeal we had just had, but I was so exhausted, I actually fell asleep for almost an hour. It would have been nice to have a seat and maybe actually see some of the country side, but since I was in the ground, sleep was the best option.

A guy did come by to check our tickets, and he said there were a couple seats in the 5th car, but we were already an hour in and just too lazy to lug our stuff down there. So we just bounced around on the floor for the next hour...

We pulled in to Berlin central train station around 6. Really not a bad train ride. It was just a little stressful getting on it!

The central train station in Berlin was SO nice! It was huge and basically had a a mall and tons of restaurants in it. And clean! Most stuff here has been so clean, as the Germans recycle a lot.

We had a few minutes to catch our next train to the airport, and I needed to find an adaptor since mine blew up. Took us three tries, but we eventually found one, and stocked up on more flat water. (SO over the sparkling stuff.)
Found our platform and hopped on our next train out of the city. Would of loved to see more of it, but we wanted to drop our stuff off and check in to our hotel that Matt's mom got for us.

On the train from central station to airport
20 minutes later, and we were in the ghetto of East Berlin. Seriously. Not a nice area! The airport was right across the road, but no hotel in sight.

Where we got off the train in East Berlin.  Do you see any buildings nearby??

It was still light out, weather wasn't too bad, and I'm cheap. We were hoofing it. We had to stop right outside the train station and ask for directions from a bus driver who thankfully spoke a little English. We were literally in the middle of nowhere and nothing hotel-ish in sight. No exaggeration.  Bus driver said walk up that way, turn left past a hotel, go over the train tracks and through a neighborhood, and it will be over to your left. Great directions. ;)

So off we went. In a not very nice part of east Berlin. We didn't see one person so decided to stop and ask for directions at a little restaurant / hotel looking thing. And sure enough, that was our "turn right". Not at a street, just some wooden steps that went up and over. We so almost missed that one!

We kept going through a crappy neighborhood, laughing the whole way about the situation. Still hadn't seen any people or hotel looking buildings. We found one little area that maybe looked like some establishments, but no Holiday Inn and nothing was open. So we kept walking.

At a little fork in the road, we weren't sure where to go. A wheat (or maybe just weed) field was straight ahead, haha. No joke.  I happened to glance over to the left, and sure enough, waaaay off in the distance, I saw the back of a green Holiday sign, I thought. So that's where we went.

You can't really tell from this picture, but right in the middle, behind those trees, is the top of the green sign I spotted.

And sure enough, it was a giant Holiday Inn - a nice one - in the middle of nowhere! It was such an interesting little trek, ha. Glad we did it, even though we were about to drop dead by the time we got there. (Oh, and when we walked up, we saw they had a free shuttle running every 30 minutes. Would of been nice to know before our 20 minute walk!)

Checked in to our room, on the third floor, and it was nice! There was a hilarious welcome thing on the tv with Matt's name on it, but the translation wasn't quite right.

We paid for one hour of wifi down in the lobby, and chatted on face time with Matt's parents. Apple iPhone technology is amazing. :) I'll use the rest of the hour later to upload this and check my emails...

It was 8pm by that point, and neither of us had any desire to make the hike back in to the city to see the nightlife. Three or four hours of sleep is just not enough. Not for me, anyways.

We went down to the lobby to see if the staff had any restaurant recommendations close by. The guy said there was a nice Italian restaurant "5 to 7 minutes walk " away. The directions sounded sketchy again - maybe its just the language barrier - but we walked outside as we debated it.

No way was there anything within a 10 minute walk of that place. It was pitch black for a long ways. So as we turned around to walk back in - decided to just eat at the restaurant at the hotel - a Holiday Inn driver came out with keys in his hand, offering to drive us! "5 minute drive!" He said. Ha! A 5 minute drive is very different from a 5 minute walk! I knew it!

We just didn't have the energy to bother with it, so we stuck with the hotel restaurant. Sky Restaurant.

Matt got the all you can eat buffet so he could get me cheese and desserts, and I ordered some pasta. It was all average. Nothing spectacular. And it was a pretty dull dinner. Neither of us were much for conversation...just wanting to be in bed. So that is just what we did. Straight up to the room and in bed by 9:30.
Our flight tomorrow is at 9am. It's a very small airport, but we're still going an hour and a half early. Taking the 7:30am shuttle, so we'll have to be up early. REALLY looking forward to Switzerland tomorrow!! :)

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