Sunday, May 26, 2013

Berlin -- my current home...

So people always ask me why I love Berlin so much, and I always say it's because of the culture and diversity that you can find here... However, sitting here in the Memorial to the Murdered Jews, I am reminded of all its history. Berlin is not just culture, good food, grafitte (spray painted walls) and music. Berlin is also history, and horrifying things that happened as recently as my own lifetime. 

"Es ist geschehen, folglich, kann es wieder geschehen." Primo Levi

Somehow this is also a reason that makes me love Berlin. Not because it can happen again, not because it happened, but because even though it happened, it has changed, and today, Berlin is one of the most accepting and diverse cities in the world. They make it a point to remember all the atrocities committed, in order to prevent it from happening again. They learn from their mistakes, instead of perpetuating them over and over again. 

The first time I came to Berlin, I was overwhelmed by all the history and horrors that happened here. It was hard to wrap my head around it. Now, almost 3 years later, it is still hard. But it's not overwhelming anymore. It is a part of Berlin, and ironically, it is a part of what makes it such and interesting and fascinating city. 

Lately there's been a lot of talk about racism, particularly against the Turkish/Muslim community. There's the whole trial going on of the woman who committed several racial crimes against the Turkish people, for more than a decade, before being caught. It's horrible! But the upside is that *she was caught* and is on trial for everything she did. It is not accepted as normal. It has no place in modern-day Germany! But unfortunately, there are still isolated cells that think that way... :( 

All we can do is hope that Primo Levi's words don't come to be proven right, and that it never, ever! happens again... 

Saturday, December 24, 2011

*Home* --> What is that anyway?

I arrived in Frankfurt on Monday afternoon. You know that feeling you get when you haven't been home for a long time, and you open the door and all the familiar comforts are there? I felt that while walking through the giant Frankfurt Hauptbahnhoff (main train station) and feeling the cold wind on my face, seeing the Christmas decorations, smelling the sweet smell of roasted nuts.

It's hard for me to describe how I feel when I get back to a place I love.

On Tuesday, I had that feeling again. Arriving in Berlin at 10pm, taking the S-bahn, my feet carried me without thinking. I was going home. Going up the stairs, fishing for the keys in my bag, opening the door to my flat. Familiar sights and smells. Drop backpack. Take off shoes. Run to living room. How could I have forgotten? it's Tuesday. Tuesday means Movie Night! And food!

Happy faces, friends, hugs, laughter, warmth, good food.

Yeah, I'm home. Even if technically, I don't really live here. My name is still on the door though...

Friday, December 23, 2011

And the adventure begins!! :)

For someone who travels quite a lot, I should have gotten over this already. I have this bad habit of missing airplanes. Getting to the airport about 30 seconds *before* check-in closes seems to be my goal, but sometimes I get there 30 seconds *after* it closes and I get screwed.

This time was different though. My flight was at 10:15pm. I arrived at the airport at 8pm. A full 2hrs and 15min before the flight. On the Condor Airlines ticket rules, it said check-in closed 60min before departure, so I was way ahead of schedule. Right? Wrong.

I get to the check-in counter and the woman informs me that check-in is closed. There was another woman there already complaining, and other people came in behind me. She said there was nothing she could do about it, that we're 10 minutes late. At this point, my head is spinning. What do you mean 10 minutes late? The flight leaves in 2hrs!! And she says nope! The flight leaves in 50 minutes!

For a moment, I freak out. I bought that ticket 6 months ago. Did I check the time wrong? Am I nuts? Did I really miss this transatlantic and non-refundable/non-changeable flight?

I didn't have my reservation printed out, but I had it saved on my computer. So I get the computer out and check. Nope. I'm not crazy. It says Salvador-Frankfurt -- 10:15pm. I take a deep breath. Ok, so I didn't screw up. They did. So I show it to her and she asks me if they hadn't sent me an email telling me there was a time change. Obviously no, they didn't. So she tells me to wait right there, that she'd go talk to her supervisor.

To make a long story short, they take me to the company office where they'll try to figure something out (because after all, I'm in Salvador, I live in Brasilia, and if I missed the flight it was their fault, so hotel, meals, etc, will have to be taken care by them!). At this point, it is 8:36pm and they're doing the final head-check in the airplane, when lo and behold, they discover there's ONE empty seat. They turn to me and ask "do you want to go?" OF COURSE!!!

So all hell breaks loose, we start running through the airport, this woman carrying my backpack and flashing her badge everywhere, passing me through security checks and passport control, getting to the gate, hand-writing my boarding pass (no joke!) and putting me in the plane.

It was epic!!

All this goes to show that if they really wanted to, they could put you on the flight even 14 minutes before the departure time. And the kicker? We weren't even late. We left on time!!

And I arrived in Frankfurt safe and sound and happy!

--> My backpack however, did not. But that's another story... :) <--

Friday, October 7, 2011


Haven't posted in here in a while, but just wanted to mention how extremely happy and excited I am to be going to Buenos Aires and seeing all my friends again!!!

Oh, happy me!!!!!!!


Sunday, July 17, 2011

Car rental debacle...

Opel Astra-- the car we rented...

I had planned this trip for a while. Croatia is one of my dream destinations, and I really, really wanted to do this trip. Finally I found a friend who wanted to come with me, so we planned it and decided to make it happen.

Only problem is, I found out that you absolutely need a credit card in the name of the driver in order to rent a car. I have a driver’s license, but no credit card. She has a credit card, but no driver’s license.
My credit card was being sent from Brazil, and I expected it would arrive on time for me to get the car. Except when it was already one day before the trip and still no card, I realized we had a real problem. My friend N. had already bought a plane ticket from Paris to Bratislava, where we would meet to start our trip.

Luckily, while talking to her on the phone, she told me that she had already rented a car for someone else to drive, so I figured maybe this was a German/Austrian rule, but that other countries wouldn’t mind the fact that the person driving and the person paying would not be the same (as long as they were traveling together, of course).

In a brilliant moment, I found a car rental place in Slovakia, called them, and the girl told me there was absolutely NO problem, and that would I like to make a reservation. YES! Please!

Problem solved... now I only had to find a way to get from Berlin to Bratislava, but that was easily solved with a train to Prague (where I could stay for a few hours and remember all the places I love in Prague) and another train to Bratislava, arriving with plenty of time to meet my friend, rent the car, and be on our way! :)

And so, the adventure begins...

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Backpack or suitcase?

I'm a backpacker. It doesn't matter where I go or for how long, you can be certain that I'll be carrying a backpack. And the more I travel, the smaller the backpack is getting. It's amazing how much stuff you don't need.

But I'm not here to convince you to travel with a backpack (even if they are more convenient, easier to carry in all terrains, have several pockets to help you organize your stuff, and are generally better in every respect...), because ultimately, it's your choice.

There are occasions when suitcases are perfectly acceptable, and even necessary. If you're going to a 5 star hotel, and you walk in with a backpack, they immediately look at you a bit weird. (Trust me, I've done it). If you're traveling with an organized tour and they'll pick you up at the airport, take you to your hotel, and generally take care of all your transport so that you don't have to walk or lift a finger, then by all means, take a suitcase. If you're traveling in your own car, and you're driving straight to the hotel where someone will take your bags and take them to your room, again, by all means, take a suitcase.

What I don't understand is this: people who travel like backpackers, i.e.: stay in backpackers hotels/guesthouses/hostels, around dirt roads or beaches, having to rely on public transportation (which sometimes means moto-taxis) and still bring a suitcase. Tell me, how do you carry a suitcase in a moto-taxi???

Honestly, either get some money and travel on the 1st class circuit, or buy a backpack already!!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Bangkhaos-- Bangkok is Chaos! :)

Khao San road*

There's something fascinating about chaos. Order is nice. It's clean. It's organized. It's... boring. But chaos... ah, chaos can come in millions of different shapes, smells, forms, colors. It changes all the time. It's busy, noisy, unpredictable. --> It's Bangkok.

I arrived on Friday evening and took the express bus from the airport (RE2 = 150 Baht) which drops me off directly at Khao San road, and in front of my hotel. I actually booked ahead this time, for the simple fact that arriving at 10pm at night on a Friday and then trying to find accommodation would be a little insane even for me...

Immediately after checking in, I dropped my bag and went to walk around the wonderful chaos of Khao San. It hasn't changed much. I'm sure the particular restaurants and travel agencies have changed since I was last here (7 years ago!) but the general appearance of it all is exactly the same. People. Happy people. Smiley people on vacation, enjoying the warm weather, chaos, and amazing Pad Thai for 30 Baht.

It's the mecca of backpackers in Bangkok, and even if you're not staying there, you should go for the experience. It's wonderful. I love it. And yes, it's chaotic and noisy, but somehow it's also--magical.

*This picture was taken 7 years ago and happens to be the only one I have. Unfortunately every time I walked out of my room to walk around KSR I happened to not have my camera with me and didn't want to go back to get it. Oops. :(