Tag 1 – Alison Otto
After a long day of flights and layovers, we arrived in Germany. Although I was tired at first getting off the plane the cold air woke me up and I was excited to see the landscape of Berlin. We walked over and took the S-bahn to the Hauptbahnhof which would become our center point for our time in Berlin. Public transportation is a huge thing in Germany. I quickly learned that the set up of public transportation was excellent and efficient. Every day in Berlin we bought group S-Bahn/ U-Bahn tickets for four or five people for ticket and the buses run all day until 3 am. There were always a ton of people walking or riding their bikes everywhere as well. The bikers even had their own bike path on the sidewalks, and you did not want to be caught in their way as they were riding by.
On our first S-Bahn in Berlin was on the way to the A&O Hostel where we’d be staying for the next 3 nights. I absorbed the landscape and the look of Berlin. I noticed a lot of differences between Germany and the US, but also a few similarities. My first observations of Berlin are as followed. I first was amazed to see what looked like small neighborhoods of small shed-like houses smushed together in a small area. I also saw a lot of graffiti which one would see a lot of in the US as well. I noticed in Berlin there was a lot of construction going on that the buildings were all amazing to look at. I saw up to date, colorful, very modern looking buildings and work offices, all in abstract shapes, with a lot of glass windows. But also I saw very beautiful old architecture on buildings, which I liked better. Even the old-fashion buildings were all well-kept and clean. As we were getting closer to our stop at the Hauptbahnhof a man walked by on the train drinking alcohol in broad daylight. Which of course is a lot different than in the US where public intoxication would be illegal, it is legal and often seen in Germany.
Finally we arrived at the Hauptbahnhof and we all lugged our luggage to the A&O Hostel. I soon learned that we would be doing a lot of walking while in Germany. Another thing I noticed in Berlin was there were a lot of taxis going around which was kind of similar to a place like Boston or New York City, but it was funny to see that all taxis were Mercedes. We dropped our stuff off in the room which was 3 bunk beds and a double beds. The room was set up for 8 people with just one shower and one toilet, we learned that we also would have to buy towels to use at the hostel. I was very surprised because in the United States most hotels or motels would provide complementary towels or just give more if asked for.
We then set out for the day to get lunch and visit Mercedes. We walked back to the Hauptbahnhof for lunch and we all ordered something from one of the many places and sat in the café and ate. The next culture shock I experienced was that when out in public if you had to use the bathroom you had to pay to use it, most places about 50 cents. The restroom denoted as WC at the Hauptbahnhof had a machine where you put in your money and the doors automatically opened to allow you in. It was nice to see though that since we were paying to use the bathroom they were very clean and had someone cleaning them frequently. After lunch we walked to Mercedes which was a huge extravagant building. The Mercedes was a huge abstract shaped building with all glass windows. We got a tour of Mercedes Benz, it was multiple floors spiraling up and the higher up we went the more expensive the car was. On the bottom floor they actually had a rock wall, huge wall of running water (which also doubled as a cooling tool since they didn’t have AC), and a restaurant! As we walked up the levels they also had a Formula 1 race car and a simulator that made it look like you were driving it, there was a miscommunication and we didn’t actually get to use it.
After Mercedes we went to go get dinner, where we got to practice ordering food and once we all finished eating we all retired back to the A&O Hostel to get some much needed sleep.