Thursday, April 21, 2011

"Ich bin ein Berliner" (Our trip to Berlin Part 1)

We are home from 4 amazing days in Berlin.  It was our first time traveling to the eastern part of Germany as well as our first time traveling, at length, with Dylan.  This was our test to see how far we can push Dylan with our travel schedule.  

Saturday, we said goodbye to Oscar and sent him off to a friend's house.  Dylan was despondent after seeing Oscar leave and sobbed for a long time crying "Ohhhh, Oscar!" until we distracted him with basketball. We left for the train station at 2pm and made our long journey to Berlin via the German train system.  Because it was a heavy travel day (no school for the week before and after Easter Sunday) we opted out of the really expensive direct train ticket and decided to save money by going with the more creative route.  The ‘more creative’ route included two more trains (4 in all) in order to get to Berlin.  We weren’t sure how Dylan would act on the train, let alone 4 trains, and it was a cause for some anxiety.  
On the train traveling somewhere in Germany.

Dana and Dylan waiting for one of our trains.  Dylan is eating his first Chicken McNuggets from McDonalds.  Yumm.

The yellow square indicated the "smoking section" on the train platform.  Very effective.

Luckily, the trip was largely uneventful.  I had adequately prepared for the changeovers and succeeded by getting us to our destination without any hiccups.  Dylan did his job and was really good in the trains and stayed up way past his bedtime like a champion.

Finally arrived at the Berlin Haupbanhof. Still a few more trains to go.

We arrived in the main Berlin Haupbahnhof (train station) around 10:30 pm on Saturday night.  The main train station was electric and full of people. The atmosphere gave us all a second wind, especially this performance by a street performer (loose definition: she's probably just tripping out on drugs). Sorry for the sideways camera - we were trying to be discrete.

Our apartment was about 30-40 minutes outside of town and I felt confident that we could navigate our way there by the subway system (and save us a 30 euro taxi ride)

We entered the first local train heading to Alexanderplatz along with everybody else in the city.  Along the way (there were only two intermediate stops) we kept adding more and more people.  It was between FriedrichStrasse and Alexanderplatz where I spent the longest 2 minutes of my life standing pinned in a corner of the train, paralyzed by a crowd of people, unable to take a step in any direction.   All I really remember from this short but horrific period were:

  • An old man unintentionally driving his elbow into my side (he was trapped too.) 
  •  Seeing Dylan sitting in his stroller hugging his blanky and sucking his thumb through a web of armpits.  I could hear him saying, “Daddy, Daddy”, from about 5 armpits away in his stroller.     
  • Wondering how we were going to get off the train at the next stop.  It was going to be impossible. 
  • Asking how it was possible that all of the people (of all ages) were all out at 11:00pm. 
  • Accepting that we were at the mercy of the crowd and going to my happy place, convincing myself that everything was going to be ok.  
Fortunately, the mass of people were also exiting at Alexanderplatz, so we were able to get off and resume our journey.   We then made it to our next two subway rides without a hitch, though each train was really full of people.  I couldn’t get over that it was almost midnight and all of these people were out on the town.  Dana reminded me that ‘we are not in Borken anymore’ where nothing is open past 10pm.

9 hours and 7 trains later, we made it our apartment around 11:30pm Saturday night.  Dylan stayed awake the entire time.   We received the tour of our place from our gracious host, Iris, and went straight to bed. We booked our apartment from a website called for a really good price.  Though it was a little outside of town, it was well worth being able to sleep in separate rooms from Dylan and have our own kitchen.
Sunday morning, Dylan slept in until about 10:30 am.   After the previous day of travel, we weren’t going to have a difficult schedule today.  We took our time getting out the door and made our way, via the subway system, back to Alexanderplatz for the afternoon.   Thank goodness there weren’t as many people on the trains this day.   

We spent Sunday afternoon walking around the historic museum island, which amazingly, is actually an island in the Spree River that consists of museums.  We were able to get our bearings around the city and see the sights of the town.  We realized this afternoon that we really needed to get a guided tour of the city because we didn’t have any background knowledge on any of these historic buildings. 
On Museum Island.  If you look closely you can see Bryan and Dylan (in the stroller) standing on the bridge.

Along the Spree River, Museum Island behind us.

Near one of the museums...

Brandenburg Gate behind us.

In front of the Reichstag (Parliment building)

Tired boy up way past his bedtime.

We headed back to our apartment late Sunday afternoon.  Unfortunately, because no grocery stores are open on Sunday, I walked the entire suburb of Rudow (the area where we stayed) to try to find a place to buy some snacks for the evening.   After an hour of walking, all I could find was a gas station that sold really overpriced snacks.  I never realized how convenient it is to have shopping 7 days a week in America. 

After Dylan’s nap, we stayed in Rudow and went out to eat.  Dylan cut our night a little short at dinner and we were back in our apartment by 8 pm.  He needed a good night’s sleep.  We had another big day coming up.

Stay tuned for Part 2...


Rburns said...

Dan and I had a similar metro experience in Paris. We started out side-by-side, and by the time our stop came we were at least 10 people apart and couldn't see each other. It's a claustrophobic's nightmare!

Bryan said...

It was pretty funny seeing Dylan in his stroller clutching his blanky and sucking his thumb. His eyes were really wide. He was kind of freaked out too, but at least the stroller provided a barrier for him so no one could get too close.