This is post #8 of our Dublin-Berlin trip in September 2018.
What we see out our window–I looked it up via Google Maps, and it is a special events venue.
It’s Monday, September 17th. We’ve been traveling for nearly a week. Dave had gone off to his meetings with the JMPR in Berlin, the location some 40 minutes south of our hotel, and it was time to get the Tourist House in order. And that means laundry. I had spent nearly an hour the night before on my iPad, trying to find a coin laundry so we could do our wash. I would have loved to find the one like we had in Madrid, where we dropped off our dirty clothes, paid by the kilo, and then picked them back up again at the end of the day, but I couldn’t only find laundry that did them by the piece.
Wherever I went in Berlin, these things were part of it: a screenshot of the Google Map that tells me my planned route, snapshots of station names, and especially the direction to get out of that station, and a ride on either an S-bahn or a U-bahn, and no, I don’t know how they differ, other than some vague reference in the back of my mind about the direction they take: East-West vs. North-South. This factoid may be true, and now that I’m home, I could look it up, but sometimes the finer points of Why Things Are the Way They Are is often something you just let slip on by when touristing; I just need to know how to get from one place to another. Yet, other times, I dug deep into details, a luxury afforded by the length of this trip.
Because I went out the wrong exit (I was just following Google Maps suggestion), it took me a few stops and starts to find the Eco-Express Waschsalon, but I did. A little old lady who was there took pains to school me on how to use her local laundromat, gesturing to the sign on the wall and telling me in German, how to put my coins in to get soap, which soap I should use (here she gestured firmly), the temperature of the water, how to get it to start, and how to open up the door when it finished. I smiled, nodded my head and let her lead me along. That last bit of info came in handy at the end.
I stitched while the wash was going; she ate her lunch.
She finished hers, making sure I knew which setting to use on the dryer by pulling out one of her towels, making me feel it, pointing to the numbers I was to use, and smiling while showing me, again, her dry yellow hand towel. This was my first exposure to the Rules of German Life, and I would encounter this again and again during our trip. There were certain ways to do things, and you were expected to follow those rules. It didn’t matter if they made sense to you or not, or if they even made sense, those were the Rules.
An American couple came in, a brother and sister, and I passed on the Rules to them. She had run the marathon, and they were at the beginning of a trip that started here and went to other places in Europe. As she told me her itinerary, I could see that she was slightly OCD about where they were going and what they were to do, our American version of the Rules, perhaps?
I saw Marathoners all day long that day. Some were wearing their medals, some not. Others strode along, and others could barely move, hobbling in front of me. Last night Dave offered to give up his seat on a train to someone wearing his medal, but it was declined. When they were leaving, I could see that the man could barely walk, let alone climb the stairs in front of him, as his wife and daughter tried to help him. Perhaps if he’d sat down, he wouldn’t have been able to get up? On that same train, as we were leaving, another medal-wearing marathoner stepped out onto the platform and fainted. The scramble to help him was behind me, but Dave saw it. I guess after the exultation after running, comes the reality of human frailty.
I finished up the wash, packed up my suitcase with clean clothes and went up to the corner to have Bibimpap, or as the stand called it, Bibimbiss.
It was an amazing lunch. He made his hot sauce with pear and other secret ingredients. At first I had him put a tiny dribble in the front corner (the red smear), but I went back up for more. It was spicy, but not unpleasant and really piqued up the flavor.
I had discovered the Bibimbap place while sitting in the waschsalon because Dave and I had rented a pocket Wifi from HippocketWifi. It covers all of Europe and gives whoever has the device (shown on top of the felt bag) access to secure wifi. We had rented one in Tokyo (from Japan-Wireless), and then South Korea (Wifi Egg — rented from the airport when we arrived), and decided it had been really worth it. I paid the extra 5 euro to get the portable battery and it came in handy later that day when we ran out of power, as I had unknowingly plugged it into the hotel socket that turned off when we turned off the lights. I had made the arrangements online a month ahead, and they had shipped it to our Berlin Hotel, where it was waiting for us upon check-in.
Because of this I could switch my itinerary up easily, using it to navigate with Google Maps and the BVG app I’d downloaded. We could both log onto the device for the same price (roughly 8 euro/day, including all our costs).
Another advantage for Dave is that he could find me if he wanted to, as we set up Find my Friends on our phones. He had access to the wifi at his meetings, and could look up where I was. We could have used it more than we did, as we’d signed up for 1GB a day, and we didn’t even come close to using that much data. I’m hoping I can always travel with a pocket wifi from now on. (I’m writing all this as a record of what we had and did, and also for information for anyone who is interested.)
After dropping the clothes at the hotel, I went over to see what this ruin was outside our window: it was the original Anhalter Bahnhof (S-Bahn line), which used to be enormous, a large station. One night I read all about it on Wikipedia, coming to understand that its history had dual sides to it, for it was used to ship out Jews to concentration camps during the Hitler era.
In looking at the model, the large ruin I see above is only the portico, with a portion of the wall behind it. The Tempodrom is built on the area of the ruin, as are soccer fields. I took this video of the area one day when it started to rain, and you can see how large the area is where the train station used to be.
While I was over there, I visited the LIDL market, where I encountered this interesting way to select a seeded bun (as this video shows, it works better if you aren’t trying to film yourself while doing it). Since Dave was always heading out very early to his meetings, I tried to get some groceries in the room for him: rolls, yogurt, juice, fruit.
Back at the hotel, I work on my travel book, recording expenses and what went on that day, then headed downstairs at 4 p.m. for Movenpick’s Chocolate Hour. They set out little trays of chocolate-related treats. A nice treat!
Dave came home (his earliest arrival of the whole meeting) and we headed out. First, to see the Tempodrom. It had a place to the side which was a water-oriented spa, called the Liquidrom.
We saw elevated pipes in a lot of places. “They are in fact water pipes. The term ‘berl’ actually just means swamp, Berlin therefore means swamp-city! Like so much of Germany, functionality is king, and if this functionality turns out to be a thing of intrigue, beauty or a tourist attraction, well, that’s so much the better. The pipes suck the water out from under the ground level, pump it across the city and then discharge it into a special canal.” from here
We were headed to KaDeWe, the shortened name for the large fancy department store. But first, I needed to find a thimble, so the guy in the jacket in the lobby of KaDeWe (a fixture in most of the nicer stores I entered) directed us, in German, around to the side.
The idee. store carried all sorts of creative supplies, and I did find a (lame) thimble). Back to the KaDeWe, since it was dinnertime, we strolled around their 7th floor food area, but as it was after 6 p.m., and all the booths closed up at 7:00, we were already getting the message that we’d better hurry and make up our minds. We went down a level to another food hall, 6th floor.
We ended up eating at the potato booth, staffed by three chefs. One spoke pretty good English and was a bit of a jokester. When we asked for tap water he said “No grape juice?” We think he meant what the giggling couple to our left was drinking, their glasses filled with white and red wine. Both our dishes were pre-prepared, pulled out of a refridgerator drawer, the saran wrapping removed and then placed into a small oven. A few minutes later, he threw some pickles and garnishes on them, and set them before us. I avoided the heavy layer of cheese, practically heresy here at the German potato bar, and was given a cluck-cluck of the tongue by the female chef, when she cleared it away. Dave’s dish (on the right) was better than mine.
We watched them clean up the entire place while we ate. They were serious about their 7 p.m. closing (one of the Rules). We went over to buy a pastry for Dave’s breakfast and for our dessert, but could hardly get waited on for all the cleaning up. They were not happy that we wanted to buy something at that time, apparently.
Some of our choices. Click for larger image, but you might wish you had a bakery like this. We do!
We checked the BVG app for info on how to get home, but flipped over to our preferred Google Maps, as I could change from U-bahn to bus more easily.
We crossed the street to catch the M29 home.
“Wrong bus,” said the bus driver to Dave. He pointed across the street, and we headed back to the KaDeWe side. In a few minutes, a bus pulled up. Same driver.
He smiled, and said “Right bus.” We climbed up to the top level and enjoyed our nighttime ride home.
When I complained to the hotel desk clerk the next day, she reached in a drawer and handed me a power strip. They are remarkably responsive in this place.
It seemed like every night we looked at the Tempodrom. And on a good note, by the end of our trip, I’d figured out which of those S-bahn elevators to get in when I needed to go somewhere.