You cannot get enough of this place. This is your Bombay. NYC. Paris. Barcelona. Pick any city that sucks you in and you’ll know what I mean. I was scheduled to spend 3 days here but in the middle of my second day I knew I was going to come back for more.
When I left Prague on Monday morning, it was raining relentlessly. I love rain. I miss rain now that I live in South India. But rain on a travel day is not something I welcome. Especially when I have planned to walk with my backpack. I decided it wasn’t worth reaching the Bahnhof dripping wet and then shivering in the cold. There are trams leaving from Myslikova and Zitna that go to the train station. Now, there are two train stations in Praha. They aren’t very far from each other. But the main one is Hlavni Nadrazi. So be sure to check your tickets. The 90 minute transport ticket cost me 32 krona and I bought it in the supermarket downstairs. You can also buy tickets from vending machines at the stations / tram stops. The tram I took dropped me off at Jindriska which is about 200m from the station. I had started well in advance which meant that I had over an hour to kill. Sadly, the train schedule went up ten minutes before departure and we had to run to reach the platform which as my luck goes – was the last one.
This, despite what the ticket said, wasn’t Deutsche Bahn. I refuse to believe that DB can experience such horrendous delays. I was scheduled to arrive in Berlin at 15:15 and we didn’t reach until 17:00! There were so many random stops on the rail. Thankfully, I slept through most of the ride. The Cat’s Pajamas Hostel is a fantastic place. Sadly, it lists its address as 84, Urbanstrasse. When I checked Google Maps, it gave me simple directions – take Bus M41 from the Hbf and get off at Urbanstrasse. What it didn’t say is that the street is a few kms long! I obviously got off at the first stop on the street and had to walk the entire length all the way to Hermannplatz! It was 18:30 when I sat my ass down to check a barrage of texts that came in as soon as I connected to the WiFi. After a shower I decided that I needed Pommes, beer, and some sleep.
If you are ever in a city that has an Alternative Walking Tour, I recommend that you take it. Berlin has some fantastic ones. The Sandemann Tours leave from Alexanderplatz daily at 11am and 2pm. The meeting point is the Starbucks entrance. Sandemann also has regular walking tours that are more frequent and they leave from the Brandenburg gate. It’s chaotic though and you should get there well in advance to identify which one is yours. You can book your place (it’s free) online for a particular time slot. The Alternative Tour takes you through Kreuzberg, SO 36, East Side Gallery, the tree house of Osman Kalin and ends at YAAM. This is fantastic because you see some terrific street art, understand the artistic explosion in Berlin and also relate to the history that drove this.
I had “tried” doing my laundry on Monday evening. It was midnight when I gave up. Adriana (a Spanish girl I met while doing laundry) and I tried in vain to figure out the dryer. Then we found out it takes 4 hours! So we decided to live with the wet clothes. After the walking tour I went back to check on the laundry and make another attempt at the dryer. Sadly, after two hours it hadn’t worked its charm so I decided to get some sleep.
I had a super long day on Wednesday. I was taking the bus to Frankfurt at 11pm. I wanted to tire myself out completely so that I’d sleep like the dead on the bus. I checked out early and headed to the Brandenburg gate. I reached just in time for the 10am tour but couldn’t find them. So I decided to walk on my own. Put this on your list for Berlin: picnic in the Tiergarten. This is your Tuileries or Fonatinebleau or maybe even Versailles! It’s big and it’s gorgeous. The weather was perfect at 17 degrees. I walked to the Grosser Stern and back to the Brandenburg gate, spent some time at the Willy Brandt Zentrum (wonderful educational gallery), walked some more on Friedrichstrasse before ending at Französicherstrasse. I was meeting an old friend for coffee. The last time I’d met her I was 5 and now she has a five year old daughter! I spent a beautiful afternoon at Adenauerplatz with this little one.
It was almost 8 when I got back to Hermnnplatz. I killed my headache with some Pommes from my SRK loving Turkish friend. It’s a good thing I leave the hostel 2 hours before my scheduled departure. The ZOB is at Messe Nord ICC. I had to take the U8 from Hermannplatz to Hermannstrasse and then change over to S46 going to Westend. At Hermannstrasse I discovered that S46 was plying only till Suedkreuz because of some construction on the line – Scheisse!! A girl at the station suggested I take the S41 to Bundesplatz and switch to the replacement bus – direction Halensee. From Halensee I’d have to take the S-Bahn (ring) to Messe Nord. The 30 minute trip took me 1hr and 30minutes! By the time I reached ZOB at 22:30, I was ready to crash. Mission accomplished.