Tag Archives: Cycling in Berlin

Die Berliner Mauer (The Berlin Wall) Cycle Ride – Part 2

Die Berliner Mauer (the Berlin Wall)

Today was my opportunity to finish the Berlin Wall route that I started on Saturday.

As a recap, this is a map of the location of where the Berlin Wall used to be:

As I discovered when doing Part 1, it is NOT the route of the Berliner Mauerweg (the official Berlin Wall cycle path).

Because it’s such a long distance (over 100 miles/160km) and it’s hard to do it at a good speed due to the terrain and also the fact that there are lots of things to stop and look at, I split the route into two.

Part 1 was a longer section, 72 miles, whose route was something like this:

Part 2, supposed to be 49 miles, is what I would be doing today. It looks like this:

I learned some things from Part 1, the main lesson being that it’s advisable to do this route clockwise as the signage seems arranged for that. The second thing I learned is that it takes ages as the paths can be very basic and it’s easy to get lost. Fortunately this time I had 24 fewer miles to do and as I set off at 9:30am I had plenty of time in hand.

Before I left I pumped up my front right hand tyre which seemed a bit soft. The track pump was in the car (which was outside the apartment where Ken & Kenny were staying, over a mile away) and as it was in the wrong direction I couldn’t be bothered to go to the car so used my mini hand pump instead which has a rather vague pressure gauge. It looked as though the tyre was up to about 65psi which seemed like enough to be going along with.

I set off on the same road I took on Saturday to get to my start point, outside Spandau on the border of Gatow. On the way I saw this sign – the Germans are proud of their cycle routes!

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I was just half a mile from the point where I join the Mauerweg (Wall route) when my steering started going a bit spongy. Oh no, puncture. In the front right hand wheel, the one I had pumped up earlier.

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So I flipped Alfie on his side, whipped off the tyre and tube, found the hole in the tube, picked a few bits of glass out of the tyre, put a fresh tube in, repaired the old tube, pumped up the tyre and I was ready to roll.

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Lots of people passed me whilst I was doing this but no-one asked if I was OK. In the UK a passing cyclist would almost always check you had everything you needed.

Still, this had only delayed me for 15 minutes and it wasn’t too much of a hassle (it wasn’t raining, for example) and I had seen a red squirrel running around a tree right by me so I was still cheerful as I set off again.

I joined the Mauerweg and almost instantly it left the roads and started off down a track. Oh no, I thought, not more off-roading, but this track wasn’t too bad.

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It took me through a park called Fort Hahneberg which seemed very large and had lots of people wandering around or sitting on benches, even on a Tuesday morning. The signage seemed to be working OK for me (you can see the Mauerweg sign on the left here) and was following the former route of the wall fairly closely.

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This information board explains how the former death strip has become a green wildlife haven.

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A photo of me and Alfie taken on the self-timer.

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You can sort of make out where the No-Man’s-Land was in this photo – a slight ditch marks it out.

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This is an example of the Wall Information Boards that you can find along the route. They mostly seem to be on the western/northern sections of the route and there seems to be one at each point where someone was killed (except in the centre of the city) as well as at many other points of interest. This one is explaining about a church which was slap-bang in the middle of the border and ended up being pulled down and rebuilt elsewhere. After reunification the new church was given this piece of land, where the old church had been, for sport and social events.

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I started to get to very familiar territory now with names on road signs which I remembered from my time in Berlin in 2007. We stayed then for five weeks in Falkensee which is outside the city limits of Berlin (west of Spandau) and I used to get the train into central Berlin for my language course. The train went through Spandau, Staaken, Falkenhöh on its way to Falkensee and I was tempted to detour to visit where we stayed. However I soon remembered that the roads around there were all cobbles, plus it was several kilometres away so I decided against. Here is a cycle route sign and you can see the Mauerweg little signs as well under Schönwalde and Falkensee.

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As I mentioned on the Mauer Part 1 blog, there were yellow arrows painted on the road to help you know which way to go for the Mauerweg.

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These were no use to me last time as I was going anticlockwise but this time they were very helpful – in fact following the signs was fairly easy. In the whole day there were probably only 3-4 occasions where I would have got lost were it not for also having the GPS which showed me the rough direction I ought to be heading.

As I was pootling along through yet another bit of parkland I came across this information/memorial.

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I didn’t realise at the time but this was a fascinating display and I spent probably nearly an hour here overall, reading everything and getting quite emotional at times. It had stories of people who lived in Falkensee and what it was like when the wall came up and they were cut off from West Berlin (80% of men in Falkensee worked in West Berlin so of course could no longer go to their jobs). There was loads of information on the wall going up, people trying to escape, but what was most moving was the stories about when the wall came down. People from Spandau and Falkensee, who had been separated for 28 years despite being almost next-door neighbours, welcomed each other brilliantly. The Spandau people gave money to the Falkensee people, there were fairs and special events to celebrate coming together again. There were quotes from lots of people dated 2011 (so it’s a very new installation) about life then and now.

Here’s a little sample of something it said which might interest you:

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The description explains this is British Soldiers from the Royal Engineers whose job it was to tear down the wall. First of all they signed all their names.

Seen from the other side the panels make out the shape of the wall between Falkensee and Spandau.

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And then, once I’d read everything (it was only in German so took me a while!) I set off and discovered I was actually at the former border crossing, one of only 11 (I think) between West Berlin and East Germany. And this sign…

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“Here Germany and Europe were divided until 13 September 1989 at 6pm.”

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And here we see the border – out of Berlin and into Falkensee (which is in Havelland) – which you can just drive/cycle through.

I carried on, enjoying stopping to look at various information boards as I went. The overall route was much better this time with no appalling off-road stuff and generally reasonably asphalted surfaces. I wonder if they’ve been spending money on the Mauerweg in the Spandau/Falkensee region recently.

There were some bumpy and mucky bits of path, of course, and after one I noticed something weird on my left mudguard – photo hasn’t focused on the right thing but there’s a worm suspended from the mudguard mount! I rescued him and put him on some soil.

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I learned a new English word on this bit of the tour – ‘exclave’; it’s the opposite of an enclave, and there were several of them along the lakeside. From the Berliner Mauer website: “The route through Spandau Forest brings you to the former West Berlin exclave Eiskeller. It owes its name (“icebox”) to the consistently low temperatures that made it a preferred storage area for ice cut from the lake Falkenhagener See. The exclave was connected to the Spandau borough by an access road that was only four meters wide and 800 meters long. Three families lived on farms in Eiskeller and, in the fall of 1961, the story of one 12-year-old from Eiskeller made the news far beyond Berlin…

“Continuing west on the trail will bring you to the Havel River and to the weekend communities Fichtewiese and Erlengrund. They, too, were West Berlin exclaves on the territory of the GDR. Owners needed to cross through the border installations to reach their property, using an intercom at the gate near the recreational area Bürgerablage to announce their arrival to the GDR border guards. It was not until 1 July 1988 that an exchange of territory with the GDR restored free access to these weekend properties.” I liked a photo that I saw of a woman ringing a doorbell in the wall!

Look at this fab path!

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I was beginning to feel a bit peckish and hoping to stop for lunch somewhere. I found myself at a lake (the Nieder Neundorfer See) which looked rather inviting but there didn’t seem to be any food options.

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And I soon stumbled across this former watch tower which is now a mini museum.

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Unfortunately in getting off my trike to go inside the museum the camera slipped in my hand and there is now a big crack across the viewing screen on the back. Fortunately it still appeared to work OK!

I went inside the watchtower. The staircase was a bit tricky! (Sorry about the fuzzy photo).

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Views from the top:

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Looking down at the staircase…

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Another sign at another border crossing – note the different date/time that this crossing was finally permanently opened.

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I carried on along a varied scenic route from Hennigsdorf to Hohen Neuendorf which brought me to the last border crossing to go into operation – shortly before the fall of the Berlin Wall – near Stolpe. The Berliner Mauer website explains: “In order to reduce the traffic load on the F5 (or B5) highway, which was no longer able to accommodate the rising traffic between Hamburg and West Berlin, the GDR built an expressway (today’s A111) from 1981 to 1982 that was paid for by West Germany. The Stolpe border crossing opened in 1982, but originally served only travellers driving from West Berlin to Scandinavia. It was also possible to enter the GDR (even for pedestrians using a shuttle bus service to the border) at Stolpe. Traffic to Hamburg, however, continued to be routed through the old Staaken border crossing on Spandau’s Heerstrasse. Construction of the West Berlin feeder road through Tegel Forest was delayed: citizens’ groups were worried about damage to the environment and had filed suit against the clearing of woodland.” The crossing was nothing now – just a bridge over the motorway with a rather mournful feeling about the place.

From here I cycled along the edge of Tegel Forest and the golf course Stolper Heide and through the “Invalidensiedlung,” a settlement built for disabled veterans of World War I, to Hohen Neuendorf in Brandenburg. I was feeling rather peckish at this time (2:30, I had been on the bike since 9:30 with no food/drink stops) so stopped at an Italian restaurant for my only proper meal not in the apartment.

Free starter of olives and bread.

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Tomatencremesuppe with more bread.

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Healthy chicken salad – well, it was healthy before the super-generous portion of olive oil served on it.

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And another border sign, this time at Glienicke (I think!)

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Oh dear, the radweg is now cobbles. And it continued to be cobbles for about two miles. What was doubly annoying was that my GPS showed the actual Wall had continued down the main road in the photo above, whereas our route wended its way through woodland for two miles, adding a mile and a half in total to the journey.

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However, clearly the Wall did run somewhere near as I saw this interesting building, a former watchtower which is now a youth’s wildlife building.

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From the Mauer website: “The GDR watchtower has been used by a youth organisation, Deutsche Waldjugend, since 1990 as a base for its nature conservation work. Between Hohen Neuendorf and the Bergfelde neighborhood, the border ran parallel to Utestrasse from the northern end of Frohnau’s Invalidensiedlung right through the forest. As part of the GDR’s outer border, this section was closed as early as 1952 and developed into a multi-layered border installation with walls, fences, floodlights, and a border patrol road starting in 1961. The command post built in the 1980s was used to monitor the border and, at the same time, as a control center for other observation towers, which were spaced about 500 meters apart along the border strip. Each command post was occupied by three border guards and an officer, and also had a holding cell for any “border violators” who might be arrested.”

Shortly afterwards I passed this memorial to the victims of the Wall.

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And then, whilst cycling through Reinickendorf (I think!) I saw this house being built. The entire gable end is one piece, suspended on a giant crane.

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Another piece of wall sculpture – an enormous metal bird!

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After some faffing around (I was now in the busier bit of Berlin which meant traffic lights to cross roads, etc) I ended up a Mauerpark. This is a park which is in the former area that the Wall stood. However it seems rather run down and had some slightly dodgy-looking characters in. There’s some kind of large stadium (new) and in front of it some old steps which seemed to be looking at a basketball court. I took a quick pic.

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And now I found myself in Bernauer Straße, somewhere I had visited four years ago but couldn’t remember where it was!

“Bernauer Strasse, which the Wall Trail follows to the Nordbahnhof S-Bahn station, achieved tragic notoriety after 13 August 1961. Dramatic escapes shocked and moved the world, which watched as desperate people attempted to climb from houses on the East Berlin side of the border to reach the sidewalk below in West Berlin. After a long section of the outer wall (“Vorderlandmauer”) on Bernauer Strasse was saved from demolition, the Berlin Wall Memorial (Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer) was built between Brunnenstrasse and Gartenstrasse. This area, which includes the Chapel of Reconciliation (Kapelle der Versöhnung) and the Documentation Center (Dokumentationszentrum) and observation tower, is the place in today’s Berlin where it is easiest to visualize the former border installations.”

A photo at ground level.

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I then climbed the observation tower to take a look.

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And a view of the skyline (sorry the exposure isn’t great) with the Fernsehturm visible, as is the golden roof of the synagogue towards the right hand side.

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Another old watchtower which contains the Günter Litfin memorial.

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Almost back, the Reichstag peeping out over some new buildings.

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Oh look, I’m back here again! The Brandenburger Tor, which means I have now completed the whole Wall route.

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In celebration I bought myself a nut pastry thing to have when I got back at 6pm with a cup of tea!

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I feel pleased that I completed the route, and also pleased that today’s route was much nicer, easier to follow and with better surfaces. I wasn’t particularly looking forward to a repeat of Saturday’s journey.

My feeling about the Wall and Berlin is that most Berliners want to forget it. There is some information here and there but mostly it’s being forgotten about (as much as it can – I think it lives on in the East Berliners’ minds quite a lot). The double row of cobbles marking the Wall route seems to not be replaced if the road is resurfaced and wasn’t visible for most of the route anyway.

My recommendation to anyone else doing this is to spread it over three days so you’ve got more time to spend looking at memorials and museums, etc. Oh, and learn German first, as although some things are also in English, an awful lot is just in German.

Overall it was a success. I have one more full day here which means I can pick a route for tomorrow. I might cycle around the Tegeler See, but I think rain is forecast so I may do something closer to home. Watch this space!

 

Statistics for this ride:

Distance – 50.79 miles

Time – 5 hours 59 minutes

Moving average – 8.48 mph

Average heart rate – 110

Max heart rate – 155

Maximum speed – 23.74

Calories burned – 1983

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Filed under Berlin 2011, Cycle Tours, Cycling in Germany, Trikes & Velomobiles

Osten Ungeschminkt – The Naked East, Berlin, Cycle Ride

Osten Ungeschminkt (my translation of this is something like “The Unvarnished East”, however Olaf Storbeck who knows rather more German than me suggests “the naked East”.

This is another of the routes in my “Berlin Erfahren” book, 22.4km and the book suggests you need 4 hours for it. At under 6km per hour average speed that seems a bit slow, but lo and behold that was a fairly accurate reflection of how long it took.

Originally I hadn’t expected to cycle today as the forecast was for mega rain all day. Although I have a decent waterproof jacket with me it’s not much fun cycling in such downpours and I thought I could maybe do something on foot instead (visit an indoor shopping centre?)

However, when I started to try and plan what non-cyling thing to do today I couldn’t rustle up any enthusiasm. As it didn’t seem to be raining when I looked out of the window, I decided to go out on the trike instead.

Down in the Fahrradgarage I had a look at the Alfine Hub, having researched on the internet how to adjust the cable if it’s stretched. As the instructions said, I put it into sixth gear and then looked at the yellow dots – which seemed to be lined up (they are supposed to be). However the adjuster barrel at the handlebar end didn’t want to move (which it’s supposed to) so I did wonder a bit about that. Never mind, I decided to just set off and see what happened.

So off I went on roads that were a little wet but it wasn’t actually raining. I started to think more about the Alfine hub issue – the trike was slipping gears a bit again. Perhaps I should pop into a bike shop if I pass one, I thought – and at that very moment arrived at Velophil. I went in and asked the chap if he knew about hubs and he told me to take it round to the Werkstatt (workshop) round the back, which I did, and a helpful chap came and had a good look at it. He said it was properly indexed and didn’t need adjusting. However he did tighten up my rear axle for me, saying that might help matters. This has been an issue for the last few weeks as I only have a multitool to undo the axle and was aware that I had to be able to undo it with the multitool in case I got a puncture. This chap now tightened it up significantly with a spanner and I realised that I would never get it undone with the multitool.

As the chaps in the shop had spent a good ten minutes chatting to me I decided to buy the relevant spanner from them so I could undo the axle in future. It means carrying a bit more metal around but was something I was planning to do anyway when I got home. They sold me a relatively lightweight one for five euros and I felt happy that they had got something for helping me out. They also talked a bit about the oil change for the hub gear, saying that might help matters, and that 95% of their customers could do it themselves. They didn’t have the gear oil in stock so I’ll order some when I get home.

Here is the shop – it had rather a lot of nice stuff inside… This is just a view through the back door from the Werkstatt side.

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I carried on, the bike feeling a bit more solid now the back wheel is done up super-tight.

I was heading for the start of the Osten Ungeschminkt route which happens to be at Schönhauser Allee S-Bahn station, nearly five miles from my apartment. I pedalled over there on the wide streets that are so typical of Berlin, with only a few inconvenient cobbled streets to contend with on the route my Garmin chose.

On the way I passed this impressive bit of bridge/train in the district of Wedding – looking down towards the main station.

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I eventually arrived at Schönhauser Allee, ready to start the tour. Here is the GPS route that I followed.

I set off along streets that were familiar from when I stayed at Schönhauser Allee on a previous holiday.

Passed this beauty salon shop – couldn’t resist photographing the name. Anyone fancy waxing a cat? Sounds a bit like a recipe to be scratched to pieces to me!

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Went past the Kulturbrauerei again (visited it a few days ago). Here you can see the little cycling traffic light to assist in road crossing, plus the cycle path markings on the road where you cross. All very helpful.

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The next notable sight was the Zeiss–Großplanetarium in Prenzlauer Allee which was opened in 1987.

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It had a park around the back which was nice, but I very soon found myself in a rather East-German-looking part of Berlin which is called Ernst-Thälmann-Park. Ernst was a big cheese in the Weimar Republic and the DDR (German Democratic Republik, i.e. East German government) decided to make a prestige project in his name. It was a residential area with high-rise tower blocks for 4,000 people, various amenities including a swimming pool and of course the planetarium. They took away a 100 year old gasworks which had previously been a major landmark to build it, and, according to the guide book, the locals protested that they wanted to keep their gasworks. They didn’t get their wish and had Ernst-Thälmann-Park instead.

In the middle of which is a huge monument to the chap, which was looking rather sad when I visited with graffiti and rather a lot of glass strewn around.

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Look how tiddly my trike is compared to the statue! The sticking up bit on the left hand side of the statue has a hammer and sickle on it.

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This monument is 50 tonnes in weight and is as big as a house. The granite for its base came from the Ukraine. After German reunification there was a long discussion as to whether it should be removed but the cost of taking it away was too much. Just a few bronze plaques with propaganda inscriptions were removed. It seems as though the locals have done their own decorating on it now anyway.

I carried on through Einsteinpark (lots of parks around here!) and then found myself briefly going along a main road. There were some ominous looking clouds and sure enough the rain started to fall. I quickly retraced my path back to the main road (I’d gone 200 metres down a side road) as there was shelter under a supermarket canopy. The rain seemed to be settled in, so after sitting on the bike in the shelter for a while looking upon this view…

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…I decided to cross the road and went to the café. Where I ordered a strange food item whose name escapes me but was a sausage inside a sort-of rolled up pizza with some mustard. They heated it up for me and it was rather good!

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After about half an hour the rain had eased off and although there was a lot of standing water I judged I was OK to continue.

The route then went to Volkspark Prenzlauer Berg. According to my guidebook this is another area where WW2 rubble was dumped (around 15 million cubic metres) and it has now become, like Teufelsberg in the Grunewald, another hill to climb. Which I found, of course, the GPS route wanted me to climb. I managed it although it was steep and slippery (wet, leafy asphalt and rear wheel drive on a tadpole trike do not for good traction make). When I got to the top there was a view over the East – the huge apartment blocks again.

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The guide book explains that the DDR did huge amounts of building – in East Berlin there were 10,000 new homes built and in the rest of East Germany hundreds of thousands. Unfortunately just a few years after German reunification lots of the East Berlin apartment blocks had to be razed to the ground as they were so badly built.

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Going down from the Volkspark was fun and fast if a bit bumpy. The route then went past some of the weird allotment-type gardens which have tiny dwellings in them – that I think people actually live in all round. I suppose a bit like a trailer park except the buildings are brick with foundations.

I then arrived at Sportform Hohenschönhausen which initially looked fairly uninspiring, yet another dull concrete building.

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However the route took me behind this where I went past football pitches, tennis courts, an ice hockey stadium and more. This was the centre of the East German sport success and was home to Britta Steffen (swimming), Claudia Pechstein (speed skating), Franziscka van Almsick (swimming world champion) and Robert Bartko (track cycling), and the guide book explains: “after the downfall of the DDR it became clear that a not insignificant part of this success was owed to systematic doping organised by trainers and sports doctors and often without the knowledge of the athletes.”

After some more faffing around on little roads I found myself passing the Sowjetisches Ehrenmal in Küstriner Straße. This is a memorial for the dead soldiers of the Soviet army.

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I now found myself entering the Hohenschönhausen area, which has a strange history. It was a restricted area which was exccessively spied upon by East German secret police and within it was the Stasi Prison.

This was an information board about the restricted area.

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It all looks appallingly grey and unappealing. Not helped by the fact the rain had started again and I was beginning to get wet. The rain continued for the rest of the day’s ride.

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According to Wiki: “In June 1945, at the conclusion of World War II, the Soviet Secret Police took over the Hohenschönhausen area of Lichtenberg and transformed it into a detainment and transit camp, called Special Camp No. 3. The camp served as an both a prison and transfer point. Over 20,000 people passed through Special Camp No. 3 on their way to other Soviet camps, including one at the former Nazi concentration camp at Sachsenhausen. Living conditions in the camp were deplorable, with death from malnutrition, disease, or cold common. Although official statistics list 886 deaths at the camp between July 1945 and October 1946, independent estimates put the toll as high as 3,000. Bodies were disposed of in local bomb craters. The camp was closed and prisoners relocated other camps in October 1946. After the closing of Special Camp No. 3, the Hohenschönhausen compound served as a Soviet prison during the winter of 1946-1947. The former cafeteria was converted to the underground prison area (“submarine”) by prison labour.”

And then the next building was the Stasi Prison.

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Wiki explains: “The prison was reopened by the East German Ministry of State Security (MfS), also known as the Stasi, in 1951. The Stasi added a new prison building (using prisoner labour) in the late 1950s. The new building included 200 prison cells and interrogation rooms. After the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961, the prison was primarily used to house those who wished or attempted to leave the GDR, although political prisoners were also held there. The prison was used until Die Wende in 1989 and officially closed on October 3rd, 1990. The main prison also included a hospital wing, built in the 1950s and expanded in 1972. The hospital treated prisoners from all three Berlin prisons and sometimes from regional Stasi prisons as well. The hospital had up to 28 beds (in cells), an x-ray ward, treatment and operating rooms, a laboratory, a morgue, and outdoor exercise cells (called “tiger cages” by prisoners). In 1989, shortly before its closure, the hospital was run by Dr. Herbert Vogel with 28 full-time MfS staff.

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I hoped to pop into the Stasi Prison but you had to go on a guided tour which takes an hour and a half. The rather scary security guards at the gate didn’t seem inclined to let me in just to have a nose around, and fearing getting locked up for years or sent to the gulag, I carried on.

This next section was just plain weird. I went round a weird German waterworks which felt like cycling round the back end of a rather down-at-heel industrial estate.

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I ended up going through the Dong Xuan Center, an Asian market which was just full of Vietnamese shops. According to the guide book the area was previously the VEB Elektrokohle Lichtenberg which was one of the major causes of the appalling smog during the DDR years.

After this I popped out on Ruschestraße where, waiting to cross the road, I took a bad photo of one of the ubiquitous trams in East Berlin. The trams are about the only thing that West Berliners think was good about the East, and one of the tram lines was actually extended into the West following reunification. Edinburgh take note!

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And now, what is this picture? Can you see the trike at the very bottom under the tree?

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This is an enormous building, yet another East German concrete monstrosity, but not just for its looks this time. This was the building for the Stasi in Normannenstraße.

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Anyone who, like me, likes reading spy books ought to be familiar with the name Normannenstraße. In fact, my reading of spy books is what really brought to life my first visit to Berlin. I was staying in the Hilton Hotel at the Gendarmenmarkt (see earlier blog for pictures of it!) and started reading a new book, I think it was a Len Deighton one (Berlin Game?) Anyway, the first two pages talked about someone jumping off a U-Bahn train at Stadtmitte station. I looked out of the window – there was Stadtmitte Station! So arriving today for the first time at Normannenstraße was a spooky experience – it’s a place that has such an ugly history and somehow its exterior continues the theme. There is now a Stasi museum inside. Oh, and some of the filming of Das Leben Der Anderen (The Lives Of Others) was done there. If you haven’t seen that film, rent it now – it is just brilliant!

There’s a bit of a building site around the back as they move the museum to a different part of the complex, and I gather there’s been a bit of infighting about who runs the museum.

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Here’s an example of one of the cobbled roads that I complain about so much.

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Soon I found myself on Frankfurter Allee which is also known as Karl Marx Allee and Stalinallee. It’s a very long road which leads to Alexanderplatz and is well known for its buildings. It was one of East Germany’s treasures, an attractive and wide road with excellent-looking buildings. The reality is that the facades of the buildings were good but inside they were awful and hopeless like most of the other buildings.

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The actual road is one of the oldest roads in Berlin and leads from Frankfurt (an der Oder) to Berlin. In 1949 it was renamed Stalinallee as a present for Stalin’s 70th birthday and in 1961 it was (here comes a fab German word from the guidebook) “entstalinisiert” – unstalined.

The route (that you could see at the top of this page) does a weird little circly bit near U-Bahn Station Weberwieser. This is a mini diversion to have a look at the house which was one of the main locations for the film of Das Leben Der Anderen (The Lives Of Others), the house of Dreymann. This block of apartments in Wedekindstraße was chosen for the film as it still looks as it did in DDR times. I took a few pics as I wasn’t sure which was the relevant flat.

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I continued along Karl Marx Allee – it was pretty easy to see my destination, Alexanderplatz, with that rather large TV tower in the middle of it!

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As I cycled up towards Alexanderplatz the road became extremely wide with various lanes painted on, including the cycle lane which wasn’t at the edge of the road. I did think one had to be reasonably confident to cycle along this bit of road as you feel quite exposed. Here’s a photo I took looking back at Karl Marx Allee as I was stopped at traffic lights.

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And of course a final shot of the Brandenburger Tor, this time in the rain.

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Following this I took a little film of cycling along from the Brandenburg Gate to the Siegesäule. I’m not sure the iPad will be able to cope with that but hopefully when I’m home I can upload the video so you can see what it’s like cycling along here.

I got home having done 25.05 miles so a good run which took me ages but which took me to lots of new places.

The East Without Varnish was a good title for this route. Much of the ride was through places I really wouldn’t want to have to live (in such contrast with Zehlendorf and Potsdam and places like that). Everything still seems grey and graffitied and run down. Although Karl Marx Allee looks nice and fresh (it’s been spruced up since the reunification), the general feel when cycling in the East is greyness. Particularly on such a rainy day.

Tomorrow is Part 2 of the Berlin Wall. Hopefully the weather will be better!

 

Statistics for this ride:

Distance – 25.18 miles

Time – 3 hours 18 minutes

Moving average – 7.6 mph

Didn’t wear Heart Rate Monitor again.

Maximum speed – 21.73

Calories burned – 1318 (??)

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Filed under Berlin 2011, Cycle Tours, Cycling in Germany, Trikes & Velomobiles

Grunewaldrunde – Around the Berlin Grunewald Cycle Ride

Today was Sunday. As I had travelled to Berlin with a minister in the United Reformed Church, I suggested he might like to come along to a church service. He’d never been to one in Germany before so was interested, but wasn’t daring enough to go on his own. I said I’d keep him company, I’ve been to a dozen or so churches in Germany over time so I know what to expect.

On the way to the church (which was right by where Ken was staying, about a mile and a quarter from my flat) I saw this beer trailer. Beer to Berlin is a bit like taking coals to Newcastle, surely!

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I also passed a Trödelmarkt on the way to the church – this is a flea market with lots of old records, cutlery, rugs and endless other things I wasn’t interested in.

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This is a blog about cycling rather than church, suffice it to say that Ken found the whole experience a bit weird. Because the Germans seem to sit down to sing and stand up to pray (t’other way round in most English churches) we kept being caught out standing up or sitting down at the wrong times. The congregation continually burst out into little bits of song that weren’t written down anywhere so we didn’t have a clue. Likewise the Lord’s Prayer and Nicene Creed weren’t written down for visitors – we know them in English but not in German. I think Ken has gone away with much food for thought about how much churches assume people know… and perhaps they don’t.

On the way back I treated myself to an apple pancake thingie.

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After lunch I faffed around for a bit, then decided it might be time for a cycle ride!

Having done 73 miles yesterday and as it was very warm today (29 degrees) and time was marching on (it was 3pm by the time I got myself ready to go out) I decided to do a shorter ride than normal and picked a route I had downloaded before I left home, just called Grunewaldrunde.

I’ve tried to screenshot the route but for some reason the iPad refuses to rotate it. If I rotate it within WordPress you get a very small version. So here it is, full size on its side and correct-way-up in miniature.

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As part of this faffing around I appear to have lost (permanently) the header picture of both trikes which was at the top of each blog post. I can restore it when I get home to a ‘real’ computer which has the images saved, but at the moment we’re stuck with a bookshelf. Apologies!

So anyway, off I went with trike, still a bit dusty after yesterday’s exertions.

I found myself stopped next to a very shiny building so out came the camera…

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This is cyclist’s eye view of the main road through Charlottenburg to the outside world (well, Spanndau).

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I arrived at the Grunewald after about three and a half miles (please note that the screenshot map above is of the other chap’s route which started at a different place to my route). There was a small amount of zigzagging through quiet roads and then I was on the long – and very long it was too – straight that leads south west beside the Grunewald.

This path is actually beside a motorway, although there are trees screening it so the road isn’t particularly disturbing. Also because today there was a huge traffic jam and not much was moving – it was great to be going faster than cars on the motorway! See what a lovely wide, smooth road this is, just for cyclists, walkers and skaters.

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After about four miles of this I turned right onto what is a proper road (with cars even!) which headed across to the shore of Wannsee. This section was actually a bit more up and down and my trike was skipping gears rather a lot. Now Alfie has done 1000 miles he’s due an oil change in the Alfine hub gear (which I haven’t yet done) and I also expect I need to adjust the indexing a bit, although I haven’t got the faintest how to go about this. Very occasionally he seems to go into ‘neutral’ or a ridiculously low gear but I’ve read that this happens to other people whilst they are running in their Alfine, and if you just change up or down a gear it sorts itself out. I stopped and had a look at the back wheel – some errant pieces of grass were stuck around the cogs and, having pulled this out, he behaved much better.

Anyway, with some slow ascents and speedy descents, I found myself on the shores of Wannsee.

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A bit further along I found a beach with lots of people sunbathing and some others swimming. I dipped my toes in the water.

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On I pootled, coming across the Grunewaldturm. According to Wikipedia: “The Grunewaldturm is a historical tower in the Grunewald forest of southwestern Berlin, Germany, built in 1897-99 according to plans designed by Franz Heinrich Schwechten… The tower built in a Brick Gothic Revival architecture has a height of 55 m (180 ft) and is located on the 79 m (259 ft) high Karlsberg hill on the eastern shore of the Havel River. The building contains a domed hall with a marble statue of Wilhelm I and four iron reliefs depicting Albrecht von Roon, Helmuth von Moltke, Otto von Bismarck and Prince Frederick Charles of Prussia. 204 steps lead to the platform offering a panoramic view over the Havelland region and the Grunewald forest. The building has a restaurant and a beer garden.”

I saw the beer garden, of course, and also saw people looking out of the tower so wondered about climbing up there, but discovering it cost 3 Euro to go up, plus having a heavy bag (lots of tools, water etc) and shoes with cleats, I decided against it. I photographed the tower instead.

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Very soon I was at the top part of Grunewald again, joining up with the route when I arrived. However, the GPS track had an extra little bit which went into the middle of the wood. I thought I might give that a go, so set off.

Here we had a fantastic wide road which was almost all for bikes (although there were a fair number of cars pretending to be ‘Anlieger’)

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Anyway, the road started a curve up to the right which got tighter and tighter – and steeper and steeper. Really steep, in fact. I zoomed in on my Garmin and it said my destination was Teufelsberg (Devil’s Mountain). Ah.

From Wiki again: “The Teufelsberg (German for Devil’s Mountain) is a hill in Berlin, Germany, in former West Berlin. It rises about 80 meters above the surrounding Brandenburg plain, more precisely the north of Berlin’s Grunewald forest.

“It is an artificial hill with a curious history: it was built by the Allies after the Second World War from the rubble of Berlin during the following twenty years as the city was rebuilt. One estimate for the amount of rubble is about 12 million cubic meters, or about 400,000 buildings. It is higher than the highest natural hill (the Kreuzberg) in the Berlin area.

“Teufelsberg’s origin does not in itself make Teufelsberg unique, as there are many similar man-made rubble mounds in Germany (see Schuttberg) and other war-torn cities of Europe. The curiousness begins with what is buried underneath the hill: a Nazi military-technical college designed by Albert Speer. The Allies tried using explosives to demolish the school, but it was so sturdy that covering it with debris turned out to be easier.

“As in the whole Grunewald (means green forest in German), wild boar, nicknamed “grunie pigs” by American soldiers, frequently roam the hill.”

When I finally got to the top, having crawled up in a low gear, passing a bunch of German youth who were doing skateboard tricks (and regularly falling over, although not appearing to mind) I found it wasn’t Wild Boar that were a problem but the mozzies. When I reached the top there was a gate preventing access to the buildings (the old ski station?) and I stopped to get my camera out, whereupon I felt dozens of mozzies on me. I swiped them away madly but I could hear them buzzing round me in a cloud. Little devils! So I got straight back on the trike and whizzed down at high speed, which was great fun (and the skateboarders were cheering me too).

When I got home I noticed I had nine mozzie bites on my back, which I assume came when I was standing up on Teufelsberg as the rest of the time my back is against the bike seat.

So I made my way back to the main road and headed back to my apartment, picking up some milk at Kaiser’s (a supermarket) which was having a special “We are open on Sunday” day. Almost all German shops are closed on Sunday so this is a new thing. The shop was doing a good trade too.

Once I’d had my shower it was time for some more of the Kalte Hund cake. Yum!

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Just 24 miles today, but it was hot and I left it a bit late to set out so wasn’t too disappointed. The Grunewald is interesting and I am, once again, really impressed with the cycling facilities – and how much they are being used!

 

Statistics for this ride:

Distance – 23.52 miles

Time – 2 hours 40 minutes

Moving average – 8.8 mph

No heart rate data as I didn’t wear the strap as it was a bit itchy after yesterday’s long ride!

Maximum speed – 44.72

Calories burned – 1231 (software tends to overread this figure when I don’t where the HRM)

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Filed under Berlin 2011, Cycle Tours, Cycling in Germany, Trikes & Velomobiles

Die Berliner Mauer (The Berlin Wall) Cycle Ride – Part 1

Today was the day I was going to start my Berlin Wall circumnavigation.

The Wall is a shade over 100 miles and, knowing how slow city cycling can be, I decided to split it into two. I had wondered about making it a three day tour but I felt that would take up rather a lot of my cycling days.

Because of the shape of the Wall, and the location of my apartment, there was a very obvious ‘halfway point’ where I could split the route and not have to do especially long journeys to get to and from the start of the second section. This meant that one route was 52 miles and one was 72 miles. So today was the 72 mile version.

Here is a map of the GPS Track I was working from.

I set off very early (9:30am) knowing I’d need a fair bit of time. It was also a hot day so I thought that might slow me down a bit.

My plan was to do the route clockwise but I got a bit confused coming out of the apartment and ended up heading west, which meant I would be doing the ride anticlockwise. Upon further reflection I thought this was a good idea – it might make me less likely to pack up early as the end of the ride would be carrying me homewards reasonably directly.

On my way through Westend I saw these signs regularly – not the top one, the small R1 sign. That’s the European Cycle Route that goes from Leningrad (I think) through Berlin and ends up at Calais. That’s next year’s long ride…

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So off I pootled and after eight miles I reached my chosen start point for the wall tour.

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A random road, the occupants of which, in 1961, would have found themselves just inside West Berlin. Phew! But those on the other side of the road…

So my GPS track sent me down that road. I looked left to right but couldn’t see any signs of the Wall. Presumably there was a large no-man’s-land area so perhaps one side of the road’s houses were new (since 1989) but I couldn’t tell.

Then the GPS sent me off to the right… through this lot!

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OK, I decided to give it a go. It got a bit better, and then we had this:

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And this:

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I was getting stung by nettles and scratched – and all in the first 400 metres of the Wall Route. Not encouraging.

Blow this for a game of soldiers, I thought, I’ll ride instead on the main road parallel to the fields across which the Wall route zigzagged (I had studied my Garmin a bit closer).

Once I got to the main road I saw this sign:

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Aha, light dawns. My GPS track is the track of the actual route of the wall (this was confirmed a bit later when it went straight down the middle of a canal – not somewhere I can easily cycle). I had thought it was the route of the Berliner Mauer Radweg, but I was wrong.

So I now needed to rely on the Radweg signs. Except they were pretty hopeless. Firstly they were mounted miles up various poles – about 3 metres high or something. That’s a long way up from a recumbent trike! Secondly, as I discovered over the course of this ride, the signage rather assumes you’re doing the route clockwise; the signs are all on the side of the road that you would be on if you were doing it clockwise, and aren’t always visible from the other side of the road (and in Germany you’re supposed to use the cycle path on the correct side of the road for the flow of traffic). Can you guess who was doing this route anticlockwise???

Needless to say, I had quite a few times when I missed the route and had to do my own version – thank goodness my Garmin had very good maps! I actually feel a letter coming on to Berlin’s tourist department about their signage; if they put it up, it ought to be reliable enough to use. No way would I have ever found the way if it weren’t for having the SatNav also. Secondly, I think they should provide an alternative not-off-road option for parts of this route; I’ve done more off-roading today than I usually do in a year, and neither I nor Alfie appreciated it.

Anyway, enough of that, back to the route.

Due to the off-road nature of the route, plus crossing roads etc, my average speed was a woeful 8.4mph. This was slightly perturbing for a 72 mile ride, which was already increasing in distance due to my wrong turns. However there were still some interesting things to see, like this dilapidated building.

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The route went under that arch and then we were on, YET AGAIN, cobbles. Berlin seems to like ’em, and I don’t – well, not for cycling on. I feel like I’ve shaken half my fillings out today. Seems odd than an official Radweg would be on cobbles, but hey ho.

About 100 yards down the cobbly road I came across a single piece of Wall.

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And then suddenly we were alongside a most beautiful lake, which I now discover was Wannsee (home of the famous Wannsee conference). It has some beaches and of course people were swimming there – there was lots of skinny dipping going on as well.

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What was less good was that the Mauer Radweg didn’t always quite work out. Since it has been built, people who own the land either side (i.e. posh houses on the lakeside) have decided to join up their land so they can pootle straight down to the water without having pesky cyclists pass by. So I twice came across obstacles such as this.

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I couldn’t get around this blockage at all so had to retrace my route about half a mile, at which point I gave up with the Radweg and went on the main road through Groß Glienicke. Where there were a whole bunch of people sunbathing starkers. Random. Well, not so random, as this is East Germany where the FKK reigned supreme – about the only freedom people had was to go unclothed.

I carried on along the lakeside at Wannsee. It was hot outside but cool in the woodland but the horseflies and mozzies were having a field day with me, plus the often gravel or worse track meant that quite a lot of dust was getting kicked up and my hands felt gritty. Alfie was beginning to look less shiny as a film of dust settled on mudguards and metalwork.

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The I rounded a corner at Sacrow and found this – a beautiful church which was built for sailors. When the Wall went up the church was on the lake side of the wall, entirely cut off from the land. This meant that it was in the West, however, which was undoubtedly an improvement.

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Inside the church was quite plain, but it had beautiful brickwork outside. The tower was covered up.

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By now I was tired, hot, dusty and a bit concerned about how long this was all taking, plus I realised I had left the anthisan at home in Great Bromley. So time for a stop at Café Charlotte which was on the roadside at Neu Fahrland. I had a rather nice slice of cake:

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And this was the choice I had:

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I felt refreshed after the cake, tea, water and a chance to freshen up and wash some of the dust off.

Soon I arrived in Potsdam which is a very attractive town. It was fairly busy with cyclists and dog walkers so I didn’t stop to take pictures except this one – and I then felt a bit embarrassed as there was a bunch of people naked sunbathing just out of shot and I wondered if they thought I was photographing them.

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Here’s a pic for James – looking back across the Wannsee to the church I visited earlier, and a nice boat with spinnaker. Sorry it’s fuzzy, it was super zoomed in.

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After a good ride through Potsdam I found myself skirting the edges of Zehlendorf. Now this is the place to live in you’re in Berlin – beautiful houses, many with wonderful waterfront views. However there was a random bit of house demolition going on across the cycle path. But never fear, you can just wheel your bike through madam. Health and Safety would never allow that in the UK!

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Somehow just after this point I once again got a bit lost. Well, I was following the GPS track, but clearly the official Radweg went somewhere else at this point. I found my way barred, couldn’t work out where I’d one wrong, and in the end squeezed through a gap in a fence to follow the route as the Garmin didn’t seem to have any other possibilities that weren’t a huge diversion. It included crossing this rickety bridge.

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This was apparently the area (Dreilingen) where a German chap in a sports boat was killed by the East German border guards when he accidentally strayed into East German territorial waters. His girlfriend turned the boat round and was back in West German waters but the East German guards continued firing and killed the man, seriously injuring the woman (she never fully recovered). This was where the busiest border checkpoint was – it was just a weed-infested bit of flat concrete with trees all round it now.

Once again I was having trouble with the route – I ended up having to drag Alfie up a sandy slope. This is looking back down it.

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I was now feeling rather tired and as it was 2:45pm I thought it time to stop for some food. I found a supermarket and bought a sandwich and some water.

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I continued on through Zehlendorf, then various other places including a very cobbly section which then turned into a barrier 1cm narrower than my trike, which led straight to a narrow sandy bridge over a ditch and a steep slope. Here is the view back at that lot. And whilst taking this photo I got two nasty mozzie bites on my leg.

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Now I was in more built up sections of the Berlin outskirts which made the journey easier. These were interspersed with well-asphalted tracks so my average speed picked up, as did my confidence that I could finish before dark. I had 24 miles to go but when I checked the direct route back to my apartment it was still 10 miles so didn’t seem worth cutting it short.

There was another annoying long section of narrow track in grass which slowed me down once again. I do wish I knew when these bits were coming so I could do a diversion!

At one point I saw a random guard tower.

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I had to do a bit of creative navigation around the Rudow area (almost at Schönefeld) as the Mauer Radweg signs had disappeared. I took a bit of a short cut and got myself onto some faster roads.

There were still things to see at times, such as this bit of paint by the Wall stones on the floor – showing that I was standing in the East.

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You can tell I’m fairly near to the centre of Berlin now as the flagstones marking the wall route have reappeared – I hadn’t seen them at all so far on this journey, having expected them to be all the way round! This is the start of the touristy bit of the Wall.

Here the Wall crosses the road.

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And here are some people having a booze up on the river/canal. All very jolly.

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I now arrived at the East Side Gallery. I’d heard about this many times but never visited it. I wish I had now as it was brilliant! Unfortunately, due to doing the route anticlockwise I was on the wrong side of the road to see these properly; I shall have to go back.

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And a mini version of the O2 arena:

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I had a few issues following the signage for the Wall route again, despite now being on roads. I was getting frustrated with this but knew I was only eight miles from home. I went through a pretty seedy bit of Berlin which magically transformed into Zimmerstraße, at the end of which is Potsdamer Platz. Before you reach Potsdamer Platz you can see, if you pay attention, the memorial for Peter Fechter, the first person to be shot crossing the wall. This is just east of Checkpoint Charlie.

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I zoomed home from here, loving the fast and straight route along Straße des 17 Juni.

I got back to my apartment at 7:30 having done 73 miles in 8 hours 4 minutes. I have topped up my cyclist’s tan and feel quite nicely tired.

I’ll do Part 2 of the route (i.e. the rest of it) on Tuesday probably. I will do Part 2 in a clockwise direction to make life easier for myself.

This evening I had to do my first dishwasher run – this is what it looks like with one person on their own self-catering!

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Oh, a couple more points from today. I saw a lizard run across the road in front of me, plus what looked like a dormouse.

 

Statistics for this ride:

Distance – 72.57 miles

Time – 7 hours 56 minutes

Moving average – 9.13 mph

Average heart rate – 118

Max heart rate – 176

Maximum speed – 28.8

Calories burned – 3081

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Filed under Berlin 2011, Cycle Tours, Cycling in Germany, Trikes & Velomobiles

Ein Überblick von West nach Ost – Berlin from West to East cycle ride

An Overview from West to East

This is a route from the “Berlin Erfahren (auf dem Rad durch die Hauptstadt)” book and the map above is the GPS track which I decided to follow this afternoon.

Firstly, however, I decided not to go to the very start (Zoo station) as I had been there this morning, seen the Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche etc, and as I didn’t set off until 3:30pm and the book said the tour takes 3-4 hours I thought it worth cutting off the beginning. It’s only about 10 miles but there would be a lot to look at, plus I’d have to get back from Schönhauser Allee (about 5 miles from my apartment).

So… I set off, guide book in hand, and made my way to the Siegesäule where I would join the route.

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I’ll do a bit of translating from the guidebook here and there so you know what these pics are of.

“The Siegesäule (Victory Column) doesn’t stand where it was originally placed and isn’t its original height either. the 70 metre high column was erected in front of the Reichstag in 1873 by Heinrich Strack as a memorial of the wars against Denmark (1864), Austria (1866) and France (1870/71). The victory goddess Victoria, also known as Goldelse, was created by Friedrich Drake. For the Nazis this victory memorial wasn’t important enough and wasn’t in the right place. As part of Albert Speer’s plan for “Reich Capital Germania” the statue was moved before the 2nd World War into the middle of the Großen Stern (a roundabout in the Tiergarten) and was raised up a bit…” Makes quite an attractive roundabout decoration!!!

This is Schloss Bellevue, the home of the German President. Can you name him? I think not!

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The route then went onto a rather lovely path alongside the river Spree through the posh government district. Lots of impressive shiny buildings, including the Haus der Kulturen der Welt/ehemaligen Kongresshall (House of World Culture, formerly the Congress Hall) which has the local name Schwangere Auster (pregnant oyster), and I can see why. Didn’t take a pic of it, sorry.

Then I went over a little bridge and lo and behold there were scores of Germans sunbathing on deckchairs!

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And here we are at the Reichstag/Bundestag, the German House of Parliament. I’ve been round the interior previously – it still has bullet holes from when the Soviets took it in 1945. According to the guidebook, “This parliament building is a tourist magnet, particularly the 800 tonne dome made of steel and glass.” No mention there that it was designed by Sir Norman Foster, a Brit.

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The route then went past the Brandenburger Tor (again), the Holocaust Memorial, and then arrived again at Potsdamer Platz. Because I was on the other side of the road I saw this bit of Berlin Wall that I hadn’t previously noticed (and I’m sure wasn’t there a few years ago).

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Slightly randomly, behind the wall there were four people in green bodysuits presumably advertising something. I got a photo of two of them.

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Then the GPS track provided by the author of the book went inside Potsdamer Platz’s Sony Centre. Seemed a bit odd that bikes would be allowed in, but I gave it a go at walking speed. This is the roof:

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And this is just one random view from inside:

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My poor Garmin got very confused when in here which meant I faffed about a bit finding my route when I exited the Sony Centre. The Garmin has occasionally struggled in Berlin as there are so many tall buildings.

I pottered along a little way and then came across one of the “Doppelspurige Großpflastersteinreihe” (I had to learn that phrase for my AS level German oral), a double row of flagstones set into the floor marking the former route of the Wall – except I think they are being built over and taken up, etc. Anyway, here was one.

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Shortly afterwards I arrived at “Topographie des Terrors” which is an exhibition about the former headquarters of the Stasi and Gestapo etc which was based here in the former Prinz-Albrecht-Straße. I assume they changed the name of the road as it had so many bad connotations. Anyway, I’d looked at the exhibition previously and due to a lack of time I carried on cycling, having a quick look at some more bits of Berlin Wall before I left. Oh, and taking a photo of Alfie on the wall…

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and just as I was leaving I passed a Beer Bike in full swing!

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Followed by a row of six or seven Trabants. I only managed to snap the last two.

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Onward again on quiet roads that I know very well. In the first few years of visiting Berlin I tended to stay at the Hilton am Gendarmenmarkt (they often did good deals) and Checkpoint Charlie was just down the road. That was the next place that I reached.

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As I was waiting to cross the road to continue on my way I heard a voice shouting “Great Britain!!!” I realised they were referring to me (because of my union jack flag) and waved back at a pack of Brits sitting outside a bar with lots of glasses of beer. And carried on.

And now to the Gendarmenmarkt; as the guide book says, “It is doubtless one of the most beautiful Platzes in Berlin” (a platz being a square or open space or something). It’s beautiful because it’s got two cathedrals and a concert hall all fairly close together. “the Platz is dominated by three monumental buildings: The Französische Dom (French Cathedral) 1701-1705, the Deutscher Dom (German Cathedral) 1701-1705 and the Schauspielhaus (Playhouse) 1818-1821…. The Gendarmenmarkt was significantly damaged in World War 2 and was reconstructed in the following years.”

This is the Französische Dom:

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And this the Schauspielhaus (now Konzerthaus). I’ve attended a couple of concerts here in the past and it’s great inside.

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I carried on, finding myself at the end of some kind of cycle tour group. They were all riding a bit erratically so it was difficult to get round them – I lurked at the back instead. We soon arrived at Bebelplatz.

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The name Bebelplatz might not be familiar, but you’ll probably have seen pictures of it – or perhaps a reconstruction of events in one of the Indiana Jones films. It’s where the Nazis did the book burning. As the guide book says: “In the middle of Bebelplatz you can find a memorial plaque with a foresighted quotation from Heinrich Heine from the year 1820: “that was only a prelude. There where people burn books, in the end people also burn people.” On the 10th May 1933, under the direction of Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels, students in SA Uniforms came to Bebelplatz and burned 20,000 works of ‘ungerman’ writers, scientists and philosopher. These included works by Heinrich and Thomas Mann, Heinrich Heine, Karl Marx, Kurt Tucholsky, Bertold Brecht and Erich Kästner.”

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“Since 1995 a memorial “Sunken library” has remembered the book burning. The memorial is a 50 square metre large room with empty bookshelves set into the floor.” You can just about see this in my photograph – it took me a while to find the place in the floor of Bebelplatz as there were lots of groups of people standing around and I couldn’t remember quite where it was.

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A German museum on Schlossplatz (can’t remember which museum though!)

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And not something you see/hear every day, a man playing a digeridoo!

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The Berliner Dom (Cathedral)

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I was now in very familiar territory. When I studied for a month with the Goethe Institut in Berlin in 2007 it was based in a building near Hackescher Markt, which is where I next went.

There was a slight delay whilst some kind of protest march went past – something to do with options for children at school or playgroup I think – which was lots of noisy singing and colourful banners followed by police vans. It soon passed though.

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I then went into the Hackesche Höfe, somewhere I only went into a couple of times before – and never realised went on and on. It’s a whole series of little courtyards surrounded by buildings in which there are shops and cafés and places like that. It wasn’t ideal by trike due to lots of pedestrians and sharp corners, and I found myself at a dead end once, but it was good to see around.

According to the guide book: “The area of the Hackescher Markt was established over centuries by the Jewish people of Berlin… The Hackescher Höfe are Germany’s largest Hofanlage [can’t translate that, it’s these courtyards in buildings that interconnectt] and were built in 1906/7 as living and work buildings. Manufacturing, shopkeepers, service personnel and various art and food places as well as the art scene have never left. People live, work and spend their free time in these buildings.”

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I continued on, finding that a lot of the roads were rather cobbly here, and the traffic was also getting much heavier (it was half past five). Still, cars are always very careful around cyclists and left room for me. I was thinking about how much I dislike cycling in London and do it as infrequently as possible, but in Berlin I enjoy it and don’t feel at all scared. It’s partly because Berlin’s roads are much wider so there’s room for cycle paths, and also because most Germans are also cyclists so understand things from a biker’s point of view. However, I have been surprised how many German cyclists jump red traffic lights. I know London cyclists are notorious for this (all tarred with the same brush) but as German pedestrians usually wait for the green man I’ve been surprised that the cyclists don’t.

After a mile or so more, with a couple of diversions to see things that the guidebook recommended, I arrived at the Kulturbrauerei. I’d been here one Christmas with James as they had a Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas Market) there. It’s, I suppose, a German version of Snape Maltings – a former brewery turned into a cultural centre with cinema, theatre, shops, food places, clubs etc.

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What was amusing was that as I went through the main gate into the Kulturbrauerei a German chap shouted “Hey England, England.” I realised he was talking to me so cycled over to where he was (he was in a uniform and with another chap – some kind of security I suppose). “You’re not allowed in here,” he said in German.

“Why not?”

“Because you have a Union Jack Flag, they are Verboten.” His eyes were twinkling so I knew he was pulling my leg. “No English people are allowed in,” he continued.

“But I was born in Germany,” I replied.

At this the chap with him said “she’s not English then.” (I hasten to point out that of course I didn’t have the England flag but the Union Jack, a distinction I felt wasn’t particularly important).

“Well I am British,” I said. “It says so on my passport.”

“British people are forbidden from entering,” the first man said again. “Only Scottish people can go in.”

“I’m not Scottish,” I said. “In fact, I’ve only visited Scotland once.”

“So have I, only once,” he replied. “That’s why Scottish people are allowed and English not.”

We clearly weren’t getting anywhere so I said “Oh well, I’d better get on” and pedalled off into the Kulturbrauerei. No-one ejected me for not being Scottish so I think I got away with it.

From here I was once again in familiar territory, the Schönhauser Allee area of Prenzlauer Berg which is where my friend Ines (who I saw this morning for tea and scones) used to live. James and I had a holiday where we stayed in Prenzlauer Berg so I was riding down many of the roads I had walked through. The official route stopped at the Schönhauser Allee S-Bahn station, so I got my Garmin to work out a route back to Dovestraße in Charlottenburg and headed home, a five mile trip. Fortunately they were fast, straight roads and although the setting sun meant it was quite bright in my eyes I had a good ride back, getting to my apartment at 7:30pm having done sixteen miles. The average speed was only 8mph as I kept stopping to look at things – and for everlasting traffic lights.

Tomorrow I plan to do Part 1 of the Berlin Wall – the GPS track is 72 miles so I’m a little bit unsure of whether I’ll manage it in one day, knowing the pace that I seem to be able to go in Berlin. But it looks like we have good weather and if I start early enough I ought to manage it! Watch this space…

Oh, random footnote – I was passed by a DeLorean car today, just like the one in Back To The Future (but without the plutonium).

 

Statistics for this ride:

Distance – 16.55 miles

Time – 2 hours 10 minutes

Moving average – 7.59 mph

Average heart rate – 95

Max heart rate – 130

Maximum speed – 29.91

Calories burned – 587

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Tea and Scones in Schöneberg, Berlin, cycle ride

This morning was my chance to catch up with a good friend, Ines, who lives in Berlin. She is going on holiday tomorrow but suggested we meet for a cup of tea at a nice tea room she knew about in Schöneberg, so I put the address in my Garmin and set off.

After less than a mile I came across this unusual installation. It seemed to be a large metal sheet with names of people who had been killed in various concentration camps, there was also a train carriage with stone shapes in it (sculpture) and a few other sculptures.

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After a bit of a look at the sculpture I carried on, following my Garmin’s route which was largely on very good roads with cycle paths.

I haven’t visited Schöneberg before (that I can remember, anyway) and so it was all new to me – although to be honest it looks like most other bits of Berlin.

The tea room is called Tee Tea Thé and was lovely! You can read about it here: http://www.teeteathe.de/index.html

It had an enormous selection of different teas, including 21 varieties of Rooibos and four pages of ‘black tea’. I had brought my teabags along but Ines said the teas here were very good and I ought to try one, so I was brave and went for “Old English Tea”.

The shop also offered “High tea” (cake, cucumber and salmon sandwiches, etc) but that was pretty pricey so instead I went for the scone & jam & clotted cream, that well-known German speciality. I asked the guy serving how he said ‘scone’ – he said he has a friend from London who says scone (rhyming with cone) and a friend from Newcastle who says it rhyming with ‘gone’, so he wasn’t sure which to use. I realised I use both, so I was no help.

Anyway, the tea and scone duly arrived.

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Notice the little liquid eggtimer which is to tell you when your tea has finished brewing!

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And he had even put proper milk on the tray for me. What a result!

Here is a close-up of the scone which was very nice, although the cream wasn’t really clotted cream.

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Most amazing of all, THE TEA WAS ACTUALLY NICE! Yep, I have finally, after years and years of drinking appalling tea in Germany, had a cup of tea that tasted good. Hurrah! I told the café owner this and he said that the company Ronnefeld was good – however I’ve had their teas in the past and not liked them. But Old English is clearly OK.

Ines took a pic of me outside the café:

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And I reciprocated. She found the recumbent trike most comfy!

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We said goodbye and I headed off in a bit of a random direction, deciding to do a bit more riding rather than going directly home. Eventually I decided to go and visit the Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche which is a wonderful church at the head of the Kufürstendamm which was damaged during WW2 and has been partially rebuilt.

I started typing the name into my Garmin and it came up with “Kaiser Wilhelm Platz” which I duly navigated to (only half a mile away) before realising that it’s nothing to do with the church. I had been there before for some reason, however, as I remembered this memorial to the concentration camps in Germany.

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My Garmin was having a bit of a headache so I navigated the old-fashioned way (following road signs) until I passed KaDeWe the huge department store and knew I was very near the church. I actually cycled past it – not a particular surprise when you see what they’ve done to it:

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It’s being renovated and they’ve covered it up. It should look like this:

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I navigated by road signs back to my apartment to grab a quick sandwich before heading out this afternoon, I think to the Grünewald. Watch this space!

 

Statistics for this ride:

Distance – 9.93 miles

Time – 1 hour 10 minutes

Moving average – 8.42 mph

Average heart rate – 97

Max heart rate – 133

Maximum speed – 22.45

Calories burned – 317

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Spandau and the Olympiastadion – cycling in Berlin

Plan for this afternoon was to visit Spandau. The main reason was to go to the Deutsche Bank there (where I have an account) to pay in some money and to try to get them to stop posting me statements (and charging me for them!), but I also fancied a visit out to the west of Berlin which I haven’t visited much before. I have been to Spandau several times but that was starting at Falkensee (further west) where I stayed for five weeks in 2007. The bit between Spandau and central Berlin, known as Westend, was pretty much a mystery.

So I located the Spandau Deutsche Bank on my Garmin and asked it to plot me a route there.

Early on I went past Schloss Charlottenburg (at least I think that’s what this posh building is, the photo was taken whilst I was cycling along the road):

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I crossed a river just before Spandau (Havel?) and then arrived in the market square which was heaving with stalls selling crepes, beer, Bratwurst, that kind of thing. It was very crowded so I didn’t stop to take any photos.

I went into the bank and there was an enormous queue so just paid in my money at the automatic machine and left – couldn’t face the queue, plus I wasn’t sure quite how I was going to explain what I wanted them to do. Banking in German has an awful lot of long words….

So having ridden through the centre of Spandau (it was as I remembered) I headed home on a slightly different road, again crossing the river.

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I’d only done six miles by this point and it was only 5pm so I thought I could do a bit more exploring. When I saw a sign for Olympiastadion I thought that would be a fun visit!

I have in fact been to the Olympiastadion once before, on my first ever visit to Berlin about 11 years ago, when I went with a friend who is very much into sport. It was fascinating to look round this relic of the 1930s and although my German at that point was pretty much monosyllabic, and my companion’s was worse, we managed to chat a bit to a caretaker about it. It was weird to see the buildings made by Hitler for his Nazi Olympics, knowing this was where Jesse Owens won all his medals.

Anyway, back to September 2011. Clearly they’ve made a bit more of the stadium now as there wwere signs for a cycle route to it (last time I went by U-Bahn but it was a bit hit and miss finding the place). The route went through some woodland which was nice, but there were a few cobbled sections of road which are pretty uncomfortable on a trike.

Anyway, the first thing I got to was the Glockenturm (belltower).

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This didn’t appear to be open to the public so I carried on a bit further and after nearly a mile found myself in front of the main stadium with its olympic rings.

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Unfortunately commercialism has come to the Olympiastadion and it cost 7 Euro to get in, so I decided to give it a miss this time.

I heard a weird noise behind me and turned to see loads of police on motorcycles going past.

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In fact they kept going round and round (the road was a long oval) so I wonder if this is where they practise formation motorcycling.

I decided to head off back home and set off down the road, being overtaken by the motorcyling police of course (they were much faster than me).

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About half a mile from the stadium I crossed a bridge and a star of David on it caught my eye. Eventually I realised that the bridge was lots of metalwork flags. No Union Jack on my side of the road, and there were lots of cars parked the other side so I couldn’t see many of the flags there.

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I pootled back towards Charlottenburg and then, as I got reasonably near, I saw a sign to the Funkturm. Why not go and have a look at that too? It was, I believe, the home of MI6 during the cold war.

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On the other side of the road is one of the huge Messe buildings – there’s an electronic gadgets show on at the moment so I’m keeping my credit card safely away from that.

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More Funkturm – it’s not as pretty as the Fernsehturm at Alexanderplatz (which was East Berlin).

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Traffic was getting a bit heavier now as it was rush hour so I headed back, finding my entire route was on pretty decent roadside cycle paths. They often have their own bike traffic lights too.

I stopped off to buy something for dinner tonight at Kaiser’s (a supermarket) and the lady on the cake counter persuaded me to buy a “Kalter Hund” (cold dog) which appeared to be some kind of loaf cake. It has to be kept refrigerated, she said, and it has chocolate and biscuits in. Sounded good, so I bought it – it should last me a few days.

This is what it looked like in its packaging.

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And this is what it looks like about to be eaten by me.

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It’s layers of biscuit alternating with chocolate moussy stuff, with more chocolate on the top. It’s very rich and very crumbly. Oh, and it’s best not to eat it beside the computer as when I pushed a fork into it a whole chunk flew across my iPad keyboard. Fortunately it’s a silicone keyboard so I just brushed the chocolate off, but I’ll know for next time. It was very nice, anyway!

This afternoon’s excursion was about 16 miles, again at a fairly slow average speed due to all the traffic lights, cycle lanes and cakes.

 

Statistics for this ride:

Distance – 16.34 miles

Time – 1 hour 52 minutes

Moving average – 8.7 mph

Average heart rate – 118

Max heart rate – 171

Maximum speed – 35.55

Calories burned – 669

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Tempelhof Airport by trike – cycling in Berlin

This morning I decided to do something recommended to me on Facebook last night – to cycle round Tempelhof airport. I wasn’t actually aware this is something you could do, but it certainly sounded interesting. My father visited Tempelhof by light plane a couple of years ago and clearly found it fascinating. The planes are no more, but it looked as if they hadn’t yet built houses all over the site if Olaf thought I could cycle round it.

So I set off, having found Platz der Luftbrücke on my Garmin GPS and following its route there.

It started well – down a short stretch of Straße des 17 Juni before veering off through the Tiergarten on a reasonable track.

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However, it soon involved a lot of faffy minor roads and I decided in future if I knew where I was going I’d take the main roads there, even if slightly further, as they probably have better cycle paths.

I arrived at the front of Flughafen Tempelhof – it all looks a bit sad and forlorn now that it’s closed.

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The bit that you can cycle around is the area of the runways and taxiways which was a good kilometer away – the buildings around the front entrance are immense (I think the airport has the largest single building in Europe, or something) so I found myself cycling down Columbiastraße (I think that was its name) for a surprisingly long time before I found the entrance to the park.

What they have done is made Tempelhof Airport an open space for people to use – cyclists, skaters, kite flyers, dog walkers. Cyclists and skaters are meant to keep to the tarmac (sensible), dogs are on a lead apart from in two fenced-off exercise areas where they can run around off-lead, there is an area for barbecues, there are a couple of bird reserves and there was also some kind of veg growing area.

I made my way straight away to look at the back of the main buildings of the airport – a pilot’s eye view, I suppose.

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EDIT: Dad sent me this photo of when he was there – it looked much less dilapidated then.

I then was rather startled to see what looked like a person hanging from a kite!

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When the kite landed it was clearly just a person-shaped cloth, but it did give me surprise!

More views of Tempelhof buildings:

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And then I found myself on the runway. So, of course, I had to try and whizz down there. There was no danger of me taking off, however, as I barely got the trike to 18mph. Clearly all that cake is slowing me down!

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I cycled all the way down one runway and then back up the other, pretending to myself briefly that I was on Top Gear (they’re always messing around on an airfield, although at slightly faster speeds). There were quite a few skaters, walkers and cyclists around but there was plenty of room for everyone!

So then I found my way out of the park and headed back home, using the main road (Tempelhofer Ufer, I think it’s called) which unfortunately had a rather rutted cycle path. When I saw a sign directing me onto a different road which was going to Potsdamer Platz I thought I’d go that way, rather than all the way to Alexanderplatz, so found myself on a much better bit of road.

I stopped off at a pet shop to buy a present for Poppy. I was looking for some doggy goggles for when she’s in the bike basket (I’ve seen them previously in a German pet shop) but this one didn’t have any so instead I bought her a pack of her favourite chews, which are called Ochsenziemer (one to google, I think!) Much cheaper than in the UK. The horse version was available but seemed almost bigger than Poppy…

Anyway, I arrived at Potsdamer Platz which is an interesting place on foot but less handy by bike. There were lots of tourists walking all over the cycle paths who didn’t react to bells or shouts and it was all a bit confused.

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Here is the Sony Center peeking out behind the DB building and another glass edifice:

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I headed off along the main road (excellent quality cycle path) towards the Brandenburg Gate and Reichstag. I stopped to have another look at the Holocaust Memorial which I visited a few years ago. The trees that were planted in it have grown up rather well.

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And then I arrived at the Brandenburg Gate with a good view of the Reichstag.

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And this is the view down Straße des 17 Juni back towards my apartment – the Tiergarten with the Siegesäule in the middle.

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And here’s an attempt at a classy photo whilst I was cycling along at 11mph. In my mirror one sees the Brandenburger Tor and also someone on a Segway!

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The Russian memorial – this is flanked by two tanks (unfortunately out of shot – again I took this whilst cycling along).

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On the way back to my apartment I stopped off at a bakery to get my lunchtime treat – a nice doughnut!

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So another enjoyable trip, 15.5miles at an average of less than 9mph, but great fun!

Statistics for this ride:

Distance – 15.72 miles

Time – 1 hour 56 minutes

Moving average – 8.07 mph

Average heart rate – 96

Max heart rate – 135

Maximum speed – 18.75

Calories burned – 209

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From Great Bromley to the Brandenburg Gate (by car and trike)

The tour begins…

It was time to fold Alfie up as small as possible so that I could actually fit some luggage in the car as well. I removed the mirrors, bottle cage, slid the boom in as far as possible and twisted it on its side so that the chainrings were protected. You’d have to have strange legs to be able to pedal this beastie!

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I put him in the boot of the S-Max, ensuring there was plenty of padding cardboard and bubble wrap to prevent him getting damaged.

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And then Ken and Kenny, my co-drivers, arrived and put their very modest amount of luggage in the boot and on the floor of the back seats.

We set off earlier than originally planned which meant we reached the Channel Tunnel 3 hours before our scheduled crossing. However, they let us straight on and we were in fact the first car onto the train, and there only seemed to be a couple of dozen on that train in total.

Ken (the minister from my church, another big Berlin fan) had driven the section from Colchester to the tunnel. Kenny (Ken’s friend from Scotland, also a Berlin fan) then drove the next bit… to the first filling station to pump up one of the front tyres which looked rather low. It was down to 1.35 bar (should have been 2.4) so we’re glad we checked. Kenny carried on driving after that, and after a couple of hours I took over. We had driven through France, Belgium, Holland and had finally reached Germany. The SatNav warned us we had 400 miles to go on this road, which was a bit boring.

I had had enough of driving by 12:30am German time and decided to hand back over to Ken. At this point I installed myself across the back seats with a blanket and a pillow to try to get some sleep. I did manage some sleep, off and on, as did Kenny in the front. The other two did all the rest of the driving, which got easier as the night wore on and the traffic thinned.

At about 5am we stopped at a motorway service station for a cup of tea. There were a surprising number of people there but I wasn’t at my best being so tired so drank my tea and kept quiet.

We carried on, having realised that we were way ahead of schedule (having left early) and that this meant that we would probably arrive at our respective accommodations rather early.

This was indeed the case. Although the last hour into Berlin in their rush-hour was a bit more stop-start, our whole journey of 690 miles was pretty easy and we were parked outside Ken & Kenny’s apartment (they have stayed there several times before) at 7:30am.

We texted our respective landlords/landladies. Mine said I could go to my apartment to collect the key at 10:30am, Ken couldn’t get hold of his. I decided to walk over to my apartment (a mile away) and get the lie of the land. It turned out to be a very nice looking apartment block next to an Aldi and a REWE (two supermarkets).

Eventually 10:30 came round and I met a very nice chap who showed me round, including the impressive bicycle garage, told me where we could put the car to unload, and relieved me of the balance of the payment for this flat. It was excellent value.

Once Alfie was unloaded and my things carried up to my room, Ken and Kenny went off to their flat, having finally made contact with their landlord.

After a cup of tea (I had to go and buy a decent mug, and some milk of course) I finished off rebuilding Alfie and decided to go over to visit Ken and Kenny as I’d left some paperwork, including my passport, in the car (which was being parked at their flat as the parking there is free).

I rescued Alfie from the Fahrradgarage which is very spacious but rather choc-a-bloc with bikes.

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I headed off to Ken & Kenny’s apartment which was on the 13th floor of a high-rise on the edge of the Tiergarten. What an amazing view of the Siegesäule, Potsdamer Platz, the Fernsehturm and more, although I discovered a hitherto-previously-unknown dislike of standing on their balcony which I felt was a bit spindly.

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After collecting my missing paperwork, and after straightening up Alfie’s boom which had definitely been listing to starboard on my mile’s ride, I headed off. Having looked down at the Tiergarten from the lofty heights I decided to cycle through it to the Brandenburg Gate, somewhere I like to visit.

The main road (Straße der 17 Juni) is wonderfully wide and has an excellent cycle path along both sides. You can see the Brandenburger Tor and the Fernsehturm (TV tower) in this pic.

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I also saw this trailer which seems to be advertising a cleaning technician whose name seems rather familiar to many of those who cycle around London/Kent:

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I then asked a rickshaw driver to take a couple of pics of me in front of the Brandenburg Gate, so here they are:

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Then I cycled through to the other side, Pariser Platz, which is a lovely pedestrian area. There were hundreds of bikes, loads of people, horses and carts, rickshaws, beer bicycles, you name it./ Oh, and a recumbent trike was there too:

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Now it was my chance to cycle down Unter den Linden, a street I have walked down countless times. It’s much quicker by bike – there were good cycle paths (shared bus lanes) most of the way. I very quickly arrived at Alexanderplatz and attempted to get a photo of trike at the bottom of the Fernsehturm (but without too much success):

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After cycling around the pedestrian area at Alexanderplatz (and chatting to various Germans who asked me about the trike) I headed off to Friedrichstraße, another well-known German road. It has a very good book shop, Hügendübel, from which I bought a book about cycling from Berlin to Britain (my plan for next April/May).

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I cycled back past the Hauptbahnhof, a very impressive, relatively new, station.

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Fairly near to my apartment I crossed over the Spree river looking rather peaceful.

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I was back home after doing about 12 miles. It was fantastic to visit so many familiar places but from a new perspective – lounging on a deckchair in the road.

Here are some pics of my apartment so you can see how pleasant it is:

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And after a very long day (with only a couple of hours’ sleep last night) I thought I deserved something sweet to go with my cup of tea so picked up an Apfeltasche from the supermarket next door. I am beginning to think having a bakery so close might not be such a good thing…

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Statistics for this ride:

Distance – 12.06 miles

Time – 1 hour 12 minutes

Average heart rate – 105

Max heart rate – 145

Maximum speed – 21.46

Calories burned – 175

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Filed under Berlin 2011, Cycle Tours, Cycling in Germany, Trikes & Velomobiles