Once again, I woke up four times to disable the four alarms that I had set on my phone to wake me up on time. It’s a wonderful yet clearly horrible thing to know that your train station is situated two minutes from your hotel door! I woke up 3 minutes after my intended train had left. Anyone that knows me know that I usually wake up in a way that mimics someone being pulled out of the virtual reality system from the Matrix movie franchise. Instantly my head started buzzing and I wondered if I had the wrong time in my phone and added another hour to it and decided that I only had 20 minutes to get ready and leave for the next scheduled train. When I got downstairs I confirmed that the country had not mysteriously added another timezone while I was asleep! Even though it was brightly shining, it was still only 7:45am and I knew that many food places would be closed. Read about my crime against traveldom here.
On the train to Praha from Berlin, I hadn’t made a reservation because it wasn’t mandatory. I was happy to find that there was an unreserved seat near the door I entered. The seats on this train were different from all the others I had been on. The seats were situated in sets of six separated by walls with private doors. After a few minutes of loading onto the bus, three young men filled the remaining seats in my cabin.
About 10 minutes into our journey three women of Asian descent alerted us that those three seats had been reserved by them. Two of the men were asleep and the third pretended like he didn’t understand. So unlike myself, I sat there and waited with the ladies for a train officer to come and clarify the situation. He finally came and ordered the men to leave and give the women their seats.
A few stops before we left Germany, German police officers came down the cabins to verify nationality. As he spoke in German I couldn’t help but smile as I sat there in total ignorance. I had to ask to other passengers I had been chatting with for the majority of the time I had been awake on the train. One of them was American and the other was German.
The police took a long time checking the passports of the three asian women in the cabin (one of them specified that she had French nationality). He didn’t bother asking for those of the other two men or mine though. After the police left, the German explained that countries have those immigrants they love and those they don’t really like too much. I was, understandably shocked and hoped that wasn’t the reason he had taken so long on their passport check. But, then again, he had only taken the word of the German that the other guy and I were American. On the other hand, seldom encountered passports (like the ones the women may have had) would be subject to greater scrutiny, in addition to the fact that they pretty much handed him their passports without his really asking.
As we neared the German border, we rode parallel to the Elbe River near Bad Schandau Station on to Praha. The scene was exceptionally beautiful. The river had carved a valley into the barren rock that now lay jutting out of lush green forestland. Houses big and small were also perched up in the hills and on the banks of the river, adding to the picturesque ambiance.
After the two men left the train, one of three women started a conversation with me. She was originally from Laos like the others, but lived in Iran and had previously acquired French nationality. She spoke fluent French and was very good with English.
- Place your wake-up alarm device in a place not immediately accessible to your sleeping area. I will try putting my phone deep in my backpack at night and let you know how that works out.
- Get friendly with the German (or other local) guy in your train cabin.
- Keep your passport in a well-protected, but easily accessible place in your luggage when you’re crossing any national borders, including those within the European Union.
The first commandment of travel clearly states that “thou shall not eat from large American fast-food chains when traveling abroad.” – Exploration Abroad
Being next to a train station has its perks. I was able to walk into an onsite Burger King and order breakfast. This German version of one of my favorite menus was quite interesting (inclusive of prices, which weren’t anywhere newer low). First thing I noticed was that there wasn’t an option to get hash browns and the “meal” consisted of what I’ve always defined as a bastardization of that title: one sandwich + one drink. What is a meal without a side? Well, I guess I could have paid for the hash browns separately, but that didn’t make much economic sense at all!
In order to justify my crime against discovery, I had to purchase a non-regular menu option. I ended up getting a breakfast burger made with eggs, tomatoes, cheese, a beef patty, and light mayo (I ordered it light) on a sesame seed bun. I would never have thought to put those things together, but knew that it would be wonderful. And it oh, it was!
The savory goodness of the beef mixed so nicely with the juicy tomatoes. No breakfast is complete without eggs, and they added the nice protein kick I craved. The nicely toasted bun was kept nice and soft with just the right amount of mayonnaise. I was feeling a bit on the sick side, seeing as I hadn’t slept enough (8 hours) in a few days. What I’ve discovered is drinking lots of orange juice keeps my immune system boosted and really staves off colds and coughs early. The natural sweetness is also unmistakable better than all the processed sugars in sodas and other popular drinks. But of course, this is a fast food joint and wasn’t included in the meal (meal is coffee, no choice). So I paid an arm and half of leg for one of those small kiddie juice boxes. But it was so good, and so necessary. So, all was well with the world 🙂
In ending this post, just so that we’re clear: I know this sandwich sounded so good, and you may be tempted to go to Germany (or where ever else they sell it) and buy one, but once again, I’d like to point out that I do not endorse companies or their products on my website.
On the way to Berlin, the night had crept thickly over the landscape and I could barely see anything outside. The city lights were a welcome guest to my bored eyes, and I was excited to be at the end of what felt like my longest leg so far.
The second I stepped off the train, I was reminded that Germany was the powerhouse of the EU. Berlin Hauptbahnhof is simply amazing! With 5 levels, 54 escalators, 6 panoramic elevators, a 1,800 m² solar roof, the station forms fitting testament to Germany’s industrial or economic might. Trains whizz above and below you with their tracks floating on almost invisible structural supports. It all looked like something from a set of a futuristic space hub. The stations that I had seen before either centred around an outdoor or indoor design. This station took both to a whole other level and them combined them!
Putting my bags away
Not only was this station the most brilliant I’d seen thus far, but it’s surroundings were no less impressive. I knew my nightly accommodations were close by, but couldn’t have imagined that it was effectively attached to the station! The Meininger Hotel Berlin Hauptbahnhof was exemplary in every way and was my favourite accommodation thus far. It was a pity I only stayed for a single night though. The company’s website poses the question, “so what exactly is the difference between a hostel and a hotel?” and showed me that there can be as little difference as the company chooses to emphasize. I will give details during my hostel/accommodation post series. But I will say that I paid the price of an upscale hostel and received the service given at a regular hotel, in addition to proximity to the centre of things as much as many a 4-star property.
Don’t forget, more photos are included in my Facebook fan page gallery(click here)
- See Berlin from a different angle (wordpressreport.wordpress.com)
- Headed to Berlin! (studyabroad.joshuascriven.com)
Leaving Cologne, I was a bit upset with the difference between the long-distance trains I had so far used on the Continent with those I had used in Britain. The one I had used to travel to Cologne from Amsterdam didn’t have a charger port for my computer, and now the one I am using to get to Berlin only has one. (I know #first-world-problems right?)
I had paid for a train reservation online before I left London for the trip connecting Berlin and Cologne. I had overslept in Amsterdam, however, and missed the two early morning connections to Berlin. Because the train to Berlin from Cologne is over 4.5 hours, the time I planned to spend in Berlin would have been devoted to after-dark activities. This meant that in order for the time in Cologne to be worthwhile, I had to leave on a later train than the one I had previously reserved.
Headed to Berlin 3 hours off schedule, I hoped for the best!
- From Amsterdam to Koln (studyabroad.joshuascriven.com)
- Prevailing style: Gothic
- The Diocese of Cologne was founded before 314 AD
- 509 steps lead to the top of the towers
- Special designations:
- UNESCO World Heritage site
- Seat of Catholic Archbishop of Cologne
- Was once the world’s tallest building (and still remains the tallest building in the city except for a residential skyscraper)
- Present records: world’s largest church facade
Here’s a short video I made of the inside of the Cathedral during prayers. It is amazing to hear the ancient surround sound technology in action. The minister’s voice can be heard echoing off the walls in a way that makes it hard to ignore him when he is speaking. Also, I love the sound of German, so that’s probably what made it even more beautiful!
- The Cologne Cathedral (leemajors78.wordpress.com)
- Cologne Cathedral – Germany (dreamedtravels.wordpress.com)
- From Amsterdam to Koln (studyabroad.joshuascriven.com)