Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The train trek to Berlin - day one

Well, I am in Berlin at the old Adrema Hotel. It is a nice place, the room is small but very comfortably cozy. Though it is on a road, the double-pane windows help even if I can hear the hourly clock go off and the occasional siren. I guess I could pay 10 Euros more for a quieter room, but we shall see how evening #1 goes. The trip to Berlin certainly drew some interesting observations on my end. Just after entering Germany, one could hear the language change. The spelling changed, and it was off to a new country. Going toward Dresden, the former Allied bombing zone circa 1943-1945, I could see a change in the people in the sense that there was conversation, an air of confidence. Not arrogance, but genuine happiness it seemed. Being in Prague for the last 7 weeks or so, I notice that the people are very stoic, very guarded it seems with their emotions. The Germans have a reputation of having initial formality but also a sense of service and kindness. The Czechs are the opposite, where they want to stay out of your way (though not in a negative way, they just don't want to anger the customer by being too involved so they say) but lack emotion. Even in my brief 4 hours in Berlin, I notice how the women have shown more instances of emotion and positivity than the more naturally beautiful Czech women. Don't get me wrong, it is too early to judge one country's ladies topping another's, but it is nice to see a lady smile for cryin' out loud. Also, I knew of the heavy Turkish and Middle Eastern population in Germany, Berlin certainly included. Let me tell you, it is true. My hotel is in the Tiegarten district a couple miles from the heavy center of Mitte and I've seen more Middle-Eastern faces than I'd seen my entire 7 weeks in Prague. Okay, I'm exaggerating a bit, but it is interesting how 97% of the people in Prague are white whereas back in the U.S. it is probably no more than 45-50%. An African or Middle-Eastern dude stick out a bit more in the Czech Republic than in the U.S.A. and Germany too.

The other thing that has stood out thus far is the food in Berlin - unbelievable selection of grub. I ask the dude at the front desk if there is any good food in the area for we are near some blocks with a lot of restaurants and he recommended a Thai place. I thought, "Great, right up my alley." But then I see an Indian place that is relatively crowded for a Wednesday night, a nice looking pizza joint, the Thai place, a Carribean soul food spot that I am definitely gonna visit while here because it smelled and looked delicious, and then I came across a place I could not pass up - that is right, a Vietnamese spot that served some delicious pho. And it was good to, but it also cost me more than every meal I got in Prague because unfortunately, in Germany the prices get Westernized to the fullest. And being on the Euro, my dollar does not go as far as the Czech Koruna. Too bad, I enjoyed having $1.30 pints of beer, $3 gyros, $7 gulash, and cheap fruits, veggies, cheese, bread, and salami from the stores. Sometimes a good thing has to end briefly. However, the access to the good food and array of places to shop for coffee or food was a nice site to see. Certainly Berlin is more modern in that sense than Prague. Though Prague is a beautiful city that has access to much more than it has in the past, one can still sense the development of the city still occurring from an economic perspective compared to a juggernaut like Berlin. I felt like I was back home in a way with the access to such great food, nice service with a smile, and people expressing positive emotions rather than getting a sense of the locals "just surviving", which I have heard is common amongst the Czechs. We shall see how the rest of the trip goes, so far so good and on another note, I walked over 2 miles with a backpack and small suitcase to get to my hotel. Screw the cab, got to save my money somehow. Had to get some exercise and burn some beer and salami calories I've accumulated. Can't wait for the ensuing days, tomorrow is a new day.

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