Bike Touring Journals by Neil Anderson and Sharon Anderson Bicycle touring Germany
Our plans: head to the nearest campground and set up, grab a shower, and then clean and refreshed take the train into Berlin. Coming to the main road we turned right, as I had already felt the cobbles to our left. Our smooth road ended in the next town and we were back on cobbles.
We couldn't find any of the three campgrounds listed in the "Let's Go" book. Asking people for directions, responses ranged from, "Go straight" to, "They're private," whatever that meant. Anyway, by the time I flatted it was noonish, raining feverously, and we were now farther from Berlin than when we started this morning. Giving up on the campgrounds, we headed for Potsdam. Thoroughly soaked we found the swimming pool and for one-and-a-half Deutsche marks each we relished in a hot shower. Even the floor was heated.
Outside, rain still fell torrentially. Rivulets streamed from gutters and muddy water lay in puddles throughout the square. We ate Muesli and waited for it to stop pouring. Puddles of water laid everywhere. We went inside the pool foyer and read until darkness settled in. Still no abatement from the heavens. It was dim when we sloshed to our bikes and rode about a kilometer to a Cimmerian area on the edge of town and set up beneath the dripping flora.
BerlinSeptember 1, our eleventh anniversary, Sharon and I had been on the road fourteen months. We celebrated the occasion in Berlin, the most unromantic city I had ever seen. Residents scowled a lot and did not look happy living in the depressing gray concrete jungle.
The plastic we covered the bikes with last night collected a pool of orange kool-aid colored water. Really disgusting knowing it was rain water from the sky.
There was a bike rental business at the train station in Potsdam. I asked the guy, "Would it be okay if we left our bikes here for the day?"
He answered, "Sure, no problem. You don't mind if I rent them out for the day, do you?"
The train into Berlin took about forty-five minutes, passing through forested areas and little shacks by the tracks. Glaring artistic graffiti doused apartment buildings, walls along the tracks, and any available concrete.
Rallying off the train in downtown Berlin was like a ghost town with barely anyone was around, except construction workers. Seventeen cranes graced the downtown skyline. I felt like I was walking in a construction zone, rather than the streets of Berlin. We walked through the Brandenburg gates that had separated east and west Germany, and then along Checkpoint Charlie.
Buying fruit in a grocery store the cashier yelled at us. After putting separate bar code labels on each piece as required, we combined a nectarine and a peach into one bag. When we approached the till the cashier only saw one tag and thought we were trying to steal a bloody nectarine. The way she bellered at us she sounded like she was still in the army. Even after we pointed out the second label she was unapologetic.
We tried a wiener schnitzel from a street vendor. Fabulous. Still hungry, we bought ice cream and junk food and ate in a quiet squalid park. More graffiti on apartment buildings. That would be my lasting impression of Berlin. Graffiti everywhere I looked. We walked to the Zoological gardens. I walked enough to make me appreciate riding my bike, cobbles and all.
Arran was happy: he saw three neo-Nazis with their German Shepherd standing inside the train station. The best part of Berlin was the train ride--out. Arriving back in Potsdam, just before seven to pick up our bikes, we asked the employee if anyone wanted to rent our bikes today.
"Just one Japanese guy."
Figured. But, we probably had too many water bottles for him.
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