The next morning, I had yet another funny experience. I got up at 5:45 to shower so that Claus could shower at 6, aim to leave for the train station at 7. Of course when I got up I was the only one awake, and when I went to turn on the light for the bathroom, it just flickered and went out. OH NO. It was still dark out so despite the window, it was pretty dark in the bathroom. I flicked the switch a few times and left it on, but the light stayed off. Claus’ bedroom door was right next to the bathroom so I lightly knocked on the door and woke him up (he was thrilled, haha). To summarize our conversation, I told him the light wouldn’t turn on, he said it had been doing that occasionally for about a week, I said I thought the light bulb turned off, he said he didn’t know where the bulbs were and that I should shower in the dark because it would an “experience.” I think the dude just wanted to go back to sleep.
So that’s how I ended up showering in the dark in Germany! I showered, got ready, packed up my bag, and went down to have breakfast with Claus’ dad Joseph. Have I mentioned how amazingly nice he was?? We had a good time chatting. He really likes the country and wants to visit the US- I told him about how my parents have a farm, and he said if he ever visits Rockridge (he never seemed to get that Rockridge is a school not a town, haha) he wants to see it.
Joseph drove Claus and me to the Pulheim train station (Pulheim is about 15 minutes outside of Cologne) and we took the train into the main Cologne train station, which is where we were meeting the person we were riding to Berlin with.
Train tickets to Berlin would have been like 200 Euros, and plane tickets would have been even more expensive- stupid holiday weekend!! So Claus used this website that translates to “Carpooling” where people can advertise free spaces in their cars and charge for a ride; he’s used it before with great success. We waited outside the train station and when the car pulled up, it turned out to be a VW van that we were sharing with the driver and six other people…for a 6 hour drive… it was interesting! The dude next to Claus smelled TERRIBLE but luckily, I managed to sleep most of the way. It was only 30 euros a person but when you multiple it by eight, the driver was making good money!! When we got into Berlin, we met up with Claus’ friend Julian, who is from Cologne and attends university in Berlin. We walked around Berlin a little, saw his campus, and then got some lunch (he really wanted to take us to Curry 36, a famous currywurst restaurant, but it was PACKED).
This is a building that’s part of Humboldt University, where Julian attends.
During the Nazi book burnings of 1933, there was a large bonfire right here in front of this building. In remembrance, there is a glass window in the ground looking down at empty bookshelves. There was a tour group there when I tried to take a photo (you can see them in the above photo before they moved over to the window!) so I didn’t get a great one, but you can see it.
It was awesome to be in such a historical place! I just did some research and learned that this square is called Bebelplatz. After lunch, Julian went back to campus to keep working and Claus and I went around Berlin and saw a few things. The first place we went was Checkpoint Charlie, which was where you could cross between East and West Berlin during the Cold War. It was really cool to see!
There was a sign there…
…which was the same sign as what was there in the 1930s! SO COOL!
Near Checkpoint Charlie, I saw one of the funniest things: A BEER BIKE! A bunch of people would sit there, drink beer, and pedal around the city. It was hilarious!
We also saw Brandenburg Gate, which is on a bunch of German euro pieces. I learned that each country prints their own euros and can put whatever they want on them.
Then we saw the Reichstag, which is where the German parliament sits.
You can go up in the glass globe at the top, but the line was crazy long every day so we never ended up going up.
It started getting dark, and we saw a cool view across the Spree, the river in Berlin.
There were also some locks on this bridge. It’s quite the worldwide cultural phenomenon!
A landmark we saw all the time while walking around the city was the Fernsehturm, which is the tallest structure in Germany.
Every time I say “Fernsehturm” it reminds me of the “Ermahgerd” meme.
By this time, it was getting dark, so we headed to the hostel. Note: we had been carrying around our bags ALL DAY! I was ready to not have to carry it anymore. We got to the hostel, and I found out that although Claus had made sure he knew where the hostel was, he didn’t reserve beds ahead of time, and they were all full up… we decided to head to this Ibis hotel that wasn’t far from the hostel. Ibis is a really big hotel chain in Europe and they have pretty cheap rooms. We went ahead and reserved a room in the hostel for the next night and set off for the Ibis. When we got there, we found out that they were completely full too, and that pretty much every hostel and hotel was full for the night because of the holiday weekend. We were stuck. The nice people at Ibis allowed us to use their two desktop computers in their library, so for a couple of hours Claus and I sat there frantically trying to find somewhere to sleep for the night.
This might sound like a pretty bad situation, but I wasn’t too worried or stressed about it. I knew if worst came to worst, we could stay with Claus’ friend Julian- the only reason we weren’t staying there was because he was having some roommate issues and didn’t want to exacerbate them by having two overnight guests. Claus was looking for something on Air BNB, which is like CouchSurfing, except you pay to stay in someone’s house, and I was messaging people from the “Last Minute/Emergency Berlin” group on CouchSurfing. After about an hour, Claus got a response from someone on Air BNB, then for the next 45 minutes or so we were messaging back and forth with her, figuring out how to pay her online, etc. It was a pretty reasonable price for the two of us–not much more than the hostel would have been. She said she would accept payment through either credit card or PayPal through the Air BNB website, but somehow Claus is 22 and doesn’t have a credit card OR PayPal, so I went ahead and used my international credit card to pay for it (after making sure we had her correct address and phone number so that we weren’t getting scammed).
As luck would have it, the woman (Antje) lived only about five minutes from the Ibis where we were! We got to her apartment building, she let us in, and all my worries were alleviated! Antje was SO nice, she spoke both French and English, and her flat was amazingly huge! She had everything figured out for us–a key to the apartment, towels, two beds set up, water and chocolate in the room, a sheet of paper with a ton of information and the WiFi password… EVERYTHING! She was seriously an answer to prayer. We regrouped and freshened up for a little bit, then headed out to go hang out with Julian and a couple of his friends at his apartment. It was a really good time, and then we headed back to Antje’s for the night.
Some pictures of Antje’s… forgive the quality, I took them on my phone!
It was quite a day! Six hour trip crammed in a van with a bunch of smelly strangers, walking around Berlin with our bags all day, almost having nowhere to stay, finally finding a place, then heading out for the evening! Needless to say I slept GREAT that night. The next day, I slept in a bit, then we toured around Berlin all day, but that’ll be my next post!