The plane touched down on a drizzly tarmac, where the vista of Berlin was barely seen beyond the rooftops surrounding Tegel Airport. I had to laugh, really, as Tegel is a brand of poultry products in NZ. I wondered what I would send on a postcard, back home. “I’ve just arrived at Tegel. Don’t worry… I haven’t gotten into chicken farming over here!”
The humour didn’t stop there. While I waited at the luggage carousel, there was an illuminated advertisement for a Bluetooth electric toothbrush. I looked around. Nobody else was laughing. Maybe it was only an ‘NJ’ kinda joke. Then I wondered why a toothbrush would need Bluetooth in the first place. Maybe that was a German kinda thing?
The Beast and I lined up outside the bathroom. I like to use the facilities at an airport ‘just in case’. You never know how long it will be before you find another toilet. It was a one in one out situation. As the queue moved slowly, my bladder decided that it actually really did want some sweet relief.
Several people ahead stood an older man with his suitcase. When he got to the door and realised where it was leading, he laughed and announced that he thought this was for the immigration line. As he turned and left, I caught other passenger’s eyes who were also doing their best not to burst a lung with laughter.
I think those funny things that happened were to lighten my mood before the rigmarole of trying to get to my hostel. The arced airport was confusing to find which exit went where. The Beast followed me in the wrong direction, before I decided that turning around was a better option.
I tried to use one of the bus ticket machines, really I did. Other passengers around me were going up to the electronic boxes and then leaving with their tickets. I shoved in my money card, to no avail. It turned out that they were for different busses. I tried the outside machines, this time with the money card and then cash. A bus monitor watched me, and then explained that it only accepted coins. I was directed back inside. The safest option was to see a person at a ticket counter.
My bus stop had a couple of people peppered around. I made a guess at where the door would open and stood there. As soon as the bus turned in hoards of people swarmed toward the doors, desperate to climb on board. I got staunch and muscled my way in. Amid the squish I was instructed to scan my ticket near the middle of the bus, not hand it to the driver. I scrambled over the other patrons to do this, hoping that the resting Beast wouldn’t bowl someone anyone over.
With hostel directions in hand, I made a concerted effort to exit at the right spot. There seemed to be many options, but there was no way that I was going to risk it with all that luggage; so I stuck to my gut instinct (which features heavily in my best travel making decisions).
The train station was a hive of activity, with many levels and shops. I found my platform and avoided being ‘sold tickets’ by two people who were standing right next to the ticket machine. Fortunately, I had just read about that scam a few days before. I wouldn’t have fallen for it anyway. I’ve found that Euro scammers have a few similarities; including being forceful and p*ssed off when you don’t go along with their scheme. My method of avoiding this is to act like a confident local and ignore the potential to fall into any rookie traps.
The trains reminded me of Italian trains because they were delayed. Apparently there was a strike and some services had been cut right back that day. There was a collective uproar of sighs and a shuffle of feet at the announcement, as people quickly left the platform to change their plans. This was the only way I knew how to reach my hostel; so I stuck with my original plan, no matter how long it took.
The five minute walk from the station to the hostel was a ten minute journey with The Beast. I’d grown accustomed to many station steps, lifting my suitcase with Superman strength arms. These were the times when I questioned my choice of luggage, for travelling on a whim.
The hostel was in a large brick building, bustling with characters from across the globe. I shared a room with two Swiss lasses intent on dolling up and heading out late into the night, and an Aussie who was on the same travelling buzz as me. In the restaurant, I sunk my teeth into a massive Italiano style pizza, and shared travel tales with a student from UCLA. You never know who you’re going to meet!
My entry into Berlin was one of great laughter and perseverance. This city was an unexpected creative surprise. I can’t wait to fill you in on my love for this artistic and outspoken place. Until then X