We spent two nights in berlin – one in “west” berlin and one in “east” berlin. You can’t really tell that you are staying in places that were drastically different just over 10 years ago. The city has done a good job of merging back into one entity.
We haven’t gotten a passport stamp in any country yet. It seems the only place you can snag one of these free souveniers is at the airport where they actually seem to care about borders and passports and such. The train from the netherlands to belgium didn’t check anything (our tickets included) and we went from belgium to germany with only a ticket check. I’m currently in prague (behind on the storytelling again) and we didn’t get our passports REALLY checked there either – I had to show the guy my passport, but he didn’t even look at it…it’s harder to get in a bar in the US when you are under 21 than it is to cross the border from germany to the czech republic!
Back to berlin. The city is happening. There is a thriving nightlife and publications that help you get around. We found everyone to be extremely friendly and helpful when we were looking for things to do or had troubles figuring out the particulars of the public transport system. On the other hand, the people weren’t sociable. We didn’t meet one person from the area the whole time. I tried a couple of times to talk to some people and we were just not succesful. They were friendly and polite, but answered our inquiry and went on their way.
I’m finding that I’m more and more interested in living in a country where I have to learn a new language to survive. It seems that the only way to truly learn a language is to be submersed in it and figuring out how to respond to the supermarket checkout lady when you hand her the money for the food you are buying and she responds in something that sounds like jibberish to you but is probably quite useful information! The saving grace is that virtually everyone can stumble their way through english and so you can ask politely for english (english, bitte) and get the question translated in real time!
The hostel scene is getting younger – schools must be letting out. When we started this trip we were surrounded by ex-dot-com-ers wandering around europe on severence packages. Now, everyone seems to be around 18. I don’t mind so much, but we are finding less and less people we end up hanging out with.