Snow Storms, Schnitzel, and Confusion in Berlin Germany

July 20, 2013 Kristance Harlow
When I was going to Durham University I made an instant connection with Olivia. Her parents are both from Poland and she is fluent in Polish. Having so much extended family still in Poland she invited me to go with her there for Christmas. Neither of us had really considered going home, it was far, expensive, and we were living in Europe so if we were going to go anywhere it was going to be in Europe.
On the bus to Edinburgh airport,
laughing about someone we saw
making hearts with his hands.
In late November we finalized our plans and bought tickets to take a train to Edinburgh, Scotland and then to fly to Berlin, Germany and stay in Berlin for the weekend before heading off to Poland. I don’t know if you were in Europe in the winter of 2010, but it was not a mild winter. I’ve called Vermont my home base for half my life, so I know winter, but Britain doesn’t. The ice built up on the sidewalks in Durham and no one salted, sanded, or plowed them. When an inch of snow fell everything shut down. I did not understand it, at all. When mid-December rolled around Olivia and I were nervous that our train or flight would get delayed. Luckily it was a calm day for weather and we made our way to the Edinburgh Airport.
Olivia and her gin & tonic
On the plane we started our vacation off with a bang by downing a couple strong drinks. By the time we arrived it was mid-afternoon and the buzz was wearing off. Having pre-booked our hostel and looked up directions there, we boarded the Schönefeld Express from the Airport to Berlin. The train was the oddest train I’d ever been on, there were multiple levels, but not just a lower and an upper, there was also a raised area above the lowest level. There were no seats left so the two of us sat on our suitcases and tried to stay out of the way. Neither of us speaks any German, but we knew where we were going so we just waited for our stop on what we thought would be an uneventful train ride. But uneventful it was not, not only was it sweltering hot in the train and we had so many layers on to protect against the frigid German winter, but there was a group of belligerent tourists right in front of us. I can’t remember what language they were speaking, but they were not German, but they were drunk. Olivia and I just tried to look away because they were being really aggressive and getting louder by the minute. Our stop couldn’t come soon enough.
We didn’t know anyway to get to the Raise A Smile Hostel besides to walk, so dragging our suitcases through the snow we made our way there. It was already dark outside and the entrance to the hostel is behind another building, through a courtyard/parking lot and up these dark stairs. You have to press a buzzer to enter and then go through a maze of echoing halls up to the floor with the hostel. The hostel was lovely though, and our room was beautiful with a large mural on the wall.
Trains (Olivia’s picture)
Even though we were completely exhausted from the trip, we only had a little time in Berlin and didn’t want to waste any of it. After dropping off our things and attempting to freshen up, we headed back out. The snow was piling up and there were no cars on the road, but we were determined to get ourselves some German food and beer. The hostel is located in Friedrichshain, which is one of the hippest areas of Berlin, and just a short walk to Simon-Dach Straβe which is a popular street full of restaurants, bars, and cafes. We made our way there. As I said, it was dark and snowing heavily, so to this day I’m not positive we were actually on the correct Straβe. We did find a restaurant though, and it was busy, full of Germans and the menu was only in German so we knew the food would be good. Using broken German we got a table and deciphered bits of the menu, we both knew what schnitzel was so we went for it along with a good German beer.
The street the hostel is on.
We were trying to make sure that my schnitzel was one that wouldn’t be covered in cheese because I’m intolerant to dairy, thinking we’d sufficiently explained our order we got to chatting about what our plans were for the next day. When the food came out, wouldn’t you know it, mine was basically under a pile of cheese that was covered in another pile of cheese, sprinkled with cheese. I can handle a little dairy without getting too ill, but a meal like that would have put a serious damper on my vacation. It took five minutes of looking up words and pointing to communicate about the dish. Our servers were incredibly nice, but they spoke very little English just like we spoke very little German. We were nearly in hysterics cracking up about our confusion. By the time I got a schnitzel dish I could eat, I was starving and wolfed it down quickly. Olivia and I refused to let a little cultural barrier get us down, and we stayed out drinking, laughing, and enjoying the city late into the night despite the cold.

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  1. Rose L on July 22, 2013 at 6:49 am

    Yes, we are eager to hear.

  2. mplanck on July 20, 2013 at 3:54 pm

    So what happened next???? Inquiring minds want to know!

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