Not Quite Off The Grid

I am currently in a “cabin” (the owner’s word, not mine)  on the side of a mountain in Virginia not too far from West Virginia. I am here for the oldest reason a single man has for going someplace where he doesn’t want to go: to take his mother to visit her grandchildren.

Despite all of the nature, this is not my natural environment. I am a city dweller. I love cities. I have always lived in a city since I have been old enough to control my own destiny. You will see most of my travel will be to cities. Don’t misunderstand me, I love nature, but I like to visit for a short time and then go back to civilization. It’s best that way for both nature and myself.

It’s also best for nature if we just spend a little time there and leave it be. It’s been having rough time the last 200 years or so. I feel bad messing up what is left. Most cities are on t sites where man ruined nature long ago. Let’s live there and not screw up any more of it.

I enjoy air conditioning, pizza delivery, water systems, sewers, screens on widows, museums, convenience stores, knowing an ambulance could get down my street if needed, cell signals, and non-bug-based sounds. The fact I can post this due to cable being present here means that this place is in the weird rural yet not rural that so much of America is.

On the plus side, I got to pick my first apples. We had to drive about half an hour to get to the orchard from the mountain compound. As much as I enjoyed the apples and picking them, I REALLY enjoyed the most civilized part of the orchard, the hard cider tasting room.

It is great seeing family, but we really should do it in a city. We all live in them. They are very convenient.

 

Berlin and Back

I had a mid-morning flight to Paris on Air France followed by a three-hour layover at CGD then back to Boston. I checked my bags in and headed to the Air France Lounge (or salon, as they say en français) at Berlin Tegel Airport. On my way I grabbed a handful of euros from my pocket and bought some interesting snacks in a vending machine. Upon entering the lounge, I saw every single one I just bought was free for the taking. Sigh. I grabbed some breakfast and a few coffees.

Both coming and going into Tegel, we walked on the tarmac to get to the plane. I’ve only had that occur once before when flying. It is kind of cool.

AF Plane
The plane! The Plane!

It was a short flight from Berlin to Charles de Gaulle and I decided once I had landed and gone through passport control, to go the lounge and get some work caught up that had come in the night before. The Air France lounge in my terminal was being renovated so an employee directed me to the one in the next terminal. He said since I had a few hours, there was more than enough time to get the shuttle there and back. So off I went.

The food selection was very good, and as always the booze selection was top notch. I hopped on the Wi-Fi and got my work done. My flight was scheduled at 3:30pm, and at about 2:00, I told myself, “One more glass of champagne and then I’ll head over to my terminal”. At about 2:30, I left the lounge but couldn’t find out how to get to my terminal. I went back to the lounge and asked the agent at the front how to get there and he informed me the last shuttle to that terminal left a half hour ago. D’oh!

The Air France employee that was so helpful in getting me to the lounge had neglected to tell me that I had a curfew there! A VERY helpful Air France employee almost walked me to the tram between the two terminals. The down side was that I’d have to go through security again. The upside was since I was the only idiot waiting until the last minute to get to the gate, there was no line in security! I got there is plenty of time, but was very nervous en route. It helped they had a delay in boarding. En route I saw Street Fighter II in one of the waiting areas but had no time to play. Next Trip!

Street Fight II
Hmmm. I guess it takes euros.

 

The service on all four of the Air France flights I have been on this trip has been excellent. Champagne before the meal, wine with it, and cognac after. Not bad for flying economy. I have a few more Air France flights over the next few months so it’s good to know that I’ll be flying in comfort, or at least full of wine and cognac!

 

Berlin Day Fünf!

My last full day in berlin would be shorter on the tourist stuff since I had to pack and spend some time getting the last few gifts I needed for people back home. It was raining again so my plan to go to a museum that day proved to be the smart move again.

I decided to go to Deutsches Historisches Museum  and if I got through it with enough time to spare, hit one more in the area. My plan was sunk when I spent about four hours there. The museum covers about 1,500 years of German history. Since I know little about Germany pre-1900, I had a lot to take in. I still would have gotten out in a few hours if I hadn’t spent so much time in the section dedicated to Germany from 1918 to the present.

One of the items was an amazing surprise: an original 1925 poster for Fritz Lang’s film Metropolis. If you haven’t seen it, you should. It is a sci-fi classic. They now have on DVD one of the most complete versions in existence.

Metropolis
This thing was beautiful and huge.

 

There was a large section on Germany during the Nazi era and a pretty good section on the two Germany’s during the Cold War. If you are a history buff, a whole day would not be out of the question there. The cafe had amazing desserts and pretty good coffee.

After finishing at the museum, it was time to grab the last few gifts I needed and head back to the hotel to pack and do a little work. On my way to a Christmas shop I was going to in order to get a few things for my mom, I stumbled across a currywurst stand that a guidebook said was worth a try.

Curry 36 is a simple stand by a train station, but worth trying. For six euros I got two large wursts and 500ml of beer. Their sauce is the most like ketchup of the three that I have tried, and I don’t care for ketchup, but their sausages were hands down the best. Piping hot, and when you get the version with skins, a nice snap when you bite into them.  I downed my dinner and headed to a nearby shop to grab some food souvenirs and a few things to snack on as I packed at the hotel.

I don’t usually do as much on my last day of a trip since I try to get to bed early in preparation for a day of travel. The must difficult part of the last day is getting all the souvenirs packed. I buy too much stuff, but in my defense, I buy a lot for family and my pet sitters. I try to justify my insane travel schedule by telling people that’s where I do all my Xmas shopping. I don’t think anyone is buying it.

 

 

 

Berlin Day 4

Sunday came along and that was the day that there were a few flea markets that I wanted to check out. The only catch was it was supposed to rain. I woke up to rain and debated on whether or not to go to the one I was most interested in the Antikmarkt Ostbahnhof. I’m fine with the rain, but I wasn’t sure if this was set up in a way that they would still have it if it rained. I decided that I’d go there first just to be sure.

Once again, I was in luck, they were not going to let some light rain spoil a perfectly good antique flea market. I am an antiquarian. I can’t help it. I always have been. I got a degree in history and geography in college and that just made it worse. So an antique market in Berlin? Yeah!

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There were about 30 to 40 vendors wet up and due to the weather, not much of a crowd. I looked over all they had to offer. Lots of old stamps, albums, some jewelry, books, etc. The things that most caught my eye were things from East Germany (DDR). More than one vendor had old Soviet and DDR pins, military patches, hats, etc. I grabbed a few pins and then spotted something that no other sellers had: an East German passport.

I know absolutely no German. The average German dog knows more German words than me. I looked at the passport and flipped though its pages. No price was marked on it. I hoped that my prolonged gazing at this one item would stimulate the seller to offer a price. No such luck, he was talking to a pal behind the table. In my mind, the price was going to be too high. I walked to the next stall but couldn’t get my mind off of it.

I grabbed my phone and put “How much is this?” into Google Translate. I strolled back and asked the guy how much the passport cost. He answered. It was at that moment that I realized I should have done more studying of German numbers. He must have been able to tell I was confused because he held up ten fingers. Only ten euros?!?!?!?! I tried to act cool as I pulled out my cash. It is the perfect transaction when both buyer and seller think they ripped each other off.

Why did I pay ten euros for the passport of a young East German woman from the 1960s? It makes a unique souvenir of my trip to Berlin, that’s why. Not to knock your snow globes and mini beer steins, but I think I won the souvenir battle with that item alone. I also bought an East German coin from the year I was born, some WWI era German banknotes, and three amazing vintage postcards.

 

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WWI Front
Der Kaiser!
WWI Back
Can anyone translate for me?

DDR Front

DDR Back
Can anyone translate this?
Just Plain Awesome Front
Just Plain Awesome!!!!!
Just Plain Awesome Back
Can anyone translate this?

 

After finishing at the antique market, I decided it was time for food and some more cash. There was a bank near Alexanderplatz where I had spent part of yesterday, so I headed in that direction. The Oktoberfest celebration and market that was going on the day before was still happening, only with smaller crowds due to the rain. Life is all about timing, no?

I had a terrible time deciding what to eat, but once I saw currywurst, I figured it would be stupid of me to go to Berlin and just try one currywurst. I was correct, this place had a great sauce that was closer to BBQ sauce than ketchup. Nicely done!

I also went back to the nice ladies selling cheese and sausage that had hooked me up with dinner the day before and grabbed more cheese and sausage.

Meat & Cheese
They sold me my dinner!

I bought some for dinner that night, and grabbed two links of smoked sausage to try to take back home to the US. I’m not sure if you are supposed to bring cured meats into the US, but I’m going to roll the dice. I bought one link for myself and one for my carnivorous friend back home. If US Customs gets it, well, they deserve it. They have a tough job and nobody appreciates them. They deserve a good sausage.

The rain picked up and I decided to head indoors for the rest of the day and made my way to the Bode Museum on Museum Island. The building alone is worth checking out. The collection is varied; lots of statues and paintings, but the one thing I really wanted to see what the numismatic collection. It did not disappoint.

After looking through the museum, I decided to head back to my hotel. German cheese, wine, and sausage were in order for dinner. I’m in no way a wine snob, to me wine is like pizza, some is better than others, but it is all good. German wine, even the cheap was very impressive to me. I will definitely keep it on my radar when I return to the US.