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Josh’s European Adventure: Day 23 – Berlin, Germany (Tegel Airport) to Newark, New Jersey

Friday, January 16th, 2009

I couldn’t sleep that well for the few hours that I tried.  I kept worrying that I wouldn’t wake up on time and miss the flight (it sucks but my internal alarm clock very rarely fails me).  Anyway before I knew it 615AM rolled around and Linda’s cell phone alarm clock rang.  I got up, packed up my stuff, gave Linda a big hug and a kiss on the forehead and said goodbye.  I was sad to leave her and say bye.  We really have become a lot closer as friends this trip.  I mean we traveled along with the rest of the group for almost a month in August and then 2.5 weeks now is a lot of time with people.  You are with them 24 hours a day and really get a great chance to get to know them.  I hope to see her soon, either if she comes with her family in April to New York or maybe a trip to Europe in the summer to see how great Switzerland is in the summer (she raves about it).

So after packing up my stuff, I schlepped it downstairs, argued with the guy at the front desk about my key and my booking.  After 5 minutes I was like “listen bro, I’m holding 30 kilos of stuff here, just let me go.”  Eventually he said OK when I told him that Linda was upstairs and she would take care of any problems.

I walked across the street to where the taxi stand was, and like everyone had told me plenty of taxis were waiting.  I got in to the first taxi and the female driver opened up the trunk for me.  The taxi, like many in Germany are Mercedes Benz and mine was a Benz and it was a station wagon with a huge trunk.  When the driver saw all my stuff she laughed and said something in Germany.  I replied using context clues and said “Yes, I know I have a lot of stuff.”  She nodded and I got in the car.  Oh before I did I told her I was going to Tegel, she said no problem and we were off.  From what I had heard, taxi drivers in Berlin are fair and this one seemed no different than what I had heard.  The ride would only cost 18 Euros and because she was so good I tipped her 4 Euros.  Now tipping really isn’t expected in Europe and Germany especially.  Normal tipping is 5-10% maybe, so when she saw I was giving her 22 Euros she said “Oh thank you.”  Now foreigners tipping more than they should is probably not a great thing.  The locals begin to expect it and rely on it and it creates issues, but this driver was honest, and got me to the airport quick, so I was happy to give it to her.

When I got the airport, I put the cover over my bags and checked in.  I made a mistake.  I ended up leaving my giant Swiss Army knife in my carry on.  It was a simple mistake and so I decided to go to the Check-in counter again and explain to them my problem.  At first they tried to tell me there was nothing I could do, I could either mail it or would have to throw it out.  I did not accept that as an option and continued to push the lady to do something.  Finally she asked me for my boarding card, called up someone, told the guy my luggage tag number and several minutes  later a baggage guy had my bag in hand and I slipped my knife right in.

I knew that since there was still plenty of time before the plane landed and they began to load the luggage on, that I knew for sure they would do this for me, and then I did.  After I little while I went through security.  I had to take off all my jackets, my belt, everything out of my pockets, so on and the guy did not seem very happy that I continued to throw stuff in the box, while another lady standing there smiled.

Once we boarded the plane I got seated in my comfy aisle seat.  The plane wasn’t full and the middle seat was open which gave me and the guy sitting on the other aisle some added bonus space.  The flight wasn’t terrible, wasn’t great either, but did seem to move rather quickly.  The entertainment system absolutely blew.  It did not have the new OnDemand system and basically looped the same programming on 9 channels.  I managed to watch a few movies, tv shows and I think I actually slept for more than 2 hours.  Oh and the food kind of sucked also, and since I was up so early I didn’t have a chance to bring food on the plane with me, so about half way through the flight I was rather hungry.  I managed to get three small bags of pretzels from one of the flight attendants which was nice of him.  He was nice while some of the other ladies were not friendly at all.

Overall the flight seemed to go pretty quick, definitely was not as board as the flight to London which was a newer plane and had the fancy OnDemand Entertainment system.  We arrived at Newark like 30 minutes early.  I raced as usual to passport control, got stamped in, then went to get my luggage.  That took at least 20 minutes and by the time I had gotten it all the line to go through customs was long.  At this point I was holding all my stuff and it was getting heavy.  When I got to the custom’s agent, he asked me to bring my stuff to the Agricultural X-ray scan which is never a good thing.  I mean I did not have any food with me just lots of alcohol as gifts and maybe a few Cuban Cohiba Ciggeralos 🙂

Nonetheless my bags scanned with no problems and I was on my way home.  I jumped on the Airtrain to the NJ Transit and then home sweet home!

I hope you all enjoyed reading Josh’s European Adventure.  I enjoyed writing it and living it.  As I said before it was a fantastic trip and will stay with me, just like all the others have before it for a long, long time.

– Josh

Josh’s European Adventure: Day 22 – Berlin, Germany

Thursday, January 15th, 2009

Sadly this was my last full day in Berlin and in Europe for that matter.  My trip has come to an end.  Even though the total trip will be 23-24 days in total, it sure felt like a lot longer.  I reckon that is the result of the amount of places I saw, the things I did, people I met for the first time and met again (reunion).  Overall I think it was a great trip.  One that I won’t forget for a long time.  I made new friends, solidified friendships I made before and just had a great time.

After all that Linda and I had seen and done in Berlin and coupled with the fact that the weather did not look very favorable, we weren’t sure what to do on last full day together in Berlin.  We eventually decided on trying to go in a building equal to the White House in Washington, DC.  This building also housed the Parliament during session.  Linda was shocked at how few people were waiting on line and normally she said the line was easy a few hundred people maybe more long to enter without a reservation.  This time we waited maybe 5 minutes to go in and through security similar to an airport.  Linda had never been inside this building and was very excited to do so as she is very into politics and like I have mentioned before, contemporary history.

The building was really cool and Linda taught me about the different parties and their history once inside.  We also got the chance to walk around and up this glass dome.  Too bad the weather was so bad because the views would have been fantastic and free!

From this building whose name I cannot even attempt to spell or name, we decided that since the weather was so crappy and that we had done so much that we would walk to Potsdamer Platz and see another movie.  This time we chose Revolutionary Road starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet.  This was their first movie together since the very successful Titanic (how did he not win for that movie?  How has he never won an academy award are you kidding me?)  Anyway after the movie I could see how Kate Winslet won a Golden Globe award for the movie, and since I have been away for several weeks I am not sure if Leo won for it, but I think this movie will be nominated for Picture of the Year for sure.  It was a fantastic tale of how suburban life in the 50’s wasn’t all about the house, the job, the kids and the wife, that it was about more, and this story could easily apply to the present times.  Both were great.

After the movie we headed back to the hostel and relaxed until about 715PM when Linda decided to take me to this Vietnamese Restaurant she read about in the book her father gave her on Berlin which speaks of the best Bars and Restaurants in Berlin.  I was happy with that choice as I enjoy Vietnamese food.  The journey to the restaurant would take a little while as Linda was not completely sure where it was and it was slightly complicated since the Metro (or above ground Tram system) split the road in half and different streets were on different sides.  Eventually though Linda in her typical lucky fashion guessed right a few times and we ended up at the place called Sian.

I ended up ordering a Vietnamese Noodle Bowl with meat and great spices, one which I thoroughly enjoyed.  It was washed down by a nice cold Tiger Beer.  Tiger Beer is made in Singapore and is easily one of my favorite top 5 beers Internationally.  If I had to rank 5 beers I love the most it would probably be:  Singha (Thailand), Tiger Beer (Singapore), Staropramen (Czech Republic), Magic Hat #9 (USA), and Pilsner Urquell (Czech Republic).  I definitely love other beers but these come to mind first.

After the delicious meal, Linda and I finally  headed to her favorite street in Berlin called Simon – Dach Strasse.  This is a long street located on the East Side of Berlin.  It houses many very interesting bars and restaurants, some of which are very clearly remnants of East Germany during the time of the Soviet Occupation.  The first bar we went too definitely had that feel.  In fact not only did the bar house old equipment from that time it also had drinks like “Apri Cola” (instead of Coca Cola) and other things.  Oh one more thing about this place.  It was very weird.  When I ordered the two drinks for Linda and I they told us that there was a 1 Euro deposit on each glass and charged me 2 Euros total and handed me two tokens which we would return along with the glasses to get our two Euros back.  Linda had never heard of this and neither had I.  I mean I could understand if they had really cool glasses maybe from the time of East Germany or something, but no, they were simple, tall glasses with no writing on them.  Nonetheless, it was a cool place and after a while we moved on to our second bar of the night where would we spend our remaining time.

This bar was called Palm Spring and it was really cool.  The floor was covered in sand like a beach, with cheap, very strong, very tall drinks.  The rest of the night Linda and I just chatted and reminisced on our trip together which started over two weeks ago in Amsterdam.

The way home would take us a little longer than expected as the U Bahn stopped at 1AM which Linda was not aware of.  Luckily there was a tram that would take us fairly close to our hotel.  Before going home for the night, we stopped at a Doner place and got some chicken doner in a wrap.  It was damn good, especially the garlic sauce that the guy threw on it.  This was even better than the doner I had in London with Harriet.

Finally it was time to go to sleep.  I had only a few hours left to sleep as the alarm was set for 615AM.  This would give me plenty of time to pack up the remaining few items left in the room, say goodbye to Linda and take the taxi to the airport.

Josh’s European Adventure: Day 21 – Berlin, Germany

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009
We slept a little later than yesterday and Linda was feeling a little rough this morning, I could tell it in her face.  We went down for some breakfast and Linda couldn’t eat anything.  This was another indication that poor ... [Continue reading this entry]

Josh’s European Adventure: Day 20 – Berlin, Germany

Tuesday, January 13th, 2009

I was woken up by another person in the room who was coughing constantly all during the early morning.  Eventually I was fed up with it, took my computer and left the room.  It was driving me nuts.  I ... [Continue reading this entry]

Josh’s European Adventure: Day 19 – Prague, Czech Republic to Berlin, Germany

Monday, January 12th, 2009
We had to leave the house by 930AM even though our train wasn’t supposed to leave untill 1030AM because that is when David’s dad could take us to the train station.  I quickly went upstairs to pack up my stuff ... [Continue reading this entry]

Josh’s European Adventure: Day 18 – Prague, Czech Republic

Sunday, January 11th, 2009
Today was Sunday and that meant football.  The previous day I found an Irish pub near the Muzeum stop on the metro.  Today we also woke up early so we could get an earlier start to the day.  We left ... [Continue reading this entry]

Josh’s European Adventure: Day 17 – Prague, Czech Republic

Saturday, January 10th, 2009
Today we woke up and then David asked if we would like breakfast and lunch at the same time.  This meant that after his mom made us a huge breakfast a half hour later we had a huge lunch which ... [Continue reading this entry]

Josh’s European Adventure: Day 16 – Prague, Czech Republic

Friday, January 9th, 2009
I woke up freezing cold in the train.  The air-conditioning system was broken and was stuck on cold and full blast the whole night.  Coupled with the fact that the bed was tiny even for me it was a very ... [Continue reading this entry]

Josh’s European Adventure: Day 15 – belalp – Sugiez – Bern – Zurich – Prague, Czech Republic

Thursday, January 8th, 2009
Today was an extremely long day.  We got up at 830AM and was skiing by 930AM.  We ended up having a great day of skiing even though the weather wasn’t so great.  It was mostly overcast but since it was ... [Continue reading this entry]

Josh’s European Adventure: Day 14 – Belalp, Switzerland (Swiss Alps)

Wednesday, January 7th, 2009
Last night the three of us decided to wake up at 9AM and get the day started.  I thought that we should have woken up earlier, but I wasn’t going to fight them on this one.  I got up around ... [Continue reading this entry]

Josh’s European Adventure: Day 13 – Sugiez, Switzerland to Belalp, Switzerland (Swiss Alps)

Tuesday, January 6th, 2009
I woke up feeling refreshed after having a nice sleep in the guest bedroom on the top floor of Linda’s home.  I was really excited that I would have a chance to ski in the Swiss Alps.  Back home the ... [Continue reading this entry]

Josh’s European Adventure: Day 12 – Amsterdam, The Nederlands to Sugiez, Switzerland

Monday, January 5th, 2009
Today was our final day in Amsterdam.  I was ready to move on.  Three times in 5 years is plenty in my mind as it is a very expensive place to visit and after you have seen the sights becomes ... [Continue reading this entry]

Josh’s European Adventure: Day 11 – Amsterdam, The Nederlands

Sunday, January 4th, 2009
Today I woke up and did not feel like doing anything.  So I didn’t.  I ended up going with Linda, Sarah and Liz to the Cinema so they could buy ticket to a movie.  I wanted to see a movie ... [Continue reading this entry]

Josh’s European Adventure: Day 10 – Amsterdam, The Nederlands

Saturday, January 3rd, 2009
Today many of my friends wanted to go to see Anne Frank’s house.  I had already been there three times before so I wasn’t very keen on it.  I decided to go to the Van Gogh Museum, because that was ... [Continue reading this entry]

Josh’s European Adventure: Day 9 – Amsterdam, The Nederlands

Friday, January 2nd, 2009
Today was my first full day in Amsterdam and when everyone I was meeting for this Nomad Tour Reunion was supposed to come.  After seeing Hannah and Alex who came real early, we all walked to Amsterdam Central to surprise ... [Continue reading this entry]

Josh’s European Adventure: Day 8 – London, England to Amsterdam, The Nederlands

Thursday, January 1st, 2009
I got up around 9AM just to make sure I hadn’t forgotten anything in my room or in the house.  Today Harriet and I were flying from London’s Gatwick Airport in the south of London via EasyJet.  So from Harriet’s ... [Continue reading this entry]