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Sunday, May 8, 2011

Taking off for Berlin

It's been a while since I've posted. I'll mention in passing that I made a visit to Margaret in Sacramento and it was all great. The main thing with practical travel was that my Southwest return flight announced a 2-hour delay just as the plane was supposed to show up in Sacramento. Many people with connections got rebooked through Phoenix, but I stayed on my flight, which was a through flight stopping in Las Vegas. There were comped drinks, I got the exit row, and the flight arrived around 1 a.m.

Now I'm starting this post as I wait to board the first flight for my trip to Berlin. This is one more trip that I'm taking on my own, but I'm looking forward to Margaret being part of future trips.

The main thing in planning: I can decide day to day whether to get a transit pass for the day, since there are many sights close to where I'm staying. There are many museums: I was looking at the 3-day pass for €19, but trying to see even all of Michelin's 3-star museums in three days isn't really doable. I got advice that I might as well buy the annual pass for €40.

Things that I'll mention that I know from my planning: when I thought of a Berlin trip, I thought it could be interesting to arrive on one of the last days of Tegel Airport's operation, and leave on one of the first days of the new Berlin-Brandeburg airport, which is being built incorporating Schoenefeld airport. That was projected to happen in October 2011, but that was later changed to June 2012, so I decided not to wait. So I'll still see Tegel as its end is in sight. Tempelhof Airport, important in the Nazi era and the Berlin airlift, closed down a few years ago.

It will be interesting to take note of how things are now and how the city was once divided. In reading about visits when the city was divided, one thing to note is how some of my getting around will be on the S-Bahn, the urban rail system that also goes out of town. For most of the time of divided Berlin, it was operated by the East German railways, and many West Berliners boycotted it. It was possible to take trips between West Berlin places with a connection at Friedrichstrasse in East Berlin, not having to clear border controls but with a tax-free stop at that station. On the U-Bahn (Underground) lines, there were ghost stations where the West Berlin lines went through Eastern territory.

For my flights, having gotten a United credit card after booking this trip, I made a purchase to get some of the extra miles for using the card on United, of Premier Travel Plus, giving me the extra legroom of Economy Plus on the transatlantic flight and access to the airline lounge at Chicago O'Hare airport. I expected to get the boarding pass for my Frankfurt-Berlin flight on Lufthansa when I did online check-in, but I was not able to get it online or at Kansas City airport.

Resuming this once I've arrived in Chicago (decent flight, full, a little early in arrival), I got to the Red Carpet Club and asked the agent there about the Lufthansa BP. He said it was a roll of the dice to get it, but it printed. So I'll pst this now, and plan to post regularly during my trip.

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