This trip was by happenstance. I offered to travel with Jen Castro if she was accepted into the Berlin Marathon. She suggested I enter the athlete lottery anyway, why not?
We BOTH were accepted into the race!
Now I had a trip to plan. I have been to Berlin & knew where I’d like to stay, that was easy. Airfares – I checked my American Airlines frequent flyer account & since I was making the plans before the big spike in fuel prices, I got a great deal on trading points for flights round trip to Europe. It was a good sign.
Roll forward to training all summer long for the race. I had a few issues to iron out, they seemed to cap off as “solved” by the time I was preparing to go on the trip. I was healthy for the race, not at “full peak fitness” but good enough to yield a solid result.
Jen’s trip changed one day before I left for Europe. She was to travel with her boyfriend, who discovered the night before their flight that his passport had expired. So she would arrive in Europe a day before me, solo. I would have someone to zing around with in Berlin now, this was a good development for me!
Pete & Sandra were planning a trip for their anniversary that included a visit to Paris. Now they’d come to Berlin and see our race. Rachel Picciano and her boyfriend were coming as she was in the race – They had a few others joining as travelers/spectators that I didn’t know of or meet until after the race. They were on board with my extended plan to visit Munich for Oktoberfest, too!
I arrived in Berlin late Thursday after a few flight cancellations by British Airways. I spent 7+ hours in Heathrow airport’s new Terminal 5. Very nice, new, and modern, but I could have made that determination after just 2 hours of layover… Doink!
I met Jen at a bar in the Mehringdamm neighborhood where my AirBnB was located.
There are so many good food options in Berlin. We ate Northern Himalayan food for dinner for the first night at a place I already knew was really good. We had Italian food with Pete & Sandra the night before the race, and a great German restaurant, Peter Schlemihls the night of the race. Monday morning I had a breakfast at a small mediterranean cafe, eggs, salad and a small bowl of olives. Eeeek, I don’t like those.
The race was really good, our visit to the expo at the old Templhof Airport was neat. Seeing the WWII era hangers and terminal mixed in with a running show made it interesting!
Here are other photos of sights in and around Berlin’s city center:
My trip to Munich via Lufthansa was a bit interrupted. My luggage took off on an airport shuttle train when I stepped out on to the platform to send a text on flailing wifi. That took a few hours to chase down, going to a Deutsche Bahn Info booth, riding the train to Berlin Airport to find they didn’t have the bags. Then traveling back to Berlin Central Rail Station to pick them up there, and return to the airport after all flights had left for Munich. A had night spent curled up on a terminal chair and I was on the first flight to Munich Tuesday morning.
Rachel & her group weren’t arriving by car from Berlin until later in the day, so I toured Munich center city area myself. I bought soccer jerseys for Ponch and Hagen at the FB Bayern Fan shop, went to the original Hofbrau House for beer, stopped at the Ratskellar restaurant in Marienplatz for another two drinks, just bopping around on again off again rain. I thankfully kept my rain poncho from the race. This I used all throughout the journey in the places I visited. Rain or the threat of rain had me carrying the Tracksmith bag with the poncho, a bottle of water I was always refilling, and simple knit gloves.
Munich has a neat and reliable subway like Berlin. The escalators are motion sensor controlled at the top & the bottom. This means that if no one is riding the moving stairs and you approach the bottom or top, it will turn on and go in the direction (up or down) that you need!
The annual Oktoberfest celebration in Munich is a really big deal. The whole area celebrates and it’s very much “under control.” It’s in a very large open area with amusement park rides, food vendors, carnival type side activities and games, and beer halls. Each beer hall is setup by a certain brand and that’s the only beer they serve in that building. Each building or hall is very large with long picnic tables and benches for seating. The action starts at 11 am each day and goes on until after midnight. There are no messy drunks, if you begin having any issues you are escorted out of the building. No nodding your head down as if to rest or sleep, you are in the moment or asked to leave. Kids are present, and all food and beer is served rapidly once ordered.
The group was already lively and in the mix when I finally found which building they were in. We met and partied with some German guys at the end of our table. Music is played by a live brass band with male and female vocalists. They play traditional German songs, which everyone except our USA group knew. And they also cover hits like Frankie Valli and Neil Diamond that everyone in the hall knows and sings along to. People stand on the benches and toast their 2 liter beer mugs to the music, it is a great scene!
After Oktoberfest, I walked through the city, mostly in the rain. I stopped at several old cathedrals to take photos and explore the solemn insides. I had so much time I could read any of the placards and inscriptions that were in English and learn about the significance of the structure, events in past history, etc.
I went to a Mercedes electric car demo studio and ran through their newest offerings. really neat including the amazing sound systems they’ve put in the cars. Not just “loud” but very in tune with what the driver is doing.
The Munich train station, Hauptbahnhof, was full of people arriving in lederhosen and dirndls for the Oktoberfest. What a lively people watching show that was!
This city has always captured my interest as it’s known for its Olympic past. There are high Austrian Alps surrounding the city, sometimes they were visible during my stay, most times they were in the clouds. My AirBnB room had a nice view of the mountains, again, sometimes visible, sometimes in the grey clouds.
I did the Nordkette “Top of Innsbruck” gondola ride. It had good views from the mid point station, but anything above that was socked in by low clouds.
I went to the Bergisol Olympic Ski Jump facility. That was incredible! I took the small rail car up (same one the athletes use to return to the top of the launch ramp) There was a cafe and restaurant at the top, I took a few photos and wanted to catch some of the Austrian team skiers practicing their jumps. I saw a few – the distance they cover is so impressive especially in person. When I’ve seen it on TV the athletes don’t appear to be far off the ground. Like anytime I’ve tried to represent steepness in a photo, it doesn’t pan out to be as difficult looking in the pictures or videos.
Salzburg is in the not-so-large Alps region, unlike Innsbruck which lies among the tall mountains. It is a beautiful city, untouched by the two World Wars. The old segment of the city is near the Salzach River. There is a large castle on a hill that’s been there since the 1100’s, it is called the Hohensalzburg Fortress. I did a tour of that one morning – it was very interesting!
I stayed in an A&O hostel near the train station. It was NOT a youth hostel, the room was nice, they had breakfast for all, and in the lobby there was a bar and small cafe. Also a pool table and foosball for guests. When you went into your room, there was a line of text on every headboard – it read, “Everyone Can Travel.” Obviously a nod towards their affordability and convenient location, the statement hit me in a good way. This was regular life for so many people!
Once I walked to the older section of the city & crossed the river, I was among many old buildings and a high end shopping area. They had a “love locks” bridge similar to the original in Paris. Most of the padlocks on this bridge were red. Love? The Austrian colors? They looked nice!
The city of Salzburg had wifi in this area. I tried to iMessage/Facetime call people back home – whoever I could see live & online. Daniel & Maureen got on one call & I showed them via video where I was and what was happening. I also did a similar call with Kim. The view of the castle from down in the city is very neat!
Other sights in Salzburg…
From Salzburg I took a 1 hour 30 minute fast train back to Munich. I had a one night stay in a 3 star hotel right near the airport. And an early rise to catch a shuttle bus for the 45 minute ride to the Munich airport. My flights were now really someone else’s flights, so the nice aisle seats I selected for myself were invalid. I was given two middle seats, one on the 10 hour Munich-Charlotte, NC. The other on the “short” 2 hour jaunt from CLT-PBI. The flight from Munich was in the last row, you know, the seats that don’t recline. Ugh!
The decision to extend the trip and avoid Hurricane Ian was a good one. I visited a few places I hadn’t seen before, ate good food, all in a land where I didn’t speak the language. I’ll do that again, it was a terrific experience!