Friday started early, as I had a 7:45 flight and a 4:50 reservation with Super Shuttle. The ride to the airport and check-in was uneventful, and I was on the plane with no major issues. The pilot started the engines and started to taxi for a takeoff when he suddenly shut down the engines and informed us that he was seeing a malfunction in the starboard engine. We were towed back to gate and the mechanics came out to see where the problem was located. After about 20 minutes, we were cleared to leave again (we never heard if they fixed the issue or not) and were on our way to Newark.
I had over four hours to kill in the Newark airport, so obviously my first stop was a bar near my departing gate. Did I have a few whiskeys? Of course! I also tried to make a few phone calls while I had some time to kill. Be warned, I’m about to go off on a rant here:
Goddammit AT&T! It should not take 15 attempts to make a single call! From a major airport! Seriously? WTF are you doing over there? You’re certainly not trying to run a mobile phone network! I tried for over 40 minutes to download my e-mail on my phone and I think I eventually uploaded one photo, even though I kept getting “network connection reset” errors. When the iPhone moves to another carrier, so will I.
On board the plane to berlin, I found myself sitting next to a mid-40s couple from Berlin. They were very nice and we had a nice long conversation about many things. The only thing that ruined the flight for all three of us was an older couple in the row in front of us… yes, they were Ugly Americans. Apparently the man and his wife were in a competition to see who could slam their seat back the most times in one flight, and they also competed in such events as How Many Times We You Go to the Lavatory and my favorite, My Seat Sucks So Trade Places With Me.
Upon landing at Berlin Tegel Airport, I changed some dollars for euros and grabbed a transit card so I could take the TXL bus to the main train station, where I had planned to take the U-bahn (subway) near to my hotel. I made a bit if a mistake while looking at the transit maps, as I thought there was a U-bahn line from the Hauptbahnhof to Friedrishstraße station. It turns out it’s an S-bahn line (commuter train)… I had been traveling for the better part of a whole day and was sleepy, so I spent a while walking around the Hauptbahnhof looking for the U-bahn line I needed. I finally figured out thet the only U-bahn line there runs only to the Brandendurg Gate (it’s the beginning of the U-5 line that’s still under construction.). Eventually I made my way and got to Freidrichstraße station, and then to the U-6 line south to the Stadtmitte station, A short walk later I was in the hotel.
Hurrupmh. I know I used Marriott points to book a free hotel stay and saved at least 140 euro, but I don’t get the point of charging for internet access — it should be part of the cost of the room. Both the in-room connection and the wi-fi in the lobby were pay-only services, and at 16.95 euro per 24 hours it was not a bargain. I decided to skip it here and will upload from Leipzig. Just because business people are likely to expense this cost does not make it the right thing to do.
I’m getting older, and slightly wiser, so I have started planning a little wiggle room into thew beginning of my trips to allow for some time to acclimate and sleep off the jet lag. My first travel day started at 4 am in Denver and ended the next day at about 10 am in Berlin (with only a little sleep on the airplane during this time). 10 years ago, this would not be a problem for me, but the extra nap time today at the hotel was very welcome, I took a shower and laid on the bed by the open window for a few hours because you never really sleep well on a plane. My original plan for today was to go out and explore Berlin, but in hindsight this was an overly ambitious plan. Luckily, tomorrow (Sunday) was going to be a day where I took as quick train ride to the Polish border (because I was so close) and then back to Leipzig, so instead I will just do some exploring in Berlin and take my scheduled train from Berlin to Leipzig in the late afternoon.
After a few hours of napping, I went for a walk around the neighborhood. A cool front had blown in and the skies at 5 pm were gray with a brisk wind whipping from time to time. It felt very comfortable to me, but many people were wearing jackets, coats and even scarves. I headed east and found Checkpoint Charlie, still full of tourists at this hour on a Saturday evening. I turned north and walked up Friedrichstraße to Unter den Linden and east to the Fernsehturm. By this time it was dark, and I came to a realization: I need a better camera.
For the longest time, I’ve been content to use a Canon point-and-shoot camera due to its small size and relatively excellent picture quality. However, I realized that many of the shots I wanted to take in the fading daylight along Unter den Linden just did not turn out at all. There were many good shots of building lit in various dramatic ways that turned out blurry or worse due to the low light conditions. Any movement of the camera while the shutter is open are amplified in low-light conditions so most of my shots become undecipherable blobs. The one question I have to ask myself is: Am I willing to be “that guy,” an obvious tourist walking along with an expensive SLR hanging from my neck and a collapsable tripod in tow? Perhaps I’ll leave the photography to the experts.
I headed back to the hotel, fully intending to grab a bite to eat along the way. Surprisingly, there were not many restaurants open and the few I did see that were still serving were italian and thai places, not “german.” I made it back to the hotel and hit the bar for a Berliner pilsner and some chips (fries), which was really all I needed before crashed for the night. I expected I would need to rest up for tomorrow…