(The original post in Bulgarian dates back from 24 April 2014.)
Third time lucky. I don’t know if it’s lucky but, against my whole will – for a third time in my life – I bought an InterRail ticket although the last time I’d told myself never to do it again… that is, yet again. This time at least I didn’t need any reservation – it turned out that you could travel between Czech Republic and Germany without a seat reservation.
And so, having spent my just transferred two salaries for the ticket mentioned, I said goodbye to my man with some tears in my eyes at the railway station in Usti and set off to Germany. The journey was comparatively calm – the only more adventurous moment was at the border when two German policemen spent five minutes convincing themselves that I wasn’t a criminal, judging by my ID card, and eventually – after a phone call – decided I wasn’t.
Before I took this journey I got rid of two misconceptions and, more specifically, that Hanover isn’t between Berlin and Usti and that Ksenia doesn’t live in Hanover but in a town 40 kilometres and 10 euros away from Hanover called Celle. And not just in Celle, but at the very end of the town – about 4-5 kilometres from the railway station – distance that we walked twice almost every of the days spent there. Not that I’m complaining. It’s definitely better that sitting all day long and writing news articles and if someone could pay me for this, I’d love to exchange my current occupation with a job as a “walker”. If there was such a thing, of course. Anyway. Here’s my German adventure listed and systematized according to the towns it happened in.
Celle, as Ksenia told me, is one of the few German cities that wasn’t bombarded during the war. That’s why there are many old pointed-roof houses in the centre of the kind you get bored of after two-three days in the country. There are almost no people walking on foot in the town – there are just car and truck drivers and cyclists. Ksenia and I, however, were forced to not blend in with the crowd. There is a pastry shop in Celle but don’t order grape cake there. There’s ice cream, shops, cobbles, castle, grass, statues, wurst and, generally, everything your German history- and culinary art-thirsty soul desires. Ksenia, as I said, lives at the end of the town all alone in a small but comparatively spacious flat with inconsistent hot water and as many as two lumber rooms where even her guests can sleep. Of course I slept on a bed. 🙂
Hanover left me with the impression it was not so big and yet, after all, a big city. We went there on Friday because each Friday the museums and galleries in the Niedersachsen province are free to enter. We visited two museums, walked under the rain, fed and took photos of ducks, found a bike left for whoever wanted it but we weren’t very interested in it, we took a stroll down the center where it’s full of expensive shops with nice window displays and, guess what… pointed houses! There’s also a botanical garden but we didn’t make it there because we only walked and didn’t have a lot of time to start with. In fact, bearing in mind how small the part of the map we walked is, I’d say Hanover might be a big city. 🙂
Hamburg is bigger but a lot more orderly and clean than its size would suggest. If I must describe it using several adjectives I’d pick brick, brown, sunny, river and… well, that’s it basically. It’s great for walks especially by the river which is called Elbe and it’s the same river that goes along my Czech home-town Usti, only Czechs call her Labe. I guess in the history of the change of this name there were involved a game of Scrabble and a lot of beer. That, however, is just my theory. More about Elbe/Labe you’ll learn below during the culmination of my “adventurous” tale. In Hamburg I parted with 6 out of my 15 euros altogether that I had for things other than traveling in the beginning in order to enter the photography museum. I regretted it a bit because the exhibition wasn’t big but a day later I regretted having regretted at all. Then Ksenia and I took a walk inside a Chinese food shop which felt exactly like a walk in a museum. She even bought two of the exhibited objects.
It’s time for the culmination of my “adventurous” tale. Determined to see the North Sea, I chose for us to visit Cuxhaven and Ksenia didn’t object (if only she had! :))
The reason why I chose this city was that it’s there where river Elbe/Labe begins or ends (depending on the point of view). I imagined how I’d go to its very mouth and would at least mentally send Lukash a letter in a bottle which would at some point reach Usti. (Yet another geographical misconception: Labe, of course, flows into and doesn’t spring from the North Sea. I guess the bottle in question wouldn’t have reached Usti but I could have sent a message to Svetla in Denmark. :)) Well, I didn’t make it. And you might think the reason why is odd – it was the wind. Yes, it was exactly the wind – whose metaphoric essence I adore because it blows the cobweb-tangled thoughts away from my head and brings something new – that ruined my mental throwing of a bottle in river Elbe. While we were reading, just to inform ourselves, the weather forecast, we saw that the speed of the wind in Cuxhaven would reach 45 kilometres per hour but I had a third misconception – that only winds over 100 kilometres per hour are strong. Well, Cuxhaven convinced us in the opposite. Somehow, although we have grown up by the sea, we entertained the thought that when we get out on the beach the wind would decrease. Of course, it didn’t decrease; on the contrary – it increased several times, began to throw sand in our eyes and make us stagger to the side and right when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, there began a hailstorm. After a few minutes that same wind blew the clouds away but we were already too wet and hopeless to try to walk on so, instead, we went back to the railway station. Oh, I almost forgot to mention that only the Celle – Cuxhaven – Celle journey took us seven hours. 🙂
Otherwise, after Lukash and I had found a baking tin and a dish drying rack in Dresden several months earlier, I had set off to Germany with the hope I’d find some awesome things on the streets. Well, the streets of Cuxhaven were full of awesome things – beach chairs, speakers, a meter-long flower pot, some kitchen furniture and whatnot. It’s pity that the whole time I was thinking solely about my survival and I didn’t feel like dragging some trash with me. All in all, after a week of wandering the German streets, I left for home with just one hanger. On the other hand, that’s my second hanger found on the street since I’ve been living abroad and, bearing in mind how few hangers we have in Usti, I should consider myself exceptionally lucky. 🙂
Berlin hadn’t figured in my plans at all although I’d long wanted to visit it. One day, however, Lukash sent me a text message telling me he had something important to tell me and that was that he’d found a way to come to Germany and for completely free, too. If he had been a busybody stalking me all the time I’d probably have got scared. Of course he isn’t so instead of getting scared I was happy. It turned out his university had organised a three-day trip to Berlin so that the students could visit some galleries and museums. The trip, however, was only for the students of Curator Studies (yes, here there is such a degree) so Lukash had to pretend he was a guy from this course who wasn’t present and then I, after I came to Berlin, had to pretend I was Adela Hrushkova which was extremely difficult when you take into account the fact that not only everyone there knew I wasn’t her but also I couldn’t deceive anyone I was Czech. Anyway, there were no problems with that.
I spent a lot of time at the railway station in Berlin waiting for Lukash to come and take me and, in order not to die of boredom, played my favourite game: “Which person could be a Bulgarian?” At some point I switched to “Which of the passers-by is suspicious and potentially dangerous?” All in all, during the 45 minutes I spent hanging around by the escalators of Berlin’s main railway station (but this definition can’t be given at all to Berlin’s main railway station whose size and architectural style deserve something more like the German HAUPTBAHNHOF!!!!) I didn’t see a lot of interesting or beautiful people, only one who was barefoot. But this isn’t important, I’m just writing it so that I can remember one day how bored I’ve been.
After Lukash found me, we spent 15 minutes trying to figure out the whole public transport scheme and then by the time we went to the hostel, had lunch and then were unsuccessfully hunting a bicycle pump (don’t ask why) for at least an hour, it was already too late to join the other people who were visiting galleries so we just took a walk in the centre, bought two jars of Nutella of the biggest type for 5 and something leva each (note: 5 leva approximates 2,5 euros) and we had some of it on slices of bread during our dinner on a bench. (It was probably then when I regretted having given 6 euros for the photography museum in Hamburg!) Then we decided to stop walking around aimlessly and began riding the metro with the aim to see a few sights such as the Reichstag, the Wall, the Brandenburg Gate and all that. Finally we went to Kreuzberg and we had beer in a bar with some university mates of Lukash’s. Then we went back to the hostel traveling without a ticket in the metro which was working during that night because, please note, in Berlin the metro works all night upon Holy Thursday. I still don’t get the logic but according to Lukash it was because Friday was a day-off and the city council knew everyone would get drunk the Thursday before that and thought they would need to go back home somehow. Czech thinking fascinates me!
On the next day all of us rode the “school” bus to a contemporary art museum (and a former railway station… pardon… BAHNHOF!!!) where there were a lot of impressive, important, hyper conceptual, interesting, original and all other types of works of that thing that is able to make you give up on life in one moment and in the next – to bring you back to it or, as it’s better known, contemporary art. Then we saw some modern art in another museum represented mainly by Picasso who I’m sure was a better person than artist. But who asks me. 🙂
I hurried through Berlin a bit but the truth is I really liked it. In the beginning it even reminded me of Paris, perhaps because the neighbourhood of our hostel was comparatively noisy, dirty, full of immigrants and lacking of order – something that, with the exception of the immigrants, I hadn’t seen yet in Germany. Besides, all the people we stopped on the street were really kind; one woman at OSTBAHNHOF!!!, for example, just saw us looking up something on the map and immediately came and asked if we needed help! And taking into account the fact that almost every German, not only in Berlin, knows English, then I definitely have at least a few positive associations with this country already apart from the cheap Nutella and the Ritter Sport chocolate. And the omnipresent bicycles! It’s full of bicycles! It even makes me angry the German word for “bucycle” is so dull! (fahrrad, if you please)
That’s most about it. I’m glad I went there because I needed a real live Bulgarian friend (think of this as a slight reproach for not coming to visit me) but now I have only 9 leva in my bank account (note: +/- 4,5 euros) which, after all, will be enough to cover one shopping trip to Kaufland because hey, I live in Czech Republic, not in Germany and Western Europe stars a li-i-i-itle bit further up from Usti. Or, in other words, it’s cheaper here. 🙂
The joke aside, when I arrived back to Czech Republic I felt happy I was there; I felt the country closer and more hospitable. Yes, almost no one speaks English here but at least it’s not so orderly and people still talk to one another. Or I’m biased… maybe that’s it.
You have to wait a bit for the photos. And why I’m waiting to earn enough money to get my films developed, I’ll tell you how Czechs celebrate Easter but that will be next time. (note: or, actually, never here unless somebody really wants it!)