Where to go next?

U-bahn Berlin

That’s the walking route underneath the U-bahn, the local city trains here in Berlin. Berlin seems so modern to me. I’m always surprised to see architecture that hints at a much older city.

And speaking of the U-Bahn, here’s a German thing that would never ever fly in the US: all the city public transit runs on the honor system.

You walk into the station and you SHOULD buy a ticket before you get on the train but no one is standing there to make you do it and there’s no machine to guard the train entrance… Technically you could try to wrangle free train rides. I’ve wondered all month how many people actually buy tickets because only twice have I been stopped by train officials boarding the train at random to check tickets. However, one stopped me today and EVERY SINGLE PERSON in my car had a ticket.

To repeat, I’ve been checked twice in a month which means Berliners get checked a couple dozen times a year. And they all still buy tickets! Where does that sense of civic responsibility even come from? In America the train system would collapse in weeks from a complete lack of revenue. No one would ever buy a ticket. Americans would figure that even with a steep penalty for riding free they would still get about a month’s worth of free subway rides! And then they would probably refuse the pay the penalty. You’d have to arrest them on the spot. I’ve spent my month here in Berlin completely bewildered that the trains still run. I don’t understand it at all.

I always have a ticket here in Berlin but I’m only law abiding because I know that if someone’s gonna get caught doing something dumb, it’s gonna be me. And buying a ticket is the right thing to do. Of course.

And in other (more exciting) news, I’ve got (more) travel plans!

When I first came to Berlin, my short list of places to visit included Poland, Prague and a general “more places in Germany.” That’s the trouble with taking me anywhere, I always want to see what else is around. I did scale my traveling plans way back – for me – and made plans to spend a lot of time here in Berlin because I’ve learned hard lessons about traveling places and seeing too much in too short a time. I always come back from those trips exhausted and overstimulated, making all kinds of promises that I’ll never do it again but then I leave my country and realize how big the world is and I just want to see all of it! Right now!

As my time in Berlin has gotten shorter, I’ve wished I could extend my stay for another month. I get bright glossy visions of all the things i’d do here in Berlin with several more weeks but the truth is that I’d just leave Berlin as often as possible to see all the countries around me. I’d probably not see much more of Berlin even if I were here for the whole summer.

As an aside, it’s actually been very interesting to travel away from Berlin because I always get a sense of “coming home” when I return. That’s a relatively foreign feeling for me and it’s fun to feel it here. To feel a sense of the familiar as I get off at my train stop and walk back through my neighborhood to my apartment that has all my stuff in it. It’s been years since I lived in a city where I was excited to come home.

So, after all that diatribing – not a word, whatever – about traveling too much in too short a time, I made plans to go to Prague on Sunday just a scant few days after I’ve just returned from Poland. I did justify it by saying that I planned on Prague, and this is my last week to go… etc.

But then… my friend Sarah messaged me today to say she had some time off next week and could we get together? I invited her to Prague and she said “maybe somewhere warm?” She lives in Switzerland (although I met her in Honduras… a story for later) so we looked at places between and around us and she suggested Italy. Where I’ve never been and always wanted to go.

In the course of 4 hours, we had tickets to Florence so now it seems I’m going to Prague and then I’m going to Italy. Prague and Italy in the same sentence and the same week.  Gives me chills and all manner of grand visions of spectacular food, gorgeous architecture and the odd glorious sunset.

I’ve only planned a trip like this one other time, to the Galapagos with my friend Jules. We started with a casual email back and forth about perhaps taking a trip together at some point and less than 24 hours later we had plane tickets. This trip to Italy will be much shorter and just give me a savory mouthful of Italy to dream about later but I’m still doing it because Alex Garland said it best when he wrote in The Beach:

“Never refuse an invitation. Never resist the unfamiliar. Never fail to be polite and never outstay your welcome. Just keep your mind open and suck in the experience. If it hurts, it’s probably worth it.”

If I have a traveling philosophy, that’s it in a nutshell.

A few more days of Berlin coming at you before I go, including a Michelin starred restaurant tonight. I’ll tell you all about it tomorrow.

One thought on “Where to go next?

  1. Yes, and yes to the philosophy. BTW_ the DART system here in Dallas is buy a ticket and maybe show it on the train. I buy it, because they patrol the train more frequently here, and also, I’m pretty law abiding.

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