Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Hundred Dollar Levis?

Berlin, Germany 23:00 Monday night (delayed post)

As I feared, my shirt is still slightly damp in sleeves this morning, but at least the socks and skivvies are totally dry, if a tad stiff. A quick once over with an iron gets rid of most of the dampness, and I'm good to go.

First thing after breakfast, I head up Friedrichstrasse to buy some clothes. I end up shopping at the first department store I find, which is Galleries Lafayette. I browse through the men's department, and quickly come down with a case of sticker shock: the first shirt I see, a simple cotton button-down oxford, is selling for 179 euros. Oh, this is going to be painful.

Lufthansa has stated that they'd reimburse me for 50% of whatever I spend on necessary clothes and toiletries. I had visions of getting some REALLY nice stuff at half price, but at these prices, even with a 50% reimbursement I'd be paying double what I'd pay at home.

So, I come out of the store with a pair of Levis (85 euros, around 103 dollars), a simple light-weight wool pullover, a pair of socks, and a package of three pairs of underwear. Total: 175 euros.

I get back to the hotel, and quickly change. I've got an afternoon session to present at, and I want clean (if somewhat casual) clothes. I find this is not an ordinary pair of Levis. I guess they're a European cut, since they're sort of a low-rise waist, and the bottom of the legs flair out far more than I'm used to. Oh well, they'll have to do. I like the sweater, though.

Later in the morning, I set out to find a store where I can pick up the usual toiletries. I walk south from the hotel a few blocks, and I see a sign saying "You are now entering the American sector". Huh? Then I realize I've stumbled upon the world-renowned Checkpoint Charlie, and apparently, my hotel is in the former Soviet sector. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the Berliners have created a monument out of the famous American checkpoint. It was pretty cool seeing that.

After work, everybody at this conference is off for a group dinner. I don't have time to go. It's time to start rattling cages at Delta and Lufthansa and get my damn luggage. I have Deb call me on my cell phone, and while I'm on the line with her, she calls Delta in Atlanta. The lady at Delta posts a couple of urgent messages to the luggage tracking system, then Deb calls Lufthansa in Frankfurt, and the lady there does the same. I'd do all this myself, but I use a pre-paid cell phone plan while in Europe, and the calls would wipe out my pre-paid credits in about two minutes.

I finally get a bite to eat at the hotel bar, and crash. Tomorrow's another day.

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