This is going to be a narrative post and I’ll share more about history and information in following posts. Story time with G, here we go.
Once upon a time, Gabrielle and her friend found April found $35 plane tickets to Berlin. They didn’t realize how earlier they would have to get up for that super cheap flight that took off at 6:20am. Don’t worry be happy.
The journey begins Friday at 4:30am when we hailed a cab on the streets of Madrid. We chose to swallow the outrageous $30 flat rate to the airport because it allowed us to sleep for an extra hour. Airport arrival is smooth and fast, up until boarding. Some genius put two gates right next to each other with boarding times within 10 minutes of one another. We got in our respective line and glared at people who “cut” us in line because they were looking for the other line. Finally they sent an airline representative to walk up and down the lines reading the destinations aloud because some people refuse to read signs and simply ask for help.
We surprisingly all board on time and leave at our designated time. And then began Dante’s ninth ring of inferno. It started with a group of Spanish punks who were spread out throughout the plane but were all traveling together. One girl was seated next to April and I in the window seat. She expressed great concern about her fear of flying to her friend in the seat in front. The girl in front was freaking out because somewhere between scanning her boarding pass and boarding the plane, she lost her Spanish ID. Hope she knows German, because she’s not getting back into Spain without that card! April and I looked at each other with concerning looks. Then the girl besides us is trying to have full and complete conversations with her friend across the aisle. Now it wouldn’t be a problem if she was also in the aisle seat, but she was in the window seat and had to shout across April and I to talk to her amigo. We did the deep Spanish sigh multiple times until she realized how rude she was being. All meanwhile a baby is crying—wailing for an entire 3hour plane ride. I understand traveling with young kids and I really don’t have a problem with it, but I think there was something seriously bothering this child. Don’t forget the kids behind us kicking our seats and putting their feet in the gap where our arm rest is. April and I couldn’t wait until we could get out of this nightmare.
We run out of the plane at 9:20am and run through the outside terminals to catch a 9:44 train into the city. We were trying to make an 11:00 tour in the center. I’ve never seen The Amazing Race but I’m fairly confident April and I could win. I run to ticket booth, she looks at board to find the correct platform and we make it on to the train at 9:43am. Dazed and confused we exit the train station in Berlin and power walk to the hostel. We are also thinking about entering the summer Olympics for speed power walking. Make it to the hotel and drop bags in lockers. Run to nearest underground to get to city center. We try buying tickets in the machine and some random guy comes up behind us and cancels our order on the screen. He hands us two tickets and says 10€. UMMMM? Is this a scam??!! We pay him and get on the train without even thinking. HAHAHAHAHA
At exactly 10:50am we find the tour group and join them. The guide tells us we have 10minutes to grab some snacks or water because there is no food where we are going. Ironically there are lines that go outside the doors of every store nearby. We decide to ration out the 2/3 bottle of water we have and half empty bag of peanut m&ms. Remember we haven’t eaten since 3:45 when we woke up that morning. We head on the train with our possibly counterfeit tickets to Sachsenhausen Concentration camp for a day tour. Fun fact our tickets are actually real, we asked our guide. Some random German made an easy 10€ and we saved 25% of normal retail price! What a deal!!
Read my next post about the tour. It was something that I think everyone should see to put a real memory to something we’ve learned about since grade school.
5 hours and no snacks later we are headed back to Berlin city center with grumbling stomachs. We eat at the first cafe we see and make our way to the Christmas markets for some much needed holiday cheer. One bratwurst sandwich and mug of glüwine later, it feels like we’ve lived two full days. PS.) glüwine is gross, I tried it and there at just too many spices and flavors. But it was definitely worth the souvenir mug!! FYI the Christmas market in Chicago has nothing to see with the OG (original German)! This might rival Disney World for happiest place on earth. The Christmas spirit is alive and well in Germany, it was a magical experience.
We head back to the hostel and get some much needed sleep before another full day 2 of adventure.
Day 2, walking tour of Berlin. Again, see one of my upcoming blog posts about the sights and history of this amazing city. Back to story time. April and I booked cheap tickets to Berlin and cheap tickets out of Cologne. We thought a cross country train ride would be a cool adventure. We also forgot that it gets dark around 4:30pm so we took a 4 hour cross country train in the dark to Cologne for more Christmas markets. Cologne is on the top of Christmas market lists worldwide, we wanted to see if it was worth all the hype. But before the cheer, there was fear.
After an extremely crowded train ride to the main station, we find our designated track and wait for the train to arrive. We board the train with our sketchy online ticket that doesn’t say anything more than our start and final destination- no seat numbers, nada. We get on and find that there’s a tiny display above each seat with various stops along the journey. We ask another passenger if there are assigned seats, she says yes and April and I look at each other with concern. I peek outside the cabin to show the conductor our tickets and ask about the assigned seats. He looks at me with a mean German glare and says “These tickets are not valid. You don’t have assigned seat and will have to find an empty seat. Good luck because it’s weekend and this train is full” Tears well in my eyes and I run back into the train to tell April, suddenly the train starts to move. Well it looks like we’re going to Cologne with or without valid tickets. I find two seats with no label above them which I interpret to be “free” and we mark our territory to hope for the best. The mean German conductor passes by us, stamps our tickets and looks at the next passenger. WHAT??!!! We were both very confused but let it go, knowing that all was well and we would arrive to Cologne in 4 short hours.
*pre German tears*
Around 10:15pm we arrive, hop on the underground to our hostel. Again very hungry, we check in quickly and ask about Christmas markets. The receptionist says everything is closed for the night. Now it must be having lived in Spain for so long that we were shocked. In Spain we would just be going out to dinner now! Oh Toto, it looks like we aren’t in Spain anymore. We head to the city center in search of any food. We find a restaurant that advertises “food served all day” go inside and sit down. The waiter comes over and takes our drink order. We start telling her what we want to eat and she says the kitchen closed 5 minutes ago. We settle for chips and olives.
Day 3 another town another walking city tour. This was some random tour that I found online and crossed my fingers it wasn’t an online joke. We arrived, walked around Cologne and ended with the enormous cathedral. I was fine only being in Cologne for about 16 hours because it was a bit of a let down after Berlin. Don’t get me wrong, I still loved it but it was a big step down from Berlin.
I arrived back in Madrid Sunday night and we all lived happily every after, ready for another crazy adventure. Sorry for the long post but it’s like a page from my travel diary to see more of how each trip goes.
Oh my gosh, how could I forget about our favorite part of Germany?! The free public transportation!!—well sort of. After buying our non-counterfeit tickets from random German man, we asked our tour guide about tickets and if there is security. There are no gates or turnstiles in the underground stations in all of Germany, they work on the “honor system”. You buy a ticket from a machine and then stamp it yourself in another machine. However there’s no checking of tickets or real enforcement to see if you actually bought a ticket. I’ll leave it up to readers’ interpretation if we actually spent €1.90 for every train to the center. (Wink wink)