Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Berlin: Speeding in the Slow lane

[file under: Two Feet better than Two Wheels?]

Get out and travel everyone. Anywhere. And throw away that map. It's so much fun that way.

Had the perfect 'vacation' start to the day. Woke up at noon, nice long shower, great lunch, and set out to explore more of this amazing city. Only, I decided to rent a bike for the day.

First stop: A long ride past Checkpoint Charlie into the old soviet sector and to Libeskind's incredible J├╝disches Museum. Ended up spending 3 hours there. And, very moved. Deserved a post of its own some other time. I very highly recommend a visit. If ever a museum can really disorient one and make them question things, this must be it. Libeskind is a genius.

Then, I set out further east to check out the 'world's longest art gallery'. It's a one mile section of the Berlin wall that is still intact, and half of it has been restored with art work all over it. Walked by that place and decided to get myself a drink on the beach.

Beach? Ya. There are a couple of places where the wall is broken and there are man-made beaches with sand, beach chairs, graffiti-filled beer stands. Every little thing seems to add to the coolness factor here. So, I'm dozing off enjoying the spanish rap on the radios and all of a sudden it cools down. Next thing I know it's dark and thunder and lightning. Then, the downpour started. Make it twice in two days. I was right next to the Ostbahnhof train station but since I had a bike I waited for the rain to stop. Well, it didn't and it was already 6:20. The bike had to be returned by 7 because the dude closed right about then. Worse - he had my license as a guarantee. And I'm leaving Berlin tonight.

So, out of options, I decided to bike it back in the rain. It was SO much fun. Wow. Trouble was I wasn't going in the right direction. Checked the map but I was far too east and the streets weren't marked. Thought back to that old American war-cry: Go West, Young Man. So I did. Once I found myself back on a mapped street, i was a tad too north.

Thus began the race. 15-odd minutes left and I'm zooming through traffic, bike lanes, car lanes, pavements, parks, wherever the heck I could find some cycleable space. It didn't make things any easier that central Berlin resembles a war-zone right now. There is construction everywhere. New buildings, a new subway line, and in the ultimate of ironies - new bike lanes being laid ! All for the Football World Cup next year.

Anywho, made it just back in time and stopped to reward myself. There is this place called Australian home-made ice-cream. The girl behind the counter told me that the stuff was all Belgian but the 'concept' was Australian. Did I say this city was cool? I'll tell y'all - there's nothing better than macadamia vanilla ice-cream in the rain after a hard cycle ride.

So, there end my two days in Berlin. Got to run now. Train in an hour and have to still take a subway to get there.

Next stop: Hotel 3app at HEC.
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