Diary of an Expat, Part 29
Public transportation, revisited
So Berlin has entered into this bizarre and not entirely pleasurable thing where it is nice enough during the week, and then it snows on the weekend. Noting that it is, currently, April, I have to admit that I'm not super thrilled about that.

On the other hand, I'm currently 40% of the way, or so, through a 4-day weekend. We have a 4-day weekend because, whilst Berliners are pretty much atheists, Germany on the whole believes that spending time with your family is a good idea, and consequently they have decided that Good Friday and Easter Monday should both be days off. Which is cool enough.

I had considered spending my time travelling, because as it turns out everything in Europe is like eight hours by rail. Instead, however, I am choosing to decompress. This is for two chief reasons: firstly, I have been working ridiculously long hours in the pursuit of... something. I'm not sure what — a successful product, I suspect. I love Windows Phone and I think other people are finally starting to, as well. That makes dogs happy.

Secondly, with the weather I have no great desire to be out and about, so I think I'll save my travelling for the summer. We have another compressed week coming up, because May 1st is a holiday as well. That leaves Monday as an awkward island, and if I can come up with a good reason not to be there I may take a day off to accomodate it. You know how things go.

Instead what I'm doing is enjoying the next step up in Berlin food, which is what happens when you discover that you live across from the equivalent of Trader Joe's. Like, literally right across from it; I can go grab a bottle of wine and some fruit and be back in five minutes, if the traffic is right (read: if I can sprint across the street without being hit).

I mentioned when I first moved into this apartment how nifty it is that it's centrally located. This hits home when I decide to run and grab some fast food, which entails leaving my apartment and going to not the closest, or the second closest, but the third closest mid-Eastern fast-food joint, where they give me lamb sausage and a salad that is, I think, just cabbage and vinegar. It's pretty fucking delicious, and in general there and back takes about nine minutes, with a pause to stop at a convenience store to get a bottle of Fritz-Cola.

It's pretty crazy.

Getting further than my apartment is generally the province of walking, which is becoming increasingly true now that Berlin has decided that they need to screw up their mass transit system. I'm not sure exactly what the motivation was for this — I've been told it has something to do with the construction of the new BER Berlin-Brandenburg airport, which will replace Tegel.

Berlin is circled by what is known as the Ring, an S-Bahn (that is, above-ground train) route that takes about 45 minutes to make a loop around the city, anchored by three "cross" stations (West Cross, South Cross, East Cross) and Gesundbrunnen in the north. Construction, however, has temporarily shut down the northeast corner, from Schonhauser Allee (one stop east of Gesundbrunnen) all the way down to Ostkreuz.

If you wish to engage in travel along the Ring, you will find yourself shoved into a series of busses, which have the downside of not being able to carry as many people as a train. They also have to deal with traffic. As a result, you can plan on doubling your journey time, at which point you might as well just take the subway.

It's interesting, for a city so reliant on mass transit, to see what happens when part of it doesn't work, which is: nothing. Unlike in San Francisco, say, where a BART outage is fundamentally crippling, Berlin's mass-transit system is resilient enough that, by and large, it has managed to absorb this minor inconvenience. S-Bahn out? Oh, well, take the U5 to Alexanderplatz and transfer for the U2. Or take the U5 to Frankfurter Tor and transfer to the M10 northbound. Or take a bus, and I don't even want to know how all the busses work.

This is actually pretty cool and, to be honest, how things ought to be done in the United States. But in the United States, it is generally more popular to live out in the middle of nowhere and commute via car, which is one reason why urban living in the United States, outside of massive megopolises like BosWash, is unlikely to ever function as smoothly as it does here.

On the plus side, no transit strikes >< But this is a story for another day.
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