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marvelousmouse Nov 18th, 2019 09:26 AM

Mouse and the Christmas Markets Redux—the Prague and Vienna edition
I greet you from the future...or the past, depending on what continent you are currently on. There’s supposedly an airport strike on in Berlin, so I’m currently kicking my heels and eating lobster pizza in the Iceland Airport. The voucher the airline gave me for food somewhat soothed the hangry mouse, although I suspect it really is just a clever way to get people to spend money at the airport—Iceland is as expensive as I remember, although I think the exchange rate is in my favor this time.

Anyway! Off on another Christmas Market adventure! This time I’m going to try two new things:

  1. Packing cubes. Impulse buy at Marshall’s. So far impressed, but I never stay organized for long.
  2. Photo TR...if you saw my previous one, you might remember it was an epic. I’m trying for brevity this time, but of course, if you’re lurking, and want me to elaborate on anything, I’m glad to do so!

In the meantime, one of the Yule Lads sends his love—as long as you’re not a sheep. Stekkjastaur (stiff legs) and I share a terror of sheep. So delicious and woolly, so sneaky and dastardly.

mms Nov 18th, 2019 10:13 AM

Oh I can’t wait to hear all about this!

StCirq Nov 18th, 2019 10:53 AM

There are some pretty cool offerings in that little market in the Iceland Airport. The smoked fish is pretty darned good. We ate it in our hotel room a couple of times on local rye bread instead of spending a lot of money on bad meals in restaurants.

marvelousmouse Nov 18th, 2019 11:25 AM

I agree, St Cirq, I’d do the same if I go back. But that layover was brutal-there’s just nothing to keep you occupied there for 4 hours. However, it’s still my favorite place to go through passport control, and while Icelandair seemed a little confused about when our plane would arrive, they are far above Norwegian in terms of customer service. Just next time I’ll stopover, if possible. Left SEA at 2pm, arrived Berlin at 8am PST the next day.

For ny Seattle peeps, the security line has been automated—I’m not sure if waits will be as awful as in the past. I was really impressed by how fast they got everyone through, but they actually had all the checkpoints open as well, which is unusual IME. I hate change, but I’m excited about everything coming in—they seem to have made some really good decisions about vendors so far.

mms Nov 18th, 2019 12:49 PM

We found reasonable restaurants in Reykjavik on our visit, as did our kids on their other trips, 4 in total so far. We will all be back this summer and are looking forward to revisiting a couple, but most of the time will be along the ring road. We are planning on cooking at the cottages we have booked since there are 5 of us and costs definitely add up.

mm--What do you mean automated? When we went through in September, the line we went to was the usual. Saw the worst TSA agent ever. There was absolutely no line, so a man ducked under those zigzag elastic things to form the lines, and the TSA guy yelled to the man and said he would "put your a** in jail if you do that!". Then a minute later when we got closer to the TSA agent, he had a huge tattoo that said "POWER" on his arm that faced the line. No idea of coincidence, but with what he yelled to the man, it did not seem like it. Really out of line, IMO. Anyway, so I am curious about the automation. I agree about the vendors, although I still can't believe Ivar's isn't there. I just wish we could fly from Paine for international flights, but oh well.

memejs Nov 18th, 2019 03:10 PM

Oooo, I can't wait for your report; I'm off to Prague and Vienna in about three weeks! In my opinion there's no need for brevity - share all the details!

marvelousmouse Nov 18th, 2019 03:20 PM

MMS—Robot feeding of the bins? Automated is SEA’s word. I’m not sure how to better describe it. Bins pops out of a hole, you shove the bin on the belt, bin drop into a “return” hole. Seems to make line move much faster, although perhaps that’s the chap they’ve got barking at everyone—“no! I said laptop goes in its own bin!”

never fear, memejs, I’m genetically wired to be detailed. So detailed. Let me know if there’s anything you really want to know—I’ll try to check it out or make all the dumb transit mistakes to you don’t have to🤪

memejs Nov 18th, 2019 03:24 PM

I've researched this trip to death so at this point it's just what I don't know that I don't know!

marvelousmouse Nov 18th, 2019 03:36 PM

Originally Posted by memejs (Post 17018322)
I've researched this trip to death so at this point it's just what I don't know that I don't know!

Excellent!! You can be my expert source—I am flying by the seat of my pants this trip. This TR may be entertaining for that reason alone, sad to say. I remembered to validate my transit ticket last night, though, so I’m hopeful.

StCirq Nov 18th, 2019 04:13 PM

I agree about stopovers in Reykyavik. We did that the last two times we flew to France, including on our 1915 trip to live here permanently. In some ways I guess it was a weird last hurrah to living in America, but it worked for us. A 4-hour layover in that airport is a bit much, but at least there's a couple of decent cafés indoors and the little grocery store has some good tiny bottles of alcohol if you're so inclined. We thought they moved people into and out of the airport pretty efficiently.

The one restaurant in Reykyavik we enjoyed and found affordable was Meze, the only Turkish restaurant in Iceland. We also liked the Rastafarian café down by the port for coffee and drinks and snacks.

The famed Icelandic hotdogs were absolutely disgusting. We tossed ours into a trash bin after one bite.

mms Nov 18th, 2019 05:31 PM

Mm-interesting. That was not there in September. This is Seattle though, so it doesn’t surprise me that they are trying something new. Our neighborhood is a test area for the Amazon robots. Those always freak out visitors lol.

marvelousmouse Nov 19th, 2019 05:07 AM

First Night In Berlin

By the time I arrived, I was dead on my feet. I did feel quite proud of myself for remembering how to validate my transit pass! Made it to my lodging right before their reception closed. This is Huttenpalast:

It’s a cute, quirky place. The bathrooms are very clean and modern. They have breakfast buffet for 10 euro, although I did not pay for that. They also have basic coffee and pastries included in your stay. It would perhaps be best to think of it as a campground rather than a hotel, because while the little caravans give you some degree of privacy, you can still hear people rustle and whisper.

I didn’t know it until I had arrived, but its neighborhood is a combination of Muslim and hipster. I nearly went for the Middle Eastern options, but ended up at Berlinerburger for dinner. A clerk at a nearby sweet shop gave me a birds nest and baclava for free, which was quite nice. Though I’m not sure if he just didn’t have change, or I ordered wrong! The signs were all in Arabic.

The next morning, I got up early because I’m a firm believer that the sunrise makes a new city look especially glorious...

All right, fine, so my stupid brain was firmly convinced it was time to get up at 4AM. But it was nice lighting.

I wandered past past a few of the park memorials including the Holocaust memorials to the Roma/Sinti, and Homosexuals. The latter is an interesting concrete box with a video hidden inside, which speaks to the idea of concealment. I couldn’t make head or tails of the Roma memorial: it’s a glass wall timeline that surrounds a pond. Maybe it makes more sense in the summer? Or maybe I missed a sign? Anyway, I soon came upon a statue of Goethe:

This was quite interesting. It was heavily damaged in WW2. Eventually, the city began to replace its monuments with concrete copies due to the threat of air pollution. But in the 90s, the pollution levels had been reduced so much that it was deemed safe to restore and return Goethe and his muses to its rightful spot. I don’t think I’ve previously come across a monument that has actually been returned!

I then went on to have breakfast at Silo Coffee—loved that and highly recommend it. The coffee, food, and atmosphere are all spot on.

Before I left town, I grabbed a smoothie at the Juicery:

Initial impressions of Berlin:

Cities like Dresden went through a time of rebirth, by which I mean they rebuilt their historic buildings in exquisite and loving detail. Berlin is not that. It said “look, $&@! Went down here, and we will not forget”. They preserved the ruins of buildings, the Wall, and probably more than a few statues. It’s a fascinating city from that perspective. It feels a little gritty, and graffiti runs rampant. I’m really excited to return at the end of my trip. But on to Bamberg I go!

Ingo Nov 19th, 2019 08:24 AM

"... rebuilt their historic buildings in exquisite and loving detail. Berlin is not that. It said “look, $&@! Went down here, and we will not forget”. "

Wrong. They are just about to finish the partial reconstruction of the old city palace. Not much more than the facades are rebuilt in historic style, though. The same applies for other buildings along Unter den Linden also. And have a look at Nikolai district - all rebuilt in historic style.

marvelousmouse Nov 19th, 2019 11:56 AM

Thanks, Ingo! I knew a lot had been rebuilt but I was surprised by how many damaged bits I saw today. Perhaps you can tell me—along bus route 41, there appears to be a remaining facade of a large brick building. I saw it on my way to Brandenburg Gate, and didn’t make it back to check it out. It could be a folly (art) but I assumed it was the remainder of a building left as a memorial of some kind? Do you know what I’m talking about?

Ingo Nov 19th, 2019 01:28 PM

Sorry, marvelousmouse, I have no idea about that brick building. Maybe someone else knows.

thursdaysd Nov 19th, 2019 02:22 PM

Signing on. Great light on those photos.

The twin Kaiser Wilhem churches are an example of building new, while retaining the ruins.

marvelousmouse Nov 23rd, 2019 03:04 AM

Will be catching up when I have reliable WiFi. But right now I’m reporting in, strangely excited to find white table cloths and real glass wine glasses on an Austrian train.
The Mac and cheese is even edible! I know how sad that sounds but given my experiences with Amtrak my expectations start at basement level🤣

Paqngo Nov 23rd, 2019 06:59 AM

Following along on your adventure MM. Loving the photos.

mms Nov 23rd, 2019 07:09 AM

Omg, so true about Amtrak, lol:). Looks like a perfect train ride. Looking forward to hearing more!

memejs Nov 23rd, 2019 07:16 AM

Still following!

What’s your itinerary? I know there was a separate thread where you were working out your itinerary, but I don’t know that you ever posted your final decisions.

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