Monday, September 14, 2015

Day 32: Return to Berlin

We were almost first at the breakfast room today. Just one set of folks ahead of us (and we arrived 1 min before 7, opening time). We were early enough that the tables weren't finished being set, there was no hostess to seat us, but we heard the other folks just sat themselves, and so we did the same. Funny side note: Whenever we eat, the kids often take a million minutes to finish their leisurely meal (not exaggerating at all), and they often nibble. I was worried this morning, being an early-rise, that tummies wouldn't be ready for food. But, the kids ate a ton of food (yay) and in a timely fashion (yay)!

Venice enjoying the elevator seat (left)
The interesting (if spider-like-creepy) lights throughout the hotel (middle)
Another view of the "spider" lights, and the kids (right)

As we took a taxi to the main train station, I reflected over some things I noticed about Prague (from my very limited time here). There seemed to be a lot more smoking visible. I don't know if this is because more people smoke here, or just because it is allowed in restaurants and inside some buildings, so we were more exposed to it? We definitely asked to be seated in the non-smoking area when we went to dinner, but it wasn't always available as a choice and it was weird to go back to asking (felt like it was 30 years ago that we had to ask for non-smoking!)

This observation is weird. But I swear I saw a lot of men in tracksuits. Not modern ones, either. But those terry cloth Adidas tracksuits from the 80s. Ok, maybe they weren't terry cloth, maybe they were shiny, but still. I found it odd. And, no, they weren't start athletes (I could tell), more like middle-aged men. And the women? I saw so many women wearing leggings that were zany designs. I thought they'd be perfect for the kids in circus arts... but not necessarily what I would recommend to go see some old sights in Prague. From what I could tell, these men and women were locals, not tourists. So, interesting clothing choices, for sure.

Also, there are barely any bicycles in Prague. I may get out of practice of looking for bicycles. I'm not sure I can accurately paint a picture of the multitude of bicyclists in the streets of Berlin.

When we arrived at the train station, we went to the departure board to find our train... and it wasn't there! Well, it was there, but there was no assigned track. We were more than 30 minutes ahead of departure time, so we were ok. We waited. And waited. Now it's 20 minutes to departure time. And waited. 15 minutes. We're starting to worry. Other trains are getting their tracks assigned and some of those waiting with us take off at a run to board. A few stayed to wait along with us. A couple, next to us, asked if we knew about the train to Dresden (same train as ours), we said we didn't. They looked as worried as we felt. Chris went to ask a worker (someone who's working a retail counter) and they confirmed what we thought, that a track will be assigned, just wait. So we waited...

The board said the train was 5 min delayed, at one point, but still... no track. Our train was now at the top of the board... waiting. FINALLY, we were assigned a track and about 50 of us rushed to find the platform. We arrived, along with everyone else, just a few minutes before the train arrived. We see cars with 2, 2, 2, and then there's a 1! At the end of the train (like our last one) and we waited to board there. A couple ahead of us started onto the train, but then came back down the steps shaking their heads... not this train, the 1 at the front of the train. Are you kidding me? And the trains here, can stop for just 2 minutes before moving on. Since this is the main station, I think it was set to be here for 10 minutes, but we've already wasted a few, and since it was late, do they make up time leaving sooner? I don't know... but we ran to the other side of the train.

Finally on the platform!

By this time, we were the first (of the "wrong") to get onto the train, but there were already people in the first class car (those that were "right"). It seems like more of these seats are reserved than on the train here, so we search and search for the unreserved seats... there are none! But, a father (of a VERY cute little one) said he thought the one type of ticket in the reserved spot is just a "place holder" and it's not like the other reserved seats with names on them. These are ok. Phew.

BUT, hello JERKY. A man traveling alone decided to sit in the "four seats" area, like the one we traveled down in. So, we had to split up. Chris and Venice took two seats facing each other and Xander and I took two seats facing backwards. That adds up to only one seat facing forwards (which was fought over vigorously, and debated how to split the time). Meanwhile, the single man is just watching us figure things out and separate. Again, JERKY.

Now, I ask you... what would you do? Here are all the things I thought about doing:

1) Ask, "Will you please move?" (Ugh, I figure that he can clearly see that we were splitting up. He never offered, so I feel it's awkward to ask and who knows what language he speaks).
2) I thought about just sitting with him. Show him, "Who cares?" (but then we'd all be uncomfortable).
3) Pray that the toddler ,with the nice father, has some sort of temper tantrum (they were sitting right behind Jerk Man), kicks his chair the whole way, or gets motion sick on his seat.
4) Take is picture and shame him on FB.

But what I end up doing is shooting daggers (with my eyes) through the seat towards him. Chris sends me a "Jerky" text about him. We sure showed him!

Good news, he got off in a few stops (maybe after 1 hour) so we moved and were able to sit together for the rest of the trip. PHEW. Time to sit back and enjoy our coffee, it is pure gold after all (see photo).

And coffee leads to bathroom breaks. On the train, the bathroom is free (I may have mentioned it on the ride down). The last time we were in the last car and we had pretty views as we went to the bathroom. Now we're in the front and that means we just see the meal-car behind us. Boring.

And the bathroom is small, like an airplanes. And, it took me several trips to the bathroom, hitting my head each time, before I got the hang of it. When you stand back up, duck your head or move to the side, because there is a small overhang and yet, I did hit my head several times. And don't be scared (I warned the kids) once you hit the flush button, the bowl fills with water (and you think it's clogged because nothing happens), just wait... and then WHOOOSH, it all goes down loudly, like an airplane toilet... but it's kind of surprising as it paused between button pushing, water filling and the actual flushing process. Phew!

More relaxing on the quiet ride home.

Back in Berlin, at the main station there, Chris split from us as it is Monday and he's off to work. We take the bags and head to our apartment. Time for lots of laundry, opening windows, taking food out of the freezer to cook for dinner.

As we relaxed, I remembered how quiet our hotel was in Prague. It was super quiet. You couldn't hear any street noises, nothing from the hallway or the floor above. The bed was comfy. The temperature was perfect. And, again, it was quiet. I don't know the last time we slept in such a quiet place (even our home in Oregon is noisy from our neighbours or the street). Back here in our apartment, it's noises we've gotten somewhat used to, but it's noises.

The end of our day here ends with rain and jungle-bird sounds (these are noises we love). I'll share them with you (sounds only):

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