January 17th, 2015
Much of my second day in Hamburg is comprised of wandering the streets, taking in its unique smells and sounds. The air is salty from the canals and carries with it the smells of fresh bread from the bakery on the corner and hints of cigarettes and coffee. I head off to Berlin tomorrow to meet up with new couch surfing hosts and enjoy the capital. Last night I got a message from a good family friend who found out I was in Europe. She’s originally from Rome and says if I’m in Europe I HAVE to visit Italy. By chance, her apartment in Rome is empty except for her elderly mother who would just LOVE the company. Rome is a dream, but on my budget I never thought I’d be able to afford it, until now. Tickets from Berlin are reasonable and I book the cheapest I can find in the next week. The trip takes on a fresh breath of excitement now. I never thought I’d see Italy in my twenties, and now the flight is booked!
I walk down the streets of the city and every so often a small, brass stone is inlaid within the sidewalk or streets. These are the Stolperstein or stumbling blocks. Each one marks the former home of a Jewish resident or family that was persecuted or murdered by the Nazi regime. History is not buried here, it is marked in stone and metal, reminders of things that should never happen again.
Generator Hostel, Hamburg, Germany
I pack my things and prepare to take the bus to Berlin in the morning. My host in Berlin is Vero, a Venezuelan ex-pat who’s made Germany her new home in the face of unrest in her home country. I’m excited to meet her and see what surprises Berlin has to offer.
January 18th, 2015
Hamburg Bus Station, Hamburg, Germany
It’s freezing cold as our huddled line of passengers slowly file into the waiting bus. I find my seat and settle in for the 3 hour ride to Berlin. It’s mostly long stretches of highway between the two cities and before I know it, the spires of Berlin appear around us.
Berlin Bus Station, Berlin, Germany
I disembark the bus and head for the S-Bahn station. The platform is remarkably clean and has very new-looking electronic ticket machines (thank god for multi-lingual options). A sleek train arrives shortly and whisks me away to the stop my host told me to go to. The elevated train gives a lovely preview of the city to come. I hop off at my stop and begin to head towards Vero’s apartment.
To my surprise, she meets me at the corner to escort me up. She’s about my height with gorgeous, thick curly hair. She’s incredibly friendly and bubbly. We head up into her apartment and she makes me feel right at home. Soon, her roommate Alejandro comes home and joins us. He’s also Venezuelan and has been helping Vero out with a place to stay as she transitions into life in Germany and getting her citizenship. It turns out, Alejandro is a huge House of Cards fan and we bond instantly over my work on the show. We order Indian delivery for dinner and crack open a great bottle of wine to aid in the conversation. Soon, it gets late and we all separate and head to bed.