Berlin has been quite an adventure and I've only been here for two and a half days.
I arrived here on Tuesday afternoon, and was awestruck by the cool new Main Station they have - it just opened two weeks ago, in fact. It's about 6 stories tall, with huge glass arches and such. It feels more like a shopping mall than a train station in Berlin.
I had a bit of difficultly on the U-bahn though. Apparently I bought to wrong ticket (a short distance pass instead of a one-way with transfer) and of course this was when the ticket inspectors stopped me. I had to pay a 40 euro fine. What makes me mad is I didn't know I had done anything wrong, and the inspector was very mean to me - kept on treating me like a criminal. But what's done is done, and worse has happened and could have happened.
Anyway, I did eventually get to the hostel. Another nice one by the way, though not quite as social as some of the others. Of course, I did fall asleep at 8 pm on the first night, so maybe I can't make the best judgement of it's social happenings.
It was raining still when I got up in the morning (as it has been every day of my trip for the last two weeks), but I decided that I would brave the cold and wetness and go on a bike tour. I had so much fun on the ones I went on in Munich, and they had suggested this one to me for Berlin. So I ran over to the Fat Tire store and joined in the fun. It poured. But it was wonderful. The guide was really funny - a guy from a little town in British Columbia. I ended up getting a pretty good overview of the city's history and saw a lot of the more famous sites. And just like in Munich, by going on the bike tour I got a discount for the Insomniac pub crawl tour. That was exciting. One of the girls in my hostel room had a birthday, so she and another of our "roommates" tagged along. We had an awesome time. As the name would suggest, I didn't get much sleep last night.
But I did wake up bright and early this morning to go visit the Russian Embassy. My paperwork finally came in yesterday, so I can now get my visa. Woohoo! I had a couple of good laughs along the way. The front gate is very scary. Lots of cameras and such - exactly as you might expect. And big burly guards. I decided I needed some coffee before testing my language skills on them. Looking around me, the only open coffee places were Dunkin' Donuts and Starbucks, both a block away. I found it amazing ironic that in the heart of the old communist territory (the Russian Embassy is of course in old East Berlin, right next to the Brandenburg Gate) one of the biggest symbols of American capitalism now stands ready to serve the German people. I had to have a quick latte before tackling the Russians. It was too perfect. Like the Museum of Communism in Prague - sandwiched between a McDonalds and a casino.
Anyway, I managed to find out that the Consular office is actually at the back of the building - so I had to go around the block and stand in a (suprising short) line with a bunch of screaming Russian ladies and one goofy German guy. I got in rather quickly, but that was just the beginning. I had to take a number, then wait for two and a half hours (frankly, I expected it to take longer) to once again practice my broken Russian with the visa man. Luckily he spoke superb English, and didn't seem to have any problems with my paperwork - he told me it would be ready tomorrow if I wanted it that quickly. Yay! That means I'll have time to visit Helsinki before going to St. Petersburg. Of course, what the visa man says is not always what will happen...
I think I'll go on a little museum crawl this afternoon. I want to visit Checkpoint Charlie and a couple other museums that we passed on the tour. It should be fun.
Then I'm going to bed early - I'm sick of late nights.