Tagitinerary

Berlin day 2 itinerary during my 2012 trip

Olympic stadium, as seen from the entry plaza. View all 88 photos in this set.

A Chicago friend designed my two-day Berlin itinerary, whether he knew it or not. He visited Berlin in March 2012 and sent me an email a week before I left for Europe describing in detail the various facets of the city, including transportation, I should visit. This itinerary is a mesh of his suggestions and what I actually did on Friday, August 31, 2012.

Take the S-Bahn to Olympiastadion. Make sure you note all the unused, but remarkably nice platforms. On exiting the station (toward the east) you get some great views of S-Bahn tracks and covered third rail heading into the city. Walk around the east side of the stadium (and think about how this is a place where Adolf Hitler opened the Olympics and the first television broadcast was done of, making a major plot point in the movie Contact).

Olympiastadion S-Bahn station platforms. The U2 line continues, but some trains may terminate at these platforms for events. 

I walked into the Olympic Stadium, walked 80% of its circumference, and noted all of the statues, some of the stelae, and read most of the historical information stanchions. I saw the swimming arena, which is still in use today (it seems to be a membership club, although not exclusive). The diving platform’s stair design has changed noticeably. The stands haven’t changed: they are covered in what looks like moss.

Disqus throwers statue by Karl Albiker. The accompanying sign said it was sculpted to show how powerful and masculine German male athletes (and Germans in general) were.

I then made a long walk to the north and west, past a Berlin football club and equestrian areas, towards the bell tower and Langemarckhalle (which is partly a memorial to the Langemarck battle in WWI, but now an exhibition about how that memorial was a myth and propaganda to encourage students to join the military). The ticket to get into Olympiapark also gets you on the elevator to the top of the bell tower (Glockenturm), giving you splendid views of the city in all directions. In the Maifield between the bell tower and the stadium, men were playing cricket. This humungous grassy area was used for youth rallies during the Nationalist Socialist (Nazi) era. From Wikipedia: “Maifeld (Mayfield) was created as a huge lawn (112,000 square metres, 28 acres) for gymnastic demonstrations, specifically annual May Day celebrations by Hitler’s government.”

Playing cricket in Maifield.

After another long walk, I exited the park and made my way to the U2 Olympia-Stadion station (note how the S- and U-bahn stations have slightly different names). This is where the U-Bahn museum is (it has weird hours, don’t expect it to be open), but before you enter, you can walk around the station house and get some INCREDIBLE views of an U-Bahn rail yard and shops facility.

The dreary-looking Olympia-Stadion station east of the Olympic Park.

Next, my friend told me, ride the U2 inbound to Eberswalder Straße (toward Pankow from Olympia-Stadion on the U2 line), and walk under the tracks a half-block south to the little stand with the tables outside. He wrote to me, “Have a spicy currywurst and a beer. You won’t regret it.” I ate it and drank a Berliner Pilsner and I didn’t regret it.

That spicy currywurst and beer under the U2 tracks. 

Next, walk back up to Danziger Strasse. Get on the eastbound/southeastbound M10 tram toward Warschauer Strasse U+S-Bahn stations. But get off at Frankfurter Tor, not the terminal.

Then, do this walk:

View recommended walk in a larger map

You’ll get a good view of some Soviet architecture on Frankfurter Allee, a cute walk through a gentrifying neighborhood with tons of lovely little shops, then see the massive, gritty S-Bahn station, the M10 Tram terminal, and the U-Bahn elevated terminal. (You’ll also walk past the hipster hotel my friend stayed in, Hotel Michelberger.) Then, you’ll end up seeing the Berlin Wall and East Side Gallery just before you cross the water from East Berlin into West Berlin – a profound act, to my friend, considering that it was not possible when we were born – and have a nice walk under the U1 el tracks up to a great elevated station.

Soviet architecture.

The beautiful Oberbaum Bridge taken from the north bank of the River Spree, near the Berlin Wall East Side Gallery. 

I didn’t walk under the U1 el tracks, but instead walked west along the East Side Gallery and then north on Andreasstraße. I stopped at a grocery store to get some grub and then boarded the U5 at Strausberger Platz, changing at Alexanderplatz U+S Bahnhof to the U8, getting off at Pankstraße and walking a block to the apartment I was staying in.

Artwork on the Berlin Wall. 

The name “Pankstrasse” written in a cool typeface.

N.B. I bought a day pass to use all transit minus Regio, IC, ICE intercity train service. I could use buses, trams, U-bahn, and S-bahn. I never waited more than 9 minutes for a train or tram. The average wait was probably 3-4 minutes. The day pass cost me $8.20. I was given access to a bicycle, which I rode on Thursday night with my hosts, but after walking around and taking transit all day, I declined to get it. I felt that I would be able to get around the city just as fast (or faster) by taking transit (yes, shocking, I know). I also wanted to ride lots of trains. Here’s the full gallery of photos from the day.

Friday, I try again

Because of severe weather delays in the Midwest (ice and fog), my plane to JFK from ORD arrived almost 4 hours later on Tuesday. That meant I missed to Rome Fiumicino before I even left Chicago.

In a situation like that, one’s options are poor and limited.

I much prefer Midway to O’Hare. Weather delays are less of an issue there (mainly because there’re fewer flights) and it is 4x closer to my house (in terms of time to get there).

I could choose to take my flight to JFK, arriving there about 10:30 PM (local time). I would then talk to the gate agent in JFK (which gate) or the ticketing agent and ask to be placed on standby for a flight to Rome. The Chicago gate agent was extremely helpful to me but would not place me on standby on any Rome-bound flight from JFK. When I introduced myself to him, he said he had called me on the PA once or twice (which I didn’t hear) seeing that I was not going to make my connection.

He explained there was not an open seat to Rome for days (he was telling the truth, according to the ticket counter agent). I decided that waiting in New York City was less preferable to waiting at home in Chicago. He had a ground worker pull my bag from “baggage system” (remember, the plane it would be loaded onto hadn’t arrived).

I told him I would attempt rebooking later.

I went to sit down in an empty gate and mulled my options. It was extremely difficult. My friend in Rome was expecting to meet me at Stazioni Termini di Roma at noon (local time). There’s no free wifi in O’Hare (nor Midway) so I couldn’t email him without paying $9 for the privilege – I’d have to wait until I got home. And I had no idea when I would be getting home.

I got my bag from the “lost bags area” near the baggage claim and headed up to the ticket counter. Wow, there was not a single person in line. Much different than 3 hours ago when I was in line for 30 minutes just to drop off my bag (I’ve since rearranged my bag situation so that I can just carry it on). The ticket counter agent (“Alexis” – not her real name) sighed many times during our conversation as she searched for an alternate itinerary. She complained several times that my fare class made this harder, as the airline limits the amount of seats available on an airplane in any fare class. She was still helpful and found a workable alternative for me. I told her I had to think about it.

I sat down and just stared at my calendar. How would this work? How is it interrupting my trip? In the end, I realized that the new trip meant I only had to skip Rome and that everything else was intact. I went back to see Alexis and she booked me on the flight. Done, and done.

Fast forward to Thursday. I’ve repacked my things, but this time into a rollaboard (roll on, whatever). I was able to put back some things I was going to leave (like my heavy SLR camera) because of the different luggage dimensions (I originally was taking a Jansport hiking backpack). I checked in for my flight, and Delta gave me the option of changing my flight plan (again) at no charge. Weird! So I found a better flight than Alexis booked me on. It goes through Atlanta instead of JFK but cuts my layover in half (now 3 hours instead of 6).

Looking at tomorrow’s weather forecast, it’s supposed to be snowing when I’m riding the Blue Line at 8 AM to ORD.

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Note: This is an unedited chronology of events I experienced on Tuesday. It was one of the most stressful days I’ve encountered. I was at the airport for almost 5 hours, and, including transit time, away from home for 8 hours (getting nothing accomplished, it turned out!).

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