5 December 2011

I'm gettin' too old for this shit

Now, please don't misconstrue the title of today's blog as being negative.  It's more a reflection on how I feel physically today after yesterday's adventures. 

One of the things that I promised myself before I came out here (to Berlin, if you're just joining us), was that I wouldn't disappear into my PhD hidey-hole, and I would force myself to be more social.  When given the choice to do something or not do something, the choice would have to be to do something. 

The other thing that I decided to do was to join the "Couch Surfing" community.  This is a web-based community of people who, as part of the web site's mandate, ask for and offer couches for people to crash on while traveling (thus enabling travelers to "surf" from couch to couch).  While having a couch to offer up is preferable, the community is also an excellent way that people (particularly those who are new to a particular city) can get to know each other.

Lo and behold, after registering, I see "events in my area" . . . and a long roster of things to do.  For yesterday (Sunday) there were as many as 4 different events organized by people on their own time, and mostly for their own amusement (as well as that of others).  I chose the one that looked to most interesting... the Berlin Walk, which was in the process of tracing the path of the Berlin Wall around the city. 

This "Mauerweg" is now a public park, walkway, cycling path, jogging trail and just a place for people to get out, mostly on the edges of the city.  I decided to join this event which started at the S-bahn station of Heiligensee, close to the Berlin border.*  I boldly ventured out to the Heiligensee S-bahn station, using my trusty transit map, as well as the BVG.de website (much like TTC's and the New York Subway's), and in about 45 minutes, arrived at the rendez-vous.  Eventually, 4 others gathered (with another catching up along the way), and we walked.  And walked... and yes, we even walked. 

One of the things that fascinated me the most seems to be the result of both the European urban amalgamations, and West Berlin's status as a walled in city.  On one side where the wall was, the "city" was a collection of villages that had been incorporated into Berlin at one point** and was then walled off in 1961.  On the other side was the former DDR (at the beginning of our walk, this was to the west.... yes, a bit weird).  where there was pretty much nothing.  Sometimes there cornfields, but other times it was forest, or just open fields.  This stark difference, was due to the fact that I think the Communists wanted to keep the space surrounding Berlin empty, and thus, the "urban" (although these villages barely count as urban in the current sense) development went on elsewhere in East Germany.

There are info markers along the route, with some memorializing people who were killed trying to cross the border, and others marked checkpoints between the west and east.  All in all, it was a lovely afternoon, where the weather generally held up (with only a little bit of rain), and we managed to cover about 12 km over the 3 1/2 hours.  We then adjourned back to the city to Oranienstrasse (right down the street from the synagogue, which I'll have to check out at a later date) for coffee/beer and something to eat.  Three of the other walkers were living in Berlin, but a couple (a Swiss guy, and Belgian girl) were in town for the weekend and had decided to do something off the touristy map.  These two had actually met while they were living in Vancouver, and seemed to be very pleased to meet a Canadian over here!  After the rest of the gang went their separate ways, Lukas, Alice and I went for dinner, followed by another bar for a drink, followed by another bar for another drink.***

I arrived back to the hostel (my last night in a hostel!) to discover that I had a roommate again (The first night, I had one, second night I didn't).  However, this dude was not nearly as respectful as the first guy.  In fact, i would probably classify New Roommate^ as possibly the worst you can have.  He a) snored, b) woke up at 5:30 am, and proceeded to pack and dress and prepare for a full hour, all the while keeping the light on.  Thus, I had slept fitfully between about 12 and 2 or so (using my ipod to drown out the snoring), and then was awakened for another hour before being able to get back to sleep after he had left.  He said something about a training program.

And so, dear readers (who I encourage to follow the blog, or comment on it so I don't feel like I'm just writing for the sake of my parents), you are now caught up.  I'm sitting in a cafe after having my "Schwartze Kaffee" (black coffee), and a sandwich (for breakfast), waiting to get into my new flat.  Since there was someone staying in it on the weekend, it needs to be cleaned, and the cleaner should be coming within the half-hour, after that, I'll know when I can go over and pick up the keys (and the rest of my stuff). 

And so, what is the "shit" that I'm too old for?  I'm too old to share rooms with snorers who don't know enough to pack a fucking flashlight so that they don't have to turn on the lights when they want to get dressed or packed.  I'm too old to get far too little sleep the day after walking 12 km (although the actual distance I walked yesterday is probably closer to 15 km, due to walking to and from subway stations and bars, etc).  I'm too old to wake up in the morning the day after the aforementioned walking, and not have a sore back.  Hopefully the next few months of German living will get me back into good enough shape to be able to take a beating like that and wake up feeling better.  But we all have to start somewhere!

Until next time, Tschuss!
* this "border" is important when buying subway cards, because you can pay one price for everything within it, but if you want to travel with the BVG (like the TTC in Toronto, or MBTA in Boston) beyond this boundary into zone C (inner zones are A and B, the furthest is zone C), the fare is slightly higher.

** Don't ask me when.

*** The last bar was the Chagall Cafe (or Cafe Chagall), near Senefelder Platz.  They serve Russian food, and were showing some weird German movie about Adventures in the Magic Forest on one of the walls when we arrived.

^don't know his name, don't wanna know.

1 comment:

  1. hey Mikey- you got yourself a follower over here. I'm enjoying reading about your big adventure!