This post was originally written on 23rd Sept 2011 when I was in Berlin as a part of my 10-day East Europe tour.
I went to Berlin via Istanbul. I was alone and spoke to no one all this while. I travelled to Istanbul, loitered around the airport during the 5 hours halt and took a long flight further to Berlin. I was almost fed up. No one to talk to. My shoes were hurting me. And I was fed up of lugging the backpack. I would sit at an available bench, stare at people, then take a short walk around, find an empty seat and sit again. It was so boring. I wished, waited and hoped for excitement to begin.
My excitement rocketed up when I came out of the airport at Berlin (after my sky high tension went down because my bag arrived so late and I thought it had got misplaced). I was about to meet my group and my real journey was beginning. I still couldn’t believe that I was in a foreign land!
I met my group at the arrival area. I was happy when the chubby tour manager Joe, who was in his late forties, found me on his list and warmly but sternly welcomed me to Berlin. As anticipated, all of them were senior couples and were travelling without children. There was only one guy who could be around 24. And then there was me, nearing 30’s and can no longer be called a youngster.
I got into the real mood when one of the ladies (a Bengali based in Bombay) started talking to me. She and a few others, who later spoke to me, were intrigued by the fact that I had travelled all alone. ‘Oh, don’t say you are alone now! We are all your friends’ she said cheerily and led me with her. I glowed with relief.
I warmed up towards them and instantly felt a sense of belonging. I introduced myself to some other nice ladies who spoke to me. One of them invited me over to sit with her in the coach and voila, I was happy to have made friends already!
The group is good. Most of them are seasoned and passionate travellers who have travelled Europe before and their love for food, history and art has brought them back here. History is on their fingertips and they blabber out names of treaties and important dates like it is their daily profession. They talk about “When I was in Rome last year’ and ‘Last time when I came to Germany, it was Frankfurt’. And I thought I was a passionate traveller who travelled every year and knew about places I was going to!
We reached Berlin at 5 pm Berlin time and reached our hotel is 15 minutes. Our tour manager turned out to be very knowledgeable and updated us with loads of information about Berlin. Though I had read a lot about each city and its history, I was blank there in the front seat of the bus – lost in the new sights, new people and new voices. I suppose the traffic we met on the way was the ‘traffic’ that we will be seeing throughout. Berlin is absolutely clean and scantily crowded. Swanky cars drive around at consistent speed giving me the impression that people are laidback and relaxed here. The modern buildings don’t impress me much; they are monotonous red or beige brick box like buildings with plain rectangular windows of the same size. The footpaths are as scantily populated as the roads. It’s pretty cool outside (maybe 22 degree Celsius) and girls are dressed in scarves, boots and stockings. Every girl seems to be walking on the runway here.
We checked into our quaint little rooms and staying alone turns out to be bliss. I shivered while getting off from the bus and wondered how I would survive the rest of the tour. Our hotel, Berlin Mercure Mitte is located on a street busy with shops and cafes. My room is facing the street. I absolutely love the huge glass windows and sheer white curtains. I can open the window a bit and hear music and laughing voices from the cafe on the opposite side or the sound of cars speeding by.
I have a quick bath, after happily prancing around the room, exploring it and taking photos, move for dinner with the rest of the group. I keep my eyes glued to the window and stare at everything wide-eyed.
We have dinner at a small, dimly lit Indian restaurant and I still feel lost among all the elderly. The young boy talks to his father behind me in the food line and says – There is no traffic here! I wanted to comment – This is traffic. But I didn’t. I felt too shy.
I am dying to get going. I am dying to hold my camera. i want to go out there. My. I can’t wait to see the rest of Berlin!