Monday, 30 January 2012

Fourth destination : Berlin

Berlin was actually not on my list of places to visit on my first Euro trip.  But on the 2nd day of my trip while I was in Poznan, my host Weronika told me that there is a Couch Surfing conference in Berlin on Friday the 14th of October.  I had heard about this CS conference's that were being conducted by its founder Casey Fenton.  Rahul, the CS moderator of Ahmedabad group had attended one such conference in Istanbul in September, so I had a brief idea about it and it was a very good chance to meet Casey Fenton who created this wonderful wonderful world of Couch Surfing.  With the help of Weronika, I had my invitation to Berlin and she told me I can accompany her and other CS'ers from Poznan who were going there by car.  

So here I am once again on the same train from Warsaw to Poznan on the 14th morning.  I reached there around 11:00 hours and met Weronika.  We all were suppose to go in Kamil's car.  There were 2 more CS'ers Jalal and Magda coming with us.  So together we started our drive to Berlin.  Everyone were being hosted by Weronika's CS friend from Indian Shivam.  My place was not confirmed, so if  I was not being hosted by anyone I had to find one hostel.  But luckily and thanks to Shivam, he agreed to host me.  He was also hosting an Australian CS'er Kelly.  So in all we were 5 people being hosted by Shivam.  Magda was leaving the same  night for Munich.  We reached Berlin by evening and after meeting Shivam, we all left for the CS conference.

The conference was being held at some hotel and there were people from all over the world but mostly from Europe. Everything was arranged perfectly right from the registration, refreshments, sitting arrangements and all other things.  Casey Fenton started addressing with a welcome note and then rest of the things followed like how he founded Couch Surfing, why they got CS as a B-corp, what are their plans for CS in the future, what we all CS'ers want from Couch Surfing and also answered some queries about the new features released by CS.  Though there were some dumb and duplicate questions, but Casey handled them perfectly and with amazing calm and professionalism.  During one break I got a chance to talk to him one on one and came to know he might visit India in March 2012 for conducting the same sort of conference and spreading the awareness of why and for what Couch Surfing got registered as B-corp.  It was just wonderful to meet the founder of such an amazing community spread around the world.

Casey Fenton addressing the conference
Once the CS conference was over, Berlin CS community had organized a party at a nearby pub.  Most of us had gathered there and the party had just begun.  Everyone grabbed their drink and were introducing each other and soon the pub was packed with CS'ers.  There was also one cocktail that was specially prepared for the event and it was named The Couch Surfing Drink. Soon the CS Berlin guys announced the next day's activities which included the old Berlin city walk, dinner and then a Pub Crawl.  The options for dinner was a Mexican restaurant,  Indian restaurant and some 3rd option that I forgot.  Soon almost everyone wanted to have dinner at the Indian restaurant.

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Everyone partied till late night and we reached home way past mid night.  First evening and night in Berlin was awesome and we all were looking forward for the CS events on the next day.  We all woke up next day late in the afternoon and after a quick breakfast we headed to Alexanderplatz from where the old Berlin city walk was suppose to start.  We visited St. Mary's Church, Neptune's Fountain, the famous Berlin TV tower and the old town hall.  The guy who was conducting this walk was a unique and funny guy.  A bottle of beer and a cigarette either of them was always seen in his hand.
He didn't even  thought for a second when he went up to a tree in the open to piss, very much as it is in India. While explaining a map of one part of old Berlin city he used his toothbrush as a pointer.
Berlin TV tower

Anyways late afternoon while the old city walk was still on few of us left it as we were really hungry and little bit tired too.  So decided to have some food and relax by the bank of the river. It was a bright sunny day and the warm rays of the sun were so soothing. We almost had like a tiny winy power nap and then headed for dinner. Unfortunately all our hopes of having a delicious Indian dinner was washed away as the Indian restaurant was closed.  And so we all went to the Mexican restaurant.  Some nice mexican food and then we were all off for the Pub Crawl.  It was something I was part of for the first time.  Since alcohol is prohibited in my city and state, I had no ideas what a Pub Crawl actually is.  It was Saturday night and getting drunk was the idea.  So the whole group from one pub to another.  Have lots of beer or shots of vodka or whatever and then move on to another one.  Kept meeting new people and drinking.  Last pub that we were going to visit was a unique one.  It was started in 1975 and the guys told us that since than it haven't been closed for even a single day.  It has been running constantly since its open.  Around midnight we were in that pub and I was damn tired and little bit tipsy too.  Finally Kamil, Jalal and me decided to head back.  

Next day Kamil, Jalal and me were heading back to Poznan.  Weronika had decided to stay back as she wanted to have a one on one meeting with Casey Fenton.  Finally it was time to say goodbye to my host Shivam, Kelly and Weronika.  In some 4 hours we reached Poznan.  Kamil dropped me at the railway station and I had to catch a train to Warsaw.  Weronika had told me there is a slow and cheap train to Warsaw at around 18:30 hours and I had reached the station at around 16:00 hours.  Still the indicator which was luckily in English, didn't show any trains after 18:00 hours.  I saw there are couple of trains before 18:00 hours.  So I thought lets ask at the inquiry if this trains were cheap or expensive.

I asked the lady at the inquiry counter.  Train to Warsaw ?  The lady replied to me in Polish.  I said, English ? And she flatly replied 'No English'.  I was totally zapped. What to do ?  One woman behind me in the queue wrote me down on a paper that there is a train to Warsaw at 17:30.  I checked it on the indicator and it was an EC train which I had read are more expensive than the IR trains.  But since I didn't know Polish I didn't ask anyone about the pricing info.  I waited till the indicator showed my train of 18:30 hours.  Finally got the ticket and was on the Peron (Platform).  This train is like a general unreserved train of India.  And everyone wanted to board the train so that they can grab a seat.  I was really lucky enough to somehow manage to get one sit while I saw many were standing in the narrow corridor.  Finally I was in Warsaw and reached Dorota's place before they went to sleep.

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