Berlin Wall… and Airports
The Berlin Wall East Side Gallery was top of our list to see before leaving Berlin. After sleeping for half the day to recoup from the previous days’ relatively rough nights on busses, we took the S-Bahn to the same area where we had gone out to clubs last night to get to the East Side Gallery… but that’s when things started to go wrong.
We were getting off the S-Bahn train and were stopped by German policemen who demanded to see our tickets. The train system in Germany relies on the honor system; in other words, you don’t have to tap in and out of the subway like in New York City – you just have to have a ticket because if you are caught without one, then you are fined. Unfortunately this was the case for us, even though we had no intention of trying to cheat the system and get a free ride. We genuinely had misunderstood the unlimited ticket time parameters and thought that our tickets were valid until 3pm, not until 3am, so when we were stopped at around noon, our tickets were way past being valid and the officers said they had no choice but to fine us.
All our faces must have conveyed our shock and disbelief, so the officers gave us a bit of a break and instead of charging the usually €60 fine per person for the six of us, they charged a total of €240, which was to be split evenly among us all to even out to €40 per person. This was still really frustrating that out of all people they chose to stop on the train to inspect tickets, they chose us, and that we had been so careless to misread the tickets when we would have willingly bought the €2.80 ticket for today if we had known our tickets were expired. But, alas, lesson learned – we’ll definitely be more cautious when buying public transportation tickets in the future, and even with the fine, the subway system probably still saved us money compared to taking Uber or taxis to get around the city.
After that ordeal, we got Döner, which is a Turkish street food similar to a gyro that originated in Berlin, and it was extremely good (more on that in my German food post).
Then, we walked to the East Side Gallery, which is a long stretch of the Berlin Wall that is decorated with colorful graffiti and symbolic art.
Along the way, there was a man dressed up as a solider from the time of the Berlin Wall who offered to stamp your passport as if you were a West Berliner getting Visas to enter East Berlin or vice versa. He explained each stamp and visa as he put them into my passport and it was really thought-provoking to imagine myself in that situation, having to obtain a visa just to visit the other side of my city.
We continued along the East Side Gallery for about an hour, admiring more colorful paintings, and stopped for some pictures by the Oberbaum Bridge before turning back to head to the airport to catch our flight home.
The Berlin Tegel airport is now one of my least favorite airpots – the checkin time for BerlinAir was so late that we were worried we would miss our boarding time even though we were on line right at the beginning of check in, we got harassed going through security, there were no bathrooms at all once we got past security, our flight was delayed, and then we almost missed our connecting flight in Düsseldorf, which was on a propeller plane.
This combined experience really left me with a sour impression of German airports, and I was so glad to finally land home in Florence and return to the comfort of my bed. I do want to return to Berlin in the future just to immerse myself in more of the history and culture of the city.