Sunday, October 11, 2015

Day 59: Tropical Islands

By now you've probably read the kids' recounts of Tropical Islands (they did a great job!) So, I'll try to only add new information or different perspectives without repeating too much.

First thing we did when waking up is to check on Xander and his ankle. He said it was pretty much all better. Yay! Only if he walks super funny or bends it a lot does he feel a pinch. So, we deem him well enough to head out to Tropical Islands. Everyone is very relieved that we do not have to postpone our trip.

The morning didn't start out too well. We gathered the troops and tried to make the 10:30 train to the Dome (the train only comes once every hour) but due to a series of events (sluggish participants, construction messing up the train schedule, and such..) we missed the first link in our list of public transportation. The next tram wouldn't be there for 10 minutes. The same question always comes up. If we take a different train, it's a longer-overall trip, but does it work out for the best if waiting for the next appropriate train is longer? So, 10 min until our next tram, or take a different route that takes 7 min longer. Both options have connections to be made, so how can we calculate how long we'll wait for that connection? And sometimes Google doesn't mention another train you can take, so what if there's a faster connection not list?

Meanwhile, time is ticking by and it's becoming more and more clear we're going to miss our "one an hour" train. And to top it off, none of us really dressed for waiting around an hour in these temperatures (40F). We thought we'd be on the train by now. And of course, it means one less hour at the Dome. Ugh.

We finally make a decision and we're on a tram on our way to our connecting Bahns. This is the time when I realise I have forgotten my phone at home. DOH! Chris, the gallant man that he is, asks if I want to go back to get it. Sigh. No. I can't use the phone inside the Dome anyway (all that water), so let's just leave it. I'll be a dork and take a few photos on my iPad (which I brought to read on the train or in the Dome).

The station, where we catch the "real" train to get to the Dome, is not a big hub. So, not much in terms of accommodations. But we do find a place for food and buy several items to eat on the train. And we wait here (remember, we have now about 45 min to wait) for the small bit of warmth it affords us by being underground. We can use this time to think about the train tickets we just had to buy to get to our destination (approximately €16 per adult and €12 per kid) and how the day is already starting to add up.

Waiting underground (left) Finally on the train (middle) and Look at my cheesy pretzel! (right)

Also, while sitting here tapping our feet to keep warm, I think about the gentleman who rang us up at the Patagonia store. As he told us about how to care for our new jackets, he talked about how he, himself, does not have a dryer. So, when he does wash his jacket (a few times a year), he sits there with a hair dryer drying his jacket. It takes, "hours," he says and is some form of meditation where he, "becomes one with the jacket." He was being funny, but as we sit here waiting, thoughts of this go through my mind (I don't know why) and I take a moment to be grateful for my dryer.

Train time. Venice mentioned how the train swayed gently, as we rode on the second level. I thought I'd get sick, reading my book, but it was all good. A quick and easy ride.

Tropical Islands = Hawaii in a Box. Seriously.

Warm water
Beach front rentals
Tent camping (inside and outside the Dome)
Families with kids
Older Couples
Temperate weather

It's all there.

The "sea" part of the Dome reminds me of The Truman Show or Ascension with it's fake backdrop with clouds (see photo below) giving the impression of really being "at sea".

The kids in the "sea" and the fake backdrop. (Photos by Chris)

Both kids talked about the Green Slide. I agree with their recounting of all the slides. The Green Slide made everything we went through worth it. It was a blast. I did have to hold my nose (I couldn't seem to time it right and got a lot of water up my nose if I didn't hold it) and squeeze my eyes shut (I was worried that the splashing would cause my contacts to fall out). Every slide down, I couldn't help but smile from ear to ear. I laughed every time. This is a slide that would be in my fantasy backyard someday. So. Much. Fun.

The kids having a great time on the green slide (Photos by Chris)

After lunch, the kids were reenergised to go back out and swim and swim and swim. I, on the other hand, was ready to sit and sit and sit (I had no desire to do any more swimming, jumping, sliding, etc. I had my fun and I was done). I enjoyed feeling the sand on the beach as I tried to keep my eye on the kids (hard to do as the "sea" is immense and I couldn't see it all). And, like our other swimming experience, there were, maybe 2 lifeguards for the entire "sea". The kids did great and all was ok. They enjoyed their freedom and I enjoyed the beach. Meanwhile, Chris did go to get his phone so we could have a few photos from our day (Yay! Thank you!)

We returned to the "lagoon" and found some open lounge chairs to rest in while the kids played there. I think both Chris and I fell asleep (mere seconds, but still) at one point or another. Which brings me to the point that it was quite "quiet" in the Dome. When we looked into coming here, we found that all lodging was full (hotel rooms, inside Dome tents, outside Dome mobile homes, outside Dome Teepees). The only available lodging were pitch-camping (I take this to mean you must bring your own accommodations), which we didn't/couldn't do. Then there's all the Day Visitors. I say this all to explain that it was at full capacity and somewhat crowded. If you wanted a beach chair or pool lounge, you had to be up at dawn, I'm assuming. When we got there, every chair was "claimed". Not occupied, but a towel hanging over it staking claim for someone else. So, now, at 5pm, there are several chairs available. Day Visitors are leaving and, perhaps, those who are staying are taking a break for dinner or naps in their rooms?

Jumping into the "lagoon" and nighttime lights coming on.
(Photos by Chris)

Anyway, it's busy, it's crowded. But, that being said, we were able to find space at any restaurant. It wasn't wall-to-wall people in the pool areas. If you wanted to swim under a waterfall, there was either one free or just a short wait. The only bad experience we had was with the yellow slide, and I still wonder if the red/green light was malfunctioning and going ever 60-90 seconds (it wasn't consistent) instead of every 30 seconds.

And with all those people in there, it was quiet. You could hear kids playing, splashing... but most all noise was "background" noise. The acoustics of the Dome seemed to encourage sound to dissipate into the upper atmosphere. This fact, and the fact that the humidity wasn't too high, it was super pleasant inside the Dome. And thus, we were able to comfortably cat nap while the kids went off to the Green Slide for some last trips down.

Everyone is ready to leave and make the trek back home. We all head to the lockers to change. I cannot find my earrings. Some of my favourite earrings (I wear them most days, silver flowers from Hawaii). I retrace my steps as I think they fell out of my pants pocket. But I can't find them. Not near the lockers. Not in the dressing room I used. Not on the path too and fro.

So, as we discover the frozen yogurt bar is closed (who closes an ice cream station so early? It's only 7:30pm?) and the line to return a cup is super long... I'm not in the best mood as I'm sad about my earrings.

We go to our lockers one last time to pick up backpacks and jackets. I decide to check the dressing room one more time... Not on the bench, not under it... wait... they ARE there! On the tile under the bench. I had looked there three times and it's now been 30 min (I'm sure others have been in there since me) and there they are. Lying separately. Very difficult to see, but I'm still surprised I didn't see them the first time I came back into the dressing room. I don't care. I have them back. YAY!

Waiting for our train back to Berlin (Photo by Chris)

All bundled up, we head back to Berlin.

Venice mentioned our train troubles on the way back. The frustrating thing is that we could get off at two stops. We chose the second stop because the public trams and connections were shorter by a few minutes. So, we didn't get off at the first Berlin stop. And 2km from the second Berlin stop... the train slows to a stop. As Venice wrote, we found out that there was a broken train in front of us. WHAT? Now we're wishing we got off that first Berlin stop. We were delayed an hour. Or, what if we had stayed at Tropical Islands another hour? The train behind us might not be delayed an hour? Who knows.

But, after we learned the train in front of us was broken (or at least this was our understanding). We happened to be in the front car, so we had a glimpse through the front window and some of the people going in and out working to fix the problem. At one point, we could see we were moving forward very, very slowly. We were going to bump into the train ahead of us. Were they trying to push the train forward? Brace for impact (ok, it wasn't that bad).

As soon as we made contact with the train in front of us, our power went down and then off. It was completely dark except for the glowing digital devices of those of us on the train. Then the lights came back on within seconds. Ok, no problem. Then it happened again, and this time, it was dark for a while. Like 5 minutes. Then, you could see the computers rebooting (oh hey, they run Linux). Lights are back on.

Working on fixing the problem (left) and working on distracting ourselves (right)

Then, we're moving backwards. We look out front, we think we're towing the broken train. Then we stop. Then we move forwards again. Then... I don't know, at this point we're trying to keep ourselves busy and to not think about the dark or about how we could have been home by now if we only got off on the last stop. Or if we were allowed to get out and walk! At some point, we realise there is no longer a train in front of us. But we're still not moving.

Finally, we are good to go. Our train moves. We arrive at our station and (yes, one hour delay)... oh yeah, we're OFF the train! And now for our connecting trams and such... finally home. Very late. A bummer of a way to end the day. Funny. A difficult start and end. But, it was fun in the middle. Holding onto that thought as we all drop into bed for a good night's sleep.

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