When the Kindle ran away with the iPad.

I’ll get back to the actual trip in the next post, but our first 24 hours in Berlin were quite memorable for some very wrong reasons.

We took the train from Nuremberg into Berlin. Without really explaining what happened (because it was at least 85% my fault), my Kindle (tablet/eReader) and my husband’s iPad got left in the seat back pockets on the train. When we got off the train in Berlin, the Kindle and iPad continued their travels. We didn’t know it then, but they made it all the way to Hamburg (four more hours by train).We didn’t miss them for more than an hour later after we had disembarked from the train, found a cab, made it to our hotel, checked in and were unpacking. That’s when my husband asked me what I’d done with his iPad. (He should have asked me that when we were still on the train, but that’s a different story.)

My Kindle really doesn’t have anything on it besides books. I don’t use it for anything but reading and occasionally accessing the Internet. My husband’s iPad, which was not password protected, basically had links to accounts, passwords, credit cards, etc. etc. etc. It was critical that we locate or disable it.

Let me interject here that, based on observation, the German people are some of the most law-abiding folks I’ve ever seen. We’d just come from London where pedestrians tend to view those walk/don’t walk lights merely as early Christmas decorations, crossing the street whenever and wherever they’d like. Not so in Germany. It could be 3:00 am with no traffic in sight and a German pedestrian would wait for the green “walk” light to come on. People are chided if they leave trash on public transport and children are carefully school on putting the trash in the proper recycle receptacle. Everyone appears to be amazingly honest and respectful of the rules.

Had we lost our electronics on public transportation in the US, I don’t think we’d ever seen them again. Either the person who found them would have kept them or they would have been forever missing in the quagmire of lost-and-found. But in Germany, we felt we had some hope of getting them back. Complicating everything, of course, is the fact we don’t speak German. (We did log into our Kindle/iPad accounts and did the “find device”, “lock device”, etc., but neither device was connected to Wifi so it didn’t do much good.)

While we came into the main Berlin train station (below), our hotel was less than a block from Berlin’s east train station, or Ostbanhof. We started there.

Thank goodness for the Google Translate app on my iPhone. I was able to put in our problem in English and it translated it well enough that the Deutsche Bahn (German trainline) person understood. She wasn’t able to help us directly, but said their website had a lost property form we could fill out and that was our best course.

We went back to our hotel and while my husband tried to remember (and put on hold) all the accounts available through the missing iPad, I struggled with the English translation of a German lost-and-found form. I also found an email address and tried email as well, to which I got a prompt answer saying that they hadn’t found anything.

We spent a stress-filled evening, but things changed the next morning when I got a notice (in English!) that the electronics were at the lost-and-found in Hamburg and that we could either claim them in person or have them sent to us.

Since Hamburg was four hours by train one way, we requested that they just send the items back to our home address (which we would pay for). Great plan, except that both the Kindle and iPad have lithium batteries and aviation regulations prohibited them from being shipped via air (which they would have to be to be sent to the U.S.).

Then, the most glorious thing happened. I was in touch with someone who actually cared. After several emails wherein they determined we were going to be in Berlin for a few days, they instructed us to go to the Berlin main train station lost and found and have those folks call the lost-and-found team in Hamburg.

Again with the translation app — this time it was more complicated because we not only had to explain the situation, we had to explain that we wanted them to call Hamburg and talk to a specific person. (Why they would do that for stupid American tourists, I don’t know …) The Berlin person had very little English, but had a great attitude of trying to help us, which made all the difference in the world. At this point it was 7:30 in the evening and our Hamburg guy was scheduled to end his shift at 8:00, so time was short that day.

The Berlin lady called and connected (after several tries and transfers) to our Hamburg guy. He had apparently taken the initiative to put our electronics on a train headed back to Berlin arriving at 9:30 that evening. He arranged with our Berlin lady to have it retrieved from the train and, with the proper identification, available for us to pick up.

Relieved, we went to dinner and made it back to the Berlin train station with time to spare. Our lady was still on duty and waved us over (ahead of the line) when the electronics were delivered to her. A few pieces of identification and signatures later and we were reunited!

The electronics were missing just over 24 (very stressful) hours. During that time, I exchanged 11 email messages with staff as well as in-person “conversations” and multiple forms filled out. The miracle that we retrieved the Kindle and iPad is a credit to the dedication of the Deutsche Bahn staff to help us. I’m sure they considered it just doing their jobs but it meant the world to us.

We exchanged 11 electronic messages within 24 hours

After this tumultuous beginning, we had some great times during the rest of our visit to Berlin. I’ll tell you about them in the next post! Needless to say, my Kindle and my husband’s iPad spent a lot of time locked in the hotel safe!