Thursday, June 10, 2010

Biking Through Berlin

Cherie made it to the buffet breakfast 10 minutes before it closed. We then packed lunches from fruit, cheese, and rolls from the buffet and headed to the S-Bahn station to pick up travel cards.

Then it was on a bus to get bicycles. We found a nice bike rental place on Kollwitzstraße and off we went. Annie really wanted to see the remnants of the wall. Mauerpark (one of the borders) was only five blocks away and we made our way along the wall´s route. Unfortunately for us, there was little of the actual wall to see.

Annie found the route confusing -- "are we in the East or the West? Which side are we on." I told her that the wall didn´t follow a straight line and that I didn´t know.

We finally reached the memorial for the wall. They had large cartoon posters, in which individuals who grew up affected by the wall described their experiences. It was really moving. We finally found the recreated "death strip" where we could look through cracks in the concrete and see the actual wall across the no man´s land. We also ran into an Israeli tour group (though I´ve found them relatively common in Berlin). After a brief chat in Hebrew with one of the members who wanted to know where we were from, we headed off to the Oranienburgerstraße Synagogue. I wanted to go in, but I couldn´t figure out how to get the chain connected on the bike.

Instead, we cycled across Museum Insel and Unter den Linden to the Tiergarten. Once we were there, I let Cherie set the direction and pace. She chose to rest in a quiet little part of the park, where we had to dismount our bikes to preserve the peace and quiet. Lots of green trees, bright flowers, and peaceful ponds. Both Cherie and Annie lay down on the grass and rested (I sat on a bench in the shade -- I got a little sunburned on my neck today).

Cherie really wanted an ice coffee, so I said we should go to the Cafe Einstein Stammhaus. "But we passed one," Cherie said. "No," I explained, we want the original. A relatively short ride later we reached it on Kurfürststraße. The place almost looks like a small embassy from the front, very formal and manicured. Inside, we were directed by waiters in bow ties to the outside garden. Annie and Cherie both ordered large Eiscafes, with whipped cream and ice cream. I ordered a Kirschtopfentorte, with tart cherries and farmer´s cheese. I also got a large bottle of mineral water for the table to stave off dehydration.

By 4:30, the sky was starting to get thunder clouds in the distance, so I suggested we head back. I took us by way of Potsdamer Platz so they could see the pieces of the wall on display. From there we headed to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. Cherie had some culture conflict when a proper middle aged German matron proceeded to lecture her for not having her bike fully in the bike path, but partly on the sidewalk. I pointed out to the woman that she didn´t speak German, so she had to stumble through it in broken English.

At the memorial, I encouraged Cherie to walk through some of it to get a feel for it. Annie and I both agreed that the design of the memorial didn´t work for us. Cherie didn´t care for it either, saying that it was like they didn´t put a lot of effort into it. I don´t agree with that, but the memorial still doesn´t work for me. We may try to visit the museum under it tomorrow morning.

We came back via Alexanderplatz and then to Kollwitzstraße. I had them stop at Gugelhof to look at the menu, and Annie found something to order. After dropping off the bikes we spent time while Cherie window shopped in the weekly vegetable and craft market (though we did buy a kohlrabi -- Annie and Cherie like to eat them raw).

Because the U-bahn is out, we had to take a hot, unairconditioned bus. Between the heat and humidity we were dripping by the time we made it back to the hotel. They´re showering now, but I don´t think Annie has enough energy after the bike ride to walk back to Gugelhof, so we´ll probably eat in one of the many placeson our block.

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