As is now tradition, I close out this series with The Good, the Bad and the Thank-yous, or, in this case, the Dankeschöns (see, my German is getting better). This is where you’ll find a wrap-up of what I thought was good, what I thought was not-so-good, and my thanks for those who helped me along the way on this trip and, in general, made it a better experience. You’ll also find all of the links mentioned in this series, all in one handy place (click-away). Finally, here is where you’ll find my approximate spending broken down by category so, in case you’d like to do a similar trip, you’ll have an approximate budget. As always, your mileage may vary according to time of year, how much you eat and drink, and other ever-changing situations (because that’s what travel is all about).
First, a reminder of a big part of this project; you may be wondering, “Wait, what happened to the volunteer part of Drop Me Anywhere and Rebel-With-A-Cause?” It’s coming. Unfortunately, volunteering doesn’t seem to be a big part of Berlin’s culture (I’m not saying that there is none, but it’s not easy to find). As I’ll be traveling more in Germany, with the help of the German National Tourist Office, I believe I may have found an interesting project in a different city. Watch out for it in the coming weeks.
Also, please don’t forget to vote on the next Drop Me Anywhere location. Voting ends January 20th! Vote here!
- Let’s begin with the obvious – Glühwein.You told me to go forth and drink it and go forth I did. Traditional red, with amaretto, with Cointreau, white, with cranberries and the unusual Glühbier. They also had Glühwein spiked with rum, whiskey, or even the Caipiri Glühwein – a take on the traditional Brazilian drink Caipirinha, which I didn’t try because, well, how much can a girl drink (don’t answer that)? All I can say is come and try this stuff. As Kayla, the roommate of Jen, the woman I house sat for said, “If I were stranded on a deserted island, all I would need is Glühwein” (and perhaps George Clooney).
- The Christmas Markets – yup, that’s one thing I can now check off my bucket list. Still, now it’s made me want to go more Christmas markets in the future (apparently they’re like carbs, the more you have, the more you want). And speaking of carbs, add the food in at the Christmas Markets as a “good” (perhaps I need an “Oh, so good” category).
- The trains and the buses – yes, once you figure them out and learn to trust the signs and the system, they work quite well. And they run on time! Still, many of the attendants working in the train stations could be a bit nicer.
- The shopping – although I’m not really allowed to buy things (okay, one necklace at the Christmas market, but it doubles as a watch) as my life is currently lived out of one suitcase (no more than 50 pounds, thank-you), a carry-on and a day backpack, if you’re a shopper, you’ll love Berlin. It has everything you could want. And you’ll love shopping at the KaDeWe as long as it’s not robbed by “gangsters” that day (read about that here).
- The museums, palaces and other places of interest. For the most part, the buildings are beautifully designed and the contents are nicely displayed. The interesting thing here is, there are as many (dare I say more) museums and memorials dedicated to the terrible part of German history – let’s just say it, WWII (I’m not talking about Checkpoint Charlie, although the museum is fantastic, as, remember, that was the USSR) – as the good parts (the Reichstag, palaces, etc.). The thing about Germany is, they put it all out there; the good, the bad and the ugly. I appreciate that immensely.
- Dogs in restaurants – oh yes, did I mention this? The Germans love their dogs. And dogs are generally allowed in restaurants and bars (nothin’ like taking Fido out for a beer). I’m thinking that, if you might be an alcoholic, you just get a dog. As one sign of alcoholism is drinking alone, you’ve taken care of that part as you always have a drinking buddy.
- The weather – I know, “You came in December and January, you idiot. What did you expect?” This is true (although I expected pretty, fluffy, white snow like in a Currier and Ives painting). Often reality is different from the fantasy. Get over it. It was nasty during that first Drop Me Anywhere trip to St. John’s, Newfoundland (remember that time my snow boots disintegrated?). Still, I had no expectations except that it would be cold – it was. That’s one big thing I found while working in the travel industry for twenty-years; people blame you when their unrealistic expectations aren’t met. I don’t blame Germany, or Germans, for the crap weather in December and January, but that doesn’t make the weather any better.
- The language barrier – same thing, it’s not the Germans’ fault that they speak, well, German. It’s even less their fault that I do not (again, I tried in college and failed miserably). But still, many Germans have told me that pretty much everyone speaks English, many just won’t. In my experience, if I say, “Sprechen Sie Englisch?,” if they answer, “Bitte” (a little), it means they don’t, and if they answer, “Ya,” it means they won’t.
- The WiFi – You’d think a country known for such fine, precise products as Mercedes-Benz and Hugo Boss, would have better WiFi technology. I’ve now come to appreciate Starbucks much more, as it seems to be the only place with a reliable internet connection. Many hotels and other places (if they even offer WiFi) have security settings which prevent even the most common websites (no, I wasn’t trying to get porn) from working. Due to these settings, your E-mail on your mobile device may also stop working correctly. Know this and don’t spend a lot of time deleting and reinstalling it (as I did). There’s no easy way around it. And plan to spend some time waiting as, if it does work, it’s very slow.
- In general, people don’t smile, or even acknowledge others when passing on the street. Yes, this could be said of some places in the U.S., and yes, it’s probably just my cruise ship and Disney training which has trained me to do it. And I’m pretty sure the Germans find it fairly irritating. Strange thing is, even their dogs ignore me when I pass by and say hi.
- Men don’t often bend down to pick something up for a lady if she drops something. Still, on the positive side, when I bent down to pick up my coin, I accidentally left my wallet on the counter. When I came back up, it was still there. So that’s a “good.”
- Thanks to Germany for making Glühwein! Enough said.
- Thanks to Visit Berlin for the information and assistance. They’re a great source of information and you can go to their website to learn more about the many things to do here.
- Thanks to Jen, for the opportunity to spend some time with Siegfried cat sitting. Your flat is lovely and Siegfried is one quirky cat. But then, I’ve learned to embrace my quirks, so he was a good fit. Have fun decorating.
- Thanks to Staatsballett, Mauer Museum (Checkpoint Charlie Museum), the Jewish Museum and Schloss Charlottenburg for your assistance in helping a poor, struggling travel writer. While these locations offered discounted or complimentary media admission, this in no way affected my opinion of their value at the regular admission price.
- Thanks to all those who took the time to speak with me. I understand speaking in a language that’s not your native tongue requires more concentration and can be exhausting. Please know that it was most appreciated. And thanks for those in-depth conversations. I appreciated the great exchange on serious subjects. Meeting people like you is why I travel. Special shout-outs to Frank, my unofficial tour guide through comments on Drop Me Anywhere. I appreciate the great information and your views and opinions on cultural differences, and comments are always appreciated; Peter, my friend at the Cheech and Chong bar. A great character; Michael, who I met at Einstein coffee. Great conversation and I wish you well with your daughter (good luck during the teenage years); Tom, Eve and Emile from Hamburg, who I met at the Christmas market; Andreas, from the massage chairs at the KaDeWe; Nicole and Kai, from the Christmas market – thanks for the great talk and the lift; the Australians from the Christmas market – thanks for filming, directing and guest starring in my video!; and the two fun German girls from the dried apple stand at the Christmas market who not only made me feel “almost famous,” but gave me hope that there are adventurous and excited young people who, perhaps, my project can inspire to live out loud.
- As always, you, my Virtual Travel Buddies. Thanks for traveling with me. You’re great company!
Air – $786 (one way, booked through Webjet)
Accommodations – $157.00 (yup). Please note that this includes the $100 annual fee I paid for membership to Trusted Housesitters. If you’re an animal lover and you travel, this is a great way to get free lodging as well as have a warm, fuzzy friend to come home to.
Food and Beverage – $350.24. This includes groceries as, when you stay at a house, flat or apartment, you have the option of cooking.
Ground Transportation (buses, trains, parking, taxis) – $98.52. Note that this price includes a five-day Berlin Welcome Card which Visit Berlin was kind enough to supply. At €32, it’s well worth it.
Attractions/Activities – $64.20 (again, while I received some media rates, this number includes actual prices of things).
Miscellaneous fees and tips – $9.00
For a grand total of 1464.96..
Transportation (Air, Ground, Underground)