In my previous blog post, I wrote:
I’m heading for what I hope will be an extraordinary experience, with people from around the world and from a range of different fields.
I’m ready to do something that challenges me … to be brave!
I might even blog about it.
I did not blog about it.
It’s now a month later. I’m home, my bags are unpacked, my washing is drying, and the fridge is heavy with new magnets. The plane touched down at 10:50 last night, we were home by 12:14, I was asleep by 1:43 and awake at 7:04 this morning. It’s now after 5 in the afternoon and I can feel the drowsiness washing over me. To stave it off for a few more hours I decide to write.
I was systematic and thorough in my planning, choosing wisely when buying new tops, underwear, shoes; planning which countries/cities/towns to visit, where to stay, and how to get from one place to another. I chose the seats for each flight carefully with attention to where the toilets were and where young babies were more likely to be (close to one, avoiding the other). I did a practice pack two days before to ensure my backpack did not go beyond the 7kg limit (my suitcase was never going to get anywhere near the 30kg limit). I packed slowly, methodically, over a number of days. I didn’t make decisions based on rush or the ‘oh my goodness I’m going in an hour, have I packed …?’ panic.
6:30 Friday 23 September
Time to go. Only one, slightly anxious ‘I-have-to-repack-my-bag’ moment, an hour or so beforehand. The bags stood ready. Little anxiety, less fuss, no stress. It felt easy to pick up the bags, load them into the car, and head out.
It was a theme that continued through the drive to the airport. Calm, no stress … smooth.
Smooth trip to the airport.
Smooth passage through check-in, bag drop, security and passport control, boarding.
I was in the back row, no one in the middle seat next to me so I could stretch out a bit. The 13 hour flight didn’t even feel that long.
Doha – smooth transition: off one plane (6am local time), time for a cuppa, onto the next (much shorter) flight.
Berlin. I’d been travelling for over 24 hours by this stage. It had been amazingly smooth. Not that anything major happened at this point, but things began to feel slightly less smooth.
There was a long, long wait for the luggage to arrive – time I spent wisely, hooked up to the airport WiFi, planning how to get to the hotel by train. Once my bag had arrived, I headed for the train station, remembering to buy a ticket at the top of the stairs. I clunked my bag down the stairs to the platform, boarded the train when it arrived, went to hook up to the train’s WiFi only to discover the train didn’t have WiFi.
I remembered that the first step in the journey was to get off at the Terminal 5 station. I imagined that the Terminal 5 station would be somehow connected to the airport and so would have an airport-style station.
I blithely got off the train and found myself here:
It looked to me like a Soviet railway station that had been abandoned 50 years before.
I remembered that I had to catch another train, but I couldn’t remember which one/where to … and searching the map I – eventually – found, wasn’t a whole heap of help to me.
When the next train arrived, I got on. The map had mentioned something about Adlershof and so when we arrived there, I got off, clunked my bag down the stairs and wondered ‘what now?’.
I crossed the road, seeking out some free WiFi but there was none to be found. A toilet would have also come in handy, but I couldn’t see one of them either.
I had no idea where I was, no idea where I was going, and even less idea about how to get there.
I suddenly remembered International Roaming. I turned it on, went back to Google maps and put in the name of the hotel. The recommended route was the 61 or 63 tram, but I couldn’t see a tram stop – or tram tracks even – anywhere.
When I asked Google for directions from my location to the tram stop, it told me to cross the road to the station and keep walking. When I was halfway through the tunnel (shown in the image above), it told me I had reached my destination. I didn’t feel – in any of my bones – that I had in fact reached any destination.
I took a punt and walked to the end of the tunnel – to what had appeared as a wasteland – and lo and behold there were tram tracks and a tram stop. Within moments a 63 tram arrived and I got on. It turned out, to my great relief, that I was not only on the correct tram, but that I was also going in the correct direction.
It was now 3pm local time – I’d given up counting how many hours into my trip I was – and I was getting a little more than just a little weary. I checked in, walked miles down the corridor to my room, had a shower, a rest, a chat with Tim, booked a COVID test for the next day, then decided to get out and about and explore the local area. The local area happened to be the old city of Kopenick.
There I came across a COVID testing centre that was offering far cheaper COVID tests, a 10-miunute turn-around time, and was available right then and there.
And so I had my first ever COVID test – standing at the window of a shipping container otherwise known as a Corona Testzentrum. Luckily my grasp of German was strong enough to know what that meant.
In my wondering I came across the local fire department family day and so popped my head in – bouncy castle, bbq, DJ, lots of kids – and continued on my way.
Dinner at the Rathaus … and then it was time for bed. Luckily I was within walking distance of the hotel otherwise I might have had to find a park bench for a quick nap.