First leg of the trip from Seattle to London. I got lucky and had an entire exit row to myself. I sat in the middle so I could watch my iPad on one tray table and have food and drinks on the other. I actually got not one, but two meals on this flight. I didn’t take a picture of my breakfast croissant but I had one of those too. I tried to not sleep too much on the flight so I could more easily adjust to Berlin time, but it’s a 9 hour flight and there is only so much of The Challenge I can watch. Also the pilot’s landing was so abrupt that I hope he got the extra rental insurance because he definitely broke something.
The flight from London was shorter than I thought because we crossed another time zone. Unlike the last plane, this one was packed! They made people check their bags because it was so full. I got the middle seat which is the worst seat of course. Luckily my seat mates were the “I don’t want to talk to you” types which are my favorite. Also this pilot touched down so gently I didn’t know we even landed.
After checking in I decided to get unpacked first and then go find some dinner. I apparently waited too long because most places were closed already. I have limited cell phone coverage, talking 2G speeds, so looking places up on the fly isn’t the easiest. I finally stumbled upon the Wulle Café & Speisenwirtschaft where one of the workers took pity on me and helped me order a pork schnitzel and fries. And a beer of course.
Funny story here, when I attempted to pay with my card the machine didn’t work. Tried that a few times and still not working. Tried a different card and same thing. Tried a third card and still no dice. The lady was very confused and said that she didn’t know what was happening. I asked if there was an ATM close by so I could run to get cash. I figured I could leave something with them so they knew I’d come back. No, she tells me, “Just come by before the marathon and bring it in. I trust you.” Wait…What? You’re going to just let me walk out of here? Crazy!
I was able to find an ATM a couple blocks away and pulled the cash and ran back to settle my bill. I found out that this lady had run the Berlin Marathon 10 times! She’s not running this year but said she’s going to watch the race and she’ll be cheering for me and the rest of the runners.
This is my home away from home for the next week. As you can see the view out the window I look out on the Porsche and Audi dealership and also the street. It’s hard to see it in the picture, but spray painted on the street are three blue lines that denote the shortest path for the marathon. If I wasn’t running, this would be a great to watch on Sunday as the race will run right in front of the hotel.
Another funny story here. After I checked in, I walked my stuff up to the room. It was very sunny so the room was well lit be side of the big windows. I tried to turn on the light in the bathroom on, not working. Weird. Did I have the right switch? Think so. Maybe the bulbs burnt out. No biggie I’ll tell them in a little bit. Go to flip on another light. That doesn’t work. Go to adjust the thermostat , also not turning on. I walk down to the desk to figure out what’s going on. Turns out you have to put your room key in a reader right by the door and then everything will come one. She had forgotten to tell me. Here I was thinking I checked into a broken room!!
Also check out the square toilet.
The plan this morning was to get up early and eat breakfast at the hotel. I definitely got up early…like 2 AM early! Which is 5 PM back home so I took advantage of the time change and checked in with everyone back home. After which I went back to sleep.
I woke up again at 9:45 which was too late to have breakfast at the hotel. My river tour wasn’t for another 3 hours so I decided to walk to the tour meeting place and find food around there. I ended up at a little cafe right up the street for a chicken wrap and homemade lemonade.
River tour through the city. I originally scheduled to do a walking tour, but I decided this would be better for my legs.
Funny note about the first picture. That boat was docked on the side of the river, and my boat captain definitely side swiped it. That being said, he did back up and check out for damage. He didn’t leave a note or anything so hopefully it didn’t sink. I’m pretty sure he wasn’t drinking, but as you can see in the second picture I was! 😀
Some notable sites:
The Luther Bridge:
The audio told us to make sure to sit down because the bridge was very low. They weren’t joking, I barely had to reach up to touch the bottom.
House of the World’s Cultures:
This was a gift to Berlin from the United States in 1957. In 1980 the roof collapsed and had to be rebuilt in 1987. The locals like to call it Die schwangere Auster, "The pregnant Oyster".
This is where the Bundestag (Parliament) meets and is one of the most visited sites in Berlin. Tickets to go up in the dome are often sold out weeks in advance. Probably should have looked into that…whoops! The crosses are a memorial to those who died attempting to escape after the border was established.
Located outside of the Friedrichstraße train station, which used to be a border crossing for the Wall, this building was used as a goodbye point for those who could not travel into West Germany. Thus how it became known as “the Palace of Tears”.
Houses five of Berlin’s museums all in one location, including the Bode Museum pictured here and the Berlin Cathedral which was considered to be the Protestant equivalent to St. Peter’s Basilica.
Berlin Television Tower
At 368 meters this is the tallest structure in Germany and the third tallest structure in Europe. It was originally constructed to be a symbol of Communist power in East Germany.
Berlin Marathon Expo
Enroute to the expo, I met a fellow American on the train named John. He’s currently living in Dallas, Texas but we found out we both used to live in Richardson, Texas at one point in time. We ended up walking to expo together and chatting. More on John later.
Today was the first day of the expo and the line stretched around the block to get in. Luckily I noticed there were actually two separate lines which means we definitely jumped ahead of at least a hundred people. You had to show your start card and vaccination card to get in, and they also put on your wristband for the starting area on Sunday. Instructions were to not remove it until after the race!
The expo is held in an old airport hanger and parked outside were the official pace cars. This is the closest I’ll ever be to one of those cars as that’s what the elite athletes will be running behind.
I picked up my bib and my pre-race purchased shirt and jacket. John wanted to try his on to make sure that they were the right sizes while we were still there. I am superstitious about wearing anything for the race until after I run it so as you can see mine remained inside their packaging. I did briefly try on another jacket they were selling to make sure it was the correct size.
John and I signed this big wall Adidas had constructed and took pictures with our bibs which this booth, Sharingbox, was using to create a larger collage using stickers of the pictures. I went with the blue background and my sticker went below the E in Together.
Once we finished at the Expo, John said that he wanted to go to the Hard Rock Cafe and asked if I wanted to come. Originally I said I was going to my hotel, but after I remembered last night's dinner problems I quickly accepted his invitation. Oddly enough I have been to more international Hard Rock Cafes than US ones.
On my way back to the hotel I had a sudden urge to try one of the rooftop bars that I had read about. So after a quick Google search I finished off my evening at the Deck5 Rooftop Sandbar. Which also turned out to be a club as well so I guess I can also mark club off my list! It started to drizzle so I didn’t stay long but I did manage to take a shot of Jäger on my way out. Nice finish to an eventful second day in Berlin!
In case you’re wonder what this is, it has several different names. Some call it a plunger, some an insertor, and others a scleral cup. No matter what you call it, the purpose of it is to put my contacts in every morning. Why am I showing you? Because in my sleep deprived state this morning, I managed to knock it off the counter into the sink. Where it proceeded to fall partially down the drain and when I tried to fish it out, I made it fall all the way. This of course is the only one I brought with me, and a quick Google search let me know that I wasn’t getting another one today. Which left me with one option, hoping that the maintenance person could remove the sink trap and fish it out. I explained my plight to the front desk and he said that the maintenance person would try. I went to breakfast in the lounge and when I came back up the plunger was sitting back on the counter. Huge sigh of relief. What a way to start my day!
First thing on the agenda was to make my way down to Brandenburg Gate, which the marathoners cross under shortly before the finish line. In years past I’ve seen some runners stop running right after crossing the gate, not realizing they have another 300 or so meters to go. These pictures do not do it justice, the Gate is massive!
The other reason that I wanted to make my way down to Brandenburg Gate was to try and find my name at the Hall of Fame booth. Two things made this a looong and difficult task:
1) I showed up too early. The area the Hall of Fame is located didn’t open until noon and I happened to show up around 10. If you look hard enough you can see the blue booth in the distance on the left.
2) Despite being extremely reliable all week, Google definitely sent me to the wrong place. The address I put in sent me right by the Victory Column which is over a mile away!!
Long story short, I finally made it and found my name. Wayyyy at the bottom!!
While I waited for the Hall of Fame to open up, I visited the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe which consists of over 2,700 concrete blocks. Directly underneath is the information center which is free and well worth the wait to get inside. They did have a donation box as you went out and the guy was very appreciative to everyone who dropped something in the box.
Unbeknownst to me in my wanderings looking for the Hall of Fame, I happened upon the Friday’s for the Future Global Climate Strike. Thousands of people showed up in front of the Reichstag before marching down the streets of Berlin. The police had shut down several roads to accommodate all the people including a couple that I needed to catch the bus so I ended up doing a lot more walking than originally planned.
I can’t say for sure, but I believe that I saw Manuela Schär out practicing on a closed portion of the course. She has won the last four Berlin Marathons in a row so if that was her, it was super cool!
All the walking today really started to take its toll so I was going to finish my day at the Berlin TV Tower. When I got there the next ticket wasn’t for a couple of hours so I opted for the Viewing Terrace at the Park Inn. Not only was it way cheaper, but I could walk right in. It was sooo windy at the top so I took in the view for a little bit, snapped a couple pictures and headed back down. If this had been a calmer day I think it would have had way more fun to hangout.
Added note, while I speak almost no German, I speak fluent Starbucks!
Nothing planned for the day until this afternoon. After the last few days it feels nice to just hang out in my room. Did venture out to get some Starbucks and some food. In addition to some lunch I also picked up some Dunkin Doughnuts which I used to get as a kid before we moved to WA. Still my favorite.
Today’s only planned event was To meet up with John and some other people to watch the In-line Marathon and eat at the pasta party being held in the Mall of Berlin.
I took the train to Potsdamer Plaz where there are portions of the Berlin Wall still standing. There I met John (Blue marathon t-shirt), James (black jacket) from France, and Andres (thumbs up marathon jacket) from Ecuador. John pointed out the inlaid bricks that show where the wall once stood.
We were early for the in-line skaters so we decided to eat pasta first. Unfortunately since James wasn’t running he wasn’t allowed into the pasta party. Truthfully we were all prepared to lie and say that James was running, but James outed himself and told them he wasn’t a runner. The pasta feed took place right by this slide that goes from the 3rd floor to the first. It was closed otherwise I’d be tempted to try it. While we were eating we met Raj who is from London here running his second marathon. As we were leaving John grabbed another bowl which he gave to James when we met back up with him.
Outside of the Mall we watched the in-line racers. We made it in plenty of time to see the leaders go flying by. We were right around the 30 k mark so they still had a way to go. It was interesting seeing the different types of skates. Some had 3 wheels and some raced with 4 and almost everyone was wearing a one piece suit.
On my way back to the hoteI had to pick up some more food. Anyone that knows me knows that eating at 4pm isn’t going to hold me over for the night.
It wasn’t my best night of sleep here but definitely wasn’t the worst. And if I’m being honest it was about average for a night before a marathon. Breakfast consisted of a couple croissants I bought yesterday for this morning and a bottle of water. When I got off the train all I had to do was follow the mass of people. Everyone was going to the same place. Made it into my corral just in time for the elite athletes to be released. Now about an hour and a half wait until I start. Hopefully for a smooth race today but legs definitely feel a little heavy.
I finished. It was difficult from the moment I crossed the starting line.
The marathon animated the starting arch in the colors of the rainbow in support of “cosmopolitanism, tolerance and acceptance.” It looked really cool and was probably the most interesting starting line I’ve been at.
The race was crowded the entire time, but I never felt I was being run up on. I did have a few close calls with people crossing the street which was a little annoying. At the aid stations they had tea, which after talking with a German runner is very common. I’ve never had tea during a race but found that interesting.
As I mentioned the race was really hard from the very beginning. I won’t tell you some of the thoughts running through my head. My legs were already tired when I started and I may be developing plantar fasciitis in my right foot as it was killing me all day. I tried to hang on for as long as I could running a consistent pace but by the 27 km mark I couldn’t anymore. It was a very hot day which didn’t help either. There were a couple of times where someone on the side of the road would see my name and call out to me with some encouragement.
Once we made our final turn and I saw the gate however I knew that no matter how bad I was feeling, I wasn’t going to have a picture of my walking through the gate so I ran the rest of the way. I collected my medal, my food bag and my poncho and then I went and sat in the grass. Luckily I was looking at my phone because I got a text message reminding me about my virtual COVID test appointment so I had hobble back to my hotel.
Unfortunately because of disappointing finish and being grumpy I didn’t take any finish line pictures. Hopefully there will be some good ones in the race photos.
After a shower and some time to cool off I was feeling better. One of the people in a Facebook group had organized a meet up at one of the Biergartens in Berlin after the race. I made my way to Prater Biergarten and looked for any of the people I knew. Not seeing anyone I elected to get a beer and wait for them. As I was standing in line, the woman in front of me and I started talking about our races. Her name was Jackie and she was there meeting the same group that I was and we agreed to look for them together. Due to the long line we both agreed that ordering 2 beers at a time was the way to go. We found our group and people came and went throughout the night so there were a lot of names. By the end of the evening people were going up and ordering 4 beers at a time because you could carry 2 in each hand and it was easier to order for the group. 😀 There is a group picture out there, I just haven’t gotten a copy yet.
Around 10:45 the workers came by to grab glasses from our table. There were 10 of us still there and we probably had 25 glasses. Someone asked if this was last call and the guy laughed and said last call was 30 minutes ago so no more beer for us! As we were all getting ready to leave, a guy at another table was singing opera music so after some prodding by some members of our group he got up on the table and treated us to some songs.
A few of us were still in search for some food and beers so we went across the street to an Italian restaurant because runners love their carbs. It was me, Jackie from Toronto, Rex also from Toronto, and William from France. The waiter did tell us they were closing soon and we said we would eat fast!
After closing that place down too, we all decided to call it a night. I opted for an Uber back to the hotel because taking the train was going to take too long.
Funny note, when I got back to the hotel I stuck what I thought was my key in the box to turn on the lights and the AC. This morning when I was getting ready to leave, I went to grab my key and realized that I stuck my drivers license in the key box! Whoops. Apparently I had a really good night
Spent most of the day touring the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp. This camp housed the administrative offices from which all camps were directed. Maria the tour guide described Sachsenhausen as the spider with its webs spreading out across Europe. Some of the pictures:
The front gate that prisoners were marched through which reads “Work will set you free” which is also on the gates of other concentration camps.
A recreation of the neutral zone that surrounded the camp. Anyone who stepped into the neutral zone would be shot. Stalin’s son committed suicide this way when his father wouldn’t trade a Nazi general for him since he was only a corporal.
The “shoe track”. The German shoe industry utilized the camp to research materials that could replace leather soles for shoes. Prisoners would run on these surfaces for hours with weighted backpacks to test durability. Some of these shoe companies still exist.
The size of the cells in the “VIP” section of the camp. Sometimes there would 10 people in these cells.
Once the camp was liberated the Soviets, they turned it into a political prisoner camp of their own while also using it to spread their own propaganda.
Some of the memorials to different nationalities that were prisoners of the camp. There are more memorial plaques on the other side of this wall. At any given time there were upwards of 35,000 prisoners at this camp.
There are other parts of the camp that I didn’t take pictures of. I didn’t feel that they were necessary, they aren’t something that can be easily forgotten.
Last night in Berlin so I met Daniel (glasses) and Connor (hat) at the Hofbräu Wirtshaus. I had met them the night before at the Biergarten get together and they told me they had a reservation tonight. They are both paramedics and Connor had run the marathon as well the day before. Finished way ahead of me. 😀
Since Octoberfest in Munich had been canceled this was the closest we were going to get. At some point Connor made some friends with a large group of Germans who loudly told us we should move to their table. There is a lot of debate about who these Germans were. Connor said they all worked at an oil rig, but Daniel and I were talking to the woman in the white shirt and she said that they were all cops. The guy who’s head is poking out above Connor’s head in the picture said something to her about not telling us that they were police. Right after I took this picture they bugged out so who knows whi they actually worked for!!
Not wanting to end our night here and also a little confused by the police/not police we took an Uber to a bar, by Connor and Daniel’s hotel, that is apparently frequented by Quentin Tarantino. There we met a German college student who was up for the day registering for classes. One last picture of the three of us before I grabbed an Uber back to the hotel. Hopefully not the last time I meet these guys again. Connor wants me to go to Toronto and run a race with him so who knows! Fun last night in Berlin but I’m looking forward to heading home!!