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Despite the quite sensible raft of "oh that's so cool!" I've gotten… - Notes from a Medium-Sized Island [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]

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[Oct. 14th, 2015|01:23 am]

Despite the quite sensible raft of "oh that's so cool!" I've gotten from family and friends about the vacation so far, it's been a somewhat rough start.

I want to like travel, I really do. I want to be that kind of person that's interested in other places and cultures and things, and is resilient and flexible and open to new blah blah blah, but the truth is I find it really challenging to squeeze out enjoyment that actually counterweighs the sleep deprivation and difficulty other meeting basic life needs ("being able to purchase food when I am actually hungry", "having a peaceful place to sit and think by myself") and so on and so forth. That being said, challenging oneself is healthy, I guess. It's just... more like eating one's vegetables than taking a vacation so far.

I might not be quite so grumpy if a couple of logistical happenstances hadn't gone negative in the first day, and indeed things may go quite a bit better tomorrow, just by regression to the mean or whatever. We got unlucky with the weather: about 5degC and drizzling most of the day, not ideal for strolling and looking at things, and it seems like that's the outlook for most of the whole trip. The previous week that I'd looked at the forecast it was a few degrees warmer and no rain. The good news is I packed enough warm layers for it not to be too awful.

The main thing that threw me off was getting super panic-hungry about 11am local time, (this being, of course, 5am brain-time, having been awake almost 24 hours, having last eaten about 5 hours ago) finding that the hotel restaurant had weird (= "not designed for my 24-7 food-on-a-whim convenience") hours where it was closed between 10am end of breakfast, and noon start-of-lunch. So I tell myself to just try my best to nap until noon or so --- and then go downstairs to find the ENTIRE HOTEL RESTAURANT is reserved for some group event or something and cannot squeeze two people in. Ok, K says quite sensibly, let's just go to that ONE open cafe in the otherwise-food desert neighborhood we saw when we walked here --- nope, it's closed now.

K kept her shit together while I freaked out a bit, and we ended up taking public transportation all the way to the city center and I finally got some Currywurst by like 1pm. Which was... kinda gross in a certain way, but filled my stomach and restored me to relative sanity anyhow.

After that we succeeded at getting a 3-day train-and-some-museums pass for the each of us, and saw the Pergamon- and Neuemuseums. Gotta admit I did enjoy myself in the warm, dry indoors looking at arts and such. Lots of good ancient carvings with cuneiform and some Aramaic --- a script I don't think I even knew was a thing before? Certainly I'd heard of the Aramaic language before, just from being raised Protestant and hearing eloi eloi lama sabachthani and the like in Bible stories. Also heaps of arabic inscriptions/carvings/calligraphy. Also Ishtar Gate, (= "Oh, that's where Tigris und Euphrat gets its playing-piece art from") an apparently famous bust of Nefertiti, and some really fun weird architecture in the Neuemuseum.

While failing to find the Hackescher Höf, we stumbled on to find a reasonably priced pan-Asian place where K got her Yellow Curry on, and I had some very nice spicy beef Bibimbap. The rain let up a little and we wandered around some neighborhoods a bit to the west of Alexanderplatz. Both of us started crashing around 7pm, had a bit of difficulty figuring out where the tram back to the hotel was, but K eventually figured it out, and we were asleep by like 8 probably.

Meh, yeah, so, I scan back to all of the complaining at the beginning and compare it to the fact that by the evening things were going pretty okay, and tell myself I probably just need to be more patient.

[User Picture]From: zare_k
2015-10-15 06:18 am (UTC)
You did not miss anything food-wise in Hackescher Markt. Where are you staying? I may have some suggestions for you.
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[User Picture]From: jcreed
2015-10-15 06:26 am (UTC)
Staying in NH Alexanderplatz, but probably spending more of our time in the city center. Recommendations welcome!
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[User Picture]From: zare_k
2015-10-15 05:01 pm (UTC)
Ah, you're staying out towards Friedrichshain, not an area I'm very familiar with. Some places I remember from around Mitte and Kreuzberg:

Coffee at The Barn (Mitte) or Companion Coffee (Kreuzberg)

Some good Turkish restaurants on Adalbertstr. in Kreuzberg, the falafel at Maroush is delicious.

Lots of interesting places near the Oranienburger Tor U/S-Bahn stop

Street Food Thursday at Markhalle Neun in Kreuzberg

Breakfast, also good cakes at Friedrichs 106 - Wiener Kaffeehaus, Mitte

Weekend brunch at Barcomi's, Vietnamese tea and desserts at Chen Che, try the spätzle at Mittendrin, cafe and coworking space St. Olberholz (with good people-watching) all near the Rosenthaler Platz U-Bahn stop.

Cozy bar Scotch & Sofa near Kollwitzplatz in Prenzlauer Berg

Great Saturday morning farmers market also on Kollwitzplatz, delicious breads and baked goods at Zeit Für Brot nearby.
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[User Picture]From: jcreed
2015-10-15 09:14 pm (UTC)
Awesome, thanks! I think the falafel and spätzle recommendations are notably up our alley.
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[User Picture]From: gregh1983
2015-10-16 04:14 am (UTC)
I think a walk eastward down Karl-Marx-Allee is pretty interesting, especially if you're interested in massive Soviet architecture. I wrote about it in my journal last month, and there's also a Wikipedia page.
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[User Picture]From: platypuslord
2015-10-15 06:50 am (UTC)
I agree with you!

What I have been telling people is: I actually really like being home in Seattle. I have board game nights, I have RPG nights, I have meetup groups doing interesting things. If I travel, I miss out on all that. That's a big opportunity cost!

But I think secretly, "transportation I know how to use" and "food I can reliably eat" is also a big factor.
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[User Picture]From: queen_elvis
2015-10-15 03:50 pm (UTC)
It's difficult to keep your perspective when you've been awake 24 hours and are really hungry. I strongly agree that travel is more stressful than fun. (This is such a rare attitude among freelance writers, most of whom seem to think travel writing gigs are the holy grail, that I've considered writing an essay about how overrated travel is.) One thing I noticed, though, is that I had a better time in Thailand than Europe because the jet lag was in my favor. So it's possible that a lot of my attitude is sleep-related.

Edited at 2015-10-15 03:50 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: jcreed
2015-10-15 09:16 pm (UTC)
Yeah my perspective is EXTREMELY sleep-related. I have tended to think that the eastern-going direction is easier on me jetlagwise (which seems to be the opposite of what everyone else says) because I seem to be better at "getting up early in the morning" rather than "staying up late". After one decent night of sleep, I'm pretty much reset here, but I remember languishing in jetlag dear-god-what-time-is-it-actually hell for like a week and a half in california.
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[User Picture]From: zare_k
2015-10-15 10:37 pm (UTC)
This is my experience too—going to Europe, I struggle through the first day and then get a good night's sleep and everything is dandy. Jet lag going to East Asia is brutal, takes me days to adjust.
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[User Picture]From: jcreed
2015-10-17 05:58 am (UTC)
Yeah, that sounds about right; I kinda lean towards feeling that creative output feels like a combustion reaction where external stimulation (looking at other people's work, change-of-scenery as you're describing it, discussions with peers, etc.) is like fuel and quiet introspection is the oxygen. I look back on CMU times, specifically when I lived not-in-the-dorms, and suspect that the reason I felt so good there is I was able to control the amount of 'fuel' and 'oxygen' that I was getting when I needed them.
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[User Picture]From: jcreed
2015-10-17 06:00 am (UTC)
(undergrad was a little too low on 'oxygen'; penn post-doc was a little too low on 'fuel' --- even though the *quality* of discussions I had there with other people was fantastic, and much to those people's credit, the overall feeling of connectedness to the community just couldn't compare to how I felt at a place I had been continuously for 11 years. living with my family prior to leaving to college was impoverished in both respects.)

Edited at 2015-10-17 06:01 am (UTC)
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