Saturday, July 12, 2008


This trip to Berlin had happened during the trip to Hannover, The details of most of the Hannover trip are given in the previous post. I had booked the tickets online to Berlin from Hannover. Got up at 5:00 in the morning, Outside the sun was shining brightly as if it was 9:00. Quickly had an MTR packet for breakfast and set out for the nearest Metro stop at 6:15. At the metro stop, the ticket vending machine was malfunctioning. Somehow it was not accepting my coins. Luckily a German lady was also waiting for a train at the station. Hearing my plea for help, she came along and after checking the machine, she said in broken English that the machine indeed was not working. So I asked her whether I could board the train and get down at the next stop to buy the tickets? Hearing this she was shocked! She told me that even though nobody checked, it was not good to get on a train without a ticket. Instead she suggested me to catch a bus in an opposite street. I was reluctant to catch a bus, because I was not aware of the routes and by now I was comfortable with the train. But unfortunately it didn't look good to board the train without a ticket with this lady watching me. So went to bus stop, just then a train zoomed past. The bus was not long in coming, and after ascertaining the destination I bought tickets from the Driver.
After reaching the railway station, I went to the platform specified on the online ticket. There was still sufficient time for the train. After a 15 minutes wait, the train came. In my ticket the bogie mentioned was wagon 23, But this, I couldn't locate as there was no mention of any numbers on the train. So taking a deep breadth, I dived into the nearest bogie. Inside the compartment there was an electronic display mentioning that this was wagon 24. And in just about that time the train started moving. Finally after locating my seat in wagon 23, I made myself at home. The train started to gain speed and within no time the displays were showing a speed of 230 Kmph. During the journey the train reached a topspeed of 250kmph. The journey from Hannover to Berlin, which are 260 Km apart was completed in 1 and 1/2 hours.
I started my Berlin tour with Riechstag, the German parliament. Took the metro from the main station to unter den linden stop. Outside the station, after asking for directions I found myself in front of the huge building. There was already a decent queue at the entrance, and after a strict security check, which was similar to those in Airports, I got inside. The feature of this building is the glass house kind of a structure build on the top of the building. From this place we can get a view of the parliamentry affairs going inside the building and also a very good view of the city. There was also a collection of photos referring to the history of the building, I moved on after a cursory glance.
The next place on my itinerary was Bradenburg torr, This was just a monument in the greek style. But lot of history behind it, from Napolean to Nazi's to the final 89 revolution. This monument was originally built as gate to the Berlin city in 1780's, but later on took the shape of the city's symbol.
After Bradenburg torr, I got to the metro station and went to museum island. Museum island is surrounded on all sides by river spree and consists of only Museums. I went to the Pergamon museum, considered the best among the lot. The place was full of stuff from Greece, Persia, Babylon and would have taken more than a day to run through. I spent a couple of hours at this place and by that time had my fill of history. Came out and saw a park with benches, went there and had a quite lunch.
Next stop was the church Berliner's dom. A beautiful and majestic church, though unfortunately they were charging money even for a place of worship. Inside the church, all my camera baterries were exhausted and from there on had to struggle with my mobile camera.

Coming out of the church, I saw that I was in a beautiful part of the city with huge building, built in the greek style, I went for a walk on that road and again came across the river spree, the river was criss crossing this part of the city so many times that it gave a Venice kind of a feel for a traveller like me. Walking on the streets of an European city is altogether a different experience.
My final stop was at Berlin wall, East side gallery. Though this place was more or less in ruins now. The graffiti on the wall had all but peeled off. With a great struggle, managed to get only one shot out of my camera.
Finally after spending spending some time in Alexanderplatz, a large open square in the center of the city, I made my way back to the Railway station to catch the train back to Hannover.

Thursday, July 3, 2008


After boarding the flight to Frankfurt at 2:00 in the night from the new Bangalore airport, it was a long journey. The purpose of this travel was to attend the IEEE conference ICME at Hannover. Inside the plane, TV monitors were showing the height, outside temperature etc from time to time. Seeing the figures of 10,000 meters and -51F, a small prayer made its way through my lips. After a good sleep of 4 hours, I woke up to find Dhana Dhan Goal being shown on the TV monitors. I guess for the Airlines it is cheaper to buy flop movies and show it to a helpless captive audience. After landing at Frankfurt, I made my way to the gate of the Hannover flight.
Finally after a walk of more than a couple of kilometers inside the FA, I came to the gate of the Hannover flight. Here I made my first purchase in a foreign soil, Half a liter of water for 3 Euros. I didn't realise at that time that I was paying close to 200 Rs . The flight took only around 45 minutes and landed safely at around 10:30 in the morning. Having done some previous research on the local transport of Hannover, I had decided to take the local metro to the city center and then travel by bus to the hotel. After collecting the luggage, I followed the signs to the train station. Inside the station there were no manual ticket vendors, Tickets had to be purchased from the vending machines. Then started a half an hour struggle to figure out how to get a ticket out of it. The interface language was german but that can be changed to English also, Unfortunately I came to know about it only the next day. I was soon joined by a fellow Bangalorean called Sharat from Ittiam and a couple of Chinese guys. There were no germans in the station from whom we could have requested some help. Finally after banging on all the machines in the station, one of it showed some sympathy and gave us the tickets.
In Germany for the local transport such as the Metro and the Bus service they follow what is known as the honor system, wherein there is no checking for tickets anywhere, They expect the travelers to be honest enough to buy their tickets. Electronic displays showed that there was a train for every 6 minutes or so. Sharat and I discovered that we were staying in the same hotel so we traveled on together. The bus service was also good, again properly displaying the time left for the next bus to arrive. I was slightly dissappointed with the hotel room, for 65 Euros they were providing a cramped up small space, and also there was no free breakfast. A 2 minute phone call to home reduced the weight of my purse by 12 Euros. Once settled in, I broke open a MTR Bisibelebath packet, cooked it in the wash basin and had my lunch. The water they had provided in the room was nothing but soda and they called it sparkling water, I decided to check out the neighborhood shops to buy some still water and fruits, but unfortunately the hotel and the conference center was so strategically located that anybody could easily access a 600 acre forest, a Zoo and a peace loving residential area but not any shops. Further after coming back to the hotel, I got to know that on sundays no shops are open, this is a feature more or less in all Europe. So went back to the room and slept, only to get up in between for a quick MTR Pulao.
Next day I decided to check out the famous gardens of Harrenhausen. At 9:00 I went to the nearest metro stop, the ticket vending machine here was different and on top of it, It took only coins which I didn't have. I glanced around and found an Australian guy who was going to the city center for a shampoo!. He had proper change for 5 Euros, and with the change bought a day ticket costing 3.9 Euros . Using this ticket I was free to travel in all the public transport system inside the city. Changing two lines I reached the Gardens, I was expecting a KRS kind of a crowd, but here there was no one. The lady at the counter could not speak English so she called a guy on the wireless . The English speaking guy came and explained to me that there were three things to see here, one was the Aquarium, and the other two were gardens called as Grobergarten and Bergegarten. The whole package was for 14.5 Euros and the individual package was 12,3,3 respectively. I took the combined package and went for the Aquarium first. The Aquarium was really fantastic as they had a varied collection of sea life, including a tunnel through a sharks filled water. All the guides inside knew only german, except for the one who was near the piranhas. I got to know a lot about them as he gave me a lecture on them for close to half an hour. After the aquarium I went to the Grobber garten, which was more like our KRS with neatly cut gardens, fountains and flowers. There was a photo shoot going on in one of the lawns, with an eye catching, sparingly dressed brunette being the protagonist. I couldn't muster enough courage to steal a shot of the scene and quickly moved on. Then I went in for a lunch at the cafe near the ticket counter, here again the ladies at the counter didn't know English and after a few minutes of confusion, I was served potato salad with cream. After filling up my stomach, went to the bergegarten. This turned out to be really good as this garden had a varied range of beautiful flowers. I spent close to two hours here taking super macro shots. They also had several glass houses simulating different vegetations, such as desert, tropical etc. The glass houses even included birds from that region.
Finally at around 4 in the evening came out and caught a Tram back to the city center. Once there, went on a street roaming spree. In the process came across some landmarks of the city. Finally at 6, Came back to the main station and bought some water bottles and fruits before returning back to the room.
The next day after the conference, I went with sharat and Ajit (From TI) to a lake in the city called Maschee lake. The lake was big and it is said that it had been dug up manually to keep people employed. After a boat ride in the lake we came back to the city center and had a vegetarian burger before going back to the hotel.
The following day was mainly spent in the conference as my presentation was in the afternoon. The presentation went off pretty well. In the evening the organizers had arranged for a banquet at a restaurant near the city hall. We vegetarians had very less to choose from. A kind of comedy show was arranged and it was fun. Finally at 10 in the night we came back. The streets were completely empty that day due to the Germany-Turkey semifinals. After the match there were wild celebrations all around.
For the next day, I had planned for a trip to Berlin. I had booked tickets in one of the super fast trains. Will post the details of the Solo Berlin visit in a separate post.
Finally on 27, I took a taxi early in the morning which cost me 37 Euros! Then taking the Frankfurt route, flew back. Again during the return I had to endure the super hit Welcome movie. Though one surprising thing was, A German sitting next to me saw the whole movie and enjoyed it too! I landed here at 12:15 in the night and stood in a queue for 45 minutes for immigration and another 45 minutes for baggage collection, before finally taking a taxi, this turned out to be reasonable as the cost was only around 700 Rs!. One more surprising thing at the BIAL was that customs guys didn't even screen or check the Hand baggage.
Thus ended the trip to Germany.