Written by Captain Mary on Monday, May 23, 2011

As I traveled Europe alone, I had only one fear, that was what if I missed a flight and was stuck in a foreign country. Well, as always our worst fears come to pass. I moved at a ridiculous pace keeping up with my itinerary. So much to do in such little time, not getting enough sleep and my brain cells fried in the process. I was doing well, until it came to Greece. I was so overwhelmed by all the amazing sights and sounds. I wanted to do so much, when I knew I wasn't exactly getting enough rest the first time is when I got locked in a train that had made it to its termination. I was heading to see a Greek beach, to enjoy the coast line of yet another country, perhaps just to escape the city to clear my empty head. I fell asleep on the commuter train, as everyone aboard departed from the train I was in deep sleep. I finally woke, looked around and realized that I was locked in. I stood at the train door wondering how I was going to get out. I guess I made enough noise to alert the conductor and he smiled his big beautiful Greek smile and let me out. How could anyone fall asleep with all that noise and commotion of people getting on and off a commuter train? I do believe that everything happens for a reason and this is a picture of where I ended up.
Not such a bad mistake. I enjoyed the beauty of this beach, surrounded by mountains and islands. Well, I shrugged that off and continued on my journey. I had already checked out of my room for the night because my flight was at 4 am, that meant I had to be there by 2 am, which of course meant I had to first get to the airport. The last train left at midnight, figure out the math, no time for sleep. I met some fantastic girls from Canada and we headed out together, but first we decided instead of hanging out at the hostel we would go to the plaza and just enjoy the evening, the view of the Parthenon looking over the city. We made our train without a hitch, checked in and just waited for our flights. This particular flight was the only one I had that wasn't direct. I had a one hour lay over in Prague, Czech Republic. Didn't seem like a big deal, I slept on the
flight there.

I arrived at Prague and followed the signs to my gate, I didn't notice anyone around, and out of pure exhaustion I fell asleep in my seat. I woke looked at my watch and the plane had boarded without me. In a panic I went for help. The people in Prague are not friendly at all. All they did was send me in the wrong direction and even at the help desk, talked to each other saying I was a stupid American, which, of course, I understood and told them so. My connecting flight was only an hour away, so there must be alternate transportation! I knew from my travel thus far, that there is always a central train station, which I found after lots of wrong directions. Finding English speaking people was a task, but I did find the international train station to Berlin. I was only partly relieved when I got on the train, because now I didn't know where I was going to get off. At this point I was scared to death about falling asleep, not knowing how long the trip was or any information about my journey. Even the people on the train would not help me. Finally, finding someone who was also going to Berlin, I simply followed her and when I walked out of the train station, the familiar sights of Berlin was the first time in 8 hours that I had felt relief. I know with all the stress of missing my flight and finding my way somehow, I couldn't help looking out of the trains picture windows and see what I would have missed if I didn't miss my flight. Czech Republic was breath taking, the train followed a beautiful river all the way to Berlin. So, everything does happen for a reason. No regrets.


Written by Captain Mary on Thursday, May 19, 2011

Got together with friends last night, within walking distance. A nice stroll lead me down wonderful tree lined buildings, with flowering vines crawling across their balconies. Came to the street that I was to meet my friends on and as I gazed down all I could see was one outdoor cafe after another. This has to be one of the mother load streets, when it comes to public intoxication.
Not really, the Germans don't appear to be drunk, I haven't seen one, not with my beer goggles on anyway.

Just sitting and relaxing until it was time to eat, then off we went to another location to get some good Berlin food. The location I am staying is referred to as little Turkey, because of all the food places, that is just fine with me, the food is fantastic.

After another night of serious sleep I rose at 9:30 or so, ahhhhhhhhh! Didn't do anything different than the Berliners themselves, drank coffee on the streets and enjoyed the beautiful weather. It is between 60 and 70 degrees, just perfect. When I say on the streets, I mean there are tables put outside in front of every cafe, bodega and anything else with a door. It is a good marketing tool, if you want to rest your weary bones, they have a sale. There is an unwritten rule that you only sit at the table that you will be having service at.


Written by Captain Mary on Sunday, May 08, 2011

Finally I can begin embracing my wrong turns, because yesterday every time I made a wrong turn I found something wonderful. Figuring out the subway system was rough, there is no north, south, east or west. But once you figure out the direction it's all good.
I don't go anywhere without my map, but one German name looks just like another and I find myself in strange places. I got off the train yesterday afternoon, made it up to the street and was overwhelmed with the city buildings and people everywhere. Now, I must pick a direction, so I did, a fair bet would be if I found the River Spree I would be close to the City Center, well almost.

I located the river much to my surprise, along the cobblestone path was an antique market, first right wrong turn and what a great place. I could have filled a bag full of goodies, but that would end my stay. I just spent the rest of the day, making wrong turns and getting to enjoy architecture that perhaps I would have missed. I saw horse draw carriages, a couple of protests, and some beautiful wayside parks in the middle of the mayhem.

What I think is so special is how much people on bikes are respected, it is like the alternative transportation, and believe me everyone has a bike. When you are walking on the street, you must move over for the bikes, the cobblestone is made for a small walking path and a large bike path. If you have a bike you travel on buses and trains at your leisure.

Talk about a love for animals, they too are allowed on all public transportation and any where a human goes, so do their dogs. I have not seen a cat anywhere. The cute part is the dogs are so well trained, some on leases and others not, but they stand at cross walks along with the crowd waiting for the little green crossing man to appear. The dogs are so lucky here, they are respected as part of the family.

My last wrong turn of the day landed me in the largest park in Berlin, tree lined paths, clean, beautiful like paradise among the hustle and bustle of the city. Can imagine that if I would have to pick a city to live in, this one ranks extremely high.


Written by Captain Mary on Saturday, May 07, 2011

I have so much to tell, but before I forget, today I saw what I would call the absolute perfect bike. It was a bar, each seat was part of a bike, and those on board had to pedal, each person had a beer in their hand and this portable bike bar was cruising the streets of Berlin, when I saw the first one I was surprised, but after 2 or 3 of them I couldn't control the smile on my face. Would't you know it, I don't even have a picture to show for it, they move pretty fast for a bunch of drunks. The perfect way to tour the city while working off some energy and drinking a cold one. Bartender in the center making certain no one runs out. Have a great day and figure out a way that we can bring these bikes to America. Here everyone is expected to drink beer all the time, that explains why they are only 1€ or so. Sitting here at the internet cafe I have mine right next to me, it is encouraged, what can I do? Drinking and walking, sipping at the subway and on the subway, on the buses, everywhere. Its dibacery at it's finest.


Written by Captain Mary on Friday, May 06, 2011

Now that  I have had 12 hours of sleep, it must be a miracle, because I never sleep more than 2 hours at a time. After a day of walking and walking, my body just gave out. I am now on schedule for this part of the world. My morning was simple, I stayed close to home to see if I could locate my long lost friends. After a few hours we ended up meeting at the train station and going out for a great evening, with more relaxation.

The bar was on the river, our table was actually on a floating dock, so I felt right at home. After awhile you don't even notice it, that is until you get up and the thing moves. It was great, the only lights were in the distance and tea candles in paper bags gave a beautiful glow of light.

We, Chris and Tim and myself, had great conversation that lasted for hours, our waiter was the best. Tipping is not necessary here, because they get a good wage, but this guy really deserved something special. I had some kind of Berlin specialty beer, with some only grown here herb in it. It is suppose to be famous, it was really good. The drinks here are gigantic, I could only have a couple, had to walk home.

On the way home, that is, toward the subway I noticed a crowd in front of a Turkish food stand, so I got in line and ordered me this crazy kabob thing. It was walking food, so I got on the train and headed to the hostel, full belly and the rest of me totally content. Now I can focus on some sleep.


Written by Captain Mary on Thursday, May 05, 2011

I just don't get it sometimes. I have no, none, nada, ability to read a map, especially when I have no idea where North of South is located. I can find an island in the middle of the ocean that is only 7 miles long, but I can't find my butt with both hands.

Thought I would take it easy today, but it didn't work out that way at all. I first strolled the local area to look at the buildings and architecture, and maybe find some pastry. That went well, I returned before most people even wake up.

Then I thought it might be nice to take one of those free tours I had read about. With map in hand I head out to the streets, after 45 minutes of walking I again looked at my map but none of the street names were right. After a few minutes of looking around I stop someone on the street and show them my map, with much surprise I am told that I walked South instead of North. Turning myself back in the direction I had come I got back on track. Too late at this point for the 9 am tour, I set my sights for the 1 pm tour. I finally get there with some time to spare, find a tour coordinator and sign in. A huge crowd is growing for the tour, I figured I have just enough time to go to the bathroom before my 3 1\2 hour tour. That was an adventure in itself, I had to go down two flights of stairs to the bathroom and wait, by the time I arrived back at the street the crowd had vanished. Found the tour coordinator again and she said that I could still catch the group, I walked as fast as I could in a swollen knee state. Slipped into the group without much notice. Only to find out that we were not going to catch a bus, we are now going to walk for 3 1\2 hours.
I can do it, and in the end I did, but not without incident. Walking from place to place through the city, we finally arrive at one of the old check points called "check point Charlie" and as the crowd moved along I was paying more attention to my camera than my feet, so with a thud I found the only pot hole in the city to step in and hit the ground. As I laid on the ground my only concern was if my camera had been damaged, I never considered that I should pick myself up. The guide Taylor, finally grabbed me and hoisted me on my feet. No worse for the wear I am now the center of attention, really I didn't plan it that way!
We continued and now the last stop of the tour has finally arrived, we had walked to the Holocaust memorial, the site of Hitler's bunker, the state buildings, museums and such, now I am approached at what the German's call gypsy's and the lady interrupts the tour by begging for money, going from person to person, there is 45 of us on this tour. She finally gave up and went away, now her daughter walks up to me and tries the same thing, I tried to ignor her but she became persistent, finally I looked her in the eye and said with a loud voice "no". She proceeded to spit at me, without a thought in my head I replied with, "f...k you, you little b...h". Why out of 45 people was I singled out to be spat upon?

The tour over and the day not finished, because now I have to get back to the hostel. I decided to take the subway, map in hand, I am now paranoid about my direction and how to pay for the ticket. Asking for some help from a stranger, she tells me we pay at these machines and punch the ticket or be fined. My reply was that they would never find me. Without much problem I found my way back to the hostel, not without literally crawling back. The most important thing now was to secure a German Beer. The day now over and I am comfortably numb.


Written by Captain Mary on Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Oh my, yesterday was a moment in time that I can't grasp. So much happened in such a short time. One moment I am in Miami, the next I am half way across the world in another country. Right now it is about 1:15 am in Berlin, Germany and I have been here an entire day. If I ramble you will have to excuse me, I am adjusting to my new time zone of 6 hours plus.

Beginning the day getting ready to board my flight overseas, 3 hours ahead of time and thank goodness for that. It starts out with one delay after another, first my travel partner gets question about the validity of her passport, we work through that and then security, we are delayed because of the kitty cats, security wants to examine them, that is alright, but they want to take them out of the carriers in the middle of thousands of people. Finally getting them to agree to bring them into a special room I find that my purse has been confiscated and now I am being examined, that is after my scanning and brief sexual feel-up. I don't let anyone do that for atleast a month of dating. Working our way past the examines and Chris only suffering minor scratches we head toward the gate, where all the stores are closed, can't hardly find anything to drink, but Chris somehow saves the day, she finds a bottle of Jack Daniels, some coke and a couple of cups of ice. The day might be saved after all.

After some more waiting we head down the concourse with cats and carry-on, so close we are again stopped. We proceed to compress our bags, because now they say we have too much carry on, we know that is not true, but instead of arguing, Chris stuffs her giant purse into the cat carrier and I stuff my purse into my backpack. Before we complete our task, the security guard informs us that it is alright to proceed. Since that cats don't count as our personal carry-on! Duh! So close now, we get on the plane and begin our long walk to the cheap seats, again I hear someone shout "You have too much luggage", instead of responding I simply pretend that I didn't hear him at all. Well, it worked, just like when you are going into a high class bar that you are not quite dressed for, just keep on walking.

Almost 10 hours later, after sneaking some Jack and coke, we land in Berlin, with tons of baggage, waiting for our extreme examination. Well, we waited for nothing, we get our baggage follow the signs and we end up outside at the taxi stand. What! Chris and I were a bit surprised, but after the flight of screaming children, who would question it, we definetly got some Karma points for not killing anyone on the flight. You will have to excuse any of my miss-spellings things don't quite work the same.

We had to find Chris's new apartment and her friend Tim, so we could get rid of the 5, 50lbs bags she brought. A series of cab rides and we got to her new place, only to find that it is on the 5th floor, and there is no elevators. Ugg, I don't even want to talk about it!!!

The rest of the day was spent with our guide Tim making us walk through the entire city of Berlin, oh my, the sights and sounds, the graffiti, no camera. I don't think I can move another muscle. I finally put my foot down and said, "Take me to my bag, so I can check in at my hostel and get some much needed sleep". Another cab ride and I am at home sweet home for the next 5 nights. I go and find something to eat and have a beer, or course, just for research, that is.

I find a friend at the hostel, who has given me advice on the sights and sounds for tomorrows adventure, without my friends, so I may focus on taking atleast my first photo of Berlin.


Written by Captain Mary on Tuesday, May 03, 2011

I was asked in February if I would consider helping a friend move. When I found out where, I don't think that I even hesitated before saying I would do it. Now, the day is here for me to go on my working trip. I will be boarding an Air Berlin flight and taking off for my 4:30 flight to Berlin, Germany. There is a 6 hour difference in time so the flight will seem like forever to get there, its approximately a 10 hour flight. I wonder if they have movies on board. I packed a brand new copy of Sudoku puzzles just in case.

This will be the first of what I hope is a series of posts of my adventures. Packing everything I needed into a 18lb carry on was the most difficult, lucky that women are allowed to carry a purse that can weight up to 18lbs also, which has my camera equipment and some of the heavy stuff. My purse will roll up and stash into my backpack once I arrive and don't need to meet any weight requirements.

I plan on taking tons of pictures, I have so many digital cards I don't think I could ever fill them, but you know what I am going to give it a try. I have been working so hard for the past three months to save for my trips, spending money. I have always believed that things work themselves out. My trip is paid for by my customer, my son paid for all the other flights around Europe and I won $1,500 playing Bingo. Am I lucky or do things just work themselves out? I will miss our Mother's Day annual fishing trip, but it is never too late to celebrate when I return.

I am excited and nervous at the same time. But I thrive on the adrenaline rush of something new. I love to travel and I never expected to be able to do it again. My bucket list is full, so now I have dividends. I will miss the gang back home, I know they worry about me, I will be certain to email as many people as I can while on my travels. My ride will be here soon to take me away, the airlines require a 3 hour wait prior to departure, so I guess that puzzle book will come in very handy.


Written by Captain Mary on Tuesday, May 03, 2011

My dearest of friends has been incarcerated recently, in February that is. The crime I don't agree is one that deserves prison time, but who the hell am I! I have been looking high and low on the "Find an inmate" searches and couldn't find him anywhere. After many weeks I heard from his daughter, and he was requesting my address so that he could write and that I could write him back.
The letter was encouraging, that is, he is doing as well that can be expected, he claims the food is not bad and he is already beginning his new education. First he will start with his GED, then he is going to check in to some business courses. I guess if you have the right attitude anything is possible. I am still so sad that he is gone, because I have seen so many people with violent crimes still walking the streets.
How can we punish people for crimes that don't hurt anyone except for the governments ego, but look at Martha Stewart, who was incarcerated for what amounted to lying. Again, it must be an ego thing, that's my opinion anyway.
My Amore' is keeping really good spirits, he even mentioned that he is very careful not to pick up the soap, when he drops it. I guess time goes by when you keep yourself busy. I can't believe he has been gone since February, that is 3 months already.