berlin on a whim

Open your mind, relax,
Jump in! Flight by the seat of
One's pants can work out.

Sometime on Thursday, I was at TUD, checking email while I was waiting for a presentation. Mathieu appeared on chat, and I mentioned I had nothing to do this weekend. He was like, "Come to Berlin! It will be fun! Oops, gotta go." I got a message from him later that he still wanted me to come, but because of his class he wouldn't be able to make it to the train station until after 15:30.

Okay, so this is enough to go on, right? I looked at trips from Darmstadt to Berlin, and I found a suitable one that arrived there at 17:30. I sent him an email asking would he be able to meet me there? ...No response. Friday morning there was nothing, either, so I sent another message that I was wearing a bright pink dress and rainbow socks and to please meet me at 17:30. I figured that, even if I couldn't find him, Berlin's a big city, and it wouldn't be hard to find a hostel and figure out a plan on my own.

The train ride was everything that I would expect from a train ride through Europe. There were rolling green hills with white goats throwing speckles across them. The towns were clustered in valleys, and each one had a token cathedral in the centre. A bit closer to Berlin, there were windfarms on some of the hills. I think Germany is #1 in wind power? Maybe it was solar power; I'm not sure.

So I arrived at the train station in Berlin, even more nervous because my train was running 5 minutes late. I looked around the platform, then headed down the escalator. "Valkyrie!" a voice called down to me, "It's Mathieu! I guess I'll meet you at the bottom." So it was a success. :D

He'd also brought friends; one of whom may start writing on this blog at some point. They were Alex and Nadège (I think that's the spelling...), and he'd met them during his language course in Berlin. Alex is doing geology in Bavaria for the summer, and Nadège is doing biology stuff in Hamburg, I think.

So our first adventure was to cross past the EU building, the Reichstag, and the thousands of people in the train station to get on a double-decker bus that took us past a lot of interesting sights. We stopped by Mathieu's apartment to try to figure out where to go, but we couldn't get his internet to work, so we just went.

Eventually, we found ourselves at a pub in Alextanderplatz, where we enjoyed some delicious schwartzbeer. The place offered beer in interesting formats: for instance, you could buy a metre of beer. It was also sold by the 3 or 5 litres, which was served in a tower. Hum.

We wanted to find a club, so we asked a local guy who happened to speak some English ("happened" isn't really the right word... almost everyone here who's less than 30 speaks pretty good English) where to find one, and he pointed us at... well, a local club. We couldn't get in because we couldn't speak German.

There were some French people hanging out outside, and we started talking to them. Mathieu and Nadège are from Quebec, so they speak French, too. Alex and I stood by as they sorted out that we were going to go to a club called "Tresor," which, incidentally, is one of the 3 most famous clubs in Berlin. The other two were the one we'd just been turned away from and a gay club. They got us in with their Frenchery, and it was good.

That club was ridiculous, may I mention that? The music was industrial like I've never heard before, and it was kickin' all night. We danced and danced, then walked outside to be greeted by sunlight. Yup, it was 7am. What next?

Well, we had to meet someone else at the train station. So we wandered on over. We had some time to kill, so we had pizza and chilled out. A guy, probably 40, walked up to us and started talking to me and Alex about how he wants to go to Canada or the US to study forestry. Then he switched topics and started talking about a protest that he was going to be in that day. It's a group, I never caught the name, that wants toilets to be free and people to have more say in what goes on in their governments. Germany's sales tax is 19% for chrissakes. Then he left us, we found the person we were to meet, and we walked right through the protest he was talking about.

A walk past the Reichstag again showed us another protest, this one filled with people who wanted fair treatment for milk cows. They had banners with "faire Milch" printed on them, which I initially interpreted as "milk fair"... it was sadly not so. :)

Then what... oh, everything else. We saw the Brandenburg Tor, the civilisation museum (one of the exhibitions for now is the GATES TO ENTER FECKING BABLYLON), a few random sculptures on the streets, some craft fair things that seemed to be happening, and the zoo. The only zoo in Europe with a panda!

After that, the wall was a necessary thing to see, but we stopped back by Alex's for a moment to grab something we needed. The subway to get to his house was closed, though not by protesters. We did see a shitton of Berlin football fans, though, just out of a game. It was sweet.

I actually wrote my name on the wall. Maybe if you go someday, you'll get to see it. ;) It was covered in graffiti, some of which had been commissioned AFAIK, and it was really interesting. It's hard for someone from the US to believe that something like that could have existed, or needed to exist. I think I will learn a lot on this trip.

A beergarden provided dinner and some entertainment for the evening. We also made a stop at the Radisson, which sounds weird, but it's home to the tallest cylindrical aquarium in the world. Pretty sweet.

The night wrapped up with a long sit and talk, which actually stretched into morning and dawn. I managed to drag my sorry, tired ass to the train station to catch an earlier train than I'd expected to take, which was a good thing. Apparently, protesters (again!) had started rioting at the main train station in Frankfurt, so it was closed by the Police. I needed to make a train change there, which became impossible. So much luck there, though: there was a woman sitting next to me on the train who a) spoke English and b) needed to go to the same place that I did. So we navigated the alternate transportation routes and managed to get back to Darmstadt about 2.5 hours after we had expected to. Thanks to miracles, I had exactly enough money (I found a .05 piece on the floor of the train, actually, that got me up to the exact amount) to get home, and I caught the last bus to my house. Amazing.

What a weekend. I hope I see those guys again soon.


Post a Comment