Day 1: Berlin


day 1
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.  Both the in-room connection and the wi-fi in the obby 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…

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…

On the way… (day 0)

As you read this post, I should be flying through US airspace from Denver to Newark, and then on to Berlin.  I will be on holiday for the next two weeks in Germany and the Czech Republic.
Most of the places I am staying are supposed to have wi-fi available, so I plan to upload photos and make a few blog posts along the way.  I do have one post per day pre-scheduled with the names of the cities where I will be that day in the title.

This post was scheduled in advance to appear today.

Lucy update: 31 August 2009

I took Lucy to see the vet today.  I wanted the vet to look at the sore on her toe-pad and to make sure the nail she broke off on Saturday was not infected.
The vet said that the toe was slightly infected and re-wrapped it after cleaning it a bit — it looks like one of those casts that football players wear on a broken hand.  She prescribed some antibiotics as well and we’re headed back next Wednesday to see how it’s healing.

My vet is still not convinced that we won’t have to amputate the leg.  If we can’t keep get the toe to heal it will be a never-ending battle with the ulcers and eventually the toe will become very infected.  I asked if perhaps instead of taking the whole leg we could just amputate the outside toe, since it is not really a weight-bearing part of the foot.  The vet was not sure that would help, since the ulcers appeared to be caused in part by Lucy’s unorthodox walking manner.

The vet was impressed by how much Lucy uses the leg and how well she walks and carries her weight on it, but she is really trying to manage my expectations by keeping the idea of amputation in my mind.

Hike interrupted, again

I took the girls up to Guanella Pass again today after last weekend’s aborted attempt.  I had read enough articles and the CDOT road condition web site to know that the access from the north at Georgetown was still closed due to an impending rock slide, so we took the southern route up 285 through Connifer and Bailey.  It’s a nice drive, but there were quite a few others who had the same idea today.
I like to head all the way to the summit of Guanella Pass where you’re above the tree line and only a few miles of moderate climbing from Mt. Bierstadt.  We arrived later than we should have, but the weather was still fine, if a bit blustery.

The dogs were annoyed that they had to stay on-leash in the car park and the first 500 meters of the trail, but when I let them loose they ran as fast as they could through the scrub brush and over rocks for about twenty minutes straight.  I only knew where they were by watching the brush shake as they ran through it, like tiny sasquatches running through a miniature forest.

Lucy and Fabi at Guanella Pass

Once they had that out of their system, we headed up the trail to Mt. Bierstadt.  I wasn’t sure how far Lucy would be able to make it so I kept a close eye on her.  The girls eventually found Duck Lake and the lake’s nasty bog-mud soon covered them.  Think hundreds of years of leaves and other organic material mixed with mud… sticky and difficult to get off of dog fur.  Lucy discovered how the lake acquired its name and chased several duck families from their bedding spots.  I eventually called her back to the trail since we were technically in a wilderness area and harassing the wildlife is frowned upon.

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I was surprised by how green and wet it was, even way up where it is traditionally windy and dusty.  The stream we had to cross was roaring in comparison to the last time I saw it.  In fact, I nearly fell in the pool of water at the trail crossing as the stream was splashing up on the boulders and making them extremely slippery.

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Once we crossed the stream, we headed another mile or so up the trail and began encountering a ton of people headed back down to the car park.  I was confused a little but since we arrived a little later than normal I assumed they had summited and were headed back… but I soon discovered why everyone was coming down from the peak:  a thunderstorm was developing overhead (literally overhead when you’re at 12,000+ feet / 3600+ m).  When you see lightening or hear thunder at that altitude, you immediately head for lower ground and shelter.

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The GPS receiver said we did about 4.5 miles total on the round trip, which is pretty good considering Lucy cannot feel her foot and still doesn’t have the stamina to run and climb at this altitude for long periods of time.  Fabi, of course, was not the least bit tired and whined all the way back down the hill to the highway from the back seat, but Lucy laid her head down and took a snoring nap. She ran and climbed and attempted to keep up with Fabi but all of that effort had finally caught up with her.

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Once we made it back home, I gave Lucy a bath to remove some of that stinky mud.  Fabi is deathly afraid of the bathtub so we went out in the front yard and I sprayed her down with the garden hose, which she loves.  She is one crazy dog sometimes.

Update: It appears that Lucy broke off part of one of her claws today.  The quick had ruptured and was bleeding after her bath tonight.  It saddens me when I think that she cannot feel much (anything?) in her foot and a seemingly innocent hike today could have really caused a lot of damage.

The hike that almost wasn’t

We had grand plans today.  After we stopped to fill up with fuel, the dogs and I headed up to Guanella Pass to hike back to Silver Dollar Lake.  It was forecast to be very hot in Denver today, so a little respite in the mountains seemed like a good idea.
Just before the turn off for the pass, a message sign informed me that Guanella Pass is closed on this side — I recall that way back in April they were prepping for reconstruction of part of the road, and apparently it’s still closed for that work.  Yes, I should have checked online at CDOT’s road condition web site first, but I was still bummed.

Seeking to make a little lemonade after driving this far, I decided to take the girls to their swimming spot on Clear Creek, which was just a few miles away.  Our swimming spot on the river is basically a big empty lot with easy parking and access to the water.  There’s been a sign there for at least two years promising that “Clear Creak White Water Park” (a rafting and kayak shop, I presume) is coming soon, but they apparently really really mean it now.  The lot was roped off and heavy earth-moving equipment was already in place.  Now what do I do?

I decided to loop back east and exit on the back side of Evergreen so I could cut over to the Maxwell Falls Trail.  We were just up there last Sunday but it’s a nice hike and there’s plenty of running water for the dogs.  Lucy made it farther than I expected, but she was showing signs of fatigue about 2 miles down the trail so we headed back to the trailhead.  She’s much too heavy for me to carry back out, especially on a mountain trail.  There was much running up and down the sides of the mountain and many chipmunks to chase.  Even the constant questions from every group we passed about Lucy’s injury didn’t bother me today.  All three of us had a wonderful time.

Once we were back in the car, both dogs were content to lie in the back seat with the windows open and the mountain air blowing over them.  They didn’t even get excited when I stopped in Kitridge at Jimmy’s Hot Dog Stand to grab a late lunch… until they figured out I bought a hot dog for them to share.  At that point, they had all of the energy in the world while they waited for me to tear the treat in half and let them have it.

In my book, this turned out to be a pretty good day for all of us.

Update:  It appears that Guanella Pass was closed due to rock slippage, not construction:

Guanella Pass Road(County Road 381) closed due to rock instability. No through traffic. Restriction began August 21st, 2009 at 5:00pm.

The road has only been closed since yesterday afternoon.

Fabi and her pack

Chasin' chipmunks

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