Saturday, August 30, 2008

Ich bin ein Berliner


Motorcycle Adventure Travel | Elvis at Check Point Charlie(Berlin - Saturday, August 30, 2008) If you have ever been to the train station in Munich you know how many platforms there are. Add to the complications that the trains all run on time and the signage is less then straight forward to non Germans and oh yeah... I'm drunk! I make it to my train and immediately grab a seat. I make myself comfortable and have a little cat nap. I'm awoken by the conductor asking for tickets. He takes a little longer with mine and then stamps away. Good, everything is okay. The person across from me isn't the same person that was across from me when I left Munich. That's always a little troubling. I check the time to make sure it hasn't been hours. It hasn't. Perhaps I was snoring and it bothered the other person.

Being awake now I head to the bar car to spend some of my winnings. I sit down with my beer and strike up a conversation with a couple at the same table. I show them pictures of my bike and tell them the places I've been and they think it's fantastic. As time passes and the German landscape passes by at light speed the wife (I forget her name) asks me a fantastic question.

"If you flew into Frankfurt, why are you flying out of Berlin"

To which I answer, "I'm not flying out of Berlin."

To which she replied, "Then why are you on the train to Berlin?"

To which I answer, "I'm not on the train to Berlin." I don't like where this is going.

As it turns out, I am indeed on the train to Berlin. Sorry, not the train to Berlin... the 'high speed' train to Berlin. It's very late and it's not going to be easy to find a hotel, that's for sure. I begin to go into survival mode and start sobering up quickly. I ask Hans (the husband) questions about Berlin and where I should stay. He gets on the phone and calls a number of places and informs me that most hotels are booked up because of some convention or festival or both. Damn it. Sleeping at a train station. Wouldn't be the first time.

They talk amongst themselves and come up with a great plan. Why don't I stay at their house? What a great idea! We pass by the main station in Berlin and get off at the Berlin/Spandau station. They have a car waiting in the parking lot and we load up and make our way to the house.

Now talk about hitting the jackpot. When we arrive at there place the maid opens the door for us. Food is waiting for us and there is beer on the table. They inform me that I will have to sleep in the pool house as all they rooms in the main are being used by their children and staff. Normally there would be space but they are moving into their apartment in the city tomorrow so hey needed extra staff here. I take it all in stride and act as if I'm used to being taken care of. We talk about houses and he asks about mine. After a little conversion my 3700 square foot (350 meters squared) meets his approval. That and the pictures of the house in Jadrtovac brings me up to a decent class level. We drink 'til about 1 in the morning and we head to our respective beds. My bedroom is a little humid as the pool house means exactly what it sounds like. It's a house with an indoor pool in it. I go to use the bathroom in my room but it's not a bathroom. It's the tanning room with a full lie down bed. I could get used to this.
I have a quick swim and I get some sleep.

In the morning breakfast was waiting. What a wonderful meal it was. They basically took some kind of mixed cereal and added cashews to it. Then, instead of milk, they topped it with unsweetened whipping cream. Plus, the coffee was to die for. After breakfast Hans offered to take me around town and show me Berlin. I refused the offer but he was insistent. But first he said he would take me to the train station and get me the right tickets to get to Frankfurt.

Motorcycle Adventure Travel | Hans and Elvis in Berlin

I brought my bag to the front door but he said to leave it. It wouldn't fit in his car anyways. He would make sure that it was waiting for us at the apartment in town at lunch time. So throwing caution, and my luggage, to the wind I got in the only brand new Ford Mustang Convertible in a country full of BMW's, Mercedes, Audi's, Ferrari's, etc. The funny thing? Everyone looked as we drove by. when we got to the train station Hans made me wait in the car. About 10 minutes later he arrived with my new tickets. I offered to pay but he was having none of it.

Motorcycle Adventure Travel | Berlin Train Station

The rest of the morning we went around Berlin and took in all the tourist sites. Brandenburg Gate, Berlin Wall, and Checkpoint Charlie were the highlights. What an awesome city though. There's a feeling you get when you arrive in such a large city. It's almost like when you take your first train ride from JFK to 42nd Street station in New York. The hustle and bustle and the amount of people on the streets is unbelievable.

I spent two hours at the Check Point Charlie museum. If you ever find yourself in Berlin I highly recommend seeing this. It's a true testament to the stupidity of mankind and our ability to cause pain and hardship on a mass scale. It also showcases the ingenuity and perseverance of individuals fighting against tyranny to try and make their world better. That being said some of the failed escape attempts were enough to bring anyone to tears and I had to choke down and not cry openly.

Motorcycle Adventure Travel | Nazi Art at Check Point Charlie

After playing (actually I wasn't playing) tourist for the morning we went back to the apartment for lunch. Now when he said apartment I shouldn't have believed him. This 'apartment' was the entire top floor of a building that had to have been 300 years old. The place was massive and had a view on all four sides. Lunch was fantastic too. After lunch we had a beer and Hans drove me to the train station with a detailed map directing me to the proper platform. Then with a quick Auf Wiedersen I made my way to the train.

readmore »»

Beginner's Luck


Motorcycle Adventure Travel | James Bond Playing Baccarat(Munich - Saturday, August 30, 2008) The bus ride to Zagreb was long, uncomfortable, and nondescript. The sun was just starting to come up as we entered Zagreb and I wasn't looking forward to the long walk from the bus terminal to the train station. At least it's not raining!

The walk wasn't as bad as it was two years ago when I made this trip in reverse. There wasn't many people out at 5 in the morning and the sun wasn't beating down hard yet. Plus knowing the way helps tremendously. So after a brisk walk I make it to there with plenty of time to spare. None of the kiosks are open so I plunge into my daypack to eat a sandwich that I brought along with me. I have a beer in my pack as well but even I have my limits.

I'll wait until at least 6am before I start drinking. If I were already drinking that would be a different story then the rule is don't stop drinking until you pass out.

I buy my ticket to Frankfurt and notice that it is alot cheaper than my ticket from Munich to Zagreb last year. I found out later that you save tons of money if you buy your tickets in the Eastern countries as opposed to Germany or Austria. I love traveling by train. It has to be one of the most civilized forms of transportation. The route to Frankfurt requires that I change trains a few times but that's good too. Gives me a chance to see more places and people. When we get to the Slovenian border the police come aboard and ask for passports. One of the guys I'm sharing a berth with gets into a heated discussion with them and is then removed violently in handcuffs. It's at times like this that I truly enjoy having a blue passport from Canada.

My first stop is Ljubljana Slovenia. I spent a night here last year and I had a great time. It's a beautiful city with a gorgeous river running through it. The people are nice and the food is excellent... and so are the prices. I have about 15 minutes before I need to change trains so I grab some refreshments. I remember how terrible the Union beer (basically the only brand of beer they sell in this country) was so I opt for a small bottle of gin with some Schweppes Bitter Lemon to mix with it. I nab a couple of cups from the cafeteria and get on the train.

This train is packed but I manage to find myself a berth. My luggage is uber heavy and I have to get down and power squat the damn thing into the overhead. People are looking at me and wondering if I have gold bricks inside. Gold bricks? No. Gold beer? Yes!

When we get to some small town in Austria I'm forced to change trains again. I have to book it to make my connection. One thing I know about the Austrians is they may look and act all casual, but nothing ever leaves late or early. They only have one time here... on time! I get a berth but when the conductor comes to check my ticket he tells me I've chosen improperly and that I will have to change berths as this one is reserved. There are no berths available now so I leave my luggage in place and head to the bar. It's nice not caring if someone steals your stuff. It allows you far more freedom of movement. Plus, having a suitcase that ways 72,824 kilograms makes even the most cunning thief think twice.

Motorcycle Adventure Travel | Austrian Train Station

You really have to hand it to the Germans when it comes to their trains. They have by far the best bar cars out of the European fleets. I order a pint (actully half liter but I'll never call it that) and wait for my moment. There it is! This couple gets up and walks away from there seats and I swoop in ahead of the other couple I saw eyeing them up. Tough luck for them. They could have moved faster if they weren't burdened with their luggage.

The half liter turns into 3 liters and a bratwurst very quickly as the train chugs through the Austrian countryside. By the time we reach Saltzburg I'm half in the bag and I've been recruited into a game of Baccarat with a group from Denmark.

"How do you play Baccarat?", I ask innocently.

"We'll teach you", says the young, yet overly large, Danish lad named Karsten

A month of playing Baccarat in Sicily back in the early nineties combined with the arrogance of a true James Bond fan gets mistaken for beginners luck as I'm up 35 Euro. Not to mention the fact that I've switched back to gin as my primary intoxicant just to keep in the 007 mood. By the time I reached Munich I was up 40 Euros and I had to bid my Danish friends Hej hej (farewell).

readmore »»

My Blog List