Cycletramps go interrailing: Cycling the Berlin Wall

With the weather getting colder and wetter, we decided to ditch cycling for a while and reinvent ourselves as interrailers. We had booked our train online from Prague to Berlin and with some effort even managed to get a ticket for our little bikes.

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It was a long journey with nothing much happening apart from passport control mounting the train at Dresden and checking we weren’t smuggling children, weapons or drugs into Germany.

Several hours later, we reached Berlin HBF station, about 5 miles from our hostel.

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We cycled there in light drizzle and considering it had rained most of the day, we were glad we’d chosen to get the train. We even passed by some remains of the Berlin Wall on the way.

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Our first evening consisted of eating Chinese takeaway, planning our activities for the next day and chatting to one of our roommates, Lawrence, who’d been travelling the world for 11 months and was, like us, in the last week of his trip.

We were both missing our bikes already, so our plan was to cycle the route of the Berlin Wall that runs through the heart of the city.  We picked up a map from the tourist office at the train station which outlined the whole 160+km of the wall plus the city part in greater detail so, armed with our map, we headed out into the cold and foggy morning.

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Most of the actual wall is now gone and, apart from the line of cobblestones that marks its path throughout the city, for the most part you’d never know there was such division just 24 years earlier.

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Some sections of the wall do remain and most of them have information, pictures and stories from people who were there and had their lives shaped by it.

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We continued following the trail for most of the day and with the fog clearing we eventually warmed up a bit. Unlike most other cities we’d cycled through, Berlin was an absolute dream to traverse by bike. The roads are really well planned out (nearly every road has a cycle lane), the other cyclists and drivers were very aware and generally courteous of cyclists too. We decided this was the best city we’d ever cycled in.

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Cycling the wall route was a brilliant way to see the main sights of the city too.  On the way, Neola made some new toothed friends.

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We passed the Reichstag.

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As well as the Brandenburg Gate where, for some reason, there were loads of people dressed in fancy dress getting money off tourists for photographs.  Our favourite was a massive cuddly bear who’d taken his giant bear head off and was sat looking glum smoking a fag right in the middle of it all.

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Further along the trail, we passed a free science museum which we duly investigated. It was all about the human body and how research is helping to shape prosthetics. They even had a wheelchair simulator!

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Next up on our tour around the city was a piece of wall that ran past the old SS/Gestapo headquarters. The free exhibition covered the rise of the Nazi party, its seizure of power and eventual dictatorship.

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Right next door to the Nazi exhibit was a much less subtle version of history. Tourists were lining up to have their pictures taken next to ‘Checkpoint Charlie’, now guarded by some chumps in fancy dress taking money for the privilege. There was a McDonalds just behind, too. GOD BLESS AMERIKUH.

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Exiting Florida and re-entering Germany, it was now well past lunch time so we did went for the obvious choice and treated ourselves to a bratwurst sausage each. Mmmmm.

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Back on the Berlin Wall route and following the cobbled path, we soon ended up at the last part of the wall we wanted to visit, the ‘East Side Gallery’. This is the longest remaining stretch of wall and in 1990 was converted into one long street art exhibit.

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It is home to loads of pieces of artwork, all of which were really awesome.

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With it being the longest section remaining, it really gives you an idea of what it might have been like to live with this in your way.

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The poignant moment wasn’t even slightly spoiled by a busker stood next to the wall playing electric guitar and dancing about like a crazy person wearing only underpants and a massive rubber horse’s head.

Wall done, we cycled back towards the centre of Berlin to see what else we could find. Neola found another friend on the way.

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After a quick a snack run at Lidl, we were accosted by a group of German yoofs. One explained that it was his birthday and he had to pump up a stranger’s bike tyre for a challenge. We gladly surrendered a tyre for him to pump up and even posed for a photo.

After cycling over 20 miles around the city, we even managed to fit in a quick picnic in the park next to the giant TV tower with a rotating restaurant at the top, apparently the revolving restaurant is rubbish though.

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With the sun poking through the clouds, it was actually warm for the first time in a few weeks. Ahh.

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Taking a stroll (or maybe a roll?) through some of the streets outside the centre, we found a few vintage shops and spent some time looking through to see if there were any bargains to be had. All the shops but one were mega, mega expensive.  For some reason this SINGLE GLOVE cost 45 Euros! WAT!?

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We did find one good and cheap shop though where I picked up this ace cycling jersey with horses on it.

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For evening entertainment we went out for tea with Lawrence our roommate, to a restaurant that served traditional German food. This meant more potatoes, sausages and pickled cabbage. Great tasty comfort food, even if it’s not particularly adventurous.  After a free vodka and blackberry shot at the end of the meal, we shared a box of mini Magnums from the supermarket on the way home to the hostel.

Our second and final full day in Berlin was much less busy. We’d done most of what we’d planned to do yesterday so when we woke to grey skies and rain we weren’t too disheartened. We took our time over breakfast until it stopped raining and then headed out on our bikes to a flea market at the other side of town.

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This was by far the biggest flea market/car boot sale we’ve ever been to, with row after row of stalls of tat.  More than a few times we thought we’d got to the end but then we’d turn a corner only to reveal even more chaos sprawled out ahead.

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Most stuff was reasonably priced and Neola picked up a new jumper for 2 EUROS to match the new autumnal climate.

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You know you’ve been travelling too long when clothes you’ve picked up from a flea market smell fresher than your own.

Another pleasant and slightly damp cycle through the city streets brought us to a computer games museum.

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The museum chronicled the development of computers and video games, with everything in there from Atari to ZX Spectrum.

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They had loads of exhibits you could play on too, old and new.

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After a good couple of hours milling around, we went out for lunch, only to find to our horror that all the supermarkets and most restaurants were closed! Arrgh. Luckily, we were saved by a kebab shop opposite our hostel, the chef was nice and his kebabs were even nicer.

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We milled around, watched some German TV and Neola caught up on some work before being forced to have another meal out due to the lack of shops. Even the ‘Back and Snack’ next door was closed. Poor show Back and Snack.

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