Welcome to my Berlin trip report. I decided to write a very comprehensive trip report, in an attempt to try and recreate my own participation in the event. This way my hope is that people who were unable to attend can at least get a feel for just how incredible the event was. This is part 2 of a multi part story and you can expect a new chapter every other day.
PS. I apologize for not having more pictures, I usually don't take many photos when I'm travelling around.
Part 2 – Arriving (you are here)
My last report ended with me in Berlin Schönefeld, which by the way is a shithole of an Airport. Excuse my language. Eager to try out some of my German, which I had spent a long time learning in School, I approached the information desk to buy a train ticket and to find out exactly where this train would depart from. My first usage of German in a long time was very rusty. Had I not been going to a polyglot conference I might just have been tempted to switch to English. None the less the person behind the desk understood me and I understood her – that to me is a success. It is really scary to speak a foreign language you haven’t spoken in a while, no matter the language. Keen to move on to the conference I briskly walked towards the train tracks I had been told would serve the RE7, taking me straight to Berlin Hauptbahnhof (main train station).
I was slightly early, but as the train was already there waiting to depart at least I had somewhere to sit and attempt to read a bit in my basic Russian short story book. It was hard to concentrate though, with very little sleep and ever increasing levels of excitement about the conference meant that focusing on the stories of a language I barely knew was outside the realm of possibility. I succumbed to listening to some music on my phone when a large party entered the train. They did not seem German to me and I couldn’t make out the language because of the music, so I turned it off for a second and then I knew. It was a group of Italians. I love Italian people, they are always so outspoken and lively as if every moment, every word is the most important they have spoken in their lives. Sadly I do not speak any Italian, yet, but I’m sure this would have been a great training opportunity for any Italian-speaker-in-training. As the train started rolling I restarted my music and through Tatu’s biggest Russian hits I was now moving swiftly across the Berlin outskirts towards the centre. It wasn’t a long journey, approximately 40 minutes, but I was so close to the conference location now and so the minutes seemed like hours.
When I finally arrived at Hauptbahnhof I was simply floored. This is the biggest train station I have ever seen in my life. Again, keen to get to the conference I skipped on the some 200 different food and coffee outlets and took off into the Berlin streets. I had memorised a few simple directions and street names and it wasn’t long until I was close to the hostel. I say close because I actually could not find it, had to backtrack twice and then I gave up and used my phone to actually find it. Turns out I was less than 50 meters away from it, but due to other buildings and vegetation it was hard to make out from a bit away. Upon entering it seemed like a nice location with the features one would expect from a hostel/hotel of this size. I immediately went to the 5th floor to find the registration desk for the event, as instructed in the booklet we all received prior to the event. There I met Judith Meyer for the first time, she was on the podcast episode 3 and to me a very inspirational member of the community. I’m not sure she recognized me, but that was alright. It’s not easy to recognize somebody based on Facebook photos with other hairstyles and so on. I greeted a group of people whom I did not recognize and then went on to talk to Martin, who together with Judith and Chuck had organised the entire event. He gave me my room key, name badge, arm band as well as all the food vouchers I had ordered from home. I was now officially at the 2014 Polyglot Gathering in Berlin.
Surprisingly few were hanging around by this time so I decided to go test the room key out. I had been warned it might not work yet, and true enough I was unable to get inside to dispose of my suitcase. I couldn’t really wheel a suitcase around Berlin as a tourist, so I decided to go to the lobby and try to see how the Internet worked. Here I met a few others as they came in and I spent a bit of time looking at social media. About an hour later I went to the room and was happy to see the LED on the handle turned green, allowing me into what would be my accommodation for the next 5 days. It was a decently-sized room with twin beds, a desk and a nice bathroom with shower. This would do nicely I thought, and dumped all my excess baggage on my bed. Time had come to explore Berlin, as I figured these 3-4 hours before Dinner would be my only real opportunity to be touristy during the event, at least without skipping significant parts of the conference. I had checked up on a few basic tourist attractions, but they were all based on leaving the hostel slightly earlier and to double the concern it also began to rain. Not really sure what to do I simply walked to the main train station and followed signs that looked touristy. If anything else I thought I would get some exercise.
In the next edition of my trip report I will talk about being harassed on the street, touristing in Berlin and the first dinner at the hotel.
Kris is the founder of Actual Fluency, and has spent the last 8 years becoming an expert in language learning software, methods, and techniques.
Originally from Denmark, he now lives in Portugal and speaks 5+ languages at varying levels. His other interests are Wine, Online Marketing, and Travelling.