Monday, August 31, 2015

Day 18: Swimming Pool

On the way to Chris' work, we stopped by the store where our neighbour Tony suggested we buy monthly Bahn tickets. The woman behind the counter did not speak English. What we could understand, is that an adult ticket is about 80€, which we knew from the website. But what we think she was saying, is that there is no monthly ticket for kids. The implication is that, kids are in school, and they either get a school pass, or ID, or ticket, or whatever, for being a student. Problem, our kids aren't in school.

At this point, a deliveryman walked in, who spoke a little English and tried to help translate. It seems confusing to have school-aged kids, not in school. Not a problem they are prepared for. What to do for a kid who needs a Bahn ticket, but is not in school? They have a weekly ticket for traveling kids, but it's almost 30€. So, that's 120€ for a month, way more than the 80€ for adults, so not a desirable option for us. I asked if they could just use an adult ticket, and the man said no. So, we decided to only buy two adult tickets and see about the kids later. Ah... they don't take credit cards and we don't have enough cash on us, so we'll save it for another time.

Ugh, it's a hot day. Chris arrived at work less than happy and I arrived back home (there is that slight uphill) unable to cool off for about an hour. Meanwhile, the kids had been happily coding away in Minecraft. A perfect time to go get cash, without being missed by the kids.

I went around the corner to our favourite geldautomat. But there were several people right around the machine, waiting for the street train. So, paranoid-uncomfortable-around-people, I decided to go just a few stores down, to the next one. But I got there and couldn't figure it out. It had been a week since I got money out. I couldn't get the screen into English. The ticket machines for the Bahn have a little icon to switch languages as a first step, on the touch screen, and I didn't see that on the cash machine. I decided, I was looking like a dork, and the train came (therefore, no one was around the other cash machine any longer) so I walked back to the first one. But now there was a line. But, I got to see how people wait (for privacy) for the machine.

Machine on the left (the green was blue on the one I tried to use)
didn't have a picture of a card, only the words Achtung! (Danger!),
which scared me from going any farther.
Machine on the right has a nice photo of how to
insert your bank card, so I used this one :)

Aha! This machine, has a different card intake, with a picture showing me how to position the card. I immediately remembered to start by inserting my card, then the screen came up asking what language I wanted. Phew. So, thinking back on the "other" machine, it didn't have a nice little picture showing me how to insert my card. If I had seen that, I would have gotten started. But I had an irrational fear that if I stuck the card in the wrong slot (like where the money is supposed to come out?) I would lose my card. Anyway, yes, I'm a dork. I think I got it figured out how. I can act like a pro the next time.

The kids and I packed for the swimming pool! It's going to be a hot day (over 90 F) and we want to swim. Chris ran by a cool looking pool yesterday, with a really big slide, that we were going to try. Good thing I decided to look it up on the web. Closed. At first, I thought it was just not open yet, for the day. But turns out, Sunday was the last day for swimming pools and beaches in town. Today, being the first day of school, means less customers and Fall is coming, so I guess outdoor pools and beaches close. BUT, I saw, on the website, that a few pools and beaches decided to stay open a little longer in anticipation of the hot weather. Phew!

I found the closest pool to us (30 minutes to get there with walking and taking Bahns). So, we were off to Kreutzberg. Side note: We once thought of looking for a place to rent in this part of the town, but after the loooong Bahn ride, I'm glad we settled on Prenzlauer Berg instead. I suppose the 24 minute ride might have seemed longer as it was over 100 F in the damn thing. But still, day after day, I have to imagine that would get tedious to have to take the train to and from work. I guess Chris has to walk for 20 minutes, but that feels freer, more choices, and not so claustrophobic.

I thought about buying three adult monthly Bahn passes at the Bahn station... but I didn't have enough cash (it only takes up to 10€ bills, so having 240€ in tens was not going to happen). So, I thought I'd only buy mine and get one way tickets for the kids. But the machine asked me if I wanted a monthly ticket, or a flexible monthly ticket. Damn it! Stymied again! I don't know! Three one way tickets it is (later, Chris thought the monthly ticket is for a calendar month and flexible is a 30 day ticket, needing to investigate more!)

So, today's U-Bahn became the sweat box. It was over 90 F outside, and the train was stale, motionless air at least 10 degrees hotter. UGH. I had it happen again (remember my story from Italy on my honeymoon?) I stepped by someone sitting on a bench and my leg swiped their leg, bringing with me a tablespoon of their sweat. GROSS. Just GROSS.

We arrived at the pool, yay! And there was a line, boo! But, this allowed me to get my money out (I knew how much it would cost from the website). Ein Familie, bitte (one family, please). 11.50€. But then she asked me a question (damn it). I think she was asking how many in my family, so I dragged the kids in front of the window, pointing, and saying "Drei (three)". She gave us three tickets and proceeded to say several more things, but not looking at me and not very loudly. I'm hoping she was talking to her co-worker because I have no idea what she said.

We watched a few others stick their tickets into the card machine, it beeps, and they can go through the turnstile. Easy. Only our tickets beep, but the turnstile isn't activated. Or they don't beep at all. And all the words on the machine are German, so I can't figure it out. There are 6 machines, we try several, can't get through. We watch more people, some get through right away, others have trouble like us, but eventually they get through. Just us! Then Venice gets through, success! But Xander and I are still stuck and hoards of people are pouring past us. Right when we start to wonder if our tickets clicked but we didn't go through and now they're "invalid", a woman with a master key came out, took my ticket, un-clicked the side gate for me and walked me through. She took Xander's ticket and tried every machine, no go, so she clicked him through as well. Don't know! But dang, phew, we're in.

Yes, we're in, along with the entire city! There were mass amounts of people there. We changed into suits and headed to the pool. There are three giant pools in the "pool-area". Surrounding this area, there is a wide brick deck and some terraced areas for bathers to hang out and place their towels. Then there is a 3-4 foot wall and on the other side of this wall is a ton (massive) grassy area that you can use as well. There are several openings in the wall, each dipping to a 12 inch dip of water. We're thinking this is so that wherever you are coming from, the street or grass areas, your feet get clean. Then there are tons of showers for you to rinse off, before or after your swim. I rinsed off right away as it was so dang hot.

Then to find a shady spot to set our stuff.

A view from our towels

The pool was wonderfully refreshing. It was still pleasant, considering the many, many people that were there. I did get dinged in the head with a ball (not soft) as two men (not boys) were playing catch (and no one said sorry, evil people). And there were only three lifeguards on duty. Chris reminded me that we were warned of this (limited to no lifeguards over here). The pool you see above is just one of the three pools, each pool only had one lifeguard. Crazy.

The slide here is short and slower, but the kids had fun on it. They especially liked that it was self-regulated and that most people obeyed simple safety rules of going after the person was out of the way. And the line was fast, that was good, too.

We wall swam together at first. However, at our first break, a man motioned to me to watch his stuff, saying, "Ich habe kleine Kinder (I have small children)" indicating he had to swim with them. I nodded and said I'd watch his stuff. But then, a young woman came presenting her flip flops and tank top to us, talking in fast German. I said no, those aren't ours and she switched into English, "Oh sorry, can I put my stuff with you, you know, people take things." So, I said yes. Apparently, I look like I don't want to swim anymore and just want to spend my time watching other people's stuff?

The kids went back in the water, and I will admit, I was fine sitting out... and now, I'm paranoid as I have my iPad and phone in my backpack. I felt ok before, but now I feel I have to stick with my own stuff! We ended up taking turns swimming in pairs, it worked out fine.

Venice and Xander at the top of the slide (left), our failing tickets (middle), a happy post-swim-Xander (right)

Two hours of cooling bliss.

Then, we readied ourselves for the hot, hot trip back home. Three more one way tickets and we're off. We were serenaded by a violinist playing Pink's Just Give Me a Reason on one leg of our train ride. We were actually serenaded by a different violinist, playing the same song, on the way to the pool. The first guy had electronic accompaniment, this second guy didn't. First guy wins.

While we're sitting miserable in the stifling heat, a gentleman walked passed us. Then walked passed us again, this time, he said, "Tickets".  I got out our three tickets, handed them over, he looked at them and handed them back. Phew! We passed inspection! But just as promised, he was not alone. Another worker was on the other half of the train car working towards the middle. They were plain-clothed, carrying their scanners. It was in between stops, so you can't escape if you didn't have a ticket. Good thing we had our this time! It was more mellow than I thought, as he was so quiet, I didn't realise he was checking tickets until he was right upon us. I'm glad he wasn't yelling, I might have panicked. A good reminder to buy our tickets every time!

Home for "meat pocket" dinner! We cooked the "meat pockets" from the farmers market. Turns out they are like giant raviolis, with layers of noodle, pesto, cheese, and a tiny amount of pork (we're assuming it's pork by colour and taste as the sign only read "Fleisch" (meat) with no other explanation). Everyone enjoyed it.

Now to try to sleep in this heat (over 85 F in our apartment). Go-go 13€ fans!

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