I must preface this by saying that this is the least organized/planned trip I have ever taken.
Reason being: when I was making these arrangements, I wasn’t really sure that I would have the funds to actually do this. 85% of me was certain that I would be making a lot of emails cancelling these reservations and trying to get my money back.
This mindset was due to a number of things. First: I was still feeling how much I spent during my time in Spain. Second: I needed to buy some warmer clothes for this trip. Third: As the end of my time was rapidly approaching, the need to spend time with the friends I had made increased, which led to increased money-spending.
But here I was: Berlin, Paris, London, and Lucerne. I was pretty spent. Just a few days before Berlin, I went to Bergamo, a trip I had planned but forgot about when doing my financials. Bergamo was really fun, but now I had $44 to my name.
I knew it was time to ask my parents for money, but I was so stubborn. I didn’t want to. They have given me so much for me to be abroad and to be able to travel to all of these places, and I didn’t feel like it was an equal exchange. I still don’t feel like it is an equal exchange. I get to hang out in Europe with my friends and they get to keep going to work and taking care of the fam. I didn’t want to ask for more money. I decided I would try to make my remaining money stretch until I got to at least London, where I would need pounds instead of euros. I packed my bags, 30 euros in my pocket. I can do this.
December 13th: Berlin at Night
The Cab Lady
My plane to Berlin was delayed. I was supposed to land at 11:55pm, but due to having taken off half an hour late, I got to Berlin closer to 12:40am. To get to my hostel, there were two options. I could take 1 train and one of two buses and get to my hostel at 3am, or take a 24 minute cab. Obviously, the smarter option would have been he train and the bus; It’s cheap, possibly even free if I don’t get caught since it’s so late and I’ve noticed a trend…I have 30 euro.
But exhaustion hit me like I’ve never felt it before. The sleeplessness I had been experiencing for the past month was catching up to me, coupled with an intense sadness. I have never felt as alone before as I did that night. My brain was fried; I flew into Berlin right after having taken 2 days of 3 tests and a presentation. None of this should be an excuse, but I made my way to a cab. I had 30 euro. I’ve never paid more than 20 euro for a cab, so this is okay. I’ll just not eat tomorrow or something.
There were many cabs to pick from, and I got in a cab with a female driver. I felt safe with that. But she drove so slowly. Under the speed limit, taking the long way round. I was following where we were on google maps, and we could have gotten to the hostel so much quicker. My heart beat increased as I watched the numbers going up on what I would owe. Something was off. Instead of adding 10 cents at a time, it would add 20 cents, sometimes 25 cents. I just wanted to get out.
By the time we arrived, it was 1:30am, and I owed 42 or 44 euro. She kept changing the screen from 42 to 44. Which, now that I’m more rested, doesn’t make sense. There shouldn’t be an option to change the price.
I’ve been able to talk my way into paying less for a cab ride before. So I decided to give it shot, no harm in trying. But this lady got mad really quickly. She started yelling at me in German, and though I couldn’t understand, I had feeling it wasn’t anything nice. I started to get stressed out, but tried to remain calm. I found 5 euros in an abandoned pocket, so I offered her the 35 euro I had and a new tube a lotion I hadn’t used. She wouldn’t take it. She wanted me to ask the hostel to pay. It was getting ridiculous.
I was so tired. I just wanted the yelling to stop. My card wasn’t working at the ATM, and the receptionist at the hostel didn’t want to be a part of any of it, and who would blame him? I wouldn’t want to be a part of this either.
I found myself in front of an atm by myself, and I didn’t know what to do. I had been avoiding contacting my parents for money, truthfully most of my time abroad. I only asked when I really needed it, and I swore that the last time I had asked for money the week before would be the last. I would make the money stretch and then go home and start working again.
But I needed them. I started calling my mom, but she wasn’t answering. I tried my dad, also not answering. The anxiety was building, but I tried so hard to keep it in. I called my dad again on regular phone service instead of using messenger and he finally picked up and hearing his voice broke me; I cried like the big 22 year old child I am. It was so embarrassing.
He sent me some money. but I had tried to pull money from my account so many times, my account locked itself so I wouldn’t get robbed (thanks but no thanks Chase!).
No cash still. I went back, grabbed my bag out of the cab and explained what happened to the cab lady. I said I could pay her tomorrow, once my account unfroze but she wouldn’t buy it and she walked into the hostel to ask for money. She kept threatening the police. All of this over 7 euro.
My dad was still on the phone, on speaker. He started talking, also threatening the police. I just felt like this was so unnecessary. I just wanted it to end…The cab lady yelled a couple of more things at me, and then left. The receptionist translated some of it. I could tell he was omitting things, and I’m okay with that. She couldn’t believe that I would go to Berlin with no money, and some other bad things.
Well, at least she was gone. And yeah, she’s right. I went to Berlin with no money. I was about to start a trip to 4 different cities with no money because I am an idiot and I should have just stayed home.
Oh well. I’m here now. Got to make the best, right?
The hostel wouldn’t accept card though; It was a cash only joint. Cab lady had taken everything, so I couldn’t check in. Great. The receptionist said I could hang out in the community room and crash on the couch. I thanked him and made my way over.
My dad was still talking to me on messenger. He was looking at accommodations near me that I might be able to walk to. But it was 2am and I was tired and booking another place to stay when morning was just hours away seemed extra to me. So I told him no. I would make a home of the community room couch. And the random people drinking in the room.
The Drunk Kids in the Community Room
I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I guess it was more along the lines of an empty room that would slowly come to life around 7am. Instead, the room was very bright, beer bottles were everywhere, there weren’t any open seats, and it was taken over by a bunch of people getting drunk and smoking.
I sighed, and picked a corner with an outlet. Figures; I shouldn’t expect anything more. I focused attention on my map of Berlin and planned my route for the day.
Around 3am, one of the guys approached me. His name was Edoardo. Closely following him was another girl, Tatiana. They seemed nice enough, so I let them entertain me. They were a couple from Poland, married now 10 years. Surprising; they seemed young, at least still in their 20s. Following them was a couple of more guys: Max, and Pollo, and another 2 other girls, but unfortunately I cannot remember their names. Let us call them Thing 1 and Thing 2.
Max was from a small town in southern Germany. Pollo was from Mexico City (DF)./ Thing 1 was from a western city in Germany, who had studied in Mexico with Pollo, and Thing 2 was from somewhere in Spain. Considering the diverse mix, I figured they had all met recently and decided to be friends, so I said why not?
They offered me a beer, but I didn’t want it. I don’t like beer. Had they wine, I would have said yes in a heartbeat. God knows I needed wine! They thought I was weird not to like beer, but they respected my decision and didn’t press it.
Most of them were art students, so I fit right in. We talked about art careers, supernatural (the TV show), and geography until 6am. At that point, many of them had already left to crash in their beds, and eventually, it was just me.
So I settled on a couch. Albeit, the couch was pretty gross and I really didn’t want to sleep on it. But I was so tired. I slept on top of my carry on suitcase for 2 hours. The most uncomfortable yet rewarding sleep I’ve ever experienced. I would be so dead the next day. But that’s okay. Because that’s what makeup is for.
December 13th: Berlin at Day
The Berlin Wall: East Side Gallery
Ideally, I would have done some research to refresh my memory on what I knew about the events leading up the building and tearing down of the wall, but considering the events preceding my visit, I will forgive myself for not being thorough.
This bit of wall that remains is wonderful. Artists have taken sections of the wall to create murals to make beautiful a wall that once divided a people, and unite those people through art.
The Jewish Museum
After about an hour of walking alongside the wall, I had reached the end. I was very cold, and I wanted nothing more than to be inside somewhere with another cup of coffee. Lucky for me, there was a shopping strip with a McDonald’s just across the street.
I sat with coffee number 2 (Coffee number 1 was at a Starbucks on my way to the metro to the wall) and began to plot my next event: The Jewish museum. I found a bus that would pick me up right in front of the McDonald’s and take me right to the museum!
At the time, the museum had 4 main exhibitions, 3 in the basement, and the last on the top floor. Unfortunately, the other two floors were being renovated, most likely moving in new exhibitions.
The first two were centered around the holocaust. Both exhibits worked together to lead you to the Jewish Tower. The first exhibit explains the history of the building, and the second was a hall of artifacts and testimonies.
Thus far, the structure of the building was quite angular; the halls had sharp unexpected turns, and the lighting was dim. All of this is meant to foreshadow the Jewish Tower at the end of the second exhibit.
The door to the tower blended in with the wall. I almost thought there was nothing there, had I not seen a few others coming out of it. I opened the door into a steel, gray room, with no lighting save but a sliver at the top. The door slammed behind me, the sound echoed through the walls like machinery. It was colder in here, and it was very dreary. I can’t imagine being stuck in this tower indefinitely. I was in there maybe for a minute, and then left, shocked.
The third exhibit was about Jewish representation in the world through art. Various artists attempted to create “a world without Jews” so that we could see the impact the Jewish population has on the secular world.
I needed a breather after the intensity of the exhibits, and made my way upstairs to the last available exhibit on Jerusalem.
This exhibit had about 15 maybe 16 different rooms, each explaining a different aspect of Jerusalem. The first few rooms discussed the geography and the demographics of the city through charts and maps. Then you learned a little bit about Islamic and Judaic traditions. Next were the testimonials about living in Jerusalem. Towards the end, the exhibit became more and more modern, discussing the ongoing fighting and breaking it down for those of us who really don’t know very much (Thank you!). The last room discussed a few more testimonials about living in mixed-religion families within Jerusalem.
Overall, this museum did a great job at educating me. It was very interactive, and it made me feel. 10 out of 10, I would recommend.
Reason number one I waited to come to Berlin until December instead of a warmer time of year: The Christmas Markets!
I mapped out a path to Brandenburg Gate that would lead me through a couple of different markets. I was in no rush. There was one more museum I wanted to go to; The Schuwles Museum (The Gay Museum) and I really wanted to go, but I looked online and the tickets were more than I wanted to pay for (Jewish Museum: 3 euros with student ID; Schuwles Museum: 12 euros, no discount).
So I took a stroll through the markets, smelling the hot wine and the sweet candy. I bought a hot chocolate and a nutella-banana crepe and took in the sights of the ferris wheel, the people skating in the rink that centered the markets, the merry-go-round. Some stalls had Christmas music playing!
I finally made it to the gate, where I found both a Christmas Tree and a Jewish Star. I loved this.
I continued on my walk, and found the Jewish Memorial. Here you can find a series of marble slabs, all at different heights, displayed a top an uneven floor that mimics ocean waves. The slabs represent the known lives that were lost.
Everything is Great but I’m really tired
It was really cold outside. And my hand was starting to freeze together with my suitcase handle. So I walked inside a mall, found a seat and ate some falafel. I had a couple of hours more to kill before my bus to Paris.
I walked outside again, through another Christmas market. It was even prettier at night, the lights glistening and the hot steam from hot wine and hot chocolate visible in the light. I walked slowly, my heart filling up with Christmas.
Then I found a Starbucks. I was right at home. I settled in with my laptop and a mug of black coffee, and mentally prepared myself for Paris!