There is one problem with Europe and that is that it is far away. So, our vacation started with one eight hour flight with a two hour layover in Frankfurt am Mein. Frankfurt is actually where I was born, so I actually got to see a tiny part of my birthplace. Though it was mostly the airport terminal.
After eight hours, I hit the restroom in Frankfurt and....hmmm...yeah, my face wasn't exactly looking its best. My eyeliner or mascara had smudged so I had dark circles under my eyes, my lip color was all worn off, and my chin was looking a little darker than I would've liked. So, I quickly touched up my makeup. I figured a quick touch up would be okay to get me to the hotel.
Three or four hours after setting down in Germany we landed in Berlin. We had finally made it to our destination! Tagel airport is crazy because there's no U-bahn station there. Of course, being the stupid tourists that we were, we assumed that there MUST be an U-bahn somewhere in the airport. So we spent a fruitless forty minutes looking around, hauling all our gear up and down the arrivals terminal, until finally we gave up and went to the info counter. No, there is not an U-bahn stop at Tagel. But there is the TXL bus.
So we took a bus all the way across Berlin to Alexanderplatz, which was basically like the Times Square of East Berlin back during the communist days. Our hotel was in East Berlin, in the neighborhood of Prenzlauer Berg. We'd been told by my friend who lived in Berlin, that East Berlin was way, way cooler, so we definitely wanted to be in the east.
Our hotel was a ten minute walk from Alexanderplatz, and as we didn't understand the U-bahn or the trams, we decided to walk. See, in NYC, there are multiple MetroCard machines at every station so it's easy to get a card. In Alexanderplatz, a major hub where seven train lines meet, we eventually found exactly one machine. It turns out that you don't even need a card to get on the trains or busses. It's all on the honor system. The whole time we were there, we bought tickets, but we never got asked by an agent.
One of the reasons I think Berlin is so nice is that there's a sort of social understanding that we will all follow the rules. It just makes the city so much nicer than say, New York, where we often can't have nice things because of what a few jerks will do. Like in Berlin there are vending machines on the U-bahn platforms, but in NYC they'd be vandalized and torn apart. So, like gun control, separation of church and state, sane ideas about birth control, and universal healthcare, we just can't have nice things in America.
Took a long walk around Prenzlauerberg and Mitte looking for German food and just experiencing Germany. We fell instantly in love. We kept looking for authentic German food for our first meal, but it turns out there is no German food in Berlin! Seriously. It's kind of crazy, but there are more German restaurants in NYC than there are in Berlin. I think they all must have gotten tired of wursts and moved on to doner kebobs and Vietnamese food. After a long while, and some Googling, we were able to locate a traditional place. It was mostly deserted and a little like an old man bar, but we had some beers and enjoyed our first German meal.
We'd been up for almost 40 hours at this point, but tried to push ourselves to 10pm Berlin time so we could avoid jetlag. When my head finally hit the pillow I had an insanely restful sleep. And was up and ready for day 2!