Thursday, December 22, 2005

Monday started Sunday night

Sunday night, I hopped on the last train out of Caen. I got to Paris around 11:45 p.m. and took the Metro cross-town to Gare de Lyon. There is a night bus that runs from there to Orly (where I was taking an EasyJet to Berlin). This was the first time I had taken a night bus—the first I’d heard of the night bus system. Sure, it makes sense that a city the size of Paris would have one—millions of people use public transport in Ile de France, I just never did after 1 a.m. The night bus to Orly is the 120. Unfortunately, several stops—on several different lines all have Orly in their titles. I had no idea which one was the Orly airport, and no idea what bus to take there. Worse still, the bus stops for Gare de Lyon are not all in one place; they surround the enormous station on all sides, some are located on side streets, and some a not so short walk away. There is no site map showing you where exactly each one is located. I spent about 15 minutes looking for a station employee (I wanted to know exactly where I was going before I started running around the quarter in the cold), then another hour just looking on my own—employees of any kind are hard to come by in this city after 8 p.m. I started to get very angry, I was so tired, cold, and, despite having a healthy 4 hours before my flight, terrified I would miss it.
The first of the night buses arrived around 1:30. The driver told me I needed to catch the 120 and to wait by the moped parking. I waited for another 45 minutes and found myself on the right bus, desperately trying to stay awake*. The airport was totally empty. I had my pick of chairs right in front of my assigned check-in counter, and fell asleep for an hour and a half.
I was one of the first in line to check-in at 4:40 a.m., but no one was allowed through security until 5:30! I walk down to the shops—none of which opened until 6 a.m. and got a call from my sister. She was a welcomed distraction, as I had completely lost my ability to be patient or polite to everyone at the airport. Whether being mowed down by old ladies with huge carpet bags or yelled at by security (okay, I yelled at them first) for not leaving the screening area (int’l airports close at night here. How? Why? There are still flights coming in and out, just no employees!).
After hanging up, I headed back over to the security area where there was now a line of about 200 people. Moving very slowly. I got through without having to take off my shoes or belt and made it to my gate 5 minutes before departure time. Whew. I even got a seat in the front row (hello, leg room!). I buckle up, and listen intently as the pilot announces we are waiting for six people who have checked in, but are stuck in the security line. We took off an hour later. Serena. Very. Angry.
It was snowing when we landed in Berlin, big white flakes, and I easily found my way through the airport. Serena. In. Much. Better. Mood.
They (and by They, I mean two fraus with braids and moustaches [it’s funny because it’s true] at the customs desk) wouldn’t give me a stamp on my passport because I was coming from France. Hhmpff!
The next hour was me finding my way to Berlin’s Zoo station, and from there, my hostel which was supposed to be just around the corner. That, unfortunately was not actually the case. It is just around the corner from a station three stops away from Zoo. What didn’t help, everyone I stopped and asked directions from—including a woman at the tourism office, told me I was on the right street. There was a big Christmas market a few blocks from the station where I had lunch, and took a break from wandering aimlessly around the street looking for my hostel. I stopped by an Internet café to confirm the online directions and address, and my e-mail. It was freezing outside, and my pack was kind of killing me. With my frustration mounting, I returned to the tourism office where a very rude woman told me where I needed to go.
When I got to David’s Hostel, a greasy man orienting a group from South America to the facilities greeted me. I was told to take my shoes off and given a mattress in a co-ed dorm. It was small and, upon first glance, not anywhere I wanted to spend the next three nights. It was, in a phrase, the straw that broke the camel’s back. I dropped my pack on my mattress and headed down the street to another internet café run by a strange Russian woman who spent the entire time I was there yelling over the phone in Russian. I logged onto every site I could, and found a hotel on for $50/night. In contrast to the 8 euros I was paying at David’s, it was a splurge, and I tend to make rash decisions, and spend money dangerously when frustrated, angry, and/or out of my element.
I headed back to David’s and got my stuff together. I couldn’t get my money back for the three nights, but I was really okay with just eating it at that point. Worse, being totally passive aggressive, and in loathe of confrontation, I told the short, greasy man that my travel plans had changed and that I was headed elsewhere for the next few days. As we chatted, my opinion of the place began to change. The man’s name was Adrian (from Athens), and he shared a few anecdotes about his experiences there. He also offered me three nights stay there in the coming weeks. He felt bad that he couldn’t refund my money, and was eager to make it up to me. I told him I really appreciated that, and would give him an e-mail if I made my way back to Berlin. Okay, I overreacted, this place was not the Ritz—nor should it have been: it’s a hostel. And not a bad one. But, I was committed to the hotel, so headed there next.
The Adrema Hotel is on the Spree River, which dissects the city. It is on the 245 bus line and a 10-minute walk from the Ernst-Reuters Platz Underground station. It ix a boutique hotel: modern in furniture and design,hip bar, great amenities. The employees all spoke English and were very accommodating. My room kicked ass. So clean, so new. I had my own bathroom**, soft—so soft mattress, and TV and Internet access!
AAAhhhhh. Serena. Euphoric.
My extra day in Berlin was scrapped. I spent it walking around the same street for several hours, and spending 8 euros worth of time in Internet cafes.

*I hadn’t gotten much sleep the night before, and it was about 2:30 a.m. And the bus was dark and warm with cushy seats.
**Of course, I had my own bathroom, but, after living months without one, I really see it as a luxury.


Blogger Serena said...

Scroll down, there's more...

11:06 PM  
Blogger JgStephan said...

Unfortunately I never was in America and I know only McDonalds & Burger King in Germany. I have heard Five Guys burgers shall be very good.

The internet cafè in our city is also run by a strange russian woman. Russians are a large population group in Germany.

Berlin is very nice but Munich is beautiful and the people are sooo affable. You must necessarily visit the Bavaria Film Studios!

Have a great time in Berlin and the further cities Serena.

Merry Christmas to you!

7:23 PM  

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