Hitting My Stride In Berlin

Currently, I'm halfway through this Six Week Sabbatical Trip between jobs. True to form, I'm also 2 cities behind on these trip journal posts.

But now I'm in Vienna, with a desk and a strong Wifi signal… so I'm catching up.

After the foot injury in Hamburg, it became clear that my resoled Amazon riding boots needed to be permanently retired. If your primary activity is walking around and taking pictures, and you are carrying a relatively heavy item in your backpack that you actually can't use in that primary activity, you need to ditch that item. That's just logic… but I have to admit, I was a little sad to let the boots go. We've been through a lot together.  

RIP, riding boots.

Arriving in Berlin

Sometimes you end up somewhere and think: "I literally have no idea how I got here." Following the instructions to get to my hostel from the main train station in Berlin was pretty much like that. I didn't know if I was on the right bus, couldn't really pronounce any of the bus stops, and the bus stop where I was supposed to get off was under construction. I got off at the stop following mine, then somehow physically ran into the hostel after only walking around for about 5 minutes.

Let me be clear: navigating in a foreign country in a foreign language doesn't always work out like that, but it's cool when it does (and it's especially cool when I'm carrying the backpack).

Mission Number 1: New Boots

This particular trip to Berlin I only stayed two nights. If you're thinking that isn't nearly enough time to explore one of Europe's most important capitals, then you are correct.

I realized when I was mapping out the route that I was going to miss the Christmas markets in Vienna by about a week. Then I realized I could actually hit the Christmas markets in Berlin if I only stayed two days in the city on the front end of my trip, but came back through on my way back north to Copenhagen at the end of my trip. So don't worry, I'll be back for three additional nights a bit later in November.

And now I know where my hostel is, so that's a plus.

For my first night in Berlin, I had one primary goal: find new shoes that could keep my foot functional on any terrain through the entire remainder of the trip. At that point, I was looking at over a month left of multi-mile walking every single day… so I knew the shoes I needed to buy, even though I wasn't excited about the budget implications.

My very own pair of Timberland boots.

Say what you want about the Timberlands, here are the facts that matter: my mom has had a pair of these classics since the mid 1980s, and they still function as well as the day they were purchased (perspective: they are older than I am). They have a very heavy sole (perfect for cobblestones) and are just tall enough to provide some ankle support if you hit one of those cobblestones wrong. They are also made out of 100% waterproof leather: a perfect match for the weather in Europe.

Unfortunately, they are also very expensive… particularly if you have to buy them outside the U.S.

I have a list of dumb things I've done while traveling that end up costing me money, which I lovingly refer to as the "stupid tax"… as in, the tax on my stupidity. I need to put these things I've done into a post of their own at some point, so we can all laugh at me together. Not considering whether or not my old boots were up for 6 weeks of 20,000 steps a day on cobblestones so I could replace them in America instead of Germany is up there on the list, for sure.

Oh well. Stuff happens. At the end of the day, I'm thankful Berlin had a Timberland store.

Because I immediately got my money's worth out of the new boots.

Mission Number 2: Walking Tour… While Wearing The New Boots 

Since this was my first trip to Berlin, I thought it would be good to spend my first full day in the city on a walking tour to get my bearings. I was about 10 minutes late to the first walking tour I tried to join (underestimated how far I was from the starting point… typical), so I meandered around and grabbed a snack then headed back to make sure I made the next tour. I made a friend immediately on the tour, another solo traveler from London, so we hung out together and made sure the other one didn't get left at any of the stops while they got distracted taking pictures (this happens to me more often than you would think).

There's this funny thing I've noticed about walking tours in Europe. Usually, the actual tour is thirty minutes to an hour longer than it says it will be on the website. So if you head off on a walking tour that is scheduled to be two hours long, expect to be walking for at least three. I'm not sure why they do this: maybe they don't want to scare you away before you've even started? Who knows.

The other thing about these walking tours is that they don't generally make a loop. This particular tour started around Alexanderplatz (in the vicinity of my hostel) and ended at the Brandenburg Gate (nutshell: not at all near Alexanderplatz, or my hostel). This all would have been fine, except there was a protest/demonstration on the street from Alexanderplatz to the Brandenburg Gate… so right about the time the walking tour ended, they stopped all the buses in the area.

Final math, from being late to the first tour to walking back at the end from Brandenburg to Alexanderplatz: almost 6 hours of walking.

In the new boots.  

Not something I would recommend, because they definitely weren't broken in. But I purchased them to replace my primary walking boots, so I didn't have much of a choice.

Luckily, they handled it beautifully.

Guess they were worth it… even with the stupid tax.