Here is a link to the pictures from the trip described below.
So there's this new game called Hypertrekking that my friends Jeff, Greg, Scot and I invented. It's really only playable if you're in Europe and either a) live and work here or b) have lots of money. So it's got a limited base of players, but perhaps when it becomes a global sport, certain standards will be put into place to make it more accessible to any who want to play, and perhaps other densely populated countries will catch the wave and finally install decent train systems.
There are lots of rules, and many of them may seem to be arbitrary to outsiders, but for those in the know, they make perfect sense. Basically, it involves hitting as many countries as you can in as short a time as possible, with points awarded for cities, capital cities, cappuccinos drank in cities, monuments and famous buildings seen, concerts attended while hypertrekking, different modes of transportation used to get between places, and other general kinds of cool points awarded for random sorts of things. The basic equipment needed in order to play is: 1) A camera, preferably digital for faster point awarding, as you must have photographic proof of the places you’ve visited, cappuccinos drank, etc…etc… 2) Good Shoes; the professional Hypertrekker is constantly on the move, sometimes walking the entire day, so this is important. 3) $100 per day... this has not become an official rule as such, except for on the one day Hypertrek event, but it is a good rule of thumb as the experienced hypertrekker must be capable of making lightning quick decisions and itinerary changes, and travel costs are always an unknown. After all, you may unexpectedly find yourself on a ferry to Lithuania with nothing to eat but zwieback toast, and so it's best to be prepared. So that's all of the basics.
Now, previous to last
week, my own greatest Hypertrek involved a two day solo sprint from Munich to Ingolstadt,
where Mary Shelly went to medical school and used that as the setting for
Frankenstein. It was also where the beer purity laws of Bavaria were first put into place, and the
entire world is of course grateful for those. Then on to
Another great Hypertrek involved my friends Scott, Rich, Jeff and I. We took a train to Regensburg, got bored and decided to try to make a run for the border. The Czech border. To make a long story short, after many strange looks from Czechoslovakians when we got off of the train in the middle of Czechoslovakian nowhere, at a town named Domazlice, (One lady actually panicked on our behalf a little; She tried to stop us getting off and frantically queried “Prague? Prague?” as if she could think of no earthly reason why a bunch of Americans would want to get off of a Czechoslovakian train until we were safely in Prague. Of course, she hadn’t heard of Hypertrekking yet, but when she does, I’m sure she’ll be feeling a little sheepish, and if she ever reads of this account in a future issue of ‘The World’s Greatest Sporting Moments’, I want her to know that we’ve forgiven her) and after many misadventures in this strange little town, we missed our train back to Germany. We had to take a cab back through the border. We were hassled a bit by the Border Guards, because I think that they were very confused by four Americans with military IDs hightailing it out of Babylon (this is the name of the Czech border town, no lie) by taxi back to Germany. As if that weren’t the sort of thing that I’m sure happens all of the time at Czech borders. It was quite frustrating, and it also caused us to miss our next train from Furth im Wald (The German Border town) back to Regensburg. We did eventually make it back to Munich that night, but unfortunately missed the last train back to Chiemsee, and had to spend the night in an unsavory sort of a place of which I am still too traumatized to speak about, and I’m afraid that all I can say about it is that it involved some old boxing memorabilia and a waiter who took far too much of an interest in our well-being. That was also a great Hypertrek, and earned us many points for two countries, two cities, and most trains missed in one day, but the Hypertrek of which you are about to read an account must by it’s very nature overshadow the previous two, and the reading of the following account is only to be undertaken by those with Olympic reading stamina, or by those with nothing better to do.
My friend Jeff Nimmer, who is the only Deutschephile that I've ever met or even heard of, (in fact his nickname is Deutschemann) had been planning to take people on his 'Nimmer's Great Northern Germany Tour 2003' since last fall, when his 'Nimmer's Great Northern Germany Tour 2002' had been a great success. However, due to the fact that Deutsche Bahn has been running great deals on train tickets in Germany since February, everybody who was signed on had already pretty much been to most places that Jeff had wanted to tour. So the itinerary was altered a bit, and it became 'Nimmer's Great Northern Europe Tour 2003'. But before I go too much further, you should be aware that this trip has officially been voted as the greatest Five-day Hypertrekking event of all time, and can never possibly be beaten by us nor by any future Hypertrekking wannabees... EVER. So for all you hopefuls out there, I'm sorry, but you can only hope for second best. Only those who have a real love for the idea of the game, and not merely those who think that they can be the best at something that sounds fun and easy, but is in fact one of the most challenging and difficult sports in existence, need apply.
The scope of this
trip was so wide that the task of putting it down into words is most daunting,
but I shall begin and hope that I can convey at least a mere glimmer of all
On Tuesday the 13th of May, five of us; Jeff, Greg, Scot, Alison and I; caught a night train from Munich at 7 pm, which arrived on the isle of Rügen in the town of Binz at about 11 am the next day. The train ride was fairly uneventful, excepting two things; a German man who shared our boisterous cabin and did not seem to be completely sober, and who also professed to speak Thai; I think he was just making “ding dung dow ngyang” noises, however; and one of the most bowel dropping events of the entire trip: Jeffrey, in a fit of Hypertrekking madness, got off of the train during a 15 minute stop at 1am in a town called Fulda. Picture this: A German girl, completely unfamiliar with the madness of Hypertrekking Americans, is sitting at a stop light in the center of a normally quiet little German town at one in the morning, probably on her way home from a wearying day of mindless labor, and all of a sudden she sees this 6 foot something insane American running full speed towards her, but instead of stopping he runs right past her car, slaps his hand on the outside wall of the local church, shouts “Boo-yah! 25 points!”, turns around and runs full speed right back to where he came from. I’m guessing that the unfortunate girl went home and took some valium, and the poor thing’s nerves were probably never the same again, not to mention her sense of what the world is coming to. Meanwhile, we’re all waiting safely on the train, convinced that he’s not going to make it back, with 1 minute left ‘til departure. As the train begins to pull away, I am holding the door open, searching frantically for Jeffrey, while the train conductors are yelling at me to shut the door. I shout “Sheisse! Sheisse! Mine Freund!” at them because swearing in another language is all I could think of that might make the train stop. Well, what would you have done? So, all attempts at reasoning with the conductors aside, the train pulls out and it looked as though Jeff had missed it. The four of us were sitting there in disbelief, as the tour had barely started, and already its brave yet moronic leader had dropped out. We were just contemplating throwing his luggage out of the window, so that when he did make it to the train station, at least he’d have his stuff, when Jeff comes through the car door huffing and puffing, thereby transforming himself from brave moron to hypertrekking hero. Apparently he’d grabbed onto the tail end of the train by his fingernails as it was pulling out, and we hadn’t seen him. I really could have killed him, but seeing as how he was now a legend, it seemed improper to do so.
So that was our train ride, and although I’ve left out many other interesting tales, including the one about a bottle of Jagermeister and an angry train conductress, I believe the most important points have been made. So we’ll leave the rest alone.
The next morning, upon the train’s arrival on
Rügen, five disheveled yet well-rested Americans could be
seen leaving the Binz train station, headed for the beach. Of course, please
bear in mind that this is a beach on the Baltic ocean, in the far north of Germany, so even in May it’s not really beach weather. And so now I come to an onerous
duty; I cannot here in good conscience leave out our greatest failure… it must
become a part of the lore as a warning to future generations of Hypertrekkers.
I shall state the warning here first off: Never
pay so much attention to the smaller details of the trip that it causes you to
forget to perform the larger, more important point-earning tasks of the
It really is the most embarrassing thing. The week before the trip began, we had discussed the idea of awarding 1000 hypertrekking points to those who went for a swim in the Baltic upon our arrival in Rügen, owing to the fact that, as I have already stated, just because it is May does not mean that The North Sea is necessarily swimmable, and 1000 points are assuredly deserved for such a daring feat. However, upon our landing on the beaches of Binz, staring at that freezing cold ocean water, our thoughts turned inexplicably to where we should spend the night. I mean we were right there, and going for the frosty Baltic swim completely slipped our minds! The dilemma was that Binz seemed like a nice, if neither quite a warm nor a sunny place, but our ferry, which was to take us across the very frigid waters of the Baltic to Sweden, was to leave early the next morning from a smaller town further up the icy coastline named Sessnitz. This, being such a pressing issue, as it was already 11:30 in the morning, caused our failure to remember to attain the sorely desired extra 1000 points each. Later, when we realized our omission, there was much exhalation of breath in sorrow that we had erred so unthinkingly. Yet we braved on, as a member of our group had stated philosophically that life is often full of opportunities missed, and all you can really do is try and catch the next one.
At any rate, we left the ridiculously chilly
Baltic un-swum in, and decided to leave our bags at the Binz train station
while we went for a walk to a hunting lodge nearby, which was built by some
king or other in an earlier century. It turned out to be about a 4 kilometer
hike, and it looked more like a megalomaniac’s idea of a castle than a hunting
lodge, but that old German royalty always did seem to have an inflated sense of
the appropriate. So we climbed up the central tower of this so-called “hunting
lodge” to a spectacular view of the entire island, earning good hypertrekking
points. We were awarded extra points all around for braving the 4 click hike
rather than taking the silly little train-car ride to the top of the hill which
the tourism bureau was offering.
After that we headed back to the train station for a ride over to Sessnitz, where we found a pension, dropped our bags, and went on another really long walk, this time along the coast, where these amazing white cliffs drop down into the ocean. It was rather late in the day, so we unfortunately didn’t have time to go the full length of them, but we went as far as we could. The beach itself was just rocks, really interesting rocks, with streaks of chalk mixed through them like veins, as that’s what the cliffs were made of. We met this couple along the way who were busy collecting in plastic bags, not the really interesting rocks of which there were millions, but the most boring, grey stones they could find, of which there were only a very few. So they were weird, but they were kind enough to take a group photo of us.
I’d have to say that the white cliffs were one of my favorite parts of the whole trip, and that the best moment of the hike itself was standing on the edge of one of them, looking back at some of the ones we had just climbed up, and out over the ocean, watching the Scandlines ferry go by on it’s way to Sweden, which was what we were about to get up early in the morning and do ourselves.
So, between getting as far along the cliffs as we could and getting back before it was too dark, it turned out to be about a 3 hour hike. We then proceeded to chow down on some of the best pizza ever. Now, the idea that could have become our finest hypertrekking hour came to us while sitting around the table. We had seen on the ferry information booth that there were also ferries departing for Lithuania. Unfortunately there was no time schedule, and it was late so everything was closed. The essence of a good Hypertrekker, as I said before, is his ability to make lightning fast decisions about any aspect of the trip when faced with unforeseen possibilities and opportunities. And in spirit, it was indeed our finest hour, because had there been a ferry leaving for Lithuania at any time between then and the next afternoon, all five of us would have been on it quicker than you can say “ex-communist state.” We weren’t sure about the whole visa thing, so I used Alison’s cell phone to call the Hotel in Chiemsee where we work to ask the nice front desk girl, Heather, to look up online whether or not Americans needed visas to go to
Lithuania. And, as we waited with baited breath, she informed me that we did not, as a matter of fact, need visas! So I said, more to my fellow Hypertrekkers, “Thanks, Heather! You’ve been a big help; we’re going to Lithuania!” And there was much rejoicing.
And so, going to bed with dreams of
Lithuanians, Latvians, and maybe even Estonians dancing through our heads, we
slept the sleep of hard-core Hypertrekkians.
On Thursday morning we got up early and called the ferry line, only to be informed, alas, that Ferries only leave on Tuesday and Friday afternoons. And so are the plans of mice and Hypertrekkers swept aside like so much dust. It didn’t make sense to wait around for another day and a half when we could be headed to Sweden in a mere hour. And so we stuck to the original plan, but our hearts were on their way to Lithuania. Bonus points were awarded all around for being hard-core where it matters. Boo-Yah!
The Ferry ride itself was really very cool, though. It is four hours from Sessnitz to Trelleborg, Sweden, and the ride started off with some amazing views of the white cliffs as we left port. I spent most of the ride sunning on the outside deck and going down to the train deck and seeing but not believing that this boat I’m on actually carries trains. And cars and trucks. And Hypertrekkers. How can those things take on such loads? Crazy.
So for the most part, the ride was uneventful. Greg, who is an inveterate gambler, had sneered at the slot machines available to passengers as we’d boarded, being a Poker and Roulette kind of guy. But there was a moment of hilarity as Jeff & I at one point came down from outside and caught him hungrily staring at the various numbers and fruits as he dropped a few Swedish Crowns in, with nary a trace of the previously mentioned sneer.
So our arrival in Sweden earned us many points for
hitting another country, although I must say that that was the best thing about
Trelleborg. Except perhaps for that Doner Kepab we had there. (That’s like a
Gyro, only one million times better. It’s the Turkish version and they are one
of the things that I will miss the most when I have to leave Europe.)
It was a nice enough little port city and all, there just wasn’t much to see,
and I think we were all anxious to get to our evening’s destination. So we hopped onto a bus to Malmo,
which is where we had to catch a train to Denmark.
Malmo seemed like a more interesting town than Trelleborg, so we decided to go for a bit of a walk and maybe earn some cappuccino points. Malmo was in fact pretty neat and all, but the thought most prominently in my mind the whole time we were there was irritation at the fact that we had now been in two border cities in Sweden, and not once did any border guards offer to stamp our passports! That really is most vexing. When you go to all the trouble of visiting these far off little countries, a passport stamp is your just reward! Hmmph. We even tried tracking down the customs control people, which wasn’t as easy as you’d think it should be, let me tell you. Since when do you have to go looking for Border Guards!? And when we found their office, they were closed, and a train cop told us to go away! Although not before condescendingly offering to sign our passports himself, to which Scott politely declined. Shocking. Let me tell you, Sweden, I am not impressed. You and your dumb ‘ol relaxed attitude about everything. How does anyone get any sleep at night when everyone is going around all unconcerned about such important things all of the time… um, never mind. Come to think of it, perhaps we should have gotten our passports signed; it would be good evidence to the rest of the world on how shoddily Swedish borders are run.
The only other interesting thing that happened in Malmobwas when Greg, reprobate as he is, went into the Malmo casino to purchase a souvenir casino chip. He came out and told us that one of the top 5 most beautiful women that he’d ever seen in his life was working behind the desk. So, boys being boys, just because one of our friends got a neat new toy, Jeff and Scott and I got an inexplicable yen to have a souvenir casino chip, also. Which is really very odd, especially for me, as I normally care nothing for souvenir casino chips. But aside from that, I must say that Greg has some very odd tastes in women.
So with a hearty good riddance to Malmo, we hopped on a train across the newly built bridge crossing over to Copenhagen, Denmark, earning us massive bonus points for hitting 3 countries in one day using three different modes of transportation!
Copenhagen is one of the coolest cities I have ever been to. Danes are the friendliest, nicest people I have ever met. They were nice to us everywhere we went, even though they are also outspokenly against America and our thinly veiled plot to take over the world! Quite civil. They leave blankets on chairs at their outdoor cafes in case you get chilly, if they see you looking at a map they’ll stop and offer to show you where you want to go, they offer ear plugs at concerts for free… amazing! What an extremely odd experience it was to be treated like a fellow human being.
When we arrived, the first thing we did was make hotel arrangements. We stayed at a Comfort Inn, and the desk clerk was an American who had met a girl there 10 years ago and has never left, and he certainly seemed very pleased with himself.
But going back a little bit; the day before we had left on this trip, I was at work, and as I always do before going to spend the night in another city, I checked online to see if there were going to be any good concerts going on while in town. In a cosmic stroke of awesome luck, I saw that The White Stripes, whose entire discography I own, were to be playing at the Vega Musikkens Hus (Vega Music House, I suppose.) in Copenhagen on the one night that we were going to be there! So immediately after dropping our stuff at the hotel and getting much needed showers, Scott, Alison and I departed to try and get tickets. Apparently neither Jeff nor Greg cares for good music, because they went to a casino instead. I think Jeff actually said at one point that he “doesn’t like concerts”. Batty.
So we got to the club about an hour before the show was to begin, and it was of course sold out. Europe doesn’t seem to have that time-honored tradition of ticket scalping that we are so used to back home, as I have tried to get into shows in Munich before and never even met someone who knew what scalping was. So it looked sort of bleak, but if you hang in front of the club and prey on lone guys who look like their dates have probably bailed on them, you can sometimes get lucky. So with the help of a very nice Dane who taught me how to say “Do you have any extra tickets, please?” in Danish and with 5 minutes left to spare, we acquired our 3rd ticket, and there was much rejoicing. And we earned an incalculable amount of bonus points for not only hitting 3 countries in one day, but in that same day panhandling for concert tickets in an unfamiliar city, and getting into one of the best rock-n-roll shows I’ve ever seen.
After the concert, the three of us concluded the evening at a jazz club, where they weren’t really playing jazz. It was some poorly named band, The Green Turnips, I think, and it was more like bluesy rock than jazz. Danish blues. Well, just because the Danes are the nicest people around doesn’t mean that they know a lot about music. At any rate, that was pretty much the end of the day, and an extremely eventful one, at that. I’ve left out some minor details, but I’m sure you’ll forgive me for not boring you with tales of the naturalized Danish Russian doctor and her Farranese boyfriend whom we met there. They were very nice, but not so interesting, I’m sad to say.
The next morning, after some minor grumpiness resulting from certain members of our party being awakened late at night by flying hotdogs thrown by a certain other rambunctious member of our party, (and I’m not naming names here, there’s no use re-opening old wounds, and it was nothing a cup of coffee didn’t cure, at any rate) we got up and got down to the touristy aspect of our stay in Copenhagen. There are a lot of beautiful buildings there; it is definitely high on my list of cities with great architecture. I won’t go into too much detail, except to say that there was one church in particular that, well, let’s just say I felt it in my gut more so than most churches make me feel. It was nothing spiritual; most churches in Europe are far too grand and gaudy to evoke much more than derision directed towards those who feel that spending money on nice buildings is what God wants of them, though they are quite beautiful to look at. No, it was mostly due to the staircase up to the highest tower of the church; it was outside. It wrapped around the steeple up to the tightest spiral possible, where the rail was lower than my waist and where there were no toilets available in case of emergencies. Others didn’t fare so poorly, but I have found that my fear of heights increases in direct proportion to my age. Which I think is very odd; it should be the other way around. As I have less life to live, shouldn’t I also fear less for it? But it doesn’t seem to work that way. Very discouraging.
There was also this little hippie colony/commune/slum nearby, which has been granted certain state-like rights, and is named Christiania. We checked that out briefly, but, having a natural aversion to people who believe that the filthier you live the more “in-tune” you are, we didn’t stay so long. They make their living by selling certain items in kiosks along their streets, giving the place somewhat of a carnival atmosphere, and I won’t even go into what goes on on Pusher Street, but one thing worth mentioning is the bathroom in the main, uh, food court, I guess you’d call it. The ceiling was a fish tank! Very neat. There is nothing like relieving yourself to the calming sights of 7 inch long goldfish swimming above your head. Once again, I have left more dry detail out, including the amusing moment when Scott attempted to pull up a chair, which was in fact not really a chair but a stone stool that was attached to a stone table and, being stone, turned out to be fairly un-pull-up-able. Or the tedious side note about a certain Berber causing me to have to purchase a cappuccino for Scott. But really I must attempt to get to the end of this account, or I fear I shall lose everyone’s interest, if it is not too late already.
The main attraction of Copenhagen, or at least the one that the
tourist bureau has decided is their main attraction, is Hans Christian
Andersen’s The Little Mermaid sculpture which sits on a rock in the bay an
ungodly distance away from anything else worth looking at in town. If you want
to earn a few extra bonus points for getting another blister on your foot, by
all means it’s worth the trek out to see it. But otherwise, seeing her picture
on a postcard is quite good enough. Although I am grateful that we went there
in the end, because that was the northernmost point of the entire ‘Nimmer’s
Northern Europe Tour 2003’, and as a certain photo should clearly demonstrate,
I was the member of our group who was furthest north earning much glory in the
annals of hypertrekking. Not Scott. His story is different, of course, but
anyone who knows him at all also knows that he is prone to extreme exaggeration
and is worth a good laugh as he is exceedingly witty, but is not to be trusted
in matters relating to things that actually happened.
So, I believe that those are all the major points of our excursion to Copenhagen, and I am almost as sad to have to finish writing about it as I was to leave it. Even though we didn’t get a passport stamp in Denmark, either, it is much more forgivable than it was in that careless country of Sweden because, well… urm, well I bought a Danish flag there, and that is the only flag I’ve ever purchased, so that’s got to count for something. Although I do also intend to buy a German flag before I leave.
And so with heavy hearts, we got on the train
crossing back to Malmo,
which was actually somewhat painful as an experienced hypertrekker does not
like to cover the same ground twice. But sometimes the dictates of the game
leave you no choice, and our ferry back to Germany was leaving from
Trelleborg. So back we went.
Our ferry to Rostock, Germany, was much more a test of our grits than the original one from Sessnitz. Just getting on the damn thing was an exercise in taking the long way around. For instance, we had to walk the entire length of the port twice just to figure out which ferry was ours, only to find that in order to get on it, we had to walk on in the same lane as the cars and trucks! We were racing to get on and not get hit by a semi at the same time! There were no allowances for walk-on passengers at all; it seemed to be a ferry strictly for truck drivers and families with cars. So after jogging up the on-ramp, narrowly avoiding becoming one with the pavement, we had to worm our way between all of the already parked vehicles to an entrance which led directly to the mazelike hallways of sleeper cabins. After feeling like we were lost in an art-film for god knows how long, we finally found the purser and the lounge. So we hung there for awhile before finding a nice comfortable spot to sleep, as it was an 8 hour overnight ferry. I believe that Scott slept in a tanning bed, but the rest of us crashed on the ferry’s cinema floor between the seats.
But as we were hanging out in the lounge, discussing our many near brushes with death, it occurred to us that in getting on the ferry no one had taken our names, and that they’d barely even glanced at our tickets. The weather was beginning to look a little sketchy, and if the ferry should sink, no one would have ever known that we’d been on board! In fact, I realized that the last thing anybody had heard from us was that we were on our way to Lithuania!
So, it didn’t happen, obviously, but should I ever go missing while on a Hypertrek, please let this be a lesson in not panicking into the conclusion that I’ve been kidnapped by some kind of Lithuanian anti capitalist freedom fighters and forced to eat borscht until all the facts are in. I’d probably just be drowned, which is most likely the better option in the long run, anyway, so you needn’t worry.
In the morning, early, very early, way way too
early, I was awakened by a kick to my feet by an unsportingly enthusiastic Jeff
Nimmer who was so excited to be back in the fatherland that he had gotten up to
see the sun rise over the Baltic, and was so deeply moved by this that he felt
it was necessary to deprive an old man of his sleep so that I could get my camera
out and go take a picture. That boy is a real freak, let me tell you. You have
no idea of the depths of his Deutschephile depravity. When he visits (yes,
plural, visits) Bismarck’s grave, Jeff
actually speaks to him about the
state of affairs in Germany
today. So yes, he was genuinely excited to see the sunrise over the Baltic back
in the fatherland; this is not an embellishment made by a sleep-deprived
At any rate, we got off the ferry in Rostock, basically repeating the same process we used in getting on, proceeded to get ripped off by a taxi driver, and made our way into town. I won’t say much about that fabled city, except I did something I should have done on day one; I bought inserts for my shoes. Now, you might think that this is a wimpy thing to do for a hypertrekker, but if you’ve ever walked so much that you got blisters, and kept on walking until, with a certain fateful footfall, the blister actually popped juicily into your sock, you’d be much more understanding. I am very sorry to have had to have put that picture into your mind, but you did think that I had pulled a wuss move, after all, and had to be shown the error of your thinking.
We only stayed in Rostock for about 3 hours, as there wasn’t much to see. We did get cappuccino points, though. Then we got onto the 3 hour train ride to Berlin. All of us had been to Berlin before, so we got a bunk room in a hostel right next to the train station, dropped our stuff, took showers, and got back on the train for our only major itinerary change. We got off of the train in Frankfurt am Oder, which is not the famous city Frankfurt, and crossed the bridge there to Poland! Four countries; big points! Boo-yah!
The streets of Slubice, Poland, are
paved with cheap tobacco and alcohol, and many many hair salons. In fact, we
discussed it and came to the conclusion that that is the sole purpose for its
existence; to provide rich Germans with cheap vices. We ate dinner there, and
the food was good, but none of us got what we actually ordered. Greg is Polish,
and he was excited to be back in his motherland, but even he couldn’t get
across to our waitress what kind of food we wanted. They didn’t even have
pierogies! So that was a pretty quick excursion, and once more, in the
interests of brevity, I am forced to leave out the tidbits of lesser interest
such as the hand position in sign language for pierogies or Greg’s fantasies
involving the Polish coat check girl. And believe me, it really is not as
interesting as it may sound to the untrained ear.
One last note about Poland, however: we were able to get our passports stamped on the bridge. 4 countries, 2 stamps! One for Poland, then one on the way back for Germany. It was also the first time some of us had walked across an international border, which earned us enough points to make up for the lack of northern passport stamp points.
And this brings us back to Berlin. After returning from Poland,
we went back to the hostel to change into our dress clothes, which we had
brought with us especially for this evening. Jeff had told us about the Hotel Adlon,
a famous hotel from Berlin’s
glamorous past. Charlie Chaplin used to stay there, and even today it’s where
all the rich old white men and their pets go when in town. So the five of us,
dressed to kill, went over for a drink. Now I wouldn’t have mentioned our
excursion to the hotel Adlon, except that it was the swankiest place I’ve ever
been, and we had a simply delightful time sitting around at a posh table having
a scintillating conversation about where everybody summers. It was an
unexciting yet dazzling moment on our expedition. So I will spare you more
dreary detail of our stylish evening including, you should be relieved to hear
it, the monotonous tale of the hotel manager who fluttered about in fear of us setting
a chair on fire, and how we all became close friends after discussing the best
places to find Green Fairies. It was quite a droll evening, really, but I’m
afraid it’s not nearly so entertaining to hear about if you weren’t there, so
you really must accept that I am once again doing you a favor.
After that, Greg introduced us to the finer points of the Berlin Casino. It was the first time I’d been to a casino, and it was interesting to see the planet that Greg comes from, so it was pretty fun all around. Greg did a Randy “Macho Man” Savage pose when he entered the casino, which makes sense because you always feel more comfortable doing such things when at home. Alison I think was not so excited about being in a casino, and I believe I even heard her mutter something about “dumb ‘ol boys” at one point. I played a little roulette and won $10. Which I think I later blew getting ripped off by a taxi driver for a ride home. You know, Germany is great and all, but I’ll bet that Danish taxi drivers never rip you off.
The next morning, very late in the morning, we got up and went to Potsdam, a city so close to Berlin that it might as well be a part of it, but for whatever reason it’s not. The main attraction there for us was Sanssouci Park. It’s this place that has lots of trees and gardens and preposterously enormous palaces and things. You know, your run-of-the-mill dead rich European king garden-variety sort of place. It has something like 5 or 6 large palaces and whole bunches of smaller-yet-still-stupidly-opulent kinds of buildings, like the Chinese House, because as we all know the Chinese were a major force in German history, and also the Roman Baths because lets face it, if you’ve got it, don’t hold back. Flaunt that wealth and power, baby! The Sanssouci palace itself was okay, Friedrich the Large (Grosse should probably be translated as Great, but I like large) is buried there. I shouldn’t pick on him, though, because he was a patron of the Arts and Sciences, and lord knows we need more people in power like that rather than what we’ve got today. Plus it will make Deutschemann angry, and while normally this is great fun for me, (After all, how rare is an opportunity to bust someone’s balls by saying that Swedish Trains are far superior to German ones?! It’s beautiful! Oh yes, Deutschemann is a huge Deutschebahn fan.) I suppose the bit about Danish cab drivers being more honest than German ones was enough fun for one day.
There were some other palaces and interesting stuff to see in Potsdam, but I’m really tired of writing about all of that opulence. Suffice it to say, I saw the largest palace there that I’ve ever seen in my life, only to find out later that it wasn’t even the largest palace of Potsdam, let alone of anywhere else. We missed the largest one, somehow. I hate rich people.
We spent the remainder of our last day
wandering around Berlin.
It’s a shame we didn’t do more there, it’s really a very cool city, but as I
said before, most of us had already been there and we were really getting worn
out, so we took our time and walked by the famous TV tower in Alexanderplatz,
on our way to what Jeff proclaims to be the best Doner Kebap stand in Germany.
They were quite good, but I think that the one I had on Rügen was at least
equally as good.
One interesting thing that I hadn’t seen when I was there last time was the old Communist Headquarters building. It is as fine an example of hideous architecture as I’ve ever seen, but still kind of neat in its own way. I believe it is to be torn down in a year or two.
So our final hours before getting on the train were spent in the casino. I won’t go into that, as the stories of what happens to people who set foot in such dens are among the oldest stories ever told. If you had never heard one before, it would make a fine Tragicomedy, but seeing as how vice is one of the staples of Hollywood, I won’t insult your worldliness with yet another addition.
And that, as the tale goes, is that. We got on the night train, bidding a sad farewell to yet another vibrant city. Indeed, a very sad goodbye, with fond memories, to a truly great Hypertrek. 10 cities, 4 countries! 95,000 points! Boo-yah!
Oh, and the next day I went to see Yo La Tengo in concert in Munich, receiving no points, as the trip was over, but proving that hypertrekking is good for stamina. And then I found 5 bucks. (Hee hee. I think it was Greg or Jeff who said that anytime you tell a story and it’s either not very interesting, or the person you’re telling it to just kind of goes “uh…huh”, you should always finish it off with “And then I found 5 bucks.” Scott was going to finish his email about our trip with that line, and I’ve decided to steal the idea, as according to Mark Twain, all good storytellers/liars do.) (Of course, all good storytellers/liars probably shouldn’t so gleefully draw attention to the fact that they’ve stolen an idea, but Scott’s my best friend, so after stealing his idea I feel I should at least give him credit.) (I’m not very good at this, I guess.)