Berlin in Winter

I was able to spend a few days of layover time in Berlin Germany during late January and early February. The weather was cold and snowy, but I still was able to capture some good shots during my short time in the city.

Alexanderplatz and the famous TV Tower on a foggy morning.
The East Side Gallery.
Tram stop at Frankfurter Tor
Witternbergplatz U-bahnhof
Panorama of Gendarmenmarkt
St. Mary’s Church / St. Marienkirche
Tempelhof U-bahn
Train arriving at Nollendorfplatz
Potsdamer Platz by night.
A rainy night at Brandenburger Gate

Whirlwind Three Days Through Germany

From Prague, I had three nights before I needed to be in Frankfurt for a flight back to Canada. Over the course of roughly 72 hours, I was able to visit three cities: Nuremberg (a first for me), Berlin and finally, Frankfurt.

Nuremberg

Nuremberg is an impressive little city with a cozy downtown with that has many pedestrian streets filled with shops and cafés. There is a castle that towers over the city, from which you can get a panoramic view of the entire city. The metro system is impressive (like in all major German cities) and features automatic driverless cars on two of its lines.

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Lorenzkirche
Entrance to the Weisser Turm Ubahn Station
Entrance to the Weisser Turm Ubahn Station
Rathenau Platz Ubahn Station
Rathenau Platz Ubahn Station

Berlin

Next up was Berlin. I spent a good part of my day there on my feet, walking through the districts of Mitte, Kreuzberg and Schöneberg. All in all, I probably put in a dozen kilometres on foot.

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Oranienburger Straße, the synagogue (left) and the TV Tower.
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Along the River Spree
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One of the few remaining sections of the Berlin Wall.
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Kumpir, a Turkish dish from Café Peri.

Frankfurt

I was only able to spend a Sunday morning in Frankfurt before I had to get to the airport. The city was very quiet as shops were closed and Saturday night partiers had gone home.

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Römerberg in the centre of the old city
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Frankfurter Dom
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The Euro Sign at Willy-Brant Platz, just before sunrise.
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Memorial at the old Jewish Cemetary
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A Frankfurt Tram

Throughout my travels, I used Flixbus, a discount bus company based in Germany with routes connecting major cities in Europe. The buses were affordable, comfortable and come equipped with Wi-Fi. If you book a few days in advance you can get some very nice fares. For example, my trip from Vienna to Prague was only 12 Euros.

My time in Germany was short but enjoyable. I hope to be back soon.

The $44 Ticket to Freedom

On Tuesday afternoon I had to make a purchase.

I left my apartment with my passport in my pocket and headed south along the grand boulevard adjacent to my street. My destination was a Metro station. I got to the busy intersection under which the station lies and ducked down the stairs into the underground complex. Just outside the entrance of the old Soviet era metro station, is a small ticket booth. The ticket booth had a queue of about five or six people in front of me. I took my place at the back of the line.

I don’t particularly like standing in line or spending money (who does?). I usually try to schedule my shopping excursions for the quiet hours of the day, often late at night after 9pm. But I was willing to stand and wait to make this purchase. After about 10 minutes, it was my turn to proceed to the ticket window. I walked up, presented my passport and credit card.

“Egy Havi, I said, in my broken Hungarian.

“Jo, the woman inside responded, before switching to English. When the transaction was completed, I had this in my possession.

MacLaine_Monthly_Pass_BudapestThis is a monthly Budapest transit pass, good for buses, metros and trams. It costs 9,500 HUF or $44 Canadian. This piece of paper represents complete freedom and mobility throughout the city for 30 days. Strangely, I get a feeling of satisfaction when I purchase a fresh month’s pass. With this piece of paper, I can go anywhere, at anytime.

The system here is so extensive and so efficient that to not purchase a pass, would be depriving myself of one of Budapest’s best attributes. From where I live, I can be just about anywhere in the city in 20 minutes or less. There are 24 hour buses and trams, directly outside my apartment. Sometimes I take a bus, other days I take the tram and then the metro. It all depends where I have to go. There seem to be multiple ways to get to the same spot.

There’s also no stigma, for lack of a better term, around public transportation here. Everyone uses is it, because it’s so affordable and just too damn convenient. Metro stations and tram stops are common meeting points.

It’s been almost a year since I’ve had a car. I think back to how much a tank of gas cost to fill up my little Hyundai. It was about $45 and only lasted a couple of weeks. Then there was insurance ($1,000) and maintenance on top of that. A year’s worth of public transit here would cost me around $530.

After enjoying the affordable cost of living that an Eastern European city can provide and its excellent public transportation options, how do I go back? Living in a city with great public transportation system is something that greatly increases the quality of your day-to-day life. How do I reconcile paying over $100 per month for an inferior OCTranspo service? I don’t hate OCTranspo, which gets a lot of heat from the locals. Overall, I think it’s pretty good by North American standards, but the fares for what you get are far too high and the lack of 24 hour routes is frustrating.

But that’s halfway around the world in Ottawa and I’m here in Budapest. For now, I’m just enjoying the freedom that this little piece of paper affords me.

A Few Photos From My Tampa Trip

Today was the unofficial start of 2013 for me, my first day back at work. It’s a new year with lots of new opportunities and events coming up, especially in the early “go-time” months of the year.

Before I start blogging about what’s coming up, I thought I’d look back for a bit and share some photos of my trip to Tampa. I know a few of my readers were curious about the trip so here’s a handful of snapshots.

By the way, all these photos were taken with my iPhone 4 and then cleaned up a bit using ACDSee.

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Boats at Harbour Island, Tampa Bay Times Forum in the background
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Tampa Convention Centre
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This work of art is apparently called “Nemo on Wheaties”
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Palm Trees and Fancy Hotels
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Tampa Tram
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Florida Sunset Above The Clouds