This past weekend we moved from Cyprus to Germany, and just like our first trip to Cyprus, it wasn't all smooth sailing!
We started the day on Saturday by finishing up packing our suitcases. It was a little easier this time around since we knew everything would fit - but there is a trick to making sure the weight is all balanced correctly. I owe you some posts on how and what we pack - and some mistakes I made the first time. Those will be coming eventually, but today it's all about the saga of how we got to Germany!
After we were all packed up our hosts in Cyprus, Paul and Anne, drove us to the airport. We really appreciated not having to haul all of our luggage on the bus - at least at the start of the trip. We were so excited to be moving on to Germany! We really enjoyed the island, everything we did and all the people we met, but hot weather is not for us. Germany promised cooler weather and we are all about that life.
The first snafu of our trip started almost immediately when we went through security. Somehow our stuff set off two alarms, so the security staff at the Paphos airport decided they needed to go through all of our bags. We each have one carry on and one personal bag (as well as our one checked bag each) so that meant four bags were getting checked. And they went through EVERYTHING. Like, unzipped every pocket, pulled out every possible item, looked individually at every. single. little. thing. When you have your whole life packed up there is a precision to it; it's almost like a puzzle getting everything to fit. When security rips apart that puzzle and you have ten minutes to put it all back together to make it to your gate... let me tell ya, it's not very fun. We understood why they needed to do it, but it still sucked! We also had to give a lot of information such as our passport numbers, the address where we had been in Cyprus, what we had been doing there, etc.
Not Pictured: Security rifling through all of our possessions. I wanted to take a picture to document it for the blog but I was afraid it might be against the rules and I would get in trouble.
Thankfully we were able to get everything put back together (though not quite as neat and organized as before) and get to our gate with just enough time to hit the bathroom and fill up our water bottles. Boarding was pretty smooth (though it involved a lot of standing outside, not something many airports can get away with) and soon enough we were on our flight and on our way to Berlin! Our flight left at 6:30 and we were scheduled to land in Berlin at 9:30.
Here's where the schedule got tight. If our plane landed on time, we knew we had ten minutes to get to a bus that would take us to a train station, and then about ten minutes to figure out which train we needed, buy tickets, and get on that train. That train was the last train of the night. Which meant if we missed it, we would be spending the night somewhere other than the home of our German hosts.
Everything went smoothly with the flight and we actually landed a few minutes early! Our luggage was available right away, though there was a bit of a line to get through customs. Once we had our baggage we found our way to the bus terminal... and watched the bus we needed pulling away (which would have given us 23 minutes to get tickets, find the train, and board it). Ok, no worries, another one comes in ten minutes (but only 13 minutes for the train). Joel spent the time trying to figure out how to buy a ticket for the bus to no avail. The second bus arrived and immediately filled up so full that there was no way we could get on. Ok, no worries, another one comes in ten minutes (but now we were almost definitely going to miss our train). That one we did manage to get on, and while hadn't figured out how to buy a ticket, thankfully no one asked us for one.
So we're almost definitely going to miss our train now, but at least we're on our way to the station, right? Well, Joel was monitoring his phone and knew we needed to get off at the Berlin Hauptbahnhof. His phone told him it was exactly four stops from the airport. We rode on the crowded bus through the dark streets of Berlin, counting the stops. As we got closer to the fourth stop, I had been looking at the information screen at the front of the bus and was pretty sure that the next stop was not in fact our stop. It was the next one after that. I tried to tell Joel this, but we had a failure of communication. We ended up getting off at the fourth stop, which was a tiny, empty stop on a city street, not the huge bustling Hauptbahnhof where we wanted and needed to be.
Well, now we were pretty sure we weren't going to make our train. Plus, now we had to hoof it to the train station which was about a mile away. If you think walking through the streets of Berlin at 10:30 at night with 70 pounds of luggage is fun, I'm here to tell you it is not. I wish I could have enjoyed walking through the city, but instead I was cursing my luggage for being so heavy and swearing that I was ready to burn everything so I wouldn't have to carry it anymore. We finally made it to the train station around 11, and continued to wander around in search of our train. We had missed the one we planned to take, but we hoped that perhaps another one would go to a nearby town where our hosts could still pick us up.
No such luck. The guy at Information informed us that the next train to Wendeisch Rietz was coming at 6:30AM, and it was now around 11:30PM. Which means we had seven hours to kill. That's not really enough time to justify spending money on a hotel, and even though it was Saturday night in a big city so there were probably things to do, we had all of our luggage with us so we were stuck. We trudged on over to the 24 hour McDonald's and decided to settle in for the night.
I'm betting that you can guess spending the night in McDonald's isn't all that fun - and you would be right! It wouldn't have been so bad if we could have picked a spot and hunkered down for the seven hours. Instead we had to move every couple hours as they would shut down one side of the restaurant to clean and then the other. I think we were in four different spots through the course of the night. We did our best to trade off sleeping while one of us stayed up to watch the luggage. We ordered some food every couple hours so we didn't feel as bad about taking up space. I read a book on my Kindle that was really good but still the time passed ever so slowly.
Finally it was around 5:30AM and Joel ventured out to find where we needed to be for the train and to get tickets, so we could just go straight there with all of our luggage. He became back triumphant, tickets in hand and the news that our train platform was only a two minute walk away. Hallelujah! We freshened up as best we could in the bathroom (which costs €0.50 to use), put everything we had out away, and at 6:20 made our way over to the platform. We checked and double checked the sign to make sure we were in the right spot; it seemed we were and that things were starting to go our way! The platform was open to the outside so it had fresh, crisp fall air, and the sun was rising on a beautiful morning. We looked a little worse for wear after our night at a fast food joint but we were so excited to get moving again!
Our train was schedule to depart at 6:31. When 6:30 came and there was no train I got anxious. Then it was 6:31... 6:32... 6:33... Ok, we had heard that the German train system was always on time, so this must not be a good thing. Of course even this part wouldn't be easy! We looked up at the sign again and saw the dreaded words: train is cancelled. No explanation why, just cancelled, ugh. I guarded the luggage while Joel went off to information again to see what we could do.
He came back with a pastry (bless him!) and the news that another train was going to the same place at 7:35, all we had to do was wait for that one. We moved down the platform to some benches to eat our pastry and wait another hour before we could finally leave.
Thankfully this train came on time at 7:35 and we got on with no trouble at all. It wasn't even crowded! (I guess that's what happens early on a Sunday morning). We were so excited to have a place to sit down. (This isn't always the case as we learned the hard way on our way to Cyprus). This is Joel's excited face:
One thing that was different than our other experiences on trains in Europe is that this one had a whole section designated for bikes! And sure enough, at our second stop, a group of bikers got on and tied their bikes to the side. We have seen many, many more bicyclists since arriving in Germany, it is definitely a popular mode of transportation around here. How cool to be able to take your bike on the train, ride it to the city, get off and bike around the city, and then head back home! I can't think of any major US cities where I have seen that to be a regular practice. (Though I haven't lived in any other than Atlanta so correct me if I'm wrong city people!)
We rode the first train to a station where we needed to make a transfer, which was relatively easy to do. We managed to both get off at the right place and then get on to the next correct train, go us! The second train really started to take us out of the city and into the countryside. I continued reading my Kindle book and admiring the view out the window. It was quite peaceful and dare I say enjoyable (though I was ready for a bed to crash on).
When we finally arrived at our final destination, our host was already there and ready to get us! Mary* had been so sweet and patient throughout the whole ordeal. She had been at the station a little after midnight to pick us up at the time we were originally supposed to be there, then was ready for our 8:00 arrival that turned into a 9:00 arrival because of the first cancelled train. Finally we were there and we headed off to her home, aka our new home for the next two and a half weeks!
This trip was tough while it was happening, but Joel was actually grumpier about it than I was (which is unusual in our relationship). For some reason the travel snafus we have had, which normally would send me into a tailspin, I've been able to handle in stride. I think I just decide that what will happen will happen, and eventually it will all work out, so there is no point getting worked up about it in the moment. Plus, it makes for some great stories! However, I do have high hopes that each journey between house sits will keep getting easier and easier, so here's hoping when we move to Wales in two weeks it isn't quite so dramatic.
So let's hear from you dear readers! Have you ever had airport security dig through all of your bags like they are looking for treasure? Have you ever had to spend the night somewhere undesirable when travel plans went wrong? Please tell me we aren't alone!
*Names changed to protect the innocent