When we arrived in Dublin at about 5a on 14 March, we headed toward our connecting flight. As soon as the gate attendant scanned my ticket, I could tell from the beep the machine made that something wasn’t right. Turns out, there were strikes at Tegel that day over working conditions and our flight had been cancelled.
For a moment I considered the possibility of staying in Ireland until the strike was over, but this wasn’t something that I think would have paid off in the long run. We would have had to eat the cost of our accommodations in Berlin in addition to needing to book a hostel or hotel in Dublin. So we decided that we would take a flight to Düsseldorf (1hr shorter than the flight to Berlin) and then a train from there to Berlin (approximately 5hrs).
Once we arrived in Düsseldorf, I found out pretty quickly that I’m not very good at speaking German. Emily began as soon as we were sitting out front of the airport smoking to speak the language, and I’ve since realized what the reasoning behind this was, but at the time I wasn’t sure why–I felt uncomfortable with the idea of speaking German in Germany. Later it became so obvious to me that I can’t believe I didn’t realize it would happen to begin with; I am insecure about my ability to speak the language and don’t want to sound stupid in front of people.
We made our way from the airport to the Haubtbahnhof, or Hbf, or main train station, in Düsseldorf, and found a train with the Deutsche Bahn that would take us directly from there to Berlin. We had a couple hours to kill, so we walked around the area surrounding the Hbf. It wasn’t a very tall city, and it had Straßenbahn (trolleys), as well as the other hallmarks of European cities–food trucks, quaint little shops, extensive graffiti, streets that don’t adhere to any pattern I recognize.
As a result of that last one, we got a little lost. This was also around the time that we discovered my data plan on my phone doesn’t work internationally, despite having done all of what I thought were the necessary steps to ensure that it would. So here came my first opportunity to speak German to someone who wasn’t in the service industry. Approaching another pedestrian I said, “”tschuldigung,” but it seemed he didn’t here me.
“Entschuldigung,” I raised my voice a little more. He made eye contact and I asked, “Wie kommen wir zum Bahnhof?”
“Hier bieg links, und es ist da.”
I turned to Emily, “see we’re not far.”
Although it turns out that my request wasn’t specific enough, since he pointed us towards a Straßenbahnhof, which is not what we needed. At this point, I should point out that Emily is the type of person who generally doesn’t have much anxiety–except when it comes to trains and planes. She was clearly flustered and nervous that we were going to miss our train to Berlin, and so upon seeing that this is not where we needed to be…well, needless to say, she wasn’t too pleased with me.
I found another pedestrian. “‘tschuldigung, wie kommen wir zum Haubtbahnhof?”
“Ähh…Es ist geradeaus und auf der linken Seite,” he said as he gestured and pointed with his hand.
“Kein Problem,” he said with an accent. Or maybe not? It definitely sounded odd the way he pronounced kein–it was more like (American-English pronunciation here) “kahine,” rather than “kine.”
Anyways, I was really happy to have found the Hbf, as I know Emily was as well. Finding a seat on the train was a whole different story, one for a later post.