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26 August 2011

One More Day Enjoying Amsterdam, then Hitchhiking All the Way to Berlin

Days 75-76: Wednesday, 3 August 2011 - Thursday, 4 August 2011
I forgot my laptop charger cable in Berlin, so the battery on my laptop quickly ran out. I had to rely on using Paul's internet connection. As Paul had work to do, I explored much of the city on my own. I walked around, through the Red Light District and all the gawky tourists bouncing around coffeeshops.

I bought some souvenirs to bring back to Berlin, but I was also running low on cash. Unfortunately, my bank does not have an agreement with any bank in the Netherlands, so I couldn't withdraw cash from anywhere without incurring a $10 fee; thus, I just limited my spending and budgeted for the next day.

The city was manageable and had plenty of quiet pockets in which to escape the hordes of tourists. Pockets of serenity where you could just reflect while looking over a canal, and where bicyclists would actually yield some space to pedestrians.

I wandered around quite a bit, from east to west, checking in to an apple store to see that a laptop charger would cost me €70,-! I ended up south, having a late lunch at a Turkish cafe called Güllüoglu, which accepted credit cards :), and where I had the most delicious veggie burger I had had in my life!

Gone to Amsterdam!

Days 73-74: Monday, 1 August 2011- Tuesday, 2 August 2011
It's August already. I was lucky enough to come into possession of a one-way train ticket from Berlin to Amsterdam, so it was a no-brainer that I simply had to use it. It's Amsterdam, after all, and even though I had been there already, there was still more of the city and lifestyle to experience. It was a welcome break from rainy Berlin.

So on Monday morning, I woke up and hastily put my stuff together and rushed to the Berlin Hauptbahnhof. My haste wasn't good enough: I arrived just after my scheduled train left.

The Permanent Rain (1st Weekend in Berlin)

Days 70-72: Friday, 29 July 2011 - Sunday, 31 July 2011

"Something is wrong with the sky," I commented. It had begun to rain on Thursday, and the weather did not relent through the entire weekend. Showers and moderate rain fell constantly. I looked at the radar map and saw a band of rain streaming over Berlin. The rest of Germany was dry. And it stayed like this for 4 days.

And Berlin is not the same as any of the destinations I had been to so far on this trip. Instead of finding myself in a new and unfamiliar place and meeting all new people, I was in a city I had visited 7 years ago, and I was surrounded by familiar friends. And because I'd be in Berlin for several weeks, I didn't have to try to see every sight all in a day or two.

The weekend was filled with birthday celebrations.

I Made It to Berlin!

Day 69: Thursday, 28 July 2011
After a long journey so far, I have arrived in Germany. It feels remarkably odd, someplace familiar after being in so many new places. It's not a bad thing, it's just like reverse culture shock or deja vu. It also feels weird to be able to speak the local language, although my German skills have atrophied quite significantly since I stopped studying and practicing it regularly

I arrived in Berlin around 8:30pm. Christoph, my rideshare, drove me to Spandau. I got a ticket and sat on the S-Bahn. A couple stops in, at Olympia-stadion, a huge crowd of people boarded the train. They had seemingly just come from a football match (FC Hertha). I soon got to Zoologischer Garten and walked over to the U-Bahn and arrived at my destination neighborhood soon thereafter. I was a bit confused by the street numbering - instead of going odd-even across from each other, the numbers went up one side of the street and down the other.

The first night in Berlin was quiet; after dropping my stuff off, Felix and I simply got some beers and chilled inside. This day, Thursday, Felix had work early, so he left before I woke up. I didn't leave the apartment until after noon, when I walked all the way to the Reichstag and tried to figure out how to buy a one-month transit pass.

Frustratingly, none of the ticket machines were accepting credit cards (I'd soon discover that, even more frustratingly, few places in Germany accept credit cards).