Day 2: Berlin, Leipzig


Day 2: Berlin to Leipzig
I woke up early today and headed down to the hotel restaurant for Frühstuck before checking out.  I headed back north on Friedrichstrße to the Franschöischestraße U-bahn station where I planned to head north to the Freidrishstraße station where I would catch the S-bahn to the Hauptbahnhof (I had learned my transit lesson the day before)  — but I discovered that today the east-west S-bahn lines were not running.  I don’t know if this was regularly-scheduled maintenance or if this was a result of a widespread brake inspection problem that was in progress due to a problem discovered with the S-bahn coaches, but the result was the same:  I had to find an alternate route to the Hauptbahnhof.  I found a sign that explained S-bahn travelers could use the RegionalBahn train instead, so I waited until the next westbound train came through the station.  In hindsight, it may have been just as fast to walk.
My plan had been to put my backpack into a luggage locker in the train station and explore more of Berlin during the day, but I soon discovered the meager allotment of luggage lockers were already full.  There is another left luggage facility but it is not self-service, requiring queuing up and dropping off your bags (basically like checking your luggage for a flight).  You’re given a claim ticket which myst be paid before claiming your bags (5 euro). My backpack checked, I jumped on the U-bahn to the Bundestag.
The Bundestag is the german parliament building (formerly the Reichstag building) and one recent addition is a large glass dome from which you get a great panoramic view of central Berlin.  Although I arrived relatively early, it was Sunday and the line to access the dome was already snaking out the front door of the building and well onto the grounds outside.  Perhaps next time…
The cool cloudy weather that had rolled in the previous evening was still present, and by the time I walked the short distance to the Brandenburg Gate a slight drizzle had started up.  I managed a few photos of the plaza before the skies opened up.  Apparently, the rain gods were unhappy…
In the end, I dodged downpours all day long.  I would walk a while and just as I was about ti see something interesting, down came the rain.  The museums, already busy with Sunday crowds, were even more popular as sanctuaries from the driving rainstorms.  I personally did not find the conditions too harsh:  the temperature was in the upper 50’s/low 60’s and the wind was not blowing that hard, but there were frequent gullywashers that soaked everyone caught out in them.  My poor ball cap was soaked through early in the day, however my Denver University Soccer warm-up jacket was mostly water-proof and warm, which was a pleasant surprise.  Even those with umbrellas were not safe from the wind-whipped rain, and many people looked very unhappy.
I knew that with the rain it would be difficult to get good photos of famous landmarks, and the crowds taking refuge inside of the museums and other attractions were going to make sightseeing tough, but I did not let that put me in a bad mood.  I strolled when the rain allowed and hid out in souvenir shops, cafes and under trees when the rain pounded down.  I hung out in a park on a bench and watched tourists for a while until the clouds became very dark and threatening, at which point I decided to head back to the train station (it was getting close to time for my trip to Leipzig, anyway).  As I walked back the skies opened up once again and proceeded to dump rain on everyone for about half an hour.  I managed to find a large tree under which o take shelter but even the tree had a limit to how much water it could handle before it was waterlogged and the rain began filtering through the branches in larger amounts.  I took off and ran a few blocks to take shelter in a doorway.
By the time I reached the train station, I was completely soaked (the jacket was only damp, however). After retrieving my backpack and validating the Eurail pass for first use, I found my platform and discovered that the reason I needed an advance reservation for this particular train was that it is an InterCity Express (ICE), a high-speed supermodern spacecraft in the guise of a train.  I had splurged for a first-class train pass, so I found myself in a spacious seat by the window with enough leg room to cross my legs comfortably.  At one point I looked up at the status screen and observed our speed was 180 kmh as we speed across the germany countryside.  I realize it’s been twenty years or so since the fall of the wall, but the old East Germany didn’t look that strabge or foreign.  I saw modern roads and many nice autos — I guess my preconceived notions had involved beat-up Trabis and soviet-style trucks.  Much of the trip between Berlin and Leipzig was through rural agricultural areas with fields heavy with rain.  The rain gods were following me…
Arrival in Leipzig was uneventful, and the train station (allegedly on of the largest in the world) is quite a site.  It’s a beautiful station and one is invigorated when exiting the train platform.  I highly recommend, however, that to keep this wonderful image of this beautiful station in your memories, immediately exit the station and be on your way.  The other levels of the station are just a large, crowded and tacky shopping mall.  Unless you came to Leipzig to eat at MacDonald’s or shop for jeans, avoid this area at all costs.
My hotel could not have been easier to find: the A&O Hostel/Hotel is directly across the street from the station.  I originally had concerns about the noise of the trains, but this was no issue at all — the real issue was the road noise from the highway that runs between the station and the hotel.  I suppose if your room or dorm was on the back side of the building, you may not notice the road noise, but my room was on the front.
I opted for a private room, which at 34 euro was quite a bargain compared to other private room options.  The room was modern and clean, and I eventually tuned out the road noise and even sleep with the windows open.  The only downside of the place was the expected wi-fi I was going to use to update the world of my travels was BROKEN!  Whatever shall I do?  I decided to wait until Monday morning and use the T-Mobile hot spot in the train station to check e-mail and upload some photos.  A 30-day pass for the T-mobile hot spots nationwide is less than the cost of 24 hours of service at the Marriott in Berlin!  I suppose it’s all

I woke up early today and headed down to the hotel restaurant for Frühstuck before checking out.  I headed back north on Friedrichstrße to the Franschöischestraße U-bahn station where I planned to head north to the Freidrishstraße station where I would catch the S-bahn to the Hauptbahnhof (I had learned my transit lesson the day before)  — but I discovered that today the east-west S-bahn lines were not running.  I don’t know if this was regularly-scheduled maintenance or if this was a result of a widespread brake inspection problem that was in progress due to a problem discovered with the S-bahn coaches, but the result was the same:  I had to find an alternate route to the Hauptbahnhof.  I found a sign that explained S-bahn travelers could use the RegionalBahn train instead, so I waited until the next westbound train came through the station.  In hindsight, it may have been just as fast to walk.


My plan had been to put my backpack into a luggage locker in the train station and explore more of Berlin during the day, but I soon discovered the meager allotment of luggage lockers were already full.  There is another left luggage facility but it is not self-service, requiring queuing up and dropping off your bags (basically like checking your luggage for a flight).  You’re given a claim ticket which myst be paid before claiming your bags (5 euro). My backpack checked, I jumped on the U-bahn to the Bundestag.


The Bundestag is the german parliament building (formerly the Reichstag building) and one recent addition is a large glass dome from which you get a great panoramic view of central Berlin.  Although I arrived relatively early, it was Sunday and the line to access the dome was already snaking out the front door of the building and well onto the grounds outside.  Perhaps next time…


The cool cloudy weather that had rolled in the previous evening was still present, and by the time I walked the short distance to the Brandenburg Gate a slight drizzle had started up.  I managed a few photos of the plaza before the skies opened up.  Apparently, the rain gods were unhappy…


In the end, I dodged downpours all day long.  I would walk a while and just as I was about ti see something interesting, down came the rain.  The museums, already busy with Sunday crowds, were even more popular as sanctuaries from the driving rainstorms.  I personally did not find the conditions too harsh:  the temperature was in the upper 50’s/low 60’s and the wind was not blowing that hard, but there were frequent gullywashers that soaked everyone caught out in them.  My poor ball cap was soaked through early in the day, however my Denver University Soccer warm-up jacket was mostly water-proof and warm, which was a pleasant surprise.  Even those with umbrellas were not safe from the wind-whipped rain, and many people looked very unhappy.


I knew that with the rain it would be difficult to get good photos of famous landmarks, and the crowds taking refuge inside of the museums and other attractions were going to make sightseeing tough, but I did not let that put me in a bad mood.  I strolled when the rain allowed and hid out in souvenir shops, cafes and under trees when the rain pounded down.  I hung out in a park on a bench and watched tourists for a while until the clouds became very dark and threatening, at which point I decided to head back to the train station (it was getting close to time for my trip to Leipzig, anyway).  As I walked back the skies opened up once again and proceeded to dump rain on everyone for about half an hour.  I managed to find a large tree under which o take shelter but even the tree had a limit to how much water it could handle before it was waterlogged and the rain began filtering through the branches in larger amounts.  I took off and ran a few blocks to take shelter in a doorway.


By the time I reached the train station, I was completely soaked (the jacket was only damp, however). After retrieving my backpack and validating the Eurail pass for first use, I found my platform and discovered that the reason I needed an advance reservation for this particular train was that it is an InterCity Express (ICE), a high-speed supermodern spacecraft in the guise of a train.  I had splurged for a first-class train pass, so I found myself in a spacious seat by the window with enough leg room to cross my legs comfortably.  At one point I looked up at the status screen and observed our speed was 180 kmh as we speed across the germany countryside.  I realize it’s been twenty years or so since the fall of the wall, but the old East Germany didn’t look that strabge or foreign.  I saw modern roads and many nice autos — I guess my preconceived notions had involved beat-up Trabis and soviet-style trucks.  Much of the trip between Berlin and Leipzig was through rural agricultural areas with fields heavy with rain.  The rain gods were following me…


Arrival in Leipzig was uneventful, and the train station (allegedly on of the largest in the world) is quite a site.  It’s a beautiful station and one is invigorated when exiting the train platform.  I highly recommend, however, that to keep this wonderful image of this beautiful station in your memories, immediately exit the station and be on your way.  The other levels of the station are just a large, crowded and tacky shopping mall.  Unless you came to Leipzig to eat at MacDonald’s or shop for jeans, avoid this area at all costs.


My hotel could not have been easier to find: the A&O Hostel/Hotel is directly across the street from the station.  I originally had concerns about the noise of the trains, but this was no issue at all — the real issue was the road noise from the highway that runs between the station and the hotel.  I suppose if your room or dorm was on the back side of the building, you may not notice the road noise, but my room was on the front.


I opted for a private room, which at 34 euro was quite a bargain compared to other private room options.  The room was modern and clean, and I eventually tuned out the road noise and even sleep with the windows open.  The only downside of the place was the expected wi-fi I was going to use to update the world of my travels was BROKEN!  Whatever shall I do?  I decided to wait until Monday morning and use the T-Mobile hot spot in the train station to check e-mail and upload some photos.  A 30-day pass for the T-mobile hot spots nationwide is less than the cost of 24 hours of service at the Marriott in Berlin!  I suppose it’s all relative…

Leave a Reply