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Adventures in Writing, Reading & Book Culture

Berlin #4: U9 to S7 to MTXL

Berlin has a massive public transportation system. The famous U-bahn and S-bahn rails get you quickly around the city, close enough to any location so that walking is a minimum, if that’s what you’re after.

AsiaMark riding the S-Bahn

It took us a good day to really understand the system: the S-bahn has fewer stops and gets you from one end of Berlin to the other in just a few minutes; the U-bahn has so many lines that you can go blind reading the fucking map; forget buses … their like whales in a choking sea.

Asia on the U-Bahn

Germans are a steady-going, disciplined people. They wait patiently, they pile in & out of wagons without pushing for a seat, they let pregnant women sit, and stand for the aged. There are no metro police, that we saw. Not anywhere: and no gendarm checked our tix once in four days. Being that payment works on the honor system (ticket machines on every platform), you’d think an army of cops would patrol to find & fine the scoflaws.

Mark with transit mapThe S-bahn is the best of the trains. They ride on El tracks, have fewer stops, and circle the city (or cut across it) with major stops such as Brandenberg Gate, Alexander Platz, Templehof Airport, Zoo Station, and the Hauptbahnhof. We took the S-bahn several times, but the one ride into East Berlin was interesting: the change from West to East is like stepping through a looking glass: clean streets and clean people and clean architecture suddenly go to drab & grime—graffito on the people as well as the buildings; littered streets and unkempt cars. Nevertheless, there was little signs of danger for travelers; but I wouldn’t be going that way past dark.

Sometimes there are even boats going along the Spree, as taxis. Otherwise, the Spree is a great place to hang out. Berliners like to hang out. In the background of this pick, the spire is Alexanderplatz, in East Berlin.

The Spree River hangout

The Hauptbahnhof is Berlin’s main rail station. It’s fairly new, and just over the Spree River from the Riechstag complex of gov’t buildings. The main rail station has three levels: U-bahn below, inter-city rail at ground level, and S-bahn els above. The integration is amazing, and so is the organization.


There are fast food places and restaurants, bars and cafés, clothing and stationers, a super market and a Starbuck’s. You can walk around with a beer in your hand, and find clean seats on which to rest.

There is a dirth of public toilets in Berlin. You really have to search them out; subway stops don’t have them, as we find in Prague. There are so many parks, though, that I just went in the bushes. Asia had to hold it, and in a pinch we used an outhouse fashioned from an old shipping container:

Asia Exiting the Can

Notice the stricken look on her face as she exits this Nazi torture chamber!

Public trans or not, seeing Berlin is a lot of work on the legs. Here’s a pair of Little Fox paws at the end of a grueling day of sightseeing:

Tired LittleFox Paws

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