Baby, it’s cold outside

I woke on Monday from another poor night’s sleep, unfortunately. Much of it was a powerful nasal congestion that made my head seem three times its size. I tossed, turned, was up at 3 a.m. and back down at 4. Enough already!

I made the decision to find a pharmacy, or Apotheke (“ah-po-tay-ka”), at some point during the day. But, more critical, was my first day’s work. Yep – remote employment. And Monday mornings are for staff meetings, with state and, er, international staff participating via conference call.

I’ve been on the phone with some of you (Vicki. Mom.) so you’ve had a taste of my own frustration with my available wireless connection. Or rather, usually-not-available connection. It makes for choppy Skype calls and frequent drops. While Berlin has plenty of internet cafés, home DSL service takes weeks and most are only available under annual plans. No surprise, I’ve already found someone who’s pledged to help (thanks in advance, Seán). He says his own experience involved a lot of cursing…

So the mission: to find a smoke-free wireless zone in Berlin.

I found an online guide to international Wi-Fi spots, and cross-referenced the suggested Berlin locations with information I pulled from the Berlin guidebook that my Goethe classmate, Bill, lent me. The recommendation was Sony Center at Postdamer Platz in Mitte, a relatively new center featuring a grand plaza with a film museum, an IMAX theatre and restaurants.

Hey, that sounds good.

I gathered up my work, my laptop and my camera and set out for the Worschauer S-Bahn station.

It was bitterly cold out. Made even more so by my knowledge that temperatures were reaching the low-60s in Washington.

Someone remind me why I didn’t choose New Zealand? It’s summer there now…

I was a bit flummoxed at the station because I didn’t see any automated machine for purchasing my train ticket. I finally approached the attendant in a nearby kiosk, and stumbled through my request using the German phrase book that Karin lent me.

(Did I purchase anything myself for this trip?)

It helped. Just barely. Stick to the words you know – eg. “nach” for “to” and “karte” for “ticket” – and you get “ticket to Sony Center.” Add “zurück” for “back” and you get a roundtrip fare.


I needed a little help getting on the right train too. Not only did a very patient woman point me to the right track, she also called out to me when I didn’t take the right train. Which turned out to be any train leaving from that platform, not just the number I thought I was waiting for. hehehehehe

On the train, I blended in…

Okay, I lied. That was for Angelyn’s benefit, as she told me there’d be no other black folk around to speak of. Damn that woman.

The great thing about the Sony Center is that I indeed made a wireless connection that was stable enough to keep me online in a work conference call for an hour via Skype. I could hear them clearly and I could participate fully. That included taking a moment to thank the same Miss Angelyn for the lovely Wonder Woman calendar hanging on my dining room wall.

The downside about the Sony Center is that, well, it’s outside.

I was stunned when I came up the escalator. I was expecting the broad plaza, sure, but the photo in the guidebook emphasized the Center’s unusual dome. Well, I assumed that it covered an internal courtyard.

Nope. See the more true photo taken by yours truly below.

Dome of Sony Center plaza in Berlin, as seen from below

So, I logged in from one of the restaurants; this one touting “outback”/Aussie cuisine.

“I’ll have the Teriyaki chicken with the sprout salad, danke.”

Yeah. Outback.

I made my way back through the train system with a slight detour near Französiche Straße just to look around. (Wow. Downtown Berlin.) Back at my home stop, Frankfurter Tor on the U-Bahn, I decided to walk down the street to find dinner (mmm, wurst!) and that Apotheke.

I did eventually get the nasal remedy of my dreams, but the pantomime that the salesclerk and I had to go through to communicate was the stuff of television comedy!

And, with thanks to Seán for keeping me on the phone and awake, I got my first solid night’s sleep.

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