As I lay there, my body contorted in a distinctive L-shape following the line of the couch, using my fluffy coat as a makeshift blanket, a man’s foot rested on top of my head. For the fifth time that night, I reached up to shift it off, this time a little rudely. Day 6 in Berlin was somewhat of a whirlwind, thankfully, because if I hadn’t been worn out, I would never have been able to sleep that night.
What I had to do that day:
- move from my current host to the next
- meet up with Alex for my first Couchsurf event
- do something that didn’t make me feel as if I wasted an entire day
Located right across from the Berlin Dom. Take stairs down from the bridge.
When I asked my host what museums I should visit, immediately she listed the Pergamon and then the DDR museum. David, her flatmate, in a totally separate conversation, also named the DDR museum as a must-see. I first tried to get into the Pergamon since I’d already purchased the 3-day pass the other day. However, when I got to the museum, I saw a line that rivaled the Berlin Wall.
I should’ve known immediately that there were more tourists this day than the others. I should’ve abandoned my museum because I’m not even into museums anyways! But I was determined to get myself into a museum. Little did I know I’d have more difficulties exiting than entering and ended up escaping like a convicted felon… but we’ll get to that later.
Even before getting into the museum, which was by far easier than getting into the Pergamon (the line didn’t extend outdoors), I should’ve abandoned all hope. After I squeezed in, a huge group of French students piled in behind me, discussing on how best they could take advantage of the student discount for FUCKIN’ LARGE GROUPS ONLY. Oh dear. I peered over the side into the museum and saw only bodies. No floor. Just bodies. Ok, that must be the transition line between the outside and the real part of the museum. I can still do this, I thought.
I paid the 6€ difficultly, and stepped inside, using the scanner for the barcode on my ticket. It was then that I realized that the MASS of people were standing in what was the museum. Oh hell no. If there was one thing guaranteed to make me lose joy in anything, it’s crowds. My visit went from curiosity into obligatory—I paid 6€, damn it! So I waded through and half-heartedly pulled open the secret drawers. It was actually a very cool museum and I do recommend it… as long as half the world isn’t in there.
After my obligated 15 minutes were over (I said obligation, not torture), I found the exit right after the preserved old West Berlin car. PLEASE PRESENT YOUR TICKET it said on the turnstile. Shit. Where did I put the ticket? I searched what seemed to be every crevice of my coat and bag. Nothing. While I was standing between the automatic frosted doors and the turnstile, every move I made triggered the doors. I looked behind. No one seemed to be coming up. I looked ahead. There seemed to be a limited amount of people… this was going to happen.
As I stood there, straddling the turnstile, someone came up beside me and pointed to her ticket. You know, you can just use your ticket right? her face said. YOU THINK I HAVEN’T TRIED THAT?? my face said.
It was time to move onto something else.
THE OLYMPIC STADIUM
For those of you who haven’t been living under a rock in the past century, Berlin hosted the 1936 Olympics. But from how well the stadium and its surroundings are preserved, you would think that they hosted the Olympics sometime in the late 90s.
The Olympic Stadium is about 30 minutes away from Alexanderplatz. You can either take the S5 or the U2 (both accessible at Alexanderplatz) and get off at Olympiastadion. The S-bahn would be faster by about 20 minutes. It’s 7€ to enter.
The walk to the stadium is actually very peaceful and, if you visited when the sun is about to set, it’s very inspiring. On the other hand, if you visit near dark, I would imagine it to be a little eerie. When I got there, I just soaked in the area and took some video and photo shots. To be honest, there’s not much to do here. However, if you’re interested in it on a historical level, it’s interesting to consider that during this time, Hitler hosted the summer Olympics. Hm.
THE BIG MOVE. GOODBYE FIRST HOST.
I noticed one thing while traveling around Berlin by myself for an entire week: it’s that navigating a city gets easier and easier the more you do it. Or it’s just that I get increasingly anal about knowing where to go at all times. Getting lost is romantic and all, but only if you know what to look for to get yourself out once you’ve enjoyed enough of being lost.
My host dropped me off at the bus stop and we hugged. It’s strange, leaving your first host. In some ways it’s like Stockholm Syndrome… but voluntary… so I guess it’s just a brief, intense version of friendship. But even that description is wrong. This was a stranger that opened her home and herself up to me so that we, as two strangers, could connect and learn about each other. To me, that was the most priceless things I could’ve done on this entire trip; I will never regret Couchsurfing.
And here I was, off to meet someone else who would do the same thing for me. During my time of need, he pulled through and offered me a place to stay. Amazing people, I tell you.
Less nervous and more eager to meet my next host, my trembling finger pushed his doorbell. He lived closer to Mitte than Ilze did—at the Wedding U-bahn stop.
“Who is it?” his voice came through the intercom.
“Um.. it’s Michelle!”
“Oh! Hi!” and then I heard something incomprehensible. The buzzer rang and I let myself in. CRAP… what floor was he on? That must’ve been the something incomprehensible that I heard… however, I saw a few names scribbled next to doorbells inside and figured I’d just keep walking until I saw his name. When I got to the second floor, I saw an open door, opening inwards as if it were beckoning me inside.
“Hello…?” I was in the middle of putting down my things when a GIANT walked up behind me in the unlit hallway. I hurriedly made my way in to the light and realized he was just a giant teddy bear. He wore frameless glasses, a large shape-hiding t-shirt, and baggy jeans that flopped over his bare feet.
“Thanks SO much for hosting last minute! I was freaking out that I would be homeless tonight!”
“Yeah… I hope you don’t mind a tight squeeze though. I‘m hosting about 8 other people right now. There were so many requests for New Year’s Eve.”
And I was one of them. I looked at the little camping pad on the ground that, if every slept on it horizontally, would fit 4-5 people. In the living room, there was also a L-shaped couch that were perfect for midgets… or me at a comfortable 5’4″. I was a little anxious at meeting the others, since it seemed like they had already bonded and spent the whole day together, but they walked loudly in at that moment. 2 Lithuanian girls, 3 French guys, 1 American girl, and another 2 girls who were studying abroad in Spain. What an odd apartment to be in!
“HEY! Do you want to join us for dinner??” One of the French guys said loudly across multiple introductions.
“Um… I would but I actually have to meet a friend at this one bar!”
“Oh! We’re going to a bar… do you want to meet up with us later…?”
“And there’s the situation about the key….” my host said. Shit, I didn’t think about that. I was supposed to meet Alex at this dive bar in half an hour… but I didn’t want to leave my newly-acquainted host and his other surfers. I checked my phone in indecision.
Alex: We’re also going to a stand-up mike night at another bar… you’re welcome to join us.
And so, I took a risk of being locked out to join Alex for my first Couchsurfing event. This wouldn’t end as bad as you think it’s going to… but was actually locked out of Sven’s apartment for a good 30 minutes in the cold German winter before he and a few girls returned for the night.
THAT TIME I WAS LOCKED OUT
At the bar, which had wifi, Sven texted me on WhatsApp telling me to text him for directions to where they were so I could snag a key from them. However, for reasons I couldn’t foresee, Alex, his friend, and I left to go to a smoking bar and stayed only until 1 or so, leaving me to fret about how I was going to reach Sven.
See, I have this really bad habit of putting all trust in a person when they lead me around… to the point of not paying attention to how I’m going to get back. Yeah, a really great trait for a solo traveler, I know.
Not only did I have this problem on my mind, but I couldn’t even find my way back to his apartment on my first, second, or third try… Oh my gosh, I’m going to be stranded outside here forever. All I want to do is sleep…
When I did finally find my way back, I pushed the doorbell again with trembling fingers, hoping beyond all hope that he was at home. It was almost 2 AM in the morning and Berlin bars close at 3AM and their clubs are known to run almost on a 24-hour schedule. This close to New Year’s Eve, I knew that my chances were slim. When I received no answers even after three tries, I gave up. He wasn’t home.
So I sat out there for about 10 minutes, needing more and more to use a bathroom (really, bladder? You couldn’t do this an hour ago?) when my iPhone buzzed. I had signal out here! I walked around trying to find where the sweet spot was, but I couldn’t find it again and all the walking around was making me a bit chilly, so I returned to my perch. And… let’s just say that my bladder won the willpower battle that night.
There is a tunnel right next to the main door, leading from the main streets into the garden area. I will forever remember this tunnel as a part of my homeless experience. I found a little nook that had the least amount of wind and crouched down in a squat, hoping that I would either be warm or they would come soon.
I was in this position for about 30 minutes when I suddenly heard voices approaching. Knowing that it was probably not them, I couldn’t help but stand up to hope. And, lo and behold, it was them!
I can only imagine what I looked like when they rounded the corner and I stepped out of the shadows and greeted them.
“Oh, did you get the message I sent you?” Sven asked, probably hoping the answer was yes to make sure he wasn’t hosting a crazy psychopath.
“Nope!” I said a little too cheerily, just so happy that it was them.
“… I hope you weren’t waiting too long…!”
“…. Yeah, I was only here for about 10 minutes or so before you arrived…” I lied.
The rest of the night consisted of him sharing the details of his open relationship and how his sexual spectrum was very very open. It was a very interesting and broadening conversation.
Anyways, the next morning, I realized that the heavy object that kept landing on my face during the middle of the night was one of the French guy’s foot. Not only that, but some time during the night, he and the girl that passed out there had become lovers.