My husband’s mother, Parker, has been visiting us for the past ten days. While she’s here, my husband, Bill, wanted to do something special. The last time she visited us in Germany, we got trapped in Italy. We decided that this time, we would do something different… something not involving a car or driving through the Alps.
At first, we considered taking the train to Paris. It seemed like the perfect solution. Parker has not been to Paris and it’s a really interesting city with plenty to do. But then it occurred to us that we were just in France last month. I’ve been kind of hankering to do something different. So then I suggested a blind booking on Eurowings.
Blind booking is not a new concept for Bill and me. When we were living in Germany last time, we did it twice. Basically, it involves buying a cheap plane ticket for a secret destination. The first two times we tried blind booking, we scored excellent and super cheap trips to London, England and Barcelona, Spain. Both trips were in 2009, when Eurowings was still Germanwings. Prices were significantly lower than they are today and more services were included. For instance, I don’t remember paying for luggage or even the paltry snacks they give you.
The next time we tried blind booking was in May 2012. We had taken a Space A hop from Baltimore to Ramstein. I was still crazy about the mystique of blind booking, so we went to Cologne, visited the city, then did another blind booking from Cologne. That time, we got Munich. I was slightly disappointed, since I had been to Munich. On the other hand, we had a great time! On that trip, we bought train tickets that were good for all of Germany and certain border cities. We ended up going to Trier, Salzburg, and Luxembourg City, in addition to Munich and Cologne.
Although blind booking is not as exciting to me as it used to be, it had been five years since our last one. And when we pitched the idea to Parker, she was excited about it. The decision was made. About ten days ago, I went on the Eurowings Web site, selected Stuttgart as our airport, input the days we wanted to travel, and chose which group of cities we wanted. I know there are ways to “game” the system. Checking to see what days certain cities are offered is one way to improve your odds of going somewhere “exotic”. You can also pay a little extra to exclude certain cities, which we have done in the past. This time, I wanted to leave it up to fate. Besides, there weren’t any cities in the “Culture” group that I wouldn’t mind visiting, even if I’d already been there.
We got Berlin. I had kind of mixed feelings about it. On one hand, neither Bill nor I had ever been to Berlin, despite having spent a lot of time in Europe. On the other hand, I was kind of liking the idea of getting out of Germany for a few days. But then I realized that I told myself I couldn’t leave Germany again until I saw its capital city. Now that’s done, so we can focus on going to some truly different places… provided we can board our dogs. 😉
Parker was pretty happy about going to Berlin. The three of us are old enough to remember when Berlin was much harder to visit than it is today. When I was in sixth grade, I wrote a paper about Germany. As I researched the topic, I learned about its history. It was the first I’d ever heard of East and West Germany. I remember being shocked that the country was divided; one side was a “free” part of western Europe. The other side was “communist”, like the Soviet Union and the satellite countries. I read about how the people in East Germany weren’t allowed to leave at will. I learned about the huge wall that once separated Berlin. One side was “free” and the other side was not.
A look at what life was like in Berlin, back in the 1970s…
As an eleven year old in the early 80s, I had no idea that one day I’d live in the former Soviet Union and get to visit a lot of those “forbidden” eastern European countries. I didn’t know then that I’d eventually live in Germany twice and visit its eastern side with ease. I didn’t know that one day, I’d stay in what used to be East Berlin.
I’m truly surprised it took me so long to finally see Berlin, although I did visit its airport once before when Bill and I took a Baltic cruise originating in Oslo, Norway. We did have a great trip. If I’ve piqued your interest with this first part, I hope you’ll read on as I lay out yet another exciting travel story.