Northern Italy 2012

22—30 October, 2013

(Note: All photos are clickable and will give you bigger and better sizes on flickr. I recommend looking at them there because they will look much better. If you just want to look at the photos and not read my rambling–I wouldn’t blame you–, or if you want to see the photos I haven’t included in the post, the flickr album is here. Videos will look best if watched directly on vimeo rather than embedded here.)

The night that I came back from Africa (the second time), my father picked me up at the airport. The boyfriend wasn’t due to arrive until the next day, so it was just the two of us in the car. On the drive home, I found out that he had booked himself a nice little trip to Italy to meet some of our family. Naturally, I jumped at the chance. Growing up, I’d never really interacted with any of my Italian family because I didn’t speak a lick of Italian and they didn’t speak a lick of anything but. The same is true now, more or less, but I definitely understand a whole damn lot, so I thought why not give this whole thing a try. And who knew when I’d have the chance again?

My father had already booked a flight and a hotel, and while the hotel bookings were easily changed, I really didn’t want to spend even five minutes on another plane this year (a vow that I’d break less than two weeks after my Italy trip, but we’ll come to that in the next post). So I decided, why not go by train? The boyfriend is always talking about how great trains are, and it was cheaper at the time than an easyjet flight, and I assumed it would also be more comfortable. Which it was, except I was bored to death most of the time. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

In a series of very unfortunate incidents that I will talk about in a bit, I lost the brand new trekking backpack I bought only this summer, so I had to use my gigantic suitcase. (Yes, I only own one. Shhh, that is totally normal, I don’t know what you mean.) And if I say ‘gigantic’, I mean ‘cannot possibly be carried through a train without hitting people left and right’. And it was heavy as… something very heavy, too. In addition to that, I had decided I’d take my laptop with me because my father falls asleep at like, 7 pm. For that, I took my laptop bag. And then there was my camera bag, of course. Three bags in all. I was so glad I only had to change trains once, as you can probably imagine.

Anyway. One nice afternoon in late October, I boarded a train.

Day 0: Berlin—Venice (22 Oct)

The boyfriend was nice enough to carry my suitcase all the way to the train station and even find my seat for me and put the suitcase where I could check on it occasionally. I had a reservation for the entirety of the trip, and the seat next to me was taken, too. But that was okay, because there really was a shitload of space in front of me. Nothing like any of the airplanes I’ve been on so far. Sadly, what with it being late autumn and all, the sun set about an hour into the trip, and after that, everything turned incredibly boring. The lady next to me spent most of the time sleeping, and while I did have my iPad to keep me company, you can only read for so long on that until your eyes hurt. Or maybe that’s just me.

I finally got to Munich, my ‘layover’, late in the evening (or early at night, I guess), and Jesus Christ, that is one cold station. After nearly freezing to death for an hour, my connection arrived and I got on. City Night Line. Sounds fancy, doesn’t it? It’s not. Really, not fancy at all. At least if you book one of those sleeping seats rather than an actual ‘bed’. Never making that mistake again. I had specifically booked a window seat, and even though the train was virtually empty, of course the seat next to me was taken. By some Asian dude who spoke close to zero English (let alone any of my other languages), and who didn’t want to sit anywhere else. So we spent the night like that, sandwiched between icy windows and very uncomfortable seats. I guess it’s no surprise that I didn’t really sleep at all.

Day 1: Venice—Rimini (23 Oct)

By the time I arrived at Venezia Santa Lucia station, my father was still at home, maybe even still in bed. (Not fair.) I had hoped to be able to put my luggage somewhere and walk about Venice a bit, even though I’ve already seen it and didn’t even really like it much, but because they were doing major maintenance inside the station, the usual luggage spot was closed. So I had my gigantic suitcase and my two other bags to carry, and walking around suddenly stopped being an option. I ended up having to sit my bum down in a café close to the station and entertained myself for five hours with one espresso and one croissant. Those alone were expensive enough, and I really didn’t want to spend more just to be able to sit somewhere. Once I thought I had sufficiently exploited my seat, I sat down again right at Canal Grande and took some photos of buildings and seagulls. As you do.

a typical Venetian bus


Ponte degli Scalzi

pigeons as far as the eye can see

lone seagull

It took my father more than an hour longer than he had said it would, of course, but finally, he got to Venice and I carried my gigantic, heavy suitcase over one of those horrible Venetian bridges right to Piazzale Roma. And then finally I was rid of the suitcase for a few days. Praise the universe, etc. etc. Dad had rented a nice little Lancia, but it didn’t have a USB port, so my Fleetwood Mac playlist was all for nothing! A travesty, I know.

At least we got to drive along the shore, which is what I’d planned even though going via Bologna would’ve been faster (and more expensive). I didn’t actually get to see more of the sea or even the shoreline because of all the smog, but it was still nice. We took a quick food-and-pee stop, and then another slightly longer stop that my father suggested, in Ravenna.

making a stop in Classe / Ravenna


Basilica di Sant'Apollinare in Classe Sant'Apollinare in Classe

Basilica di Sant'Apollinare in Classe

Ravenna has this gorgeous church with this even more gorgeous mosaic, so we went to see that and I got to take some nice photos. (This was also the moment that I re-discovered my camera’s image stabiliser; I’d never really used it, but wowwww was that helpful! How did I ever live without it?) And off we were again, towards out final destination: Rimini.

…where we arrived late in the afternoon. We checked into a rather fancy hotel, and went right out again to get some food. My father hadn’t been to Rimini (properly) in, well, decades, really, so we went to see the old town and he discovered that everything had changed (quelle surprise…). After some pizza for dad and some spaghetti for me, we got the best ice cream I have ever had (and I grew up eating my weight and more in Italian ice cream every summer). It was this amazing combination that one of the ice cream places in the old town makes themselves, of nutella and tartufo cocoa and white chocolate and something else I don’t remember. Wow with a capital wow. Seriously.


Day 3: Bologna (24 Oct)

Before I even left Berlin, I had planned a whole bunch of day trips. My father wasn’t very enthusiastic at first, being all ‘but I want to see family and I thought you did, too’, but let’s be honest, I’m not going to spend all day every day with family. They have their own jobs and their own lives. And as it turns out, my father forgot to call his cousin 5798495 times removed anyway, so he had some kind of conference to take care of. Suddenly, my day trips were 100% interesting to my father. Before we hopped into the car, we got ourselves some snacks and drinks at the supermarket (Aranciata Amara and Lemon Soda for me, if that means anything to anyone).

I wouldn’t have minded going by train, but going by car is always preferable, so I guess that was very good. We went to Bologna, and I had planned to either see the ice cream museum or climb one of the two towers (shh, Frodo, not those two towers). Well, they obviously have more than two, but the two Major Towers. The smaller one isn’t accessible to the public because it’s leaning over so much that it’s actually dangerous, but the bigger one, Torre degli Asinelli, can be climbed for just a few euros. I didn’t think I’d make it all the way to the top, especially with those mean mezzanines that made you think you were almost to the top when in reality you’d just reached another short stop after which you had another two Towers of Pisa left to go…

the two towers

Bologna from above

view over Bologna

But despite all the smog, it was well worth the effort. Bologna from above is almost as pretty as Bologna from street-level (I don’t want to say ‘below’, that sounds too morbid tonight). I took a bunch of photos, and then some more of an English family. After making my way down again (also not very fun if you’re not entirely unafraid of heights), I found my father on the phone with said cousin he’d been meaning to meet up with, who then told him it wasn’t going to happen because he’d had no idea when exactly we would be in town. My father was understandably disappointed, and in a way, so was I.

red city Bologna

Time for some cheer-up food! I finally had original bolognese in Bologna. Not with spaghetti, as is custom in Germany, but with the proper tagliatelle. Delicious. My dad, yet again, went for pizza, and all was well with the world again. Until we went back to Rimini, that was, because halfway there, my father was so tired he had to pull over and sleep for a bit. In the car. On the highway. In the middle of nowhere. The least fun of everything we’d been doing. Seriously.

Back in Rimini, I was finally told the cousin we’d been meaning to meet with—Maurizio— has a sister, and although my father was hesitant about calling her (don’t ask me why, this is Italy, people are nice there), I eventually managed to convince him. And living up to her nationality, the sister—Gabriella—promptly invited us over for dinner. Which we’d already had, but hey, this is Italy, right?

We went over and talked to her for a bit (well, my father did the talking, I just listened), met her son, and even managed to steal some of cousin Maurizio’s time later on. He just dropped by because he’d found a few minutes of free time, and after that, it was exactly like I’d imagined. Perfect, right down to the scrumptious food. (Which, if you care about that sort of thing, was piadine. Those are thin flatbreads you get everywhere around Rimini and Bologna; ours were served with squacquerone, rucola and prosciutto di Parma. Quite possibly one of the most delicious things I’ve ever had.)

Family reunions are amazing. I’ve always know that, and I’m a nostalgic person on a good day, but everything just worked so well and I understood pretty much everything that was said. The only thing I wish had gone differently was my stupid fear of talking in Italian. I’ve spent quite a while lying awake at night, knowing exactly what I should’ve said when. Except it’s too late now, of course. But there’s (hopefully) always next time.

And by then, maybe I’ll have figured out how to do this cheek-kissing thing properly, too.

Day 4: San Marino (25 Oct)

My second planned daytrip! After the last evening, my father was so mellow he probably would’ve agreed to anything. So we hopped in the car and drove the short distance to a parking lot in San Marino that is conveniently located right next to the cable car that ferries people up to the old town. And when I say ‘up’, I mean up. In a matter of seconds, we made our way from already-kind-of-high modern San Marino to the old town on the mountain. Or maybe it’s just a hill, but it sure looked big enough to be a mountain. It was freezing, and I’d already caught a cold the first day we were there, thanks to the AC unit in the car that my dad had set to shortly below zero, so I wasn’t very comfortable up there, especially not once we sat down to eat (finally some pizza for me, awwyis!), but I endured.

The views (and photos!) were well worth the effort.

sunset over San Marino

hidden empty piazza

lonely walkway

San Marino

We never made it all the way to the top castle; I was just too exhausted and cold, but I’m really happy with the shots I did get. And the smog would’ve made it more or less impossible to see anything from there anyway. So we walked around a bit more, back towards the cable car station. From what I’d read beforehand, San Marino is a tourist magnet for pretty much everyone staying in the general area, but when we were there, it was surprisingly (or maybe not so surprisingly, it really was freezing) deserted. I appreciated that very much.

A few more shots of random buildings, churches, and houses down the mountain, and we were on our way back to the hotel for what would be our last night there…

Day 5: Rimini—Udine (26 Oct)

…because the next day was the day my father had set aside for a vintage car exhibit of some kind in Padova. I have zero interest in cars, and even less if they’re vintage, so I had planned on walking about Padova for a few hours. Haha, nice try… I was so sick by that point that I couldn’t really sleep at all at night (and my father’s snoring sure wasn’t helping matters), so I was not only freezing cold pretty much constantly, but also exhausted. Add to that the woooonderful weather on that day—it was pouring down with rain—, and I ended up spending a few hours in the car instead. I even managed to sleep for a bit. In a car. In a car park. In Padova. Which is apparently a thing you need to do at least once in your life. Just like sleeping on a hotel room floor in Venice. But I’ll get to that in a bit.

Suffice to say, I can’t add Padova to my list of cities I’ve been to—unless I cheat, and I don’t like cheating. Towards the afternoon, once my father had declared his feet wrecked, we made our way to our second family stop, in a little village near Udine.

My father’s plans change constantly, so while I was planning to do daytrips to various places, he was planning how to ruin my plans by telling me that he had booked us into a hotel in Venice for the last night instead of us staying near Udine for the rest of the trip. That would’ve upset me much more if I hadn’t been too sick to do my last planned daytrip anyway.

I don’t really remember what we had for dinner that day and the next; it started with pasta with some tomato-ish sauce, and then continued on to green beans and a huge piece of meat. Not so fun for my quasi-vegetarian self. But if Italy is one thing, it’s the country of non-vegetarianism. You have been warned. At least we had some delicious lemony cake for dessert. And for breakfast the next day. And the day after that.

Day 6: Udine (27 Oct)

I was supposed to make my way to Bled, Slovenia on this day, via Gorizia and Nova Gorica, on three trains. But the weather still hadn’t let up; on the contrary, they were now predicting flooding in Venice for the next few days. And I slept until noon because I was so sick (and the house was freezing because apparently, people in Italy don’t switch on their heating ever, so the only warm spot was in bed), and after that, we didn’t really do much.

The only ‘souvenir’ I wanted to bring home was some more Aranciata Amara (for the boyfriend and myself) and some Lemon Soda, and I’d told my father about this from the beginning. But it was Saturday, and we were already far too late for shopping. We still went into town in the afternoon to look around a bit and take a walk, except it was raining so much that we all got soaked despite our umbrellas. And with the house being so cold, the clothes would never have dried in time for our departure the next day, so the heating was finally, finally turned on a bit and the house went from Hoth levels of cold to only refrigerator temperatures. Yay!

The two people we were staying with—Claretta and Gianni—used to live in our house near Rome when I was little, so I saw them and their sons every year. Again, I never could communicate with them, and weirdly enough, even though I’d grown up with that regional variety of Italian, I understood hardly anything they were saying when we were there, while I had understood everything in Rimini. Languages are weird, man. I will probably always fondly remember that moment when my father and Gianni had gone outside and I was left in the kitchen with Claretta who was cooking dinner. And because my father had explained to her that I didn’t want any meat, she was trying to figure out what to make me. In the end, after some pretty heaving gesturing and trying to understand each other somehow, we settled on scrambled eggs. (Thank the universe that I know the Italian word for ‘egg’. That could’ve been very awkward.) There was a similar moment the next morning when Claretta wanted to give us a plastic bag for our wet clothes. Those had already dried, but I couldn’t for the life of me remember how to say ‘dry’—if I’d ever known it in the first place. (It’s ‘secco’, if any of you are ever in dire need of the word.) And my father with his superb sense of timing was on the phone with his girlfriend back home, so I had to interrupt him to ask because no amount of gesturing on my part could have explained that no, the clothes weren’t wet anymore.

Anyway. A few years ago, one of Claretta and Gianni’s sons, who was (and maybe still is? told you I didn’t really understand much) in the military, had moved away from Lazio and up north. After a while, his parents decided to move closer to him, and now they’re all living together in the same house again. Claretta and Gianni have the ground floor, while their son and his wife and two little boys live upstairs. We went up to say hi that second day we were there, and it was all very awkward because, hello, language barrier, and while I was still sick, I really couldn’t blame that on my cold anymore. But the little boys were adorable and the grown-ups were super nice. And everyone was drinking coffee (the Italian kind, obviously) all the time, which I didn’t want to do because I was already sleeping far less than is healthy. So I got tea. Very good alternative, if you ask me.

That was day six; nothing much happened, but it was still nice to be among Italians again. Even if I didn’t understand a word, it was just nice letting the words wash over me like I had when I was little. I even made a recording of the three of them talking in the evening so I could show the boyfriend what an actual Italian conversation is like—shouting and all. And it’s not meant in an angry or annoyed way, it’s just normal conversation. Just perfect, just the way I remember it.

That evening, though, they also started discussing the things my father had gone to Italy in the first place to discuss, about our house and a bunch of other grown-up things, and because I was still feeling like death warmed over, I went to bed early again.

Sadly, there are no pictures or videos of this day or the next.

Day 7: Udine—Venice (28 Oct)

Didn’t sleep nearly as long this time as I did the day before. When I woke up, I had breakfast while the others were watching Italian news (more flooding in Venice, how fun, and add to that a marathon that was going on on that day—a marathon, in Venice of all places—and our plans for the day and the next seemed unlikely to work out. But everything was booked, so we didn’t really have a choice.

We went upstairs to say goodbye to the other two generations of this family, and then Claretta and Gianni, of course. And off we were to Venice. On the way—still raining, still disgusting outside—, I started drawing a family tree. My father didn’t know nearly enough names, but we definitely made a dent into this huge side of the family. Nobody knows just how many distant cousins and whatnot I have, which makes me sad. And apparently we’re not really talking to quite a lot of people, which makes me even sadder. I mean, I understand the conflict and the fight they had, but I’ve always been the kind of person who just wants people to get along and be happy. Guess that’s not happening. But maybe in a generation’s time or two, things will have settled down. With how many children Italians still have, I wouldn’t be surprised if our family lived on for a long, long time.

Arriving in Venice was a tricky thing. My father had rented the car until the next day, our departure day, because the rental place was near the airport, and if you’ve ever been to Venice, you’ll know that Venice the city is nowhere near Venice the airport. So our only choices were to either park the car at Piazzale Roma—where it’s always crowded—or at the tronchetto, Venice’s very own gigantic car park. It was still pouring down when we had to carry our suitcases (again, the gigantic one I had brought, as well as my two bags) to the boat that would bring us to Rialto, where our hotel was.

Now, when I say ‘where our hotel was’, I don’t want you to think for a second that we had one of those fancy, expensive hotels right at Canal Grande. No, we, probably like 98.3% of tourists, were in one of the back alleys, and I had looked up the way while we were wolfing down two insanely expensive slices of pizza near Rialto. It seemed straight-forward enough, but I hadn’t counted on that weird thing that Venetians seem to do where they give all their alleys names so similar that you’ll be thoroughly confused within minutes. Despite the awful weather (they were setting up little catwalks at that point so that people could move without drowning), there were more than enough tourists out and about, and the rain did the rest. We missed the alley that led to our hotel by just a few meters because another alley had virtually an identical name, and ended up lost in the middle of Venice in a thunderstorm.

It took us at least an hour, if not more, and the help of some local cook (who made us promise to come by for dinner later, which we didn’t because the hotel owner told us his food wasn’t very good) to find our hotel. Where the next surprise awaited us.

My father had booked a double room. I don’t know if Italians make a distinction there or if my father just didn’t care, but I will always prefer twin to double rooms. Even more so now that I’ve seen an original Venetian hotel room—and what they consider a ‘double’. The bed was tiny; my father took a nap right after we got there and he took up the entire bed just napping, and if that was possible, I would say the room was even tinier… Long story short, I ended up sleeping on the floor. In a hotel room. In Venice. I’m not entirely sure what I did to deserve that.

Anyway. Before ‘bed’, though, we had to go out again to get food somewhere, and I really wanted to check when the two supermarkets (that my Open Street Map app told me were about a kilometre away) would open the next morning. So we made our way through the pouring rain again, hoping we’d find the stupid hotel on the way back, at least. Moments like that are, I imagine, the only time Venice is ever deserted—it was dark, it was cold, and everything was soaking wet.

We more or less sat down in the first pizzeria we found. The pizza prices looked okay, but of course the menu outside didn’t list any beverage prices. So we ended up paying almost as much for a can of Lemon Soda and beer as for two pizzas. Welcome to Italy.

I had considered the possibility of still going out to shoot some photos; rain can make a wonderful atmosphere, but my father was adamant we return to the hotel after dinner. At least I had internet access there, so I ended up spending my evening online. And most of the night, too. Hotel room floors really aren’t as comfortable as they should be.

Day 8: Venice—Munich (29 Oct)

We had an early morning, were the first ones to have breakfast (which was, admittedly, nice and not nearly as tiny as the double bed), and then we headed out to the supermarket. By that point, my father was a little annoyed that I made him walk all the way to the second supermarket—the first one didn’t have the things I wanted—, claiming that I’d never explicitly told him that I wanted to buy something. Which I had. But that’s just another case of that selective memory loss that he has…

In a bizarre twist of fate, the weather was gorgeous outside. Talk about horrible timing! I finally got my Aranciata Amara and my Lemon Soda, though, and we made our way back to the hotel where I packed that and the rest of my stuff into my suitcase. That done, we were on our way back to our individual destinations. We hopped on a vaporetto (boat/bus), I got off at Santa Lucia train station and my father continued on to Piazzale Roma and then to tronchetto. A few days after the trip, he told me he had very nearly missed his flight because it had taken forever to get back to the car and even longer to get to the airport. But he obviously made it. I, on the other hand, had far too much time on my hands. Again, several hours before my train was scheduled to leave, so I again spent some of that time staring at Canal Grande. But even though the weather was wonderful—if still a tad on the freezing side—, they were already setting up more catwalks, and I would later find out that the flooding that followed our departure was much, much worse than what we had seen.

back in Venice

a beautiful day in Venice



After a while of sitting outside, it became far too cold, though, so I went into the station and wanted to get a drink as well as something to eat for the trip. Except, all the things they had were either sweets or various delicious bread-things that would have to be eaten straight away. So I just got a small bottle of Aranciata Amara and sat down for a while, and only when I had planned on making my way to the platform got a sandwich. It was delicious, but I still would’ve preferred to be able to eat it on the train after, say, half the trip. Now I would have nothing to eat for the trip. Try again, Venice train station!

The train, when it finally got there, was nice enough, but while I had hoped to have the seat next to mine to myself, too, that wasn’t to be. I had the most annoying couple sit next / opposite me (it was a weird three-seat combination and because I had booked a window seat, I sat next to the dude and his girlfriend sat opposite him, next to some kind of table). They talked about running and exercise and whatnot the entire time—she had apparently run the marathon—, and even when they weren’t talking, the dude just couldn’t sit still. He was constantly fidgeting. I was glad that most of that first leg of my journey was when it was still light outside; at least I could look out and take photos until we reached the Alps. It still felt like forever, though, those eight or so hours, and I was beginning to seriously dread the second part; 10+ hours from Munich to Berlin, in yet again one of those horrible sleeper seats. And it all got worse when my father called me. He had arrived at home before I even reached Verona. So not fair.

view from the train

in a row

After an eternity, incl. watching the annoying couple eat cold Italian pizza—seriously, who does that? if you get pizza in Italy, you eat it right away and don’t wait for it to get cold, especially if it only takes you a few hours to get home from Venice—, reading every single travel magazine I had on my iPad, trying to call the boyfriend several times only to be cut off by Bavaria’s useless mobile phone coverage, and spending one stop (the last one) in peace once the annoying couple had gotten off the train, I was finally in Munich.

Where my darling friend Book picked me up for a cup of tea. Or two cups, in my case. Yes, she lives there, and yes, this was all planned. I thought about getting something to eat, too, but I wasn’t really in the mood, so I just had the best tea I’ve ever had—apple tea with cranberry juice and a cinnamon stick—and we talked for the hour and a half or so I had at Munich central station. It was a lot of fun and I’m glad she came to see me, even if just for such a short time.

Then it was another City Night Line for me, but when it got there, a train lady got off the compartment I was supposed to be in and told all of us that it was an actual sleeper train this time. With proper beds. I assume something went wrong with the original compartment, but I can’t say that I really cared. It was super exciting and a very promising start.

At first, it was only three of us in a compartment meant for six. Two Chinese students who were spending their year abroad in France and were on a Germany trip were in the same compartment as me. We all got along super well and talked for quite a while. They didn’t really speak any German, but their English was fine, so it was actually a lot of fun. We were eventually joined by a Nigerian guy on his way to the Nigerian embassy in Berlin. He was… slightly odd. At some point, when we’d all figured out where and how we’d sleep, he tried to start a discussion about religion with me, and when he heard that I was an atheist—I really didn’t have the patience to explain pantheism to him, I just wanted to sleep—, he tried to convert me to Christianity. That was when I realised it’s true what my friend in Ghana had told me about religions in West Africa: Jehovah’s witnesses really are the moderate ones, it’s the Christians who are much more extreme in their views.

I really didn’t want to sleep in one of the top bunks, and neither did the Chinese girl, so we called dibs on the bottom bunks and had the two guys climb up to the others. Because we were only four people in there, the girl and I got to sleep without having anyone right above us. Very nice, that. And after one stop fairly close to Munich, we were told that we could now lock the compartment because no one else would be getting on. (Someone else was supposed to be in our compartment, but I assume they either missed the train / connection or stayed in another part of the train because they never showed up. Good for us.) We got ready for bed, as much as you can on a train anyway, and I secured all my stuff. With that done, and the soothing movement of the train, I actually feel asleep and slept until we were already at Brandenburg. That’s a definite first for me. But if I ever do go by train again—which I most likely won’t after my most recent fiasco; gonna talk about that in an upcoming post—, I will no doubt book a bunk in one of those sleeper compartments. And hope that not every bunk in my compartment is taken, I guess.

After Brandenburg, the next stop is Potsdam, and after that, I know the rest of the way rather well, considering that Potsdam is where my uni is, but the problem at the time of my trip (and for the past year…) is that trains can’t go directly into Berlin from Potsdam because they’re doing maintenance on part of the tracks. So we went to Wannsee, which is already in Berlin, where we were told to take the S-Bahn if we wanted to get to Berlin more quickly. There was to be a (scheduled) 30 to 45-minute stop at Wannsee where the train would lose its cargo tail that had been with us since Munich (cars, lots and lots of cars), and then we’d go back out of the city, ‘turn around’ for lack of a better term, and take another set of tracks that would get us into the centre and to the main station. I was tempted to take the S-Bahn because I know the way like the back of my hand, but I also had my gigantic suitcase and my two big bags. Plus, the Chinese and I were still having fun, and they didn’t want to take another train. So I chose the more comfortable way. If only I’d known…

We did leave Wannsee at about the time we should have, but once we had left the city, we just stopped at a random place in the middle of nowhere and nothing happened. Nothing whatsoever. There was no train staff anywhere—and I walked through half the train and asked people there who had walked through the rest of it—, no announcements over that train comm thing, nothing. For half an hour. We were still standing there long after we were already supposed to have arrived at Berlin central station. It was absolutely ridiculous. I tried to call my mother, who was going to pick me up, to ask if any of the signs at the station said how long our delay would be, but she didn’t pick up because she didn’t hear her bloody phone, so we were all none the wiser.

When we finally, finally moved again, it still took us quite a while to even get back into the city, let alone anywhere near the centre. And then we had another random stop in some tunnel a stone’s throw away from the main station. It was maddening. I finally reached my mother, not that that did much good, because she said she’d been told various different things. More waiting. It took us another fifteen minutes before we finally started moving again for the last time, and a few minutes after that, we were at Berlin central station and I was with my mum and only had to lug my stuff home. Praise the universe; no more train travel for me. Well, after London, anyway, which is going to be my next report.

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