This blog post begins with what is quite possibly the hardest and most exhausting leg of the journey yet. However, I am relieved to say that the perilous day starting in Oslo does eventually end with us tucked up in bed in Berlin 31 hours later.
Lets kick it off with our expedition from Oslo to Copenhagen.
The first train went perfectly and lulled us into a false sense of security, taking us out of Norway and back into Sweden. The next station however, proved difficult, as it lured us into a strange version of Where's Wally, but instead of having to find Wally, it was a tram disguised as a train. This bizarre game took us outside of the station into a pedestrian zone, where trams collected passengers from the centre of a square, Then, after finding our disguised train- and watching it pass us twice from the opposite side of the tracks to where we were standing- us genius' finally got on.
The tram then took us to our next station where it seems Oslo had one more word to say about our ongoing heat battle. It had infected Sweden with its heating problem, winning once and for all with an unbearably hot train journey that was strangely only hot in our specific carriage. This adventure across Sweden and into Copenhagen, then culminated by a 3 hour wait in the nearest Burger King across from Copenhagen station – Well, only after getting kicked out of the station Starbucks when it closed for the night. This is where Holly discovered that if you need a public nap, burger king is the place to go. They had chargers and food and padded seats- practically a hostel.
We arrived back in the station at midnight, ready for our overnight train straight to Hamburg, only to discover that it was no longer going to Hamburg. No, instead it decided to keep with the ongoing tradition of stopping before our final destination. So, we then found ourselves ejected from the train in the town of Flensburg at 3:30am. Panic then ensued as every single person on the train, alerted by the announcement to wake up and run for the opposite platform, made the mad dash outside and into the awaiting train to take us the rest of the way into Hamburg. In the confusion, we nabbed an empty row, no-one longer caring for allocated seating, and immediately fell back to sleep.
The journey doesn't end at Hamburg however, as at 6:30am we immediately got onto a fully-packed, 2 hour train to Berlin, which was then followed by a 5 hour wait at the station as we were on strict orders not to check in till 4. Now you might ask why we didn't simply go out and explore Berlin for these 5 hours. At this point, we were so exhausted that any sort of walking about in the summer heat felt like too much of a challenge. We had something better, our saviour- Burger King. Holly also managed to spend much of this time waiting for the 02 shop to open, so as to change her Norwegian sim card.
The journey to the Airbnb itself wasn’t bad. A short metro journey, a quick walk and we were finally at our Airbnb in Krausenstraße. After a 31 hour journey through four countries, countless coffees and far too long spent in fast food chains, the urge to collapse into a Burger King fuelled sleep coma was great.
This was a very strange day in many ways, as Holly spent pretty much the entirety recovering in bed, and so this part of the blog will be solely written by me! (Tamsyn) You finally get a break from the third person writing. I was left to go out and explore Berlin on my own, which was mildly terrifying, please never let me do that again. We had previously booked a Segway tour for the day as I had wanted to show off my superior Segway talents to Holly which meant I couldn't back out. Though the 40 minute walk to the tour start point gave me enough time to seriously question my decision to do it without Holly.
The tour did end up being well worth the self doubt. The tour guide was lovely and had us whizzing through the roads and across the city, only stopping long enough to take in the different sites and large throngs of tourists, before continuing on to the next one. I did crash into an unexpecting fellow Segway tourist at one point, but we don’t talk about that. I of course have mastered the Segway, so any mishap could not possibly be my fault. .
1. Our first stop on the tour was the Neo-Renaissance Parliament building, The Reichstag. This parliament building is the seat of the German Bundestag, and offers 360º views of Berlin from inside the large glass dome perched on top of the building.
2. Then we were on towards the famous Brandenburg gate, which was as you'd expect, super impressive, both due to the size and splendour as well as the rich history behind it. I will say however, that it was packed with tourists and their selfie sticks, which as someone who generally tries to avoid large crowds of people, was mildly uncomfortable.
3. The tour then took us to the Memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe, which as you can probably guess from the title, was sobering. The sheer scale, and monotony of the 2,710 columns created an eerie atmosphere and the feeling of loss.
4. Of course the tour took us past parts of the remaining Berlin Wall and the Topography of Terror exhibit.
5. The tour then took a brief stop to see the line of tourists waiting to take a selfie at Checkpoint Charlie and a quick visit to Museum Island before finishing back at the start point.
By the time I got back to the Airbnb, over 3 hours after I had left in the morning, the only evidence Holly had moved from the bed at all was a hairbrush now on the floor. I joke, but she was truly quite ill this day. Ill enough that I felt bad enough to go grocery shopping so I could cook some sort of healthy dinner.
It was during this seemingly quick walk to the store that the Great Berlin Bubble tea trek was born. You see, there was a small bubble tea shop right next to the local grocery store. I was not to know that it would close immediately after walking past it. So with bubble tea on the mind, when realising the store was closed, I decided to instead of cutting my losses and going back to the hostel to find the nearest open bubble tea shop (half an hour away, and across the river) and walk to it (I should add that I didn't drop the groceries off either). The shop then ended up being a small stall outside a busy restaurant, which as it wasn’t very clear, I walked past three times before actually seeing it. And then to make matters worse, I then had to walk all the way back juggling both bubble teas, and the shopping.
Tamsyn had originally planned on visiting the Devils' Bridge this day, but after waking up and realizing we would actually have to leave our beds at a reasonable time and travel by planes, trains, steam trains and automobiles to get there, we instead settled on making a visit to Sanssouchi park and palace in Potsdam- a much more attainable journey as it took only Berlin Friedrichstrasse from Potsdam Hbf station.
Somehow, in the time it took us to journey from our Airbnb to Potsdam, the sun decided it was his time to shine. We sat around in the train station for a little while deliberating if we would be cooked less if we walked or cycled. Then decided to bite the bullet and walk, (only after realising we lacked the braincells to work out how to unlock and pay for the bikes).
Considering our initial plans had not originally included a visit Potsdam, it's not a city to miss out on seeing during a trip to Germany. As a city of UNESCO world heritage sites, and the birthplace of film as we know it, even the walk to the palace was spectacular. We walked down cobbled streets with bright yellow buildings and architectural feats. Sanssouchi park, when we finally got there, overheated and ready to jump into the nearest fountain, was a sprawling site with not only the grand palace we were expecting, but many palaces and buildings of different styles. Though keeping to true form, Holly was still more interested in pointing out all the fish and ant nests she could find around the park. Perhaps still a bit loopy from her illness the day before.
Once we were back it was laundry time. Whilst we would not normally mention such a mundane and boring task- the simple laundry trip ended up being a good portion of our time in Germany. After leaving it until 8pm, we finally looked up our nearest laundrette, to find it was a 20 min S-Bahn away. Easy peasy. Off we went with our classy and stylish bin bags full of clothes on a Friday night surrounded by well-dressed Berlin club goers. *stereotypical hold music plays to the image of Tamsyn and Holly sitting on our empty bin bags on the floor of the laundromat, waiting for a washing machine to finish*
Finally, at 10pm we were off back to the station where we proceeded to watch the last train of the night leave without us. Thus commences the 50 min walk through Berlin at night carrying our bin bags full of now clean clothes.
Twas a rainy day. And what do you do when you are in the capitol city of Germany on a rainy day? You leave it and visit a tuberculosis sanitorium. (there was also a bonus hammock).
Whilst it might not sound like the most obvious or exciting destination when you have travelled all the way to the city, it was a surprisingly pleasant day out. The abandoned hospital complex, is completely overrun by nature- the once lavish facility designed to encourage clean air, sun and time spend outdoors in the surrounding forest completely in ruins. Wrapped around these buildings was a treetop walk, both haunting and slightly thrilling. Of course no abandoned hospital facility is complete without a giant hammock stretched out above it. One that neither of us were brave enough to take more than 3 steps across, though there may have been one or two pillows launched at an unexpecting Holly.
A mandatory visit was made to the little tea shop, because apple crumble obviously, which was our final stop of our day!
So far we had made it through the majority of the journey without much time spent in a museum (Tamsyn was very proud of this) so it was about time we started museuming it up, and where’s better than Berlin. No more cycling to a museum just to stand outside and admire from afar. No, today we actually went inside.
The first museum that we booked tickets for was the Neues Museum. There they had a few permanent exhibits such as 'Ancient Egypt' (which included the bust of Nefertiti), 'Treasures from the Rhine' and 'Prehistory & Early History'. They also had a temporary exhibit of 'Treasures of Uzbekistan'.
We then headed over to the our second and last stop of the day, the Jewish Museum. As can be expected the range of artistic and informative exhibitions were sombre and at times, hard to witness however, experiencing and learning from the museum is a stop that we would recommend to anyone.
I’m going to be honest here, there’s not a whole lot to say about our evening in Brussels. We arrived quite late, and at this point our social batteries had pretty much completely run out. Our hostel Appart'City Confort was about a 15 min walk from the station, in the neighbourhood of Anderlecht. Although it took longer to get inside the hostel than it did to walk there, taking many attempts to locate and figure out how to open the entrance door, (Holly gave up and instead started waving like a lunatic to catch the attention of anyone inside).
The train back to London, for once actually stopped at its final destination and did not leave us stranded in France, as we were fully expecting from previous experience.
Alas, the time was here to say goodbye, which we did, getting on separate trains home, and then immediately calling each other 10 minutes later as we both missed each other immediately.
Travelling through Europe for the past month has been one of the best journeys of our lives, and we can easily say that we will never forget the memories it has given us. We’ve grown throughout this experience and have truly enjoyed sharing our experiences with you. As introverts who usually shy away from stepping outside our comfort zone and interacting with people we don’t know, I hope this inspires other to take the same leap and discover that travelling can be for anyone. It doesn’t matter how you travel, as everyone travels differently, in our case often disastrously. But enough of this cheesy nonsense, thank you for joining us on this adventure!