Saturday, May 11, 2013
We decided to meet a little late for breakfast since we probably wouldn’t have that luxury again for the rest of the trip. After a lovely breakfast of croissant with Nutella and some mixed fruit, we walked to the U-bahn station that was just less than a block from the hotel. We had decided the night before over dinner to go to the zoo and do some exploring on our free day while everyone else was arriving.
It was a GLORIOUS day to be outside and all of the animals agreed and were being super cute and showy. What is really cool (to me, at least) is that the exhibits in the Berlin Zoo were really wide open. Like, I felt as if I could reach out and touch the elephant, if I could reach across the 8′ wide concrete ditch! It was insane. Below I have crudely slapped together a comparison of the Berlin Zoo and the Louisville Zoo. I am computer illiterate. Give me a break.
Due to the German zoo’s open layout, there are… opportunities…… for those among us who are incapable of keeping our hands to ourselves. [That would be me, for any of you who don’t know me well enough to have already guessed that.] So the penguin tank is outside and its water portion is open. I’m sure it’s because the German people respect authority enough to not touch those things which it is common knowledge are not supposed to be touched. However, I am NOT German, I’m quite thoroughly American and I have a tendency to do what I want… consequences be damned… as long as said consequences aren’t too scary. So, I did. I reached into the penguin exhibit and touched a penguin as it was swimming by. It was GLORIOUS. I was totally willing to be booted from the zoo, because seriously, when else will I have the opportunity to touch a penguin? That’s right. Never. Here is a picture of my finger and the penguin I touched with it.
When we left the zoo, we walked the advertised 1,000 m to a beirgarten, just next to the zoo. They had some sort of Thai wurst with lemon and chili on special, so that is what I ordered. Jacqui and Brianne both got the traditional German wurst, even though they had to wait close to 10 minutes for them to cook. Thank GOD for my impatience. Can I PLEASE say that this was the most delicious thing that I have eaten in my life, to date. Not kidding. Lemon flavored sausage. ah-MAZ-ing. So in that spirit, here are some pictures of me eating. Sexy, I know.
We were supposed to be getting roommates by the time we got back. Being the enthusiastic freak that I am, I rushed back to my room and waited. And waited… and WAITED. So I walked downstairs to have a stroll around the block to kill some time, then went back to my room to meet my roommate. Who was still not there. So, I took a field trip to meet other people’s’ roommates. I walked next door to Jacqui’s room and met her lovely roommate, Candice: Australian, student, lived in China for a semester (totally hate her out sheer jealousy). We sat in there and chatted for a bit and then I walked back to my room en route to go meet Brianne’s roommate. Fortunately, they beat me to it! I had no sooner shut my door than there was a knock on it, because Brianne brought down her new roomie, Kendra to say hi! Kendra: Canadian, student, ready to party, freaking adorbs.
It was time to start getting ready for our Contiki meet up so I did just that. I was ready to walk out the door when she arrived! Emily: Canadian, student about to graduate, plays soccer. She is absolutely my perfect match for a roomie. Seriously, I’ve never had a stranger as a roommate that I got along perfectly with, the entire time. We got distracted getting to know each other and ended up being a couple of minutes late to the meeting, so we snagged two open seats at a table in the back where there were already 4 people sitting. Let’s go through them: Carly: Canadian, student, already been in Europe for a while before the Contiki. Nigel: Canadian, incredibeard, studying astrophysics or something of that caliber. Carly and Nigel are cousins and are precious together. Nick: Australian, camp counselor in Virginia, promised to make me a proper Vegemite sandwich but never did. (Nick, if you read this: I still want my sandwich.) Haley: Australian, works in a restaurant, was hard to read initially, but was absolutely the loveliest person! Nick and Haley were there together, as friends, but apparently their friends at home had bets on whether or not they’d end up ‘together’.
While waiting in line to verify passport information I met two girls from Kentucky, of all places! For those of you not from Kentucky, the reason I found this unusual is that (as an incredibly generalized rule) people in the South, country folk, aren’t often well-travelled. Annaliece: American, UK student (aweeee C-A-T-S), makes the Turtleman call upon entering a bar. Lee: American, UK student (cats, cats, CATS!!), also says Y’all. That was pointed out to me during the aftermath of this meeting. I say y’all. Apparently, it’s cute. The Three Amigos (with pinkie rings and all). Now forgive me, but being that most of their information was similar I had to tell them apart in stupid ways, even though they looked nothing alike. Meeting 50 people in one night is hard! Matt: Canadian, Engineer, buzzed-ish hair. I remember because Matt is the shortest name, also has the shortest hair…. Derek: Canadian, Engineer, not buzzed hair. George: Canadian, Engineer, tallest person on the trip, deepest voice I may have ever heard. Anne: Canadian, Loves Manatees, a lot. Martha: Canadian, student, legitimately never heard her say a cross word about anyone, so sweet!
For those of you unfamiliar with Turtle Man:
After we had the get-checked-in-welcome-to-Contiki meeting, we headed out to our first night’s dinner. 2 options, meat balls or sausages with salad. For dessert, ice cream and some fruity, tart jam… YUM
At dinner, I sat at a table where the only person I had previously met was Kendra. Also at the table were Ronit and Dianna or Diane (I can’t remember): bff’s from Toronto, both somewhat fluent in Russian. I talked to Ronit a little more over the course of the trip than D, and she always told me how pretty my hair was. She also taught me “nyet spah-see-buh” which means “no thank-you” in Russian. I don’t know how I remember that, but who knows when I might need it. There were also Katarina and Ana: more Canadian, bffs from Toronto. I think they were of Croatian decent, because I remember one of them getting a brochure in the language at Kutna Hora. I really didn’t get to spend any time with them after this dinner, but they were two of the NICEST girls and I have gotten to chit chat with them a bit since I’ve been home. Lastly at the table were our three lovely Brazilians: Leticia, Taisa and Melina. Leticia I had gotten to talk with a little bit ahead of time, through the group meet-up, and she is this walking, non-stop party! Seriously, that girl has more energy than any person I’ve ever met. Taisa was super nice, and a shopaholic! Her eyes lit up in the jewelry store like a kid in a candy-shop. Melina was a sweet girl, teeny, tiny and sort of quiet.
This was quite an interesting dinner. Katarina happens to be lactose intolerant. So Lucien, being the constant picture of preparedness, brought her a piece of paper that had the German word for the condition. He did say that he had already told the waiter, but that was just in case. So we’ve ordered our drinks and out come the salads. The waiter hands a salad to Katarina and she asks him what sort of dressing is on the salad. He responds, telling her that it’s yogurt. She hands him the paper that Luce had given her. He eases her mind by informing her that she isn’t to worry… it isn’t milk, it’s yogurt. I snorted, and after an explanation, she got a new salad. It was still super funny.
After dinner, we went to and Irish Pub with a German Elvis impersonator who sang The Lion Sleeps Tonight. So we have a German pretending to be an American in an Irish Bar singing songs about Africa. Those middle aged German women ATE IT UP! They were dancing and partying harder than we were! I got a chance to stand and talk to the 3 Canadian Amigos, and danced with Brianne, but this was the first chance that I really had to talk to Lucian: our delightful English tour director.
Now, Lucian is a character. He is going to need an entire paragraph for introduction purposes:
Lucian is a lovely, way-too-energetic, Englishman by way of Bristol. He seems to operate on a different set of physics than the rest of humanity, in that, I’m fairly sure he get 30-hours a day rather than the standard 24. Up and cheerfully chomping down breakfast when we all crawl out of bed, sunglasses on and tylenols a-poppin. He is sing-songy by the time we get on the bus. He insists that anyone who arrives even a minute late sings karaoke, or Contikioke as he prefers. He frolics around showing us about all day long, never EVER sitting and then takes us out for drinks and a boogey every evening. He says bOOOOgey. He dances up and down the aisles of the coach. He patiently answers questions asked over and over and over. Instead of getting angry when this happens, he will just grab you in the middle of the hotel lobby and turn you around his imaginary dance floor like he’s Fred Astaire and you are a very clumsy Ginger Rogers. He doesn’t panic when he wakes up in Prague and one of his charges is missing. He makes this group, probably no different than any other Contiki group he’s had, feel like they are one of a kind. He is more than a tour director, he is a part of us and the group wouldn’t have been complete without him. CONTIKI, Listen up! Don’t let him get away. He’ll be running the place one day! Mark my words. I’m serious, though. You need him to be training your people or orchestrating your business.
A few of us decided to extend our night out once we got back to the hotel. Emily the Roomie, Nigel, Carly and I, plus Riley and Josh (the bffs from Australia who were the WILDEST on the trip) and Stephanie (Canadian, Brianne and Kendra’s other room mate) went out wandering for a while, at which point Steph, Emily, Josh and Riley got a cab to a club. Carly, Nigel and I were determined to find the club we had originally set out for. Which we did. It was closed for a private event. Ya know what? We found it, and that counts!! I did still have a great time exploring. Back to the hotel, and goodnight. LONG DAY.