Friday, August 24, 2012

Day 7: Walking My Legs Off

So this is where we're staying:

Breezeway between buildings

Crazy mural in the breezeway

Pretty far from the action, a little rough around the edges, but still nice, except for the punjabi techno blasting at 3am, the bonfires in the courtyard, and the cat choruses in the morning hours.

Crazy englishman in the breezeway
Thursday mostly consisted of (yet again) walking around...we attempted to do the Rijksmuseum, but we didn't get out of the house till 3pm, and the museum closes at 6, which would only give us just a couple of hours for it all.  In retrospect, thats a decent chunk of time, but I hate being kept to a timeline, so we opted to simply explore more.

You can't see it, but there's a daywalker in one of these boats.  You South Park people will know what thats' about.
Up and down the streets, the canals, the small curved roads.  We walked around a district called Nine Streets, which is basically a condensed SoHo/TriBeCa with older buildings...really cute stores, but I'm not on a budget to be spending any money, let alone money in a country where my home currency is worth way less.  Super tempting, though!

Other things we came across: 

Electric cars:
Baz and I are still trying to figure out why they're crossing streams

Bikes.  Many, many bikes:

An adorable cat that I'm choosing to name Sir Archduke Fluffy Lumpy Wuddle Butts:
I just came up with that name on the spot, if you can't tell

We headed home for dinner (ravioli with mushrooms sauteed in brown butter, with tomato sauce, grand total 2€ for the both of us, god I love Lidl), then went back out to explore after dark.  Shit gets crazy on Thursday nights - it seems that all stores stay open later on Thursdays (though that craziness we experienced might just be because it's Amsterdam).  Not sure why Thursday is the big late night day, but it means stores close at 8pm or 10pm instead of the standard 5 or 6pm.  Why stores close this early is beyond me, it must make shopping on the weekends a nightmare and a half.  We braved the night crowds for a couple of hours, then decided to head back.

Night canal action
For Friday: The Rijksmuseum and beyond!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Day 6: A Chicken Sandwich at the Gate, or How to Get by in Amsterdam Without Spending $200/day

So Wednesday was our first full day in Amsterdam!  After settling in to our place, we headed out to Centraal to explore the district.  Thankfully it's only a 20 minute metro ride straight there, and we can grab trams that go EVERYWHERE.  Most of the central canal ring is just awful (McDonalds, KFC, and Burger Kings ABOUND here), and even when you get a little further out, its STILL awful - tourist shops, insanely expensive restaurants, roving bands of frat boys/girls, etc.

Frat boys/girls not pictured
To be fair, it's not unexpected, but my inner New Yorker avoids all that like the plague, so willingly putting oneself in the middle of it as an actual tourist feels like soul suicide.  Still, I'm rocking my multi-map holding/turning/looking confused skills, much to Baz's chagrin, and taking it all in stride, while trying to be responsible and economically conscious, which (like I said) is no easy task here.  Thirty euros for a meal? Seven to ten euros for a hamburger?  Uh, no thanks.  Maybe this is okay if you're only staying for a city break (2-3 days max), but it's not feasible for a week.  Personally, I've spent about 80 euros in the seven days, and that's including most of my transport (I say most, since Baz has been very nice), and I'd like to keep that record.  Not realistic if you're spending a "regular" amount of money in the main canal area, which seems like it would be about 50-60€ a day in food.  Eurgh!

Anyhow, so Baz and I have gotten really good at eating sandwiches on the go.  We took a random tram (#25) down to an area south of the belt called De Pijp , ending at President Kennedylaan (cute).  Mostly a residential area, has kind of cute and small town feel to it (for Amsterdam, anyhow) and we came across an Albert Heijn, which is their main grocery store here.  We heard it was expensive and went in expecting Whole Foods prices...surprisingly it wasn't all that shocking! Somethings were expensive because it's just Europe (meats, some veggies, etc), but we stocked up on bread and cold cuts and some rose cakes (roze koken), which were muy tasty!

This is how we ended up standing randomly next to a giant wooden and iron door affixed to the side of Centraal Station, loading up Tiger Bread with loosies of kipfilet while fellow tourists stared at us.  Do you want a piece of my sandwich or something, lady?!  I get confrontational when I achieve quasi-homeless status.

Headed back home to regroup, then went to the area by us (Bijlmer Station ArenA), just one metro stop up, and found it was a huge bustling shopping center divided into two areas, one was a newer center which, oddly enough, had a bizarre mall made entirely of stores you'd visit to furnish your $5,000/month loft apartment in SoHo, which is strange because this place is a stones throw from the ghetto.  Still, beautiful inside.

Note the two-story escalators

Also, in the Netherlands, apparently you can just go ahead and name your store Sani-Dump if you sell toilets.  Not even a joke.  Remember, high class mall with furniture in the 1000€ and up bracket.

Thank god my dumps will be sanitary
After this spectacle, we headed over to the other side of the train station to see what lay beyond the bizarre giant office-park buildings.  Oddly enough, it was a huge open low-scale mall with tons of stores, including Lidl, a super low-priced supermarket.  Like, a quart of milk is 50 cents.  Like, giant sausages the length of my arm are a fucking euro.  Like, you can buy an entire dinners worth of groceries for a family for less than 5€.  Thank GOD.  We stocked ourselves silly, headed home, then headed back out to explore Amsterdam after dark.

Amsterdam after-hours is INSANE.   It's loud, there's bicycles whizzing by everywhere, pot smoke in clouds (technically illegal, from a general point of view and a "smoking in the street" point of view!), people with beers and cigarettes packed into cramped sidewalk cafes, just....everything.  We walked and walked and walked, the rounded canals and streets make it so disorienting!  Walked through the Red Light district, which is more gaudy than sensual (think blacklights and neon bikinis to go with the red lights), and with many of the booths surrounding an old church, I found this to be quite comical.

I didn't realie until after that this was part of the Red Light District (taking pics in the district is pretty verboten)
Eventually, darkness fully descended and all the douches came out.  Sidewalks were PACKED, everyone gawking and sidewalk parking to get a good look at the entertainment and "sex shows"....its funny, seeing sex shops that sell simple toys and outfits seems just plain boring after seeing a woman in a bikini eating chicken nuggets out of a happy meal box getting propositioned by an old german man through a pane of glass.  Baz and I decided to call it a night soon after that.

A fun, yet exhausting first day!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Day 4/5: Intro the Wild Blue Amsterdam

"Baz, get a picture of me in front of the German." "Why?" "Just fucking do it!"

I missed yesterdays post! I swore I wouldn't, and not only did I miss it, I almost missed today as well.  I'll have to consolidate the two, as it's late and I'm getting tired.  As well, pics will follow (I'm too tired to load em from my camera)

Edit: Now with pictures!

So yesterday (Tuesday) was our last full day in Berlin.  We took the bus (finally!) from our place in Schöneberg up to the Zoo, which is a great ride due to the double decker bus layouts.

Windows all around!

We walked around the zoo for a bit, but it was still very very hot, so we had to quit relatively early on.  Stupid hot weather.

Monkey with baby!

Afterward, we walked back around to the front of the zoo and caught the bus back home - we really did luck out with a place that was not in the middle of the tourist traps, but close enough to everything (huge room, less than two minute walk to the metro, shops all around, and close to the bus).

View from our window

We never did figure out what this majestic building was
Afterward we decided to take the buses to Prenzlauerberg - we tried to get on the 100 to get a good view, waited, and when the bus came, two obnoxious families pushed in front of us and hogged the top front seats the entire ride...don't get me started on that shit.  RUDE.  Rode it to Alexanderplatz, then took the metro up to Prenzlauerberg to check out the area.  Hip and happening, tons of restaurants, beer gardens, dark side streets, had a major Bushwick feel to it.  Jumped on some trams and....somehow ended up back at Museum Island, haha.  Walked around for ages, took the train back to Alexanderplatz, then caught the 100 back to the Zoo and the second bus back home.  An overall nice day, had a huge rainstorm when we were home, as well as when we were waiting for the 100 to head back home at night.  At least it killed the heat!

Kinda sad to be laving Berlin, but Amsterdam was up next!

We took the train out to Schöenfeld Airport, which I have to say, is nicer (though smaller) than Tegel.  Anything is better than a dusty hexagon of red and grey laminate hell, though.  We used EasyJet, which is basically a massive cattle call that results in 200 people overtaking the hallways by storm as they push and moo to get to the gate first.  Baz and I (thank god) were in the first 10 people or so, which is no small feat, since we were practically elbowing people with dialysis machines to get in line.  We got into the waiting area, and figured out the plane was a half hour late.  Awesome.  So we got to hang out in a room with a bunch of sweaty people and watch other people get on planes.  Sweet!

Thankfully, when the doors were finally opened to the Prolats, we ran on first, and of course got stuck behind people who can't be bothered to throw their children into the seat rows and instead let them stand dumbly in the aisle while they put away luggage. Meanwhile, others have gotten the clue and ran to the back boarding stairs and sprinted up to secure the back exit seats.  Flying is freaking stressful!  After some elbow-eye contact, we got our seats at the front (as we should have!) and settled in for the flight - only about an hour and a half or so, and with crazy cloud views and wind turbines that went on for miles.

I will say this - Amsterdam's train system is confusing if you don't know Dutch.  Regional rail, cards, passes, trains coming on some platforms but not always going the same way by the same route, urgh!  After lots of wandering around and staring at endlessly flipping signboards, we somehow reached Amsterdam Centraal, and from there we took the metro down to our place in Zuidoost.

Zuidoost is an interesting area.  It's a "planned neighborhood of the future", built in the 70s for middle class families.  Apparently, though, they didn't build transit connections till way after, so it never became a utopian gem of a suburb and instead turned into a horrific slum.  You get this feeling as the train crawls further and further away from Centraal, so it's a bit concerning (I never felt anything like this in Berlin).  Thankfully, it's been changing over the last 20 years or so, but it still feels like you took a slice of Bed-Stuy and threw it into the middle of a forest - people hanging around outside, yelling, music blasting heavy bass everywhere.  Kind of...scary, and that's coming from the girl who grew up in Brooklyn.  I think the added dimension of being in an unfamiliar place is unsettling as well.

The apartment itself is all our for the next few days, which is somewhat of a consolation!  It's two bedrooms, and we got first dibs, so we picked the larger room with the balcony, which is a nice bonus. Place is SUPER spartan though, it seems to only be a vacation apartment, so we're stuck with just onions, apples, and bread we scavenged in the kitchen until we can go out for groceries in the AM.  Dinner of champions!  Lets hope tomorrow finds us with some food in our bellies and knives not firmly planted in our backs.  Hello, Amsterdam!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Day 3: The Kebab Guys Must Think We're Stalking Them

It's been a HOT day in Berlin - 95F, sunny and clear...practically boiling for here! Added to this is the fact that there is no air conditioning or fans ANYWHERE and you've got yourself one hot german city.

Baz and I started the day late...again.  The time difference is killing us!  Even though I tried to readjust myself, I wasn't much good at it, and as a result we're falling asleep at 3 or 4am.  We decided to have our own Sunday brunch at a turkish place right on the corner by us called Wunderlampe, and we tried currywurst with pommes.  Pretty darn tasty, and a decent price at 2.80€ for a plate.

Currywurst = Om noms

After somehow devouring this huge plate of food, we ventured out into the heat and tried to go to Museum Island.  I say "tried", because when we got off the train, it looked like a european ghost town.  Few to no cars, one or two people on bicycles, no one walking around.  We chalk it up to it being a Sunday, but I still find it odd that on a weekend there's no one out, especially on a "day off", and especially in a tourist area.  

Waterway on the south side of Museum Island

We wandered around for a bit along the river, but the heat and the sun was too much and we diverted into a train soon after, feeling a bit dejected but relieved to be out of the heat.  We headed to Alexanderplatz to walk around (which was oddly dead as well), and jumped on a tram to ride around and take in the sights.

Radio tower from afar

Jumped off and then jumped onto another tram, then got out at the terminus.  Walked around a corner, and suddenly found ourselves smack dab in the middle of the action on Museum Island...go figure.  Walked past the front of museums (I think we found it far to expensive to go in, admission to the Pergamon Museum, which is really the only museum I wanted to see, was something like 15€ per person...and like I said, practically a hobo.  So we simply walked around, and walked through a cool street fair/market area on the side of the stretch of museums, where they were selling all sorts of nifty things like art and coins and old medical instruments, which ISN'T CREEPY AT ALL.

This got slightly annoying once we get into the really touristy area and we started having waiters at the outdoor cafes try to pull us into their restaurants.  Bitch PLEASE!  If I want to eat at your restaurant, I'll do it! If I don't, trying to sucker me into it sure isn't gonna work.  PLEASE.

Afterwards, we made a pit stop, got MORE currywurst, walked around the main drag in our neighborhood, then jumped on the train and headed over to Alexanderplatz, which was a lot more jumping when it wasn't almost boiling out like it was during the day.  Walked around a bunch in search of the ever elusive drink-that-doesn't-cost-an-arm-and-a-leg-in-a-high-tourist-traffic-area (we found it!) and high tailed it to Kreuzberg to try and score some cheap turkish food.  It occurs to me now that my journey in Berlin seems to be centered on cheap tasty food, and pretty much nothing else.  Baz is, not surprisingly, okay with this.  

At this point, it was about 11pm, and once we reached Kreuzberg, only two places were really open - Curry 36 (no more currywurst today please!) and Mustafas, which had a line about 40 people deep (it makes sense, they're good and a huge ass wrap is less than 3€, so thats good eatin).  I was not having any of it, so we jumped back on the train and headed home.

After some grumbling and lamenting on no good food (we have three slices of ham in the fridge as a last resort), we wandered back down to the turkish place on the corner to see if they were open.  It was 12:15am at this point, and I wasn't so sure they'd be open.  To our delight, they were, and not only that, they're open until 4am EVERY FREAKING DAY.  We indulged in two chicken döners and some good beer, for a grand total of 7.10€ that left us both very full.  Even Baz.  To put this in context, Baz would eat his entire arm if it didn't hurt him, so this was pretty special.

Huge chicken döner and a Berliner Kindl.  Good eats!!

All in all, a nice day.  We have another two days here, and then it's off to Amsterdam!  Looking forward to the Tiergarten and the Zoo tomorrow, as well as (probably) more food from the turkish place on the corner. For sure.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Day 2: Shadows, Sushi, and Two Euro Ham

So Baz and I woke up at 1pm.  Sucks, but our sleep schedules are still a touch wonky, here's hoping they straighten out.  On the upside, today was Baz's birthday, so Happy Birthday Baz, welcome to the big 2-6!

Due to our shortened day, we decided to do Brandenburg Gate and the Holocaust Memorial, plus a little sushi - we've been craving it for the last few weeks, but he hasn't had access since he's been in England, and I haven't had access because I'm practically a hobo.

First we headed to Brandenburg Gate, which is huge and beautiful, but unfortunately it was hard to get a good vantage point since they were setting up for some sort of concert right in front of it, so we were relegated to 45 degree angle shots.

Brandenburg Gate

Afterwards we headed down a few blocks to the Holocaust Memorial (or, as it's actually called, Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe) - it's basically a large stone paved square bound by streets next to the Tiergarten and gridded with large monolithic granite blocks, higher in the center than at the sides.  It's very beautiful, doesn't seem like much until you get into the middle of it, where it becomes a labyrinth of stone and shadows.

Central Area of Memorial

It's beautiful and kind of scary, with over 2,000 of these giant sturdy blocks lined up in countless rows.  Walking around it, you find other people looking for their groups, running up and down the hilly pavings, sun shining through certain directions and shadows that stretch for ages.

Low Granite Blocks

After the memorial, we decided to wander to a sushi place nearby...except we'd forgotten the address, didn't have a good map, and we don't speak German (well Baz does a little, I just count my english in a heavy butchered german accent as German).  After much wandering, and realizing that German tourist traps are just as bad and soul crushing as American ones, we somehow found it on a side street and went inside.

Ishin Japanese Deli is a decent little Japanese place, considering it's off a main tourist strip (the large number if japanese people also helped my opinion of the place).  One thing that was strange upon walking in was the overwhelming smell of fish.  That's not a good sign for a sushi joint.  We were waved in, and figured we should just sit down.  We picked out what we wanted from the menus already standing at the tables ("Happy hour" actually lasts all day on Saturdays an Wednesdays, go figure) and got us some tuna and salmon plates, with individual pieces and rolls (or "maki").  The downside? No tap water.  Not sure if this is a European thing or if it's just so they can get away with charging for a cold drink (green tea is unlimited, but our cups were never refilled), but it kinda sucked since we were thirsty as hell.  No matter, we're here for sushi!  Our plates came, and it was darned good! Very fresh, and tasty, except for one odd thing - between the sashimi and the rice, they added a dab of wasabi.  This is good if you're expecting it, and will drive you CRAZY if you're not, and can't figure out where these bursts of nose and head clearing burn are coming from.  I soldiered on though, and it was a delightful treat, especially for Baz, since he got to finish what I couldn't eat.

Courtesy of

Afterwards, full of sushi, we headed back to our humble abode.  Let me just say, Pennymarkt is AWESOME.  It's this store next to our apartment, and everything is dirt cheap, which is great when you're practically a hobo.  Soda for 34 cents?  Yes please.  Ham (good german ham) for 2 euros? Yes PLEASE.  Also: bars of good chocolate for 49 cents and full bottles of wine for 1.49?  Yes, yes, a thousand times yes.

Also, can I please say that Berlin's train system is awesome?  Trains practically run every 5 minutes, they're super fast and quiet, and you can fucking drink on the platforms.  I think.

Yorckstraße Station

Tomorrow looks promising - looking forward to exploring Museum Island (todays original plan, but sidetracked due to waking up five hours later than planned) as well as trying to find the cheapest most delicious food EVER.  Turkish food, here we come!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Day 1: Hello Berlin, or How I Learned to Sleep With A German Woman In My Lap

So, Day One of my vacation, and I'm safe and sound in Berlin.  After a rather long travel route (not, um, unforeseen, given Germany's proximity HALFWAY AROUND THE FREAKIN WORLD) and some frustrations, I learned some important lessons.

Lesson One: If you can help it, NEVER use Frankfurt Airport as a connection point for flights.

I mean it.  If you have a flight to catch in two hours or less, DO NOT use Frankfurt Airport as a transfer hub.  Let me rephrase that: If you MUST fly through Frankfurt Airport, make sure you give at least two hours to transfer.  Why is that? Because in order to connect between arrivals and departures, you are required to go through CUSTOMS and then SECURITY.  Imagine: 5:30am, and every single person from every single arriving flight is simultaneously being crammed into a small hall to go through customs.  Whether Frankfurt is simply where you're catching a connection, or where you're going to vacation, you need to go through customs.

How this is a good idea, I'll never know.  In fact, it's a fucking BAD idea.  Granted, the customs process is insanely fast, no questions, hello, passport stamp, six months, buh bye, on your way now.  But! Following this is a journey resembling a pilgrimage to Mecca - you must go around a corner, down a flight of stairs (where there is an identical customs area, so you feel you've made a wrong turn somewhere), then another flight of stairs, through the baggage claim area, then you just walk.  You walk, and walk, and walk, and walk.  I am not against walking at all, but I would have been half dead at the end of this if I had any mobility issues at all.  You walk and walk, and walk some more, the entire time following the big blue and white signs that say "A B C D E Z" with the little happy departing plane next to it, knowing/wishing/hoping your concourse will come up sooner rather than later.

Then you reach security.  "Security, what? I did security at JFK, this again?"  I show my ticket and the woman whisks me through a quick line.  I thought this was nice.  In reality, I should have been worried.  I go through, I beep, I get wanded twice (and let me tell you, German patdowns are serious business, none of this "back of the hand stuff" they do in the US), then I get my water bottle taken that I'd forgotten about, since you know, I didn't think I'd need to go through security TWICE to get to where I needed to go.  They were insanely nice, but this also stalled me.  Then, I walked and walked some more.

So, after about almost a mile of walking, I made it to my gate! Made it there easily because I knew I was leaving from that gate, because I had a half hour to stare at the updating list of flights while I was waiting at customs.  I also noticed my flight had a little green dot next to it while I was at customs.  I didn't know what this meant, and that's bad. I'm getting to that.

My gate is empty.  Nothing on the overhead screens.  "That's weird", I think, so I sit for a few minutes and read...but I'm getting worried.  I go back over to the departures screens and scan it for my's not there.  I'm more worried.  I look up at the time - 6:38am.  I look down at my ticket - 6:40am.

I'm boned, right?

I run over to a desk...any desk.  I explain the situation, the clerk looks and goes "I think that flight has already left."  

Left? My flight left, without me? No way.  I'm meeting someone.  I have no way of contacting them.  It's not my fault, customs was huge.  Security felt me up.  I had my water taken.  The walk was lengthly, and I'm a pretty fast walker.  How is this happening??

He tells me it's okay, to go to the service desk.  I rush there, feeling dread in my heart.  How much is it going to be to take an alternate flight? When is the next available flight anyhow? He said the next flight in an hour, but that doesn't necessarily mean there will be openings.  Worry worry worry.  After what feels like an eternity at the service desk, I get rebooked for the next flight.  No extra fee and no sitting on the wing, so at least I have that going for me. For the next 45 minutes or so, everything is uneventful.  Scan my ticket, get seated, free seat between me and the other guy, all is good! Plus I see people from my first flight on this one, so I know other people got boned too (this makes me a sociopath, no?).

Then...the captain comes on.  Everything is in German first, then in English, so you can get a hard-to-read preview of what you're gonna have to hear.  When you suddenly hear lots of guttural groaning and newspapers being passive aggressively rustled, you know you're in for it.  Captain says that due to fog in Berlin, we're delayed an hour.  For a 45 minute flight, we're delayed an hour.  So not only is my flight an hour later, it's going to be an additional hour due to fog.  GREAT.  Thankfully (?) after 40 minutes, we take off.  Uneventful flight, with some great views of wind turbines out the window.

After arriving, and exiting the plane, I end up in some weird open area with one exit out, but no one is around.  I need to find customs.  One guy goes through so I follow and go through a sliding glass door and an automatic gate, and suddenly I'm in the outside terminal.  I am guessing I did this right, otherwise I'm a fugitive (though my passport was stamped at Frankfurt, so I am *legally* here, no? What's to say I didn't leave from Frankfurt and hop a train to Berlin?).  Anyhow, running from the law in my head, I need to find Baz.  "The meetingpoint!", I think.  The meetingpoint is a place in the airport where you, well, meet a person.  Which would be easy to find, except Tegel lacks ANY maps of the terminal whatsoever (after running through this dump of a flughafen, I can understand why Berlin wants to scrap this airport and build a nicer one south of the city).  I run around, and around, and around the hexagonal Dante's inferno for about 20 minutes - I'm hot, tired, sweaty, and I cannot find das meetingpoint.  What the hell is going on.  Finally, I find it - it's literally an unlit sign hanging from the ceiling, a circle with four arrows pointing to it.  It's basically above what would be the equivalent of a random foodcourt hallway in a mall.  WHAT IS GOING ON?  

I finally meet up with Baz, who has been there since 7am.  I got there at 10.30am, so I feel just cruddy. But all in all, from that point on, things went smoothly.  I guess.

Lesson Two: Lower your seat back as soon as you can or risk ending up in upright seat purgatory

Okay, so I lucked out.  My row had the middle seat unreserved, so my window seat buddy and I spread out comfortably.  I almost high fived him when they closed the cabin and I realized we truly had the space to ourselves, but I think he may have punched me or thought I was coming on to him.  Either way, all I wanted to do was drink tomato juice and not cause a scene, so I resisted.  I tend to not lower my seat suddenly at full speed/force when the seatbelt sign turns off, mostly because I don't want to be a massive DICK.  Not so for the crazy german woman in front of me.  Seatbelt light dings off, and suddenly the seatback in front of me comes firing at my face like that trailer clip with the tree branch in Paranormal Activity (I don't know which one, whatever).  Paralyzed, I realize this woman isn't going anywhere but asleep.  Great.  But whatever - I settle in, watch "The Lorax" approximately two inches from my face, ate my space-food-meets-lean-cuisine dinner, then tried to get some sleep.  Time to put my chair back, right? 

WRONG.  The person behind me decided the best way to fall asleep was to put the tray table down, pop a pillow on, and veg the fuck out.  

Lets recap - the person in front of me is practically 180º, while the person behind me is perched with her scalp buried in my seat back so that any seat movement I make will wake them.  Naturally, this makes dozing off impossible - it's good to know I'm the angry awake meat in a sleep sandwich.  Then, at some point, the woman in front of me wakes up and decides to lie sideways on her husband, which means her seatback is still resting on my bosom, but it's not actually being utilized.  Fury with the glory of a thousand suns? Awakened.  

The moral of this story? Don't be a total JERK and throw your seat back, then not use it.  Jerk.

There's probably more lessons, but it's late (+6 time difference for me!).  I'll just say the rest of the day went well - got to the place we stayed at (the room is huge!), caught a nap, went out in Charlottenburg, had some brautwurst, I got to butcher German wonderfully, then came back home.  Looks to be a fun day tomorrow as well!  Hopefully with fewer german women taking up real estate within 3" of my front and back.