|– © Guenter Wicker Berliner Flughaefen|
When we landed, it was then necessary to board another bus at Berlin's Tegel airport (TXL) to get transported to the main terminal. As we hadn't checked any bags, we were able to simply leave the airport. I had stopped for us to pull out our passports thinking we would need to present them, but I guess since our flight originated in the EU we didn't need to present them to anyone. I really wanted another passport stamp, too!
The Berlin Tegel airport is currently the main international airport in Berlin. The two main airlines that operate out of Tegel are Air Berlin and Lufthansa, with each handling around 30% of the scheduled commercial flights. The area where the airport sits was once a military training area that was destroyed in Allied air raids during World War II. With the impending opening of the new Berlin Brandenburg Airport (BER), Tegel airport as well as Schönefeld airport were scheduled to close. However, this has not yet happened. Berlin Brandenburg Airport was scheduled to open in 2010, but as of January 2013, the only certainty is that it will not open prior to 2014. The creation of a new airport was supposed to combine and centralize aviation in this area of Germany, but construction issues, money, and politics have caused excessive problems and delays.
Signage inside the terminal is minimal, but we were able to locate an elevator to the main floor and from there, we exited the terminal. There we saw hoards of people who were waiting for the bus. Fully expecting to find a kiosk that would sell tickets, we wandered through the crowds for a minute or two before a woman in a uniform selling tickets began speaking to me in German. I purchased two tickets from her (€2.40 each) and she motioned to the bus marked TXL Alexanderplatz as the one we would need to take.
Unbeknownst to us, there is something of an honor system with public transport in Berlin. You pay for your fare but you don't present it to anyone in particular. However, undercover agents do work and will bust anyone with a hefty fine caught without a ticket. Riding without a ticket here is called schwarzfahren ("black rider" or "driving black") and although many do it, you probably should avoid it completely if you're visiting. Thanks to social media, there are FaceBook pages dedicated to schwarzfahren, like this one, where you can see where the "controllers" are if you need to avoid them. I say pay the fare and relax while traveling instead of trying to dodge the system.
|Inside Berlin Hauptbanhof|
Although it was dark outside, inside it is well lit and could almost pass for daytime. Inside you can find a branch of the supermarket Kaisers Supermarket; restaurants like Burger King, Dunkin' Donuts, Pizza Hut, Starbucks, Hopfingerbräu, and stores like The Body Shop, Esprit, Casa Moda, and Bijoux Terner.
The employee helping us recommended that we buy the BerlinWelcome card with a three day transport ticket for under €30 each. Had I planned correctly, I could have pre-purchased these online and printed out the vouchers to take along with us.
The advantages of Berlin WelcomeCard:
- free travel with public transport in the entire city of Berlin (tariff zone Berlin AB) or alternatively in Berlin and Greater Berlin Area (tariff zone ABC, incl. airport Berlin-Schönefeld and city of Potsdam)
- at least 25% and up to 50 % discounts on 200 tourist highlights
- incl. restaurants
- incl. Family friendly offers
- incl. City map and guide
The tourist office employee said we needed to validate the ticket once we boarded. Walk past the bus driver and you'll see a small yellow box where you slide the ticket in and the date and time are added.
Now we could relax for a few minutes on the 142 bus as it was taking us directly to our final destination in Prenzlauer Berg. I chose this area as it was central to everything we needed and was between Brandenburg Gate and the city center. We met Ezra, our host, dropped off our bags, and went in search of dinner.
I was worried that it might be hard to find vegetarian restaurants in Germany, but it wasn't hard at all. Our first encounter with Mirchi would not be our last. Mirchi Singapore Restaurant is located at Oranienstrabe 202/203, 10999 Berlin, Germany (Mitte).
This was a perfect meal to start our visit to Berlin and I was ecstatic that our travels had been effortless with little to no hassles whatsoever. I think it is safe to say that we had started to fall in love with Berlin almost as soon as we had arrived there. Come back to read about more of our adventures in Berlin throughout our stay over New Year's.