A Travellerspoint blog

Day 46, Copenhagen

sunny 24 °C

We slept, surprisingly, very well. During our sleep the train headed up north, got on a boat and sailed across the Baltic Sea to Malmo. At 0800 the conductor came and rapped on our door yelling “30 minutes till Malmo!” Our time in Sweden saw nothing more than the Malmo station. There was a bit of confusions about train and a very nice Swedish lady took it upon herself to help us out. We got on a quick train to Copenhagen. We weren't expecting to it be so warm! Seeing that it’s a way farther north than Vancouver, it made little difference. With our bags we walked to our hostel, about 10 minutes away. We stopped for some Danish Kroner as all foreign cards here are charged an extra 2.75-4% transaction fee on top of all others. One euro is worth 7.5 danish kroner. Trying to do the math when you are starving or annoyed or dividing a number that is not evenly divisible by 7 makes things quite challenging.
Our hostel is one of the biggest in Europe, it has over 1000 beds. This is not a good thing. While we checked in the receptionist asked us if we had heard of Distortion? No? Well that explains why everything was so full, not one bed left in the city. It’s a massive techno music festival over 5 nights that occupies a different neighborhood each night. We dropped our bags off and left for a wander. We were in desperate need of some caffeine so we walked where there were a lot of people, which turned out to be ONE of the main shopping streets, there are many! and they are full of people! We got coffee and a pastry from a coffee store that claimed to have the best coffee in Copenhagen. We were not up to argue so we went in and bought some. It was very good, I can’t complain.
We kept walking. We came across a European wildlife exhibition, which was neat. 40 or 50 giant pictures of cute animals in Europe. We bought some strawberries. We paid 25dkk or 3.30 euros or $4.80 CAD for one bunch of grapes. See? Damn currency! They weren't even good! We sat on the canal front for a while enjoying the sun and then were off in search of a little lunch. Smorrebrod are supposed to be what every Dane eats for lunch and all cafes and restaurants would have it. Well I’m disappointed to say we never found it. For something that was everywhere, it wasn’t anywhere. We ended up with a regular sandwich.
Check-in to our hostel was nightmarish. As I said before it’s got over 1000 beds and only one tiny lobby with three reception girls. It took a long time and the rooms were such a mess we actually went back downstairs to say we didn’t know which beds were taken. It all worked out though, because our 10 bed dorm is split in two rooms, one with 4 and one with 6. We are in the one with 4 and essentially we are in a 4 bed dorm, we have no reason to step foot in the other bedroom. The bathroom on the other hand is disgusting. Atrocious. 10 people, 1 bathroom, water and hair everywhere. Shane took a shower (and a nap) and I did some research on our stay.
We decided to walk across town for dinner. It was totally worth it, we had amazing ethnic food. Mine was a Moroccan lamb tagine and Shane’s a Columbian chicken and black beans. Not in the least bit Danish but very good none the less. We stopped at a store for milk and instant coffee (part of our breakfast master plan) and proceeded home to drop it off. We did head out to the Distortion party to walk around. It was entertaining to say the least. Thousands of people crowded the streets to drink and listen to DJs spin techno music. P.s. white people only! Everyone else knows how silly the music is!
If I had to sum up Copenhagen in two words so far they would be bikes and glass. Bikes everywhere! Not kidding! Everywhere! Thousands of them! No cars, just bikes. And glass all over the ground, beer bottles smashed into thousands of pieces, and not just at Distortion, all over Copenhagen (Berlin was like that too, must have something to do with being about to drink in public.) Watch your toes!

Posted by s-a 18:37 Archived in Denmark Tagged copenhagen Comments (3)

Day 45. Berlin

sunny 25 °C

We slept in as late as possible. 0930. We ate our mondo breakfast (last one for a while!) slowly. We packed our bags (always an elaborate process) and stored them in the luggage room. We headed out. What we didn’t know was that this particular Thursday was European Father’s Day and the schools were not in session. If we had known this we might have skipped the zoo. But alas we didn’t and we are glad for it. Berlin has the nicest zoo I’ve ever been to and I’ve seen the ones in Florida’s Disney World, Vancouver (what a joke) and in Calgary. It’s large, thorough and clean. They have many animals (somewhere around 17 000) and each of them have a failry nice sized living space. Sometimes it made me sad to look at them stuck in a cage but then I remember, they have both safety and security for the rest of their lives. Their compromise is lack of space and a lack of duty. I know dogs are much happier when they have a role to play in someone's life, I can only assume most animals are the same.
We spent a lot of time watching the bears and the monkeys (and chimps and gorillas) whom I’ve decided are the grossest creatures. They more often than not have a private part hanging out in the open and are pooping and peeing everywhere. That said they are also the most intriguing creatures and would sit staring at us as though we were the show as opposed to the other way around. We watched as one monkey stole a baby from its momma. The baby started screaming and the papa came running over. The thief dropped the baby and ran to the bottom of the pit to cower. Weird! We also loved the big lions, and playful little foxes and sea otters always give us a hoot.
this little guy was sucking on his mama's finger like a soother, he wouldn't stop. All these oranatangs has sacks they carried around with them, this one too, she was playing with the string. But the others sat on them and carried them everywhere.
We ate french fries and water for lunch because we had no money left after admission (26 euros total for both of us.) We spent 6 hours in the zoo walking everywhere we could. I don’t believe there is an animal in there we didn’t see. My favourite animals were the elephants. They gave us quite a show blowing dirt and water everywhere. There is something about their eyes, crafty and wise, that tells my they know more than I think they do. I think Shane’s favourite was the panda bear whom everyone thought was a good idea to take pictures of while he was peeing. People are weird.
Once we were thoroughly tired and hungry we left the zoo. We went across the street to the train station where cheap and crappy food is always abundant. We indulged in mediocre asian fast food. Gross, but good. We went across the street to the dirtiest supermarket I’ve ever been in. It made Superstore look hospital clean! It was jammed with people and intolerable food, but it was cheap. While we were there, in fact, three glass beer bottles were broken on the floor in three separate incidents. We bought cereal for breakfast and some fruit, of course Shane couldn’t resist a 6 pack of beer for 4 euro and some sodas and chocolate. Because he claimed it was to heavy for his pack we drank two of the beers in a plaza down the street, talking and people watching some time away.
We went back to the hostel to pick up our packs. This is where I told Shane the Canucks had won the night before, the complete opposite of what I had said in the morning. Woops. We brought ourselves to the train station and got on our night train headed to Copenhagen. Our cabin mates were two old women and one cranky Polish guy. We found out in the morning two of the cabins on the car were empty. Damn it, why did they book so many people to one cabin?

Posted by s-a 22:15 Archived in Germany Tagged berlin Comments (2)

Day 44, Berlin

sunny 23 °C

Yesterday we went to the wrong museum. The Stasi museum. The DDR museum. I suppose if you knew nothing of them you could mess it up. We went to the Stasi museum, a complete waste of our money. There are two floors of an office building covered in walls of German words and pictures from the 70’s. When you know very little of what you are looking at, 5 euros seems like a lot to spend. The museum we meant to see was the DDR museum. Voted one of the top in the world, one of the most interactive museums around. English. And 6 euros for the whole thing. We were disappointed.
We went to KeDeWa a massive and expensive department store in Berlin. We saw a 25 000 euro watch in a display case and there were many thousands of euro purses. We were there, however, to see the top floor filled with food. It was HUGE. Way bigger than an grocery store, except maybe Costco. Now imagine Costco filled up with only top quality products. A wall of over a hundred different jams, TWO cheese counters filled with any cheese you can possibly imagine. There were spices, teas, candy, bakeries and so much more! There were also restaurants selling top quality dinner plates from multiple bars. We thought it was a lot of fun to wander around.
We had metro passes this day and we spend most of our time on transit. We must have made 15 connections, where we get on one train, get off, wait, get on, get off, wait. Over and over again! We went home to get our train passes and passport and left again. We wandered around the gardens of Charlottenburg Palace for an hour. It’s very beautiful and fairy-tale-like considering its in the middle of a city. It had a huge lake, tall grasses and a few cute bridges to meander over. From there we headed to the bombed out church we had seen so many times in pictures. We got out at our stop and headed up, we looked around thinking the building would be tall, we should be able to see it, but there was no church around.
We walked for a while one day, past what must have been time-trials for whatever race was happening (Tour of Berlin.) These bikers were going so fast! At one point as we watched them do a really tight corner we actually saw one fall. It was quite scary, he fell and then put his hands up right away so they guy trying not to hit him wouldn’t run over him (he nearly did!) Then the car following them starts honking a lot and the passenger jumps out to see if he is okay. He grabs his bike and starts to push him to give him extra speed maybe? Maybe to stabilize him because he can’t actually reach the ground with his feet.
We come back the other direction because we are going the wrong way before I figure out that the bombed out church is actually fully covered in white wood and plexiglass while it is under construction. Well we tried at least. We trained to the main station and booked as many trains as we could, 5 to be exact. Then we took the train far away to a place we heard about for dinner. It was nothing noteworthy. When we FINALLY made it home we were exhausted. We had one drink at the bar before heading upstairs for showers and making plans for the next day.

Posted by s-a 16:02 Archived in Germany Tagged berlin Comments (0)

Day 43, Berlin

sunny 32 °C

Breakfast at this hostel is tied for first along with Eric’s breakfast in Paris. It's a huge buffet with everything imaginable, but still tastes great...and it has unlimited coffee. Of course we indulge, but when you pay 6 euros each for it you better get your money’s worth. We wasted an hour waiting for 10 o’clock, dreaming about the trips to take when we get back. Canoe trip in the Yukon? Schooner to the Great Bear Rainforest? Has anyone won the lottery in our absence? At 0945 we grabbed our laundry and brought it down. We put it in and asked the guy to switch it over for us, we wouldn’t be home. The morning was bright and beautiful as we bought our metro tickets. The tour we were signed up for started at 1100 so we checked in right away. Our tour guide told us to find food and come back in about 20 minutes.
We did get food, from a really nice deli just off the square but a few minutes after we left Shane got his second nosebleed in two weeks. They are really bad, blood everywhere running down his face, his arms and splattering all over the ground. I had NOTHING to give him except a receipt from lunch, which I shoved in his hands as I ran back in search of napkins. When I got back we had to find a washroom, there was one but someone waiting for it. We made it every apparent we needed to go in right away and paid our 50 cents to get in. Since we were both covered in blood we washed up right away. Luckily Shane kept all of his clothes clean, save one drop on his pants and one on his shoe. We were just in time for the tour.
Our tour was to Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp, the "model camp" set up in 1936 by the Nazis. As we all know the concentration camps were brutal and horrific, there is no need to go into details. One point that hit home with me was knowing that all these people died without a cause. There is a reason I don’t watch horror, thriller, or action movies and that I can’t watch or listen as someone is killed in a movie/tv show/video game. It’s because of the blatant disregard for human life. We watch these people die, even though it may be fake, for our entertainment even though there are real people that you and I will never know who died for nothing. I feel that enjoying even this 'fake death' dishonors the memories of the countless millions who died throughout Europe during this time, their corpses left lying in rotting heaps, or burned, or buried in mass graves. However, visiting a place like this reminds people of the horrors that mankind has and is still capable of committing, and reminds us to not make light or game of violence because it can really happen. Remembering that every life is precious and being thankful, truly thankful, that we aren't faced with the daily terrors that these poor people had to endure, honors their memories. I realize that it is in most human nature to enjoy watching violence. The Romans had their gladiators, the Greeks their sport and people all over the ancient world killed those around them without thought. But in a world where we don’t have to, why now more than ever, do so many people feel it's okay to enjoy violence, even in young children?
At the end of the tour, the guide was running a little late. Shane was the first person to leave the morgue so she asked him to not allow the guard to lock the gates so we could all get out. I was with him when the guard came with the key and Shane did what he was asked, but the guard yelled at him in German and locked it anyway. When she came around to the gate she was really rude to Shane, acting as though it where his fault. We left immediately (the tour was over anyway) taking the first train back to Berlin. The train back to town felt long and on the way a thunderstorm rolled in and soaked everything around us. The thunder boomed all evening long. We were so desperately in need of showers when we got home. The sweltering heat made the dust stick to my feet and they were turning black.
We had dinner at Curry 36, an institution here in Berlin. It rivals for best currywurst in the city. We thought it was very good, best we’ve had yet, but we’ll keep trying more. We indulged in our first fries with mayo. They were so good we went back and got another tray! When we got back to the hostel I went downstairs for a beer (so big it took me 1.5 hours to finish.) While I was down there a guy sat next to me and started chatting me up. He was in his 50s and living in Oslo. Overall a nice guy with lots of good advice for our stay here. He did make one comment though about 'mommy and daddy filling up (my) credit card' which I found very insulting. I tried to drink my beer faster after that. We slept so well we didn't even hear a new roommate arrive in the middle of the night. And that folks, is a feat unto itself.

Posted by s-a 23:30 Archived in Germany Tagged berlin Comments (3)

Day 42, Berlin

sunny 30 °C

I woke up under the impression that it was 0700. I got up, changed and started working on the previous day’s post. I made a cup of instant coffee and then saw the time was actually 0600. I forged on, making a map of the places we wanted to eat at still and chatting it up with some family. Shane woke up a few hours later. You’ll recall the 6 euros I said I overpaid the hostel. When I saw the owner there at 0830 I went out to talk to him. I pleaded my case but he was adamant that it was my fault and they had no proof of anything. I won’t get into the details, the internet messed things up. I stuck to my guns, argued my case and got my money back. You would all be proud. It was very scary.
We went across the street to a cafe called ‘Green Eggs and Ham’ and ate a delicious breakfast with yogurt and muesli. We gathered our backpacks and started a journey across the city. We arrived at our new hostel 40 minutes later. It is a grand old house, with tall doors and fancy trim. We were offered a welcome drink and asked to sit down. We got the low-down on the area from a reception dude. They let us store our bags as it was too early to check-in and we left again. We walked through a small part of the Tiergarten, and then over to the Brandenburg Gate. We ate currywurst for lunch and waited for our 1300 tour to start. It was a free tour and well over a hundred people showed up. We broke off into groups and spent the next three hours sweating to death under a hot German sun.
We really enjoyed the tour. It hit all the main sights, the Holocaust memorial, the site over Hitler’s bunker where he shot himself dead and where they burned his body (now a parking lot), Checkpoint Charlie, the site of the burning of 20 000 books by Nazi students and many others. We finished on Museum Island with the story of the political blunder that brought down the wall. We left the tour much more knowledgeable and happy with our choice.
We walked back to the hostel stopping for ice cream and fruit along the way, it was a long walk you see. We checked in to our room, NO BUNK BEDS! It’s so awesome! We showered before we left for dinner, but when Shane came back from his, he was a little red in the face. He had showered without knowing, in the girls shower room! If that wasn’t bad enough, these aren’t regular showers. There are three stalls but nowhere to change or dry off in the stall, the sensor for the water is automatic. So it is very tricky to not be naked in front of the door while someone walks in. Shane was very lucky no girl walked in on him.
There was a donair place recommended to us not to far from here. We heard the lines were worth it. We waited twenty-five minutes before we received ours because they kept running out of meat. I thought they were amazing! Three sauces, feta, crispy chicken, a huge mound of deep fried vegetables sprinkled with soy sauce and seasonings, salad, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers. It was my perfect dinner. We stopped for a beer at the bar downstairs and chatted to the bartender about Chilliwack’s water quality, of all things. By the time we got to bed we were so exhausted we slept soundly until morn.

Posted by s-a 18:52 Archived in Germany Tagged berlin Comments (4)

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