We call it ‘going in blind’ when you go on a trip to places that you have never been before.
Imagine; you know how to do your job, in a hospital, in a store, wherever. Now they take you to a different hospital or store and ask you to do your job like you have been here all the time, oh and they all speak a different language and use different money. It’s interesting. We have all the information (mostly), trips have been coming up here since the 70’s and the one before us passes on as much as they can. But still, we have never done it ourselves before.
On this trip, I was blind, Monika was blind and Mick was blind.
*I wrote this account as we were on the trip, day to day. So some of the tenses may seem off, and some of the opinions change dramatically by the end of the trip!*
|Berlin from above|
I flew in to Berlin from Rome on the 25th of May. I was up at 4am, flight at 6:30 and arrival at Wombats hostel Berlin at around 10. Monika met me there and we sat on her bed and talked candidly for the first time about our thoughts for the trip. To be completely honest with you, my thoughts were ‘I want to pull out’. I was terrified at the thought of going in blind. I was terrified of how much work there is on this trip, and I was worried about how much was riding on me doing a good job, 45 people’s health. No biggie.
Oh wait, yes it is.
Monika was also scared. She had been studying for months now , all 3 of us have know about this trip since February and the trip leader has a crazy amount of study to do before they can convince a group that they are an expert on a place that they have never been to before. She will do driving tours, walking tours, instruct passengers on different things to do and what to expect in places that she has never been before. All I have to worry about is not being totally sure what is in the supermarkets up there or what facilities the campsites have, very small worries in comparison to hers. At the moment I can hear her mumbling her Copenhagen driving tour to herself from the jump seat. Herself and Mick will make some excuse to the passengers tonight to disappear whilst I am cooking to do a practice run before the real thing. Mick would also have a lot of study to do, except that it’s Mick and he takes it one day at a time with not to many worries at all. And I trust him. Calmest dude ever, if you see him worried you probably need to start worrying as well.
My first worry that morning of the 25th was that no one could tell me what coach my gear was under or where it was. I called around the equipment manager and after a few hours and some rustling around he told me the coach number and parking spot. I got the keys and made my way out to it and after checking over my gear a great weight was lifted from my shoulders, there were/are many others still sitting there though…
That night Monika and I met our 44 passengers. I was so nervous, Monika let me know that our RS is the biggest one that Topdeck has ever sent out and that didn’t calm me (I don’t normally worry this much I swear!) this worry was mainly about space. Mon gave them an introduction, run down of how the trip will work, a few rules and then I gave my own short introduction. Then we did some paperwork with all their insurance and passports. I tried to remember as many names as I could. Eye contact and silent repetition helps.
|View of Berlin from my hostel balcony|
I walked them down to the restaurant that I had sussed out earlier in the day and we had our first group meal of Soup, Pork Knuckle, Sauerkraut and some rich German beer that filled me up to my ears. Mick joined us mid meal because of his many train delays and I was glad to sit down for dinner and chats with him. Mon had suggested that we all go back to the hostel bar for drinks and mingling and I was having fun but was also absolutely shattered from my long day and had just one drink and a few chats before heading to bed.
My first experience of strange sun times came that morning when at 5:30 I woke to light outside that I would normally associate with 7 or 8am. I was so confused that I didn’t even believe the time on my phone display and had to get up to check my watch which definitely said that it was still 5:30 and I had not overslept my alarm.
That didn’t make me feel a whole lot better and I spent a very unrestful hour waiting for it to go off before getting up to start one of the most important days of the trip for the cook.
In Scandi there are of course shops. However they vary in size as you go along and are very expensive (or so I’m told). The idea is to stock up in Berlin at the Metro (cash and carry) for all the food for the first 4 days and then also as much/all of the dry goods as possible for the rest of the trip. Things like uht milk and cream, juice, curry paste, cereals, muesli bars and herbs and spices. Mick and I arrived at Metro at 7 when it opened and finished shopping and packing the coach at 2pm. We were joined by Monika at about 11 when she finished her driving tour and we were also lucky enough to have the help of another group in town, Blake and Scott and their two wallahs (Trip leaders in training) who were an amazing help with packing the coach.
|Cute cafe’s near our hostel|
I started the shop with my head in a mess with all I had to do and get, I felt physically sick at one point and had a raging headache for the whole thing. I was so scared at one point that I called another chef in Rome just to hear that I was doing it right and to be reassured that even if I did forget anything, I would be able to get it up there. That phone call kept me grounded for a little bit longer and got me through the shop. Thanks Marissa 🙂
We packed it all away and went straight back to the hostel where I had just a few salads to prepare in my hostel room. It can be surprisingly easy and calming to cook in a hostel room, or, it can be cramped and frustrating, luckily this was the former. I had a few more jobs to do, ordering some bread from down the road for pickup in the morning, organising my fridges and straightening out my to do list for the next few days. Then, as guilty as I felt about it, I had a nap for an hour and a half.
I felt guilty because Berlin is such a wonderful city with so much to do, and specifically the area our hostel was in, around Alexanderplatz, is one which I have not spent much time in and is full of boutique and different stores, wonderful restaurants and is just walking distance from the city center. But I was shattered and ‘look after number 1’ is a sentiment from my Dad which I take to heart. So I slept.
A side note example of what it means to go in blind. Our hostel is one that I have never stayed at before. I have visited it just the once before on our training trip. All I have done in the area is walk up and down the streets to the group restaurant and the bakery. I really haven’t done anything else. But when a group of passengers walk up to you asking for a restaurant recommendation from their chef, I cant just say, I have no idea I’ve never been here before, because how does that look? Nor can I tell them anything too specific because I haven’t been there before and if it is a bad experience, it comes back to how they see me. I had noticed lots of Asian restaurants around the area and the night before Mon had said that she had gone out for duck that was great, I have also heard trip leaders in the past say that Thai around here was good. So, confidently, I told my passengers that the Asian around here was great and there were heaps of places to pick from. Luckily they came back later with reports of the great Vietnamese they had had down the road, and I looked like I knew what I was doing!
|Pub crawl with Dr. Dan, Blake and Meg|
Last night we went for the optional activity offered which was a nightlife tour of Berlin, better known as, a pub crawl. In Berlin it is legal to drink on the streets so one of the highlights is when the organizers hand you a beer at the meeting point in the center of a very trendy nightlife area of the city. We went to 3 different bars, all quite different. We drunk, danced and generally mingled with our passengers (except when Mon and I snuck off for some cheeky and delicious fries). The last stop of the crawl was a club just down the street from our hostel, I did a crafty smoke bomb and no one seems to have noticed or cared. Winning!
|First departure morning|
This morning was a struggle, lack of sleep will kill me soon but forcing myself into action is something I’m pretty good at at this point. Mick and I loaded everything on to the coach and I went off to pick up the bread. We have so much food that we have actually blocked off and filled up the back 5 seats with dry goods which I warned the passengers not to eat. Because of this we are all very tightly squeezed together (no spare seats at all!) but no one seems to mind and they are all chatting. We stopped at a boarder shop to stock up on booze in preparation for the expensive destinations ahead (one slab of strawberry lime rekorderlig for me!) and had lunch in the car park there. The weather has changed enormously. In Berlin the skies were clear and it was hot! Now we are looking at a blanket of gray and the wind is whipping up something crazy and made the picnic a little hard.
|Moose, Tom, Mick and Jake brave the weather on the ferry (don’t let their clothing deceive you, it was freezing)|
On the ferry right now and it is rocking quite heavily from side to side and several passengers have already thrown up. We are a bit delayed by the rough seas but hopefully tonight will still go smoothly, I have my first dinner to cook whilst Mon and Mick go for a dry run of Copenhagen and then I get to go and see the city for the first time! Hopefully tonight will be an early one and I wont be hating life quite as much as I was this morning.