Musings of a network engineer
Are you going to Cisco Live! in Berlin? This blog entry is an edited (shorter) version of my Milan travel blog with the bits that apply to every Cisco Live! and a little specific information for Berlin
There are obviously many places where you can stay, ranging from hostels with shared bathrooms in the hallway to 5 star hotels. The easiest option for you might be to follow the official Cisco list of hotels that Cisco has gathered for you. They have also graciously calculated transit times from these hotels to the venue. There tends to be a reasonable amount of hotels on offer in varying price categories, these are however obviously not the only hotels on offer.
If you are feeling a little more adventurous you can use sites such as Trip Advisor which has good (honest) reviews and a list of prices from many hotel sites or browse the hotel sites directly, some examples of which are booking.com, hotels.com and expedia.com to look for Hotels that meet your criteria. Do read the reviews and find out what people liked and disliked. What some people disliked might not matter at all to you and vice versa. My main criteria for Hotels during the stay is:
Whatever option you pick you can always change your mind next year. In 2014 I stayed in Central Milan, the year after I moved to a location that was far better connected to both the airport and the conference centre by the Metro. My Hotel in 2014 was from the official Cisco Hotel list last year and was in the process of renovating. It was quite cheap (for Milan), partly because it was undergoing renovation at the time, at around 120€ a night and was very nice as you can see from the video, the better connected Hotel I stayed at in 2015 was more expensive but it was very nice to be so well connected.In 2016 in Berlin I stayed in the Spandau area which was far more suburb than I thought it was, but well connected to the Metro. This time I'm going to be staying in the Charlottenburg area, also well connected by the Metro but much closer to restaurants and shops.
Whatever you do I recommend you start booking your hotel as early as possible, as you get closer to the conference the prices tend to hike up fast, particularly for the best locations, you can save quite a bit of money by booking early. Even if you are not sure that you'll get to go, you can in most cases book well in advance and not need to pay anything to cancel at a later date.
If you're taking tech-seminars (which are on Monday, in the form of 1x8 hours, 2x4 hours or 1x4 hours) you'll need to pick those when you register. To schedule the rest of your time you need to do so when the schedule builder becomes available (usually early November). So what sessions should you take?
Getting to the conference by train is by far the best option you have, unless you are within walking distance.
Subway map with the main players in Berlin, in PDF form, the S5 line goes to the conference centre
The Metro station serving the conference centre is Messe Süd (Eichkamp)
There's also a very helpful page at Messe Berlin on how to get to and from the venue that you can find here
You can take a Taxi, usually more pricey but is more comfortable and you're guaranteed a seat. Don't bet on the Taxi being faster though, it has traffic to compete with. If you have your own car you could also drive to the conference centre although you should make sure you can park somewhere close, and at what price.
Those of you who have signed up for technical seminars or have enlisted in the DevOps program should arrive no later than midday Sunday to have time to register before registration closes so you don't have to do that on Monday morning, if you're just attending the breakout sessions you can arrive on Monday and register in the afternoon for an early Tuesday start.
It is beneficial to do a trial run of the route (hopefully selected with the dijkstra algorithm) you're going to be travelling to the conference, particularly if you're going to be using the Metro. You can roughly time your trip and figure out which way you have to go into the station to get to the track you want. There are often multiple entrances (and exists), particularly to the larger Metro stations, pick the one that gets you to the right track in the shortest amount of time, this will matter more when there is more traffic in the morning and you can barely see where you are going.
If you need to change trains you should also figure out what the best route from your current track to the track you need to go to is. It's also far better to go in the wrong direction on the trial run than it is to do it on your first day.
Registration opens on Sunday at 15:00 and is open until 20:00 for those who arrive on Sunday for the main conference. If you arrive at a reasonable hour on Sunday you can use your practice run to go and register, that will save you from having to do so on your first day. Similarly if you arrive on Monday for the Tuesday start, registration is open from 08:00 till 19:00 and it's good to finish up the registration before the first day.
When you register you'll get your computer bag (and whatever goodies are in it) as well as your badge which you're required to wear at all times during the conference, the bag you don't really need to bring with you but it's good to have something to carry your stuff in. To register you'll have to log into the registration computer with your ciscolive.com username and password (that you used to register) so you'll need to bring that with you or memorize it.
p> The Cisco Events app is now available from the Play Store and the App store. The app has the full event schedule, all speakers and exhibitors, the venue map and integration with social networking.
You should know which entry point you'll be using (the south entrance of Messe Berlin is used) and spend a little time in the Cisco Event Map studying the floor plans. Find the room where you first session is and figure out how to get there. You'll have a little more perspective after you at least go there for the registration.
It is remarkably easy to get lost in any conference centre. Cisco does a decent job of making information signs for you and there are lots of people there to help you, don't be afraid to stop and ask rather than spending 20 minutes aimlessly walking around!
Bring a power bank for your mobile device. With frequent use of the Cisco Events app, using the map features in your phone, checking your email and using social media you risk running out of juice before the day is finished, having an extra power bank with 1 or 2 charges in it means no worrying about running out at the worst moment, bringing an extra charger to charge the power bank during the night is not a bad idea either.
This might seem like childish advice but you're going to need to sleep while you're there. A full day of technical-seminars or breakouts will make your brain mush by the week-end and you need to sleep to rejuvenate. Go to bed early and get a good nights sleep for the first day as well as all the other days that follow.
There is not much of a dress code, wear what makes you comfortable. Do remember to wear comfortable shoes, there is quite a bit of walking involved. Some people arrive in one set of shoes and change to flip flops, Birkenstocks or whatnot when they arrive at the conference so they don't have to travel to the conference in open shoes or can change shoes when they leave the conference, if you do so I like to bring a plastic bag so you can put them in your Cisco bag!
The AC at the conference varies, sometimes (particularly during the first day) it can get very warm while they figure out how much of it is needed (or wait for AC units to come in). At other times you're rubbing your hands together for warmth. Don't sit right in front of the AC unit if there is one in the room and it's not a bad idea to bring a sweater that you can take off so you can adjust to the room temps.
If you follow my advice and get registered the day before and do a trial run of your route you'll know pretty well when you should leave for your first day. If your session starts at 9, don't plan on being there at exactly 9, be there no later than 8:30, it will take you time to get to the correct room and you'll need to be there before the session starts to have your badge scanned and get a decent seat. This applies for all the days and all sessions in general, get there in plenty of time. You can read your email and add to your caffeine supply while waiting for the session to start.
Hopefully you'll have a ton of fun in your tech-seminars, breakouts, labs and whatever else you attend. Here are couple of other things I think you should consider doing:
Some people take Friday off and go home on Friday morning, I tend to think that's a bit of a waste because you can squeeze two breakouts on Friday, if you take advantage of that the conference end is at 13:30 on Friday, at which point you'll turn in your badge, grab your lunch bag which Cisco graciously provides you with (sandwich and chips or something to that order) and head back to the Hotel to get your bag which your friendly concierge will store for you while you're at the conference after having checked out Friday morning.It's reasonable to take a flight back home at around 17:00 if you are leaving by plane, that should give you a little time to get back to the Hotel, grab your bag and get to the airport. You can perhaps get away with leaving a little bit earlier if you are pre-checked in and you know how long it will take you to get to the airport, I don't like to be very stressed so I like to have more time rather than less. There's also the option off leaving on Saturday morning, there's far less stress involved in doing that, and it saves you from having to stress through rush hour on a Friday on your way to the airport.
If you're travelling by train the same applies except you don't need to arrive as early, leave some time though so you don't miss your train.
Thank you for taking the time to read this, I hope you enjoyed it and that you learned something and I wish you an excellent time at Cisco Live! Perhaps I'll see you there!