Timeline: August 16th – 24th
Putting into action our goal of riding more, that Tuesday we saddled up and rode east along the Saatwinkler Damm canal towards the center of the city. A blue-sky day with a bit of a chill (it would be cold our entire stay in Berlin) it was good to be on the bike, heading towards a new adventure. From the bus windows we’d seen many cyclists. How manageable would it be to ride in town?
Although the first part of the ride was mostly along city streets with no dedicated bike paths, traffic was benign and the large number of other cyclists out on the road provided a sense of solidarity. As we entered that part of town we’d traversed the day before the scenery became more familiar; we first recognized the distinctive outlines of the new main Hauptbahnhof (train station). Coming across the Spree River, we found ourselves back in front of the Reichstag.
Pausing for a moment or so to take in the view we rode over to the Brandenburg Gate, again taking a short break, we then made our way down Unter den Linden, one of Berlin’s main streets in the direction of Alexanderplatz. The day before I’d noticed a Microsoft Café (Digital Eatery) and we stopped there for a snack and a chance to use their Wi-Fi. Having ordered a coffee and cake, I observed this interesting retail concept from Microsoft.
Part café and part retail showroom, a number of Windows based devices were out and available for use, giving users an opportunity to test drive different tablets and phones. While we were sitting outside a woman approached the exterior door next to us (we’d not paid attention to it) and began to rub at one of the figures on it. She then explained to us that the door was her personal talisman. Now noticing the door we observed it filled with animal figures and other characters, an interesting diversion in the middle of the city.
Back on the bikes we completed our journey to Alexanderplatz, gaping at the TV Tower, built (with Swedish know-how) in 1969 for the 20th anniversary of the communist government, the tower was meant to show the power of the atheistic state at a time when DDR leaders were having the crosses removed from church domes and spires. But when the sun hit the tower— the greatest spire in East Berlin— a huge cross was reflected on the mirrored ball. Cynics called it “God’s Revenge.” East Berliners dubbed the tower the “Tele-Asparagus.” They joked that if it fell over, they’d have an elevator to the West. *
We then retraced our steps, following the same route out we’d taken in, confident that we’d memorized where the turns would be to get us safely back to camp. As faithful readers will by now have surmised, this was not likely and of course, we missed the right turn that would have taken us back down the street that turns into Saatwinkler Canal.
Fortunately, the Garmin was working fine and having recorded the location of our campground; I turned on the navigation and asked it to take us home. Not more than a few blocks from where we should have turned, it directed us to Kaiser Wilhelm Strasse in the direction of Spandau. We rode west for many miles and without too many false starts (there were a couple) we arrived at a location directly across the canal from the campground.
Yes, it had guided us to a spot where we could see the camp, but couldn’t get across the canal, without any bridge in sight. We made our best guess as to which direction to head and with fortune smiling on us found ourselves at the intersection of Saatwinkler Canal and Gartenfelder, just down from the entrance to camp. We turned left and rode the few short blocks into Hasselhorst to the Reichelt Market (a subsidiary of Edeka) for groceries and returned to camp for a quiet evening.
Dinner that night would be a new version of the grilled cheese sandwich combo we’d tried back in Amsterdam, this time making Tuna Melts. While in the store looking for an ingredient to use instead of Mayonnaise, we selected a ketchup like Mango Curry mixture (from Heinz). When added to the tuna and then grilled, this produced a delightful combination; one whose memory we will again take home with us and hope we can easily recreate it there. And, we still have that bottle with us and it has graced a number of sandwiches since then.
We’d survived our first ride in Berlin and looked forward to more. Planning to stay a few more days we knew we’d get the chance to both ride and do some extensive sightseeing. Our plan to slow the trip down was beginning to pay dividends, giving us a better mix of activities, something we’d recognized we needed. Now, if it would just warm up we’d be golden.
Berlin Hauptbahnhoff: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berlin_Hauptbahnhof
Microsoft Digital Eatery: http://venturevillage.eu/microsoft-digital-eatery
Super Market Reichelt: https://www.reichelt-berlin.de/
*TV Tower Attribution: Steves, Rick (2013-12-17). Rick Steves’ Germany 2014 (Kindle Locations 15602-15606). Avalon Travel. Kindle Edition.