Friday, July 14, 2023

RETROSPECTIVE: Germany by Train - 2014 - PART TWO (Berlin, Leipzig, Nuremburg, Stuttgart, Ulm, Saarbruecken, Trier, Frankfurt)

 With the same caveats as Part One - this is a 2019 transcription of a 2014 trip to Germany.

17 Aug ‘14 BERLIN

Lots to report today. I don’t know where to start, or even in what order to go. My memory is failing me, as the past few days have been a bit of a blur.

I don’t exactly remember what all we did on the 14th. I think it was mostly low-key, some wandering around and a nice meal (Konigsberger Klopse) at Wirtshaus Max und Moritz. I’m fairly certain that Mike was out running errands all day and I found myself in a bar celebrating the old DDR (East Germany). All-in-all, a good day.

The 5th was the day of the walking tour. We met up with Mike’s friend Liam and started the tour at a bar named for Oscar Wilde (I think). The whole thing was a lot of fun - not least because Liam was not afraid to be inappropriate. Oh, also the beer. Lots of beer as we walked. Sights seen included: Brandenbur Tor, Holocaust Memorial, Hitler’s bunker, Checkpoint Charlie, some churches, and other spots.

After the tour, Mike & I went to meet with Hanna, an old lady who was willing to let me stay at her place for a few nights. Everything worked out there and I’m at her place tonight and yesterday night. The rest of the evening was uneventful - I think we went home and I sent a minute in the cafe near his house before turning in.

On the 16th (yesterday) Mike had to work. I had a fairly lazy morning and attempted to do laundry. After getting lost trying to pick Mike up from work (he’d lent me his monthly pass), we finally connected and went for lunch at a wonderful little Italian sandwich shop called PIC NIC. Super delicious, and complete with cute, moody Italian hostess.

A quick trip home then we went to check out Hanna’s apartment and then meet Liam at some bar. The bar was nice, but small and devoid of women. There was a fat, gay Finnish guy who kept bothering us, but that’s another story. We decided to go to another bar.

We ended up singing Karaoke and just having a night. If it’s any indication of my inebriation, I was dancing my feet off and asked a girl for her number. The first part of today was spent drinking water and snoozing.

Today was interesting, despite the waste of the morning / early afternoon. I had “breakfast” at a little bakery and got 90% of the way through the conversation in German - I messed up at paying. I wandered a bit before getting food at a Doner shop. All went well there, but then I asked where I could buy paper (stores are closed on Sunday) which turned into a whole ordeal. I then got lost and got found.

In order to break a 50 EUR note, I stopped at a gas station for one beer. On the way, a whole official convoy passed by -- even the street lights were deactivated - it was very weird. I had a beer on the train, did some planning at Mike’s, watched a crust-punk argue with a cafe employee about where he could randomly dump his bike, then worked my way back to Hanna’s.

Now it’s time for bed. I had a chat with my parents via Google Voice and got pissed at GEMA for not letting me listen to music. Screw them.

(still) 17 Aug 14 BERLIN

Postscript - I have to say, I really like being allowed to take a beer along for the ride on public transit. It makes for a much more enjoyable ride. On the flip side of life in Berlin, I hate that there are bees EVERYWHERE. I suppose I shouldn’t be too concerned, but holy shit.


What all has transpired? Oh, right, lots. On the 18th I started out by wandering around. I got breakfast at some Turkish breakfast-all-day joint that turned into a whole ordeal. I was fine, but it was havoc from the beginning - the waitress cut her hand, there was a shift change, a huge storm hit that caused everyone from outside to come inside, &c. I just sat and drank coffee.

After that I got lost a bit in the Tiergarten. I eventually went to that DDR bar again where we met Heino the taxi driver. That is to say, Mike & I went to that DDR bar and happened to meet Heino. He was a lot of fun and we had a grand time just being bums. Among other things, it was determined that I am Fidel Castro’s brother, Raul, due to my beard. I was too polite to mention that I don’t think Raul has a beard.

The 19th was pretty low key in the beginning. A little internet, a little coffee, a little shopping. Then I went to a reddit meetup. It started a bit slow, but it turned into quite a party. At some point a guy came up to me “angry” and told me that he'd had a problem with me - he was supposed to be the loud American of the group! We laughed so hard we got glares. Also, I was meeting and greeting so many folks a couple new folks thought I was the organizer. That went later than it should have and I was very hungover today.

Which brings me here - on an afternoon train to Leipzig. I’ll get to town at about 3pm, which is 4- hours later than I wanted to arrive. I’ll wander for a bit then head to Dresden to wander there. Then it’s back to Berlin.

I’m at the point in my trip where I can tell the end is coming soon. Sure I still have more than a week, but there’s definitely a looming thought as the plane ride to Philly approaches.


Well, Leipzig was underwhelming. To begin, I got out of the train and was immediately shuffled into a parking lot. I had to find my way to the main part of the HBF where I was then confronted with a choice of storing my stuff for extra money due to not having correct change or hauling it around. I chose the latter. There was very little in the way of information about the city, so I had to wander around until I found a map. Long story short: someone had a checklist of what a typical German city should have and they placed one of everything Leipzig. I’d say it wasn’t unpleasant, just not striking.

Now I’m on my way to Dresden to do the same. I do want to see what if has to offer, but I also want to chill at Mike’s place. I’m also hoping a cute girl I met on the 16th continues to talk to me - it’d be great to actually see her again, if only for a minute.

Alright, I’ll probably put a couple more words down on the way back to Berlin.


Dresden was beautiful… from the train. I arrived late - just a little before 7pm. I checked the train schedules and it turned out that all the trains to Berlin took four hours except one leaving in 15 minutes. Naturally, I had no choice but to jump directly on that one. So, here I am.

BEER UPDATE: Bremen had Becks & an independent brewery. Berlin has been everything, especially Kindl, Berliner Pils, and similar. I had one beer in Dresden Dresdner-something-Keller Pils. I’m on a Hungarian/Czech train and am currently drinking a Staropramen dark and will have the light shortly. In other food news, I just had the best goulash soup of my life. Holy shit. Also a kid just ran headlong into a glass door with a satisfying “clung!”. I feel bad for him, but it was hilarious.

Another amazing experience was on the last leg of pulling into Dresden - we were passing by farmland and a small town and high above this stereotype of a town was a red biplane lazily making its way toward the train. Poetry.

So, now back to Berlin. The waiter says we’re a half-hour away, at which point I suppose I’ll make my way back to Mike’s and to bed. I’m looking forward to that.

On a reflective note, I haven’t really written any fiction this trip. I was really hoping to do so, but it seems my laziness has won out. [2023 - when have I ever been successful in writing fiction?]

23 Aug ‘14 BERLIN

It’s been quite an eventful, event-filled, past few days. On the 21st Mike & I went up the TV tower (Fernsehturm). It was very nice - Mike got a little emotional looking down on all the places he’s lived. We parted ways and I did some internet stuff before heading back.

On the 22nd, I got to go into the Reichstag dome. Very cool! The day was also filled with frustration though - first I was running late and the trains weren’t working. As a bonus, I missed three separate connections by five seconds each. Security didn’t give me too much trouble - I was noticeably flustered. Then it was dealing with tourists who didn’t know how to get out of the way. The dome, the view, and everything else was great - just the tourists were terrible. Oh, and I had to take a taxi, which was also frustrating.

After the Reichstag, I headed to the Victory Column, which was double frustrating. Not only was it a ton of tourists, but a ton of tween girls who couldn’t figure out how to pay admission. As a bonus, I found out at this point that my phone needed money.

So, I saw the two things on my list from last time and they were great, but frustrating. I then got a beer and went to the DDR bar. Everything got better, Mike & I jammed at the cafe, and now I’m recovering.

Bonus - I just got a text from that girl at karaoke!


If I had to pick a day to repeat a few times, it’d probably be yesterday. Mike & I had a great breakfast at the cafe and apparently the waitress took a liking to me. We then went to Tiergarten to see Anne (from Karaoke) and her friends where we laid about, picnic-style and occasionally walked on a tightrope. Lots of fun!

Mike and I departed for a Soviet war memorial after a bit. It was very moving and cartoonishly Soviet. We also had a little lunch of bread, cheese, wurst, and beer. It was great. Lots of good conversations.

We hit the DDR bar and ran into Heino again. Finally we went to the cafe for a little internet and the waitress just gushed on about how charming I was. Thought it might turn into something, but no luck.

All-in-all Berlin was a blast. I’m very sad to go, but I have plans to fulfill and will (eventually) have to go back to work. I’m on the train to Nuremberg with no idea what’s next or what I’m going to do.

One final note: snack cars suck compared to dining cars. I’ve become very spoiled after all this train travel and I want my full menu and waiter at a table with a seat - not some guy in a booth and hightops.


Yesterday & today got me thinking about some of my other good days. There have been a lot of them and I felt I’d share a few snippets in this notebook instead of the fiction notebook (if only because I don’t want to unpack the latter).

The first thought that was of climbing up and sitting in the tree to the south of Lafortune Student Center with Tim and Miranda. That was a good day and a fun day. A little lazy, a little funny, and very care-free. It also reminds me of climbing the tree in the back yard with the neighbors or “adventuring” in the small strip of trees that run from the south of the Young’s house down to the hill we used to go sledding on.

With the tight rope, I was reminded of wandering around the woods to the north of the house and how somebody had strung wires across the creek in certain spots so people could cross. I always wondered who put the wires up. Last time I went out that way the wires were down - I hope they’ve been repaired. Those woods were good to me - walking up the creek barefoot, shooting the muzzle-loader, just wandering around.

I love traveling. When I get back home I’m going to set up a travel fund for just this purpose. I also pledge not to wait three years before doing it again - at least one weekend trip out of the city and one week-long trip. Hell, working MTW & WHF would give me nearly two weeks away while only using three vacation days, and then I get seven more days for every three I use. Genius.

Alright, I’m at the end of my retrospective. Let it be known that the cafe car guy looks like he popped out of a Pink Panther cartoon.


First up, man is traveling by train pretty. I almost cried as we passed by a little town. I’m currently on an all-stops train to Stuttgart which is going to take three hours to get there. Then I check schedules and maybe head down to Ulm or another black forest town.

All that said, Nuremberg was lovely - just the thing to soothe my ills after Berlin. I got to walk around a bit in the evening and it’s just a great little city - complete with castle. My host - a man from Nigeria - was a bit odd. We had a miscommunication about when I’d arrive, when he should be around, what I wanted to do (he made a chicken dinner with wine - I wanted a local dinner with beer) and so on. Very nice, very welcoming, but very insistent that you visit on his terms. I hope my next hosts give me some space. So far I like AirBnB better than Couchsurfing, but the latter is free.


It turns out I missed the train to go to Aachen or Ulm on the 25th, so it was Stuttgart-Ulm-Stuttgart that day. As a note, the storage containers at Stuttgart are way overpriced.

Ulm was great. It started out weird, then I stumbled into a museum about bread. Best 4EUR I’ve spent. The lady suggested some restaurant - Three Mugs? - which was tasty. An art teacher bought me a beer after a little conversation. Then I wandered around the city center. Not much to report - same checklist as most towns.

In Stuttgart I connected with my CS hosts at a pub quiz where we came in fourth place. They were nice and I had a good time. On the 26th, I wandered around the city, just having a relaxing day. At around 3pm I discovered (or re-discovered) that there were Porche and Mercedes-Benz museums. Both closed at 6pm, so I picked the one that seemed closer/quicker - MB. This was the correct choice - Daimler & Benz invented the automobile independently so there was a huge historical exhibit. In addition, MBis the car used by royalty and diplomats, as well as in all sorts of weird applications. So, one show-room had a garbage truck, another had the pope-mobile. Super cool.

I ended the day by getting lost in a shopping mall, heading back, and playing Love Letter with my hosts. I’m now headed to Saarbrueken in Saarland for the sole reason the Mike doesn’t know anyone who’s been there. Then it’s up to Trier (Roman Ruins, Marx’s birthplace), then Frankfurt.


So it’s been a bit of a whirlwind of activity recently and I've either not had the time or the motivation to write. [2023 - lol, again, when have I ever?] That all said, I’m safely back in Philly and I had a great Welcome Home party.

(27th) Saarbruecken sucked. Smelly, dirty, and devoid of interesting points, it was Dusseldorf plus north Philly. I don’t have any stories because I caught the first train out of there.

Trier, on the other hand, was fantastic. Granted, it was a bit Disneyland: Trier, but they did a good job of it. The have two main attractions - the Roman Gate and the house where Karl Marx grew up - and they know how to use them. I’m tempted to go back sometime just to catch the gladiator fights they have in their colosseum. But yes, Trier was great - including a nice meal at a cafe called “Asterix”. Then one final, beautiful train ride through Koblenz and Mainz and I arrived in Frankfurt.

(28th) A lot of sleeping and a short river cruise was the order of the day on my birthday. Fun fact: I have discovered that I love waving at people from the back of a boat while intoxicated. Some other passengers were not so happy with this. Whatever.

I had a frankfurter in Frankfurt and my host - Franzi - and I had wine & cake.

(29th) I woke up, got ready in a rush and forgot my phone. Was yelled at throughout the airport for being “late” (I wasn’t) and then had a kicking, coughing kid behind me for the flight. Well, the start anyway - I moved and watched movies.

Finally, I arrived home and had a little party. Bad decisions were made, but it was fun nonetheless. Everyone who came seemed to have a good time, and it was very nice to see some old friends. As a bonus, it cemented some thoughts on some other friends [2019 - very cryptic - I wonder who I meant]. Yesterday was recovery, chores, and bills; today was an early start and, obviously, writing. Oh, and I am clean shaven for the first time in three years.

TIME: 26 Days

COST: ~$3700


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