After a long cycle into Berlin through some extreamly posh residential areas with enormous houses and even bigger street names – Mount Batten Straße – I get into the city centre – it looks like a storm and the streets have that hot, wet tarmac small when there are a few drops of rain. I pick up messages that I am able to stay with Natalie and Piotr (Warm Showers hosts) for 1 maybe 2 nights. My mobile battery indicates it is about to die and since either my charging system or the dynamo hub has stopped working I photograph the route off Maps onto my camera …. not a moment too soon!
So it is late, getting dark, I am in an unknown city, thankfully my german has improved over the past 3 or so weeks and I am without a phone or the internet again – all is normal (for me) and I set off to find my hosts for the night.
My awesome sense of direction (don’t get too cocky Rae there is a lot of world yet to travel) and my photots of the maps gets me to their flat near Temple Hof without too much difficulty. I am welcomed in by Natalie and we sit and chat til Piotr gets home.
Natalie and Piotr are fantastic hosts and all round generally great people … they are experienced cycle-tourers and I feel like a fraud but they are so kind I cannot help but feel better about my general disorganistion and chaotic nature.
On Saturday Piotr has seminars – he is an architect and now photographer – so in the morning I zoomed around on the Metro trying to get my Primus stove fixed (again). It turns out I had lost the flame spreader and this was an integral part of the stove!!!! Idiot again … I also tried in vain to get some info about my charging system but without much success. Will have to contact Rob who fitted the hub for advice.
In the afternoon Natalie and I do the tourist thing and visit the Reichstag, the Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe, Potsdamer Platz (and have the biggest ice cream ever) and the Temple Hof airfield … am I the only person when did not know there was an airfield right in the middle of Berlin?
The Reichstag Dome – part of the restored German Parliment building – is totally amazing. I am in awe of the architectural impact of this building. The dome is beautiful and ther is so much to see from there. I had not realised that the stelae memorial for the Jews was so close to the Brandenberg Gate – such an iconic symbol used by the Nazi Party) – and that the Berlin Wall was so close to both.
The Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe is the famous set of slabs or stelae. Apparently ‘the whole sculpture aims to represent a supposedly ordered system that has lost touch with human reason’. Walking around it is a very disorientating experience since sigh and sound are diminshed within the ‘corridors’ and the claustrophobia of feeling utterly enclosed and alone is quite profound.
To my mind it is a very effective memorial since it plays on individual imagination and emotion and contrary to what might be expected I think it is quite beautiful in a chilling way.
Natalie and Piotr had said that their reason for living in their area was the Temple Hofer airfield … I can completely understand this. The buildings are fantastic and the airfield itself is used for bbq’s, cycling, skating, dog walking, kiteflying … just about everything you can think of ….
Natalie, Piotr and I spent some time just hanging out there and chatting …. oh and drinking coffee. These guys are amazing coffee fiends and Piotr did a great job each day of grinding fresh coffee in the mornings for our leisurely breakfasts!
I was very happy that they had both decided to accompany me on the Monday for a few kilometers out of the city and so on the sunday we all spent some time working on the bikes and Natalie cooked awesome pancakes for us in the evening.
Monday dawned bright and sunny again … so far this trip I have had the best weather possible!! … and we all headed out of Berlin for a short ride. Natalie and Piotr both said that they felt it was nice to have a bit of a taste of vicarious touring by doing this.
I cannot convey what an an amazing couple Natalie and Piotr are in this short post or how much fun I had in Berlin … I wanted them to take them with me when we parted but am grateful for the wonderful weekend and maybe they will join me at some point!!!!
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