Europe current locationI woke up long before my alarm went off in my hotel room in Berlin. It was still relatively dark in the room; I’d closed the heavy drapes the night before, but they were in poor condition, and there were big holes where they had somewhat decomposed. These tiny dots put a spray of light that caused the room to have an eerie morning glow. I was resolved to stay in bed a little longer, but I heard movement outside, which certainly was the cleaning crew. I hopped up to put the “do not disturb” sign on the door so that the maid wouldn’t come in and catch me in my skivvies. This was a fruitless gesture, as I didn’t know which of the three door signs were the correct one. I probably could have guessed, but my brain wasn’t quite functioning yet. I gave up and laid back down, accepting the possibility that I’d be walked in on, mostly naked.

The unfortunate thing about this process was that it was enough to break me out of the zone wherein I could fall back asleep, so I gave up on that attempt a few moments later. It was after 9, so I stepped to the window to get a look at the weather.

A perfect blue sky stared back at me. It was absolutely impeccable weather, with not a cloud in the sky. A light snow had fallen the night before, and each of the cars and roofs has just a touch of white covering them. Despite the beauty, my mental state was actually a little on the annoyed side of things. Yesterday, the weather had been awful for taking pictures. The sky was overcast most of the time. Today, it was brilliant blue, and would be perfect for getting better photos. I thought about everything involved in getting back downtown and was really turned off. I was very tired and ready to head home. It was an unfortunate turn of events, but I decided it too much effort.

I showered (apparently they used the same screw faucet thing here they had in Lost in Translation!) and dressed, then repacked all my things and headed out the door to check out. The cleaning woman was outside, and asked, “You are leave?” to which I nodded. As I waited for the elevator down, I noticed yet another Siemens phone on the wall. I’d done some work in the past testing phones for Siemens, so I felt some connection to it. Back down on floor zero, I asked what I should do about getting my car out of the elevator. He said to go ahead and get it, park in front, then bring the card back here. I walked out into the brisk morning air and put my card into the slot. This triggered an operation inside the room wherein my car was retrieved from its underground depths. I don’t exactly know how it stores each car down there, but it had very quickly located mine and pulled it back to the surface, facing the correct direction out. As I pulled my car forward, another couple was waiting for the elevator, so I didn’t need to close the door again. I parked in the area in front of the lobby, which had a no parking sign until 10am on Sundays. It was just now 10:03am, so this wasn’t a problem.

I went back inside, and the same woman I’d checked in with took over the process. I handed her my room key and parking card, and she asked me for one Euro. The Parking was eleven Euros, and I’d already paid ten in deposit. She swapped the Euro for a receipt for the parking, and while she was gathering this I lifted a bunch of public transportation maps, per Kevin’s request. I really wished I’d grabbed those Berlin tour maps, but I figured I could scan them in.

I got back in the car and enabled my GPS to make sure I would be able to find my way back out. I decided not to follow the track that MapQuest had given me in reverse since it was on the weird side. Instead, I used the hotel directions, which were much much simpler. All I had to do was drive down Prenzlauer Allee, turn left onto Alexander Platz, and follow this back to B96A. Simple. However, somehow I missed Alexander Platz, and moments later I realized I was driving down what was to quickly become Unter den Linden! I passed the Palace of the Republic on the left and the Lustgarden on the right. I was now right back down in the picture zone *anyway* and decided what the heck, I’d stop to take pictures. I made a u-turn further down and headed back up the road. I used the opportunity to snap some pictures from the car, but they really weren’t very good. Now, where to find a parking spot…

This turned out to be an impossible task. Nowhere nearby was there anything resembling one except for once, and I wasn’t able to stop in time. I got frustrated in the long run and decided to give up once more. I followed the GPS back in the direction of the hotel (which was pretty obvious since I’d made no turns) but I had one problem. The screen is greyscale, and as such my track and the major roads look identical for the most part. I wasn’t able to see where Alexander Platz was in relation to where I’d already been, including the hotel. I finally ended up turning right on an unknown major street, following the major road line in the GPS. My understanding was that I needed to go back left to go in the right direction, so I turned at the next light, following a few cars and buses. Now I was headed in the wrong direction again, since the road curved suddenly. Argh.

I banked to the right again, this time on a little bitty street. It became quite obvious that it was, in fact, an access road almost exclusively for apartments, and wasn’t going to get me anywhere. I managed to meander my way back to the main road I’d turned left from, but this only allowed right turns. I was now moving in the direction of Prenzlauer again, and the GPS suggested I should go back the opposite direction, thereby nullifying the incorrect left. In the absence of any way to make a U turn, I did the “three lefts make a right” plan and cut through a neighborhood to arrive back to the major street. I zoomed out on the GPS, and this street did, in fact, run right into B96A, based on my original track. Fan-tast-tic. I arrived back on the correct road, and once I went around a runabout, I knew I was on the correct path home. Phew!

The path out of Berlin was just as I’d come in, only with less traffic. At one stoplight, I noticed a girl behind me with big, stylish glasses, several piercing, and a pair of handcuffs hanging from the rear view mirror of her tiny mid-80s car. I deftly snagged a picture as she lit up a cigarette at a light, but I couldn’t get the whole effect from the side. I was starting to get hungry, but on Sunday, the world pretty much closes in Germany. I did notice the Burger King was open, but it was too difficult to get to from where I was. I followed the B96A all the way to A113, which led me finally out of the city.

As the weather permitted, it was very easy to kick up the speed in the “speed zones”. I decided today was a much better one to try and break 200Kmh, and once I reached a slight downward slant I pushed the Peugeot as much as she would go. A BMW was going about 190, and I finally got to the point where I was catching up. The combination straight road and gravity assist allowed me to finally crack the 200Kmh barrier – up to 204 (121mph), actually – before I ran out of area to go that fast. After then, it wasn’t a novelty anymore, and I was usually cruising around 170-180. I still had to deal with the construction zones along the way, so my trip was impeded, just as before. I passed the windmills again, and this time, having out the EOS and much better weather, I was able to get some nicer pictures of them. The BMW got off at a rest area with a restaurant, but I didn’t realize there was food until I’d passed it. At this point it was only about 30 minutes to Dresden, so I accepted my inability to quench the rumbling in my stomach for just a little longer.

I made one incorrect turn off the highway, following what I thought was the road to Dresden. There was in fact a sign, but I guess it was an alternate route I didn’t know on a very small road. I made a certainly illegal U turn, and returned to the autobahn for just a short while longer. In the distance, I could see the plant, so I knew it would only be a few minutes more. I stopped for a moment to get pictures of that farmhouse I’d wanted to get since I’d arrived, but they somehow didn’t turn out as well as I had hoped.

After passing rows and rows of closed shops and restaurants, I arrived at the Steigenberger, parked in the driveway and retrieved my key from the desk clerk. Outside, a chain was hanging down from the roof, and water had been dripping down it all night in the cold weather. It was now coated in ice, and this made for a very interesting photo. It didn’t turn out for some reason, though, and I didn’t notice this until later. Around the corner, I noticed the winery at the top of the plateau above us, and vowed to come back out here and take some shots.

Back in the room, I quickly broke out what I had available to me for lunch – which is pretty much what I’d been eating for dinner all week. The roll I pulled out of the plastic bag was slightly damp from moisture, though, so I put it in one of the pans to warm it up. Of course, I ended up not paying attention here, and I smelled smoke a few minutes later. I removed it from the pan, carbonized nicely on one edge. The benefit here was that it had created a good oven, so the rest of the roll was crusty and warm! I knew I needed to do laundry tonight. I didn’t have any more work clothes for the week. However, I also had no detergent. It was now about 2:30PM, and I was pretty drained. I guessed I had about three good hours of light left. I made a list in my head of the things I needed to do, and lay down on the couch for a little travel decompression, watching a nature show in German.

I woke up three hours later. My light window was gone. I still didn’t have any detergent, I hadn’t worked on the Berlin log, I had no pictures of Dresden in the daylight, and I’d not done any laundry. On one hand I was mad at myself for not doing something. On the other hand, I realized I must have been completely exhausted, so I wrote it all off as a necessary evil. At this point, the one thing I could really do was to go work out, and possibly buy some detergent. Perhaps they had some in the laundry room in the basement. I changed clothes and headed to the underground to find out.

No luck on that one. I saw the washer and dryer, though, and noted I’d need 1 Euro coins to use it. I had a couple I think. As I stepped out of the room, Anthony came walking down the stairs. He must live in my building, I decided. “Live” versus “stay” – he’s been here for six months already! He asked where I was headed, and we were both going to the gym. I relayed some of my Berlin trip, and asked him if I could borrow some detergent, if he had any. He said sure, just call down and ask.

Anthony hit the stair stepper, and I went for the weights. There was some music this time, but it wasn’t very uplifting. I like fast paced music when I work out, as do many people. I felt good this time and was able to lift much more weight than the last time. I was also surprised to see that I had lost 2 kilograms since I was here, but quickly realized the scale was out of calibration, and I couldn’t find any way to set it. Darn. I noticed Anthony leaving, and I ran after him to remind him about the detergent. He gave me his room number, and I returned to finish my workout. He had also informed me the laundry took 4 Euros to do a load, and I only had two. I’d need some change. Back in the room, I started my dinner since the soup would take 15 minutes to simmer. I used the laundry bag provided by the hotel to gather my clothes and reaffirmed my desire to do my own laundry; the costs for washing even one shirt at the hotel were beyond reasonable bounds. I could *buy* new clothes for what they were charging.

There were only about five minutes left on my simmer, so I grabbed my two 2 Euro coins and returned to the front desk. There were several people waiting to check in, but eventually a different man walked around front and obviously noticed me waiting. He stood for a moment looking at me, I could see out of the corner of my eye, and when I looked at him, he asked if there was anything he could do for me. I said I needed change, into “1 dollar coins”. He understood the need to change money, and asked, “Dollars?” I nodded, then realized what I’d said as he was showing signs of this task exceeding his normal ones and he was looking for where he might begin this difficult process. I waved my hands frantically and told him, “Euros. 1 Euro.” This pleased him, and he nodded several times in succession, displaying a wide smile. From the back of the desk, he handed me four 1 Euro coins.

Fifteen minutes ended right when I arrived at the room, and I plated my feast of sausages, soup, bread, and cheese. I then snatched up the laundry bag and carried it down to the 1st floor, where I rang Anthony’s door. I couldn’t figured out how “Augustus” translated to “number on keypad”, so I didn’t know how to call. He handed me a big box of detergent, and I took the next flight down to the Washraum. I plugged in the washer, as it was not, put detergent in the right slot, and followed the instructions on the wall to set it. The coins came next, but only the first one created a credit on the box LEDs. I banged the box to try and get it to fall, but nothing happened. I decided it only showed one when you put in two coins, for “one unit of time”. I pressed start, and it began to dump water into the washer, where I left it and walked upstairs. I had no idea how long it would take.

I watched 24 and ate, keeping one eye on my watch so that I would pay attention to the cycle. Now I needed a countdown timer! Come to think of it, I have one on the other watch I brought. Duh, I could have used that one. <slaps forehead> After the episode I went down to check on it. The power was already off, which at first didn’t seem to be a problem. However, it’s got an electronic latch, and without power, there wasn’t any way to get it to open! I didn’t want to spend a whole euro or two on just the ability to open the door, but my best attempts to make the cord reach the dryer timer (which I’d use anyway) were in vain. It was bolted to the floor. About the time I was going to give up, I noticed a small plastic tab in an open access panel. I pulled it, and the door popped open. Problem #2 – my clothes were soaking wet. I realized that the coin had indeed not fallen, and the timer shut off before the wash cycle could complete. I put the sopping clothes into the dryer, knowing it would take a while to get them dry. The cycle started, and this one actually displayed a time, 96 minutes! I started my stopwatch.

When the time had elapsed, I returned downstairs to check. When I opened the door, a rush of steam escaped. My clothes were still damp and it appeared that they had been pulled straight from a crab pot. I was smart and had brought my two remaining Euros with me, so I dropped them in and started it back up. I went back upstairs to work on the log. Three hours later, I realized I’d forgotten about them and raced downstairs. They were finished but the electronic latch was now a problem here as well. This was much easier though, as the latch still magically worked. I did not bring the sack, though, so I had to just stuff everything in my arms and hope for the best.

I pressed the button for the elevator in the dark basement corridor. As I waited , I realized the each time I’d passed the second floor while walking the stairs on the way down (first, in German terms) I’d heard some weird clicks. Each and *every* time. I’d dismissed them as elevator noises, but it was way too coincidental that someone was using the elevator at those exact moments. What made my mind go here next I have no idea.

A ghost, my brain decided. It was a ghost of someone from WWII whose house this used to be and had been leveled by some Allied bomb, and now he wanted us out. My eyes darted into the dark corridor across from the Washraum, seeking for moment in the shadows. I was reminded of a spooky Halloween flash animation I’d watched about this very subject, and my vision was trying to overlay what I’d seen in those videos with what was available to me. My heart started pounding, and I was cursing the brightly lit elevator for taking so damn long.

“This is insane,” I told myself assuredly. “There’s nothing here! There’s no ghost!” Assurance aside, I couldn’t seem to convince my psyche of that truth. That corner became more and more dotted with visual noise and I was sure at any moment, a figure was going to appear and lurch at me. The elevator door opened at that moment, and I leapt inside, stabbing at the 2nd floor button. The doors, in proper horror movie fashion, decided to wait as long as possible before closing, and this was extremely frustrating, cause of course the ghost wouldn’t somehow be able to get through the entrance to the lift, right? They finally did seal themselves, and when they opened again on the 2nd floor, I raced through the dark hallway to my room, which I’d left cracked. Once I arrived back inside, I shut the door and locked it, sealing out any evil forces. Now that I was back in a familiar, light place I thought myself sillier than all get out, and I was able to calm myself back down. It was a good scare, looking back, and reminds one they are still alive.

Until the ghosts get ‘em of course.

I put my laundry away, which is something I never seem to do at home. This was the start of my last week here, though, and I needed some organization. Soon thereafter, I gave up on the log and went to bed tired, but accepting of the need to return to work.

-- Hik