Berlin to Prague

It is interesting to note that Air Berlin seems to be the airline of choice for Germans. That may sound very obvious but it’s one thing to hear someone say that and another to hear everyone around you with a thick German accent or literally speaking German. It is also one thing to hear someone say one or two lines of German on a movie or television show and another thing to have large groups of people around you speaking a language you don’t understand.
While standing by our terminal, waiting to be boarded, instructions were said in English and German…and this flight attendant was speaking German with no problem – absolutely seamless. Throughout the entire flight, in fact, instructions were said in German and then English. What was a little frustrating was that the German instructions seemed so long and detailed and the English ones seemed mumbled and at most half the length of the German. I continually felt like I was missing out on something really important.
But honestly, none of that matters when you have your own personal TV screen with an array of music, movies, and TV shows as well as complimentary meals, pillows, eye masks, blankets, ear plugs, and more. Despite the fact that the Asian man with the comb over (how do I attract these men with comb overs?), had his back far enough that it was touching my knees the whole flight, it was pretty good. I, of course, was unable to sleep…but there was plenty of entertainment, to say the least. There were at least 15 movies, three of which were ones made in Europe but upon watching quite a few of the movies, there were actually sections of the movie in German (where a character spoke several lines in German). I thought that was interesting, to say the least. We watched the new Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, Young Adult (horrible movie), and part of an old 007 movie with Pierce Brosnan as James Bond. There was even an episode of Phineas & Ferb…which also had German spoken in Dr. Doofinshmirtz’s flashback. The meals weren’t half bad either: Dinner – pasta with a roll, green beans, and some kind of sweet scalloped potato. Breakfast – little slices of cheese, salami, and turkey with a roll, yogurt and a blueberry muffin. It was seriously perfect as we went on the flight at 5:30pm and landed in Berlin around 7:30. (close your mouth – that’s how flies get in)
The airport we landed in was much smaller than I expected. Granted, we didn’t visit the entire airport but we exited the plane, went down one hall and then ran straight into Customs. I was quite nervous as he took forever looking at my passport but then I finally got my first official traveling stamp (or whatever it’s called)!!
I have to say that I was extremely paranoid about our luggage. All I could think about was our checked bags getting left behind in JFK or being sent to Finland or Australia or something. Thankfully, after 30 torturous minutes, we lugged our suitcases from the very small baggage claim into the equally small lobby area. After walking up and down the lobby about five or six times, we walked outside to what looked like a specified taxi area…we walked up and around to all the drivers asking if they took credit card, each of them rejecting us because of our lack of Euros and the size/amount of our luggage. Finally, someone had a taxi big enough and took credit card. I’m pretty sure the driver got confused because I said I would sit in the back and we could put the extra bag in the front seat but for some reason, I found myself in the front seat.
After about 10 minutes of complete silence and tons of observations/absorption of everything I was seeing, a large bus swerved over into the left lane in which we were driving and the taxi driver swore at them in German.
I said, “Don’t worry. Bus drivers are terrible in America, too.”
Speaking pretty good English, he said, “Yes. Not my fault. Good.”
And that opened the doors to have him tell me everything about himself. I don’t know what it is, but all I have to do is spark a conversation with someone, and then they pour out their lives to me. Maybe it’s my face…or my high cheekbones.
We talked about the weather and how the cool 70 degrees in Berlin was unusually hot for this time of year. I told him about Florida weather (and Walter converted the Fahrenheit to Celsius so he could understand). He told me about his family’s vacation in Turkey and how he was said he had to drive taxis on their vacation, but not sad about missing a vacation to a place so disgustingly hot, you don’t want to walk outside.
While the taxi driver was saying all this, I noticed how so much of everything was similar. Drivers were crazy and didn’t follow any rules. There were crosswalks and movie posters for Brave. Rihanna was being played on the radio and advertisements for Coco-Cola and Spotify were all over. Of course, this was all from the security of my taxi (not regulated by any speed limits, mind you).
Once we got to the train station, we were absolutely clueless. It was pretty great. We went to information and they pointed us to the store where you can buy tickets…he pointed us to an escalator down to the next floor and all I could think about was falling head over heals in the middle of the Berlin Train Station with a 50 pound bag on my back. So, we found the elevator. I pushed the button, and then a lady started talking to us in German. I took a few steps back…as much as I really like Germany and would love to speak German – it is such an intimidating language.  I felt like I was being scolded for pushing the “down” button.
“I don’t want to take the elevator again.”
“I don’t like being yelled at.”
And then a little white-haired German lady was standing in the elevator when we got in and she just started talking to us…in German…and Walter and I just looked at each other as if we were really hoping the other happened to have learned German in the past 30 seconds. Finally she said Auf Weidersen (Thank you, Heidi Klum!! I know what that means!!!) as the elevator got to our floor and she walked out, still talking to us.
Thankfully, the ticket office was right in front of the elevator and with only every other word in English, we learned that our ticket was pretty cheap but our train was not for another two hours.
Fine, okay. This train station was insane. It was like four flours with shops and restaurants and good-smelling everything. It was torturous since we didn’t have any Euros and no one took credit card. We walked up to this amazing smelling pastry shop …and it in no way mattered that everything was in German. The universal language of pointing and salivating should do the trick. And when we went to pay, we apparently didn’t have the right card with a chip or something…so, no pastry…extreme disappointment.
So, we (think we) found our train platform and sat. For two hours. No internet. No phones. Nothing. And all I kept on thinking about was the only things anyone ever told me about Europe – watch out for the thieves, pickpockets, slashers, people with shifty eyes and big trench coats…so, with only three hours of sleep, I clung to our bags, never letting them out of my sight for a moment. Besides looking like a crazy bag lady, I’m pretty sure that any thieves, pickpockets, slashers, etc took one look at me and said to themselves, “Don’t mess with her. She looks crazy. Not worth it.” We also spent most of the two hours trying to figure out what everything meant on our ticket and where we were supposed to put our luggage.
And then came the train. Thankfully, we accidentally bought a reservation because otherwise, we would have been sitting out in the extremely narrow hallway with everyone’s luggage. When that train pulled up, it was like a massive crowd of 300 people appeared out of nowhere and made a mad dash for this train – and not just the train but our specific train car. Clutching our extremely heavy bags, we managed to sling them five feet into the air onto the train and very slowly made our way down to our compartment which seated six all together. We then spent a solid twenty minutes trying to figure out where to put our luggage. There was maybe one or two feet between the seats and hardly any overhead room…and all I was thinking was, “100 pounds falling on my head.” We somehow managed to situate everything and someone was kind enough to mention that we could have our bags out in the hallway during the train ride.
Oh, and speaking of the train ride, we were both so tired that we both fell asleep on and off the entire ride. Extremely hard to do since we couldn’t lie down or prop our feet and there was no air conditioning…and part of me really wanted to see the German country side. The other side, which was controlling my eyelids, just wanted me to fall asleep. So, I did. No one attacked us or tried to steal our luggage…I don’t think (what? we were asleep). Although I did clutch my purse like someone was about to steal it at any moment.
After five extremely long hours on the train (it was so tedious – more irritating by far than the plane ride), we got to the train station…at least we hoped it was the right one since the lady only ever spoke in German or Czech or a language other than English. And we stood on the empty platform and literally had no idea what to do. We had told a teacher/leader from our program what train we were taking but we did not have a phone to let them know we arrived…so, we found the taxis…and they discussed which one was going to charge us an extremely outrageous rate in Czech as they smoked their horrible smelling cigarettes (and I thought cigarettes smelled bad enough in America)…and then the taxi driver took us to our new apartment three blocks away. And it cost us $30. That was how much it cost us to get halfway across Berlin. Ridiculous.
And then we stood outside what we thought was our apartment for about ten minutes, randomly asking someone if they knew the director of the course we were taking (as our living arrangements were arranged by him)(and we were supposed to have been picked up and escorted to our apartment by them)…and then the landlady finally appeared like a miracle angel…of course, then she pointed to the four flights of stairs we had to climb with our luggage and I crossed that nickname off the list.
But we made it. And we learned our lesson – book direct flights, for goodness sake!


One thought on “Berlin to Prague

  1. Your trip sounded fun when you described it before leaving. I had forgotten about the massive luggage you would be carrying though. Glad you both made it safe!

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