If I had to give you one word to describe this past weekend, I’d have to go with challenging. Our 5:58 AM train from Maastricht to Liege was supposed to take us to our reserved seats on the five-hour train ride to Aachen, which would take us to Berlin by about 1:00 PM. When early Friday morning finally came, we headed to the bus stop around 5:15 and discovered that the buses don’t even start running until 5:40. So, with fake smiles on our faces, we ignored the drizzling rain and marched our way in the direction that we thought the train station was.
There were six of us girls on this trip, and we tried to ignore the pain that our heavy hiking backpacks were already causing our shoulders by chatting about how lovely the five-hour train nap would be. A little less than an hour later, we were finally at the train station, but we’d missed our first train; this was the beginning of what we knew would be a day full of unfortunate events. For me, though, the most unfortunate had to be the long-awaited five-hour train ride that was spent on the cold, dirty floor of the train. Since we missed the train that held our reserved seats, we were stuck seatless on this train.
Both sleep and studying were out of the question on that bumpy, nauseating ride; Amanda, Rachel, and I piled into the one open floor space left, tangling ourselves and our backpacks into a little knot so as to leave a walkway for people heading to the restrooms. We were right by the doors of the train, so every time the train stopped we had to get up and let people off, then relocate ourselves back into the tangled mess and continue on the seemingly endless ride to Aachen.
We finally arrived in East Berlin a whopping five hours later than we’d hoped to, and we immediately set off to find our hostel. We were greeted there in our twelve-bed mixed dorm by three older men, the oldest and baldest of whom tried to woo Amanda with his guitar skills after calling her “cute” and watching her intently as she climbed up the ladder to make her bed. A few stained sheets and another creepy fifty-something, alcohol-scented, heavy-breathing, dark-cloaked man later and we were regretting not having paid a few more Euros to be in an all-female room.
Although I know we could’ve made it through the night alive and probably safe, a few of us had only gotten one hour of sleep (and some none) the night before and we desperately needed a peaceful night’s rest, so one of our travel mates decided to ask if there was room for us in the hostel to move dorms. Luckily there was, so we moved rooms and slept safely that night, letting our dreams wipe away any lingering bitterness about late buses, missed trains, dirty floors, stained sheets, and creepy men.
Now I’m just interested to see how our 32-bed mixed dorm in Switzerland works out…
The first glimpse I had of Germany was what I could see peeking out from above a tall, mossy rock wall at the train station in Aachen. There were vine-covered houses with tall, slanted roofs and twisted trees growing higher than I could see. I really had no idea what to expect from Germany at all other than maybe seeing a castle and lots of historical sites. Although we didn’t actually see any castles, Berlin definitely didn’t disappoint in the historical aspect. We went on a free walking tour the next day, where we saw the Brandenburg Gate, a piece of the Berlin Wall, the Former Nazi government district, both the Book Burning and the Holocaust Memorials, the site of Hitler’s former bunker, and even the hotel where Michael Jackson held his baby over the balcony. This tour alone made our travel woes worth the trouble.
Standing on both sides of what used
to be divided by the Berlin Wall
I have to say, though, that the most surprising part of the weekend was the food. We asked the workers at the hostel where we should go for authentic German food, and when we got to the half pub/half restaurant that they suggested I immediately loved it because of the mouth-watering plates of food on other people’s tables.
We squinted at the German menus that offered things like weiner schnitzel and thüringer roster. I was prepared to close my eyes and point to something random when the waitress brought over English menus that offered foods like weiner schnitzel and thüringer roster…
I settled for the description that said “German pork” and “fried potatoes” because, really, what could sound better after a dreary day of traveling? While we waited on our food, we watched the people around us and
eavesdropped in conversations we couldn’t understand. In a room off to the side, there was a family gathered around a huge wooden table; the little boys occasionally shook their fists at the television and the older men drank beers and shouted what I assumed were German profanities at the futbol players.
The next day marked the beginning of our journey home, and we didn’t expect anything to go any easier than on the way there. We dodged subway cops, embarrassed ourselves in front of a few only-German-speaking bus drivers, missed two trains, and waited out hour-long layovers in two train stations, making our trip about four hours longer than it had to be. But what else were we to expect? The travel precedent for the weekend had already been set, and we were just along for the ride.
The former Nazi government building–
Built to look intimidating and feel overpowering
Another side of German architecture…