Berlin, Germany

This was part of a collection of blog posts written in the spring of 2015 during my semester abroad in Seville, Spain.

My friend Katie and I arrived in Berlin, Germany, around 3:25 p.m., a bit later than expected, on Friday afternoon. We jumped in a taxi (of course, all of them being Mercedes Benz) and headed towards our Airbnb apartment in an area called Mitte where we were meeting three of our other friends from Sevilla.

We arrived to our apartment and realized that our friends never told us which apartment number was ours, and we did not have access to wifi nor working telephones. We proceeded to ring all 15 doorbells of the apartment complex. One person answered and was speaking German so we assumed it wasn’t our friends but magically the door buzzed open. Then, we went to the apartment doors and pressed our ears up against them to see if we could hear our friends inside. We started on the sixth floor and made our way down. Right when we were about to head to the third floor, we heard our friends entering the lobby.  We were yelling their names, and Katie ran down to meet them. They had gone to get coffee and put post-it notes near the door that we didn’t see. Luckily, we were reunited and got settled in.

Shortly after dropping our bags, we went to a delicious burger joint. We all got cheeseburgers with various toppings, sauces and fries. It was exactly what we needed. Then, we went to the grocery store, which was a wonderful experience of exploring all the foreign (and familiar) products. We proceeded to get way too many snacks for our two-day stay.

We got back to the apartment and were exhausted because we’d been traveling all day.  So, we decided we would allow ourselves a little rest time to ensure we wouldn’t be zombies the rest of the trip. It was fun to be all together in an apartment because our program in Spain does not allow us to go over to each others’ homes as to respect our señoras, so it was relaxing to spend time together – and not in a cafe setting.

We slowly but surely rallied, got dressed, jumped in a cab and went to a popular, local bar, Bei Schlawinchen, in an area called Kreuzberg. It was a really neat atmosphere with lots of weird things hanging from the ceiling (rocking horses, clocks, etc.). Of course, we ordered bier (beer) and chitchatted the night away. After the bar, we walked to a nearby small restaurant for kebabs (they call them Doners in Berlin) and all had a little snack. We returned to our apartment and put all of our clothes on our balcony (people can still smoke in bars in Berlin and our clothes were suffocating us). Then we all stood in our front hallway as close to the door as possible because it was the only place wifi worked/the only place we could have connection to the outside world. Finally, we took turns showering and quickly went to bed to be ready for our jam packed following day.

On Saturday, we woke up, got ready and were out the door by 9:15 a.m. – a huge feat. We walked to a delightful cafe for breakfast where I had granola, yogurt, fruit and a flat white (like a latte but with more coffee). Then we walked to the city center where we saw the country’s capital building, a memorial to the Sinti and Roma gypsies killed in the Holocaust, the Holocaust Memorial and the famous Brandenburg Gate. It was a very interesting morning, and we all felt impacted by the city and country’s rich historical significance in the world.

After stopping at Dunkin’ Donuts as an attempt to connect to wifi, we decided to take the metro across town to have lunch at a biergarten (beer garden). On the metro we met this older couple from Florida (Tampa area) who were traveling around Europe for a month and made Berlin their first trip because they made a strong connection with one of the girls who worked at Epcot’s Germany pavilion in Disney World so they came to visit her – it was a wonderful story.

We got off the metro and found ourselves in a really neat neighborhood, Prenzlauer Berg, full of little boutiques and cafes. Unfortunately, the biergarten was only open for dinner but we ended up eating at local wiener stand. I got a brat with fries. There was no bun nor mustard nor sauerkraut. Instead, they gave us spicy ketchup and mayonnaise. I think Wisconsin makes better brats but hey, wieners vary I guess. Interesting, different, but not bad. After lunch, we walked around for a bit then decided to take a cab to the East Side Gallery, which is a remaining portion of the Berlin Wall painted with murals. It is also an international memorial for freedom.

This is when the day took a more or less negative turn – but it really provided a good story.  Unfortunately, our taxi van got in an accident on a busy street. Another van merged into our lane without looking and side swiped/crashed into the front of our taxi. One of my friends was sitting in the front seat and could have been seriously hurt – luckily she was wearing her seatbelt and was not injured.  There were four of us in the back (the seats in the back were two benches face-to-face).  Three of us were facing forward and flew into my friend who was seated with her back to the windshield. Thank the Lord, none of us were seriously injured. My one friend landed on top of my other friend and her nose jammed into my other friend’s head. My friend’s nose was in a lot of pain and it started to bleed – thankfully not too much. I broke a nail, of course, because I need to keep up my diva status abroad, and I think my neck and back got a little whiplash. We were all in quite a bit of shock.

We weren’t able to get out of the taxi because the van that hit us was blocking the door.  Finally, the vans maneuvered onto a turnabout section of the road’s median, and we were able to get out. My friend and I took our friend with the nose injury to a nearby hotel while my other two friends spoke with the taxi driver and drivers of the van. We set up camp – got ice and water and popped some Motrin. Then, we tried to find wifi access so we could talk with our parents and figure out what to do next.

After the hotel denied us access because we didn’t have a room number, a kind, kind American woman shared her login information with us.  We took turns using the wifi and some of us went to other places attached to the hotel, such as phone stores or cafes, to access wifi.  It was not a matter of buying wifi or using it for free, it was a matter of public vs. private access domains, and it was very frustrating. Our lack of access during this situation helped us realize how fortunate and incredibly thankful we are for our usual constant connectivity. We finally decided to all reconvene in the cafe of a big department store, which allowed one hour of free wifi.

Everyone connected with their necessary parties, and then I called our program in Spain to figure out if there were any processes of which we needed to be aware. The entire conversation was in Spanish, and the wifi kept cutting out but messages were relayed. After speaking with our parents and one of our program directors, we decided to go to the hospital so my friend with the nose injury could get checked out. We mapped our location to the closest hospital and set off, on foot – it was only 15 minutes away, for our destination.

Completely exhausted and delusional, we arrived to this tiny hospital that appeared to be somewhat abandoned. We walked inside and rang a bell. After about one full minute of standing there completely alone, a man greeted us. We explained the situation – my one friend speaking in English, my one friend speaking words she knew in German and me, trying to physically act out the scenario. He got the message and proceeded to tell us they could take an x-ray of my friend’s nose to see if it was broken but if it was, they couldn’t do anything about it.  After some eye glances and chuckles about the insanity of the day, we decided to stay so my other friend could get checked for a concussion. We were sent with paperwork to the world’s smallest, hottest and stuffiest waiting room. There were about two or three other people in the waiting room for the duration of our stay.

After about 45 minutes, a lady came in the room to quickly explain some paperwork and offered my friend with the nose injury an ice pack, which she thankfully accepted. I thought it would be really nice to have one too because my neck was a bit sore, so when the lady brought the ice pack to my friend I asked for one too, only to be informed they were out of them. Again, we laughed. We sat in the waiting room for about an hour and a half: eating gummy candies (purchased by my very intelligent friends before we left our emergency base at the department store), sweating, hyperventilating a bit because the air was so stuffy it was suffocating, accessing the on/off wifi from the hospital and waiting for our phones to run out of battery because of the day’s excessive use. Mostly, we spent our time keeling over in laughter about the absolute ludicrous occurrences of the day.  Finally, my friend got called, and she went to see the doctor.  My friend who speaks German went with her – so then there were three of us left in the delusional sauna of the waiting room.

About 30 minutes into my friend’s appointment, the waiting room went completely pitch black because, of course, there was a power outage. Laughing so we wouldn’t cry, my friend who had the most cell phone battery turned on her phone flashlight. The hospital already had an eerie atmosphere and in the dark it was almost impossible. The door was powered electronically so we thought we were going to be stuck and suffocate in the darkness. Luckily, a generator kicked after about 30-45 seconds, and we took some deep breaths of warm air. About 20 minutes later, our friends came out – sans concussion, and we decided to go on with the night to dinner at a German beer hall.

For dinner we ordered a variety of pretzels, cheese spätzle, schnitzel, German meatballs, mashed potatoes, dumplings with creamy mushroom sauce, pork roast and potato dumplings. We also thought it would be appropriate to indulge in a bier because we were in Germany and because our day was so twisted. I had a Radler, which tastes like a mix of lemonade and light beer. The restaurant had a live band that played traditional German songs and everyone would chime in on certain songs, do certain prosts (their version of “cheers”) or do a dances.

My friend Katie is 100 percent German and belongs to a German society and dance crew with her family in the United States, so she knew a lot of the songs and dances and taught us them. After filling ourselves to the brim, we hit the dance floor. My friends and I were singing all the songs even though we didn’t know the words, and Katie and I even did a German dance together. All of the patrons were very impressed. Then, a man came up to me and handed me a decorated Easter egg and walked away. Then, he came back and handed me a small wooden cut out of a bunny and walked away. Then, he came back with a mini fake plant and brought me to the middle of the [small] dance floor where he got on his knee and fashioned a ring out of a wooden stick. I held out my hand and he put it on – then he made me throw the fake plant as a bouquet to me friends – my friend Meaghan caught it. He then had me jump in his arms like he was going to carry me off but he put me back down and told me it was time for our first dance.  Everyone in the restaurant (including me) was laughing so hard, and my friends were almost peeing their pants. It turns out his name is Antonio, and he’s from Italy. Picture this: two Italians hopping around a German dance floor. It was quite a sight. So, what I’m trying to say is, I think I’m engaged.

The engagement put the cherry on top of a long, very unique and memorable day in Berlin, Germany, and after that, we headed back to our apartment.

We packed up our bags and went to sleep because we all agreed we were going to wake up early on Sunday to go see the East Side Gallery (our original destination pre-accident). Sunday morning came, and we were up and out by 7:45 a.m. because our friends had a bus to catch to Prague, Czech Republic, and Katie and I had a flight to London, England, later in the day. This was doubly impressive because it was the weekend of Daylight Savings in Europe, and we were successful waking up even with the time change. We jumped in a cab and made it to Wall, and we are very happy to have had the opportunity to see it. It represented so many people, groups and historical events, and some of the art was really beautiful. It was a moving experience. My friend Emily and I signed our initials and the year (this is legal to do) on the mural that said, “Save Our Earth,” in the “a” of “Earth.”

After walking the four or five blocks that the wall spanned, we grabbed a coffee with our friends and said auf wiedersehen (goodbye). Katie and I then returned to the apartment. We were so tired that we decided to take a nap before we needed to turn in the apartment keys. About 45 minutes later, we were awoken by the cleaning lady, which meant we were supposed to have evacuated the premises 15 minutes prior. We did a very quick overview of the apartment, grabs our bags, said danke (thanks) and ran out. We ended up going to the same cute cafe we went to for breakfast the previous day. We sat there for three serene hours with our backpacks and luggage, waiting until it was time to head to the airport. I had a cappuccino, sweet potato and chili soup (sounds weird but it was good) and a lemon, ginger and honey tea.

Then, it was time to embark on our next journey, so we headed to the airport, and we were off to London, England!