Travel Log - Day 1

Geneva Station

My trip to Berlin commenced with a train ride from Geneva, Switzerland in the early hours of the morning. I must say that I find railway travel through Europe much more convenient than flying. Perhaps its takes a little longer on larger distances, like I will be travelling today, but it is far more relaxed and convenient as it mostly departs from the centre of town.

My journey today would require me to change trains once on the Swiss border at Basel. After looking at the timetable I was little concerned that there was only ten minute change over. I therefore decided to catch an earlier train to allow myself plenty of time in case problems arose (which they didn't anyway.


Platform at basel

The train from Geneva to Basel took about 2.5 hours after which I found myself waiting on a platform at Basel station for my train to Berlin. It can be a little overwhelming at first to travel by train but it is normally pretty well sign posted and there are plenty of people who are willing to help. If you really get lost ask one of the station staff or go to the information window in the main area of the station.

Given that I was now early for my Berlin train I went and stood in the main part of the station where they also normally have a large board showing all the arrivals and departures. 

In no time at all I was on board my train and heading for Berlin. The trip from Basel to Berlin was going to take a little over 7 hours. Prior to journey I'd looked up the train timetable and found the stops the train would be making prior to arriving in Berlin. This made it easier to determine how far I was from my final destination and also ensure that I was on the correct train.

I had chosen to travel in the first class section of the train, which means plusher seat with more leg and elbow room. I also discovered there are also power points under the seats into which you can plug your laptop. Unfortunately, this train did not have WiFi but many now do. In this case the conductor also came down and took your basic food and drink orders that they then retrieved from the dining car. You can always take a walk to the dining car yourself and indulge in a more substantial meal yourself if you want.

After a while a conductor comes along to check your tickets. I whipped out what I thought was my pre-paid ticket only to be told that what I provided was only a seat reservation. I was puzzled as to where my 'full' ticket would be. The conductor then said that if I didn't have a full ticket then I would have to pay the fare to Berlin, about $250 Euro. As it turns out, I did have a ticket. I actually had a Eurorail pass.

Basically the way this works is that you buy a pass for so many consecutive days. You mark the ticket with a start date and on each day you can just about travel anywhere you want using this ticket. Now what I didn't appreciate was that when you travel via first class you can also reserve a seat (always a good idea on a long hall trip). This costs a few dollars more and provides you with ANOTHER ticket. Ah ha, so I need to show the conductor both my seat reservation AND my Eurorail pass. Now I understand (note to self for future).

I arrived at Berlin Hauptbahnhof (Berlin-Hbf) at about 8pm in the evening. Before I went to my hotel I wanted to pick up a Berlin Welcome card which provided a range of benefits for the tourist, not least amoungst these was included tickets for the local subway. That would make life much easier travelling to my hotel. You can purchase one at the Berlin infostore in the Berlin Hauptbahnhof on the ground floor near the Europlatz entrance. Even better this store is open daily from 8am - 10pm.

After purchasing my Berlin Welcome card my next challenge was to try and catch the subway to my hotel. I had downloaded a copy of the station layout so I had some idea of the layout but I didn't yet understand how to catch the subway going in the right direction. I was determined to work this out myself but after wandering around for 30 minutes or so with no luck I gave up and went to the information desk at the entrance to the station. In all honesty I should have gone there first instead of being so stubborn, but I did learn my lesson for the future.

So what I did learn is that all the subway trains depart from the top level (where I had alighted from train from Basel earlier) BUT from platform 15 and 16. So there is a S-Bahn and U-Bahn systems which serve the city. My Berlin Welcome card  gave me access to both but now I had to work out which train I need to get onto to. Using the subway map I knew that I wanted to get to Kochstrasse station. This would mean catching a train to Friedrichstrasse and then changing to the U6 line. I had been told by the information people to catch any train from platform 16 to get to Friedrichstrasse station. I didn't really realize it at the time but all trains on platform 16 go east while those on platform 15 go west. Simple eh? At least once you know!

By now it was after 9pm and a changed at Friedrichstrasse for U6 and after catching the train headed for Alt-Mariendorf I alighted at Kochstrasse near my hotel and Checkpoint Charlie. My destination was Hotel AngleterreFriedrichstraße 31 which I found after getting my bearing in the dark city streets. I checked in a headed to my room, glad to finally be at my destination.



Accommodation at Hotel Angleterre


Bathroom at Hotel Angleterre

I unpacked and settled in ready for a start bright and early tomorrow. Proceed to Travel log - Day 2 ->