Berlin and Bicycles
I think most places are best explored on two feet. There is nothing better than walking and experiencing a place slowly and naturally. There are however, exceptions to this thought. Berlin is one of them. Berlin was meant for bicycles. The moment I arrived I knew I would have to get my hands on one. Everywhere I looked, there were bicycles. They weaved in and out of traffic, cruised through parks, and were parked in every possible place.
So on our last day in Berlin we found a small shop with bike rentals, chose our bikes carefully and set off with a map and a plan.
We started slowly, on the banks of the river Spree where pedestrians and traffic were scarce. Riding down the narrow and smooth road, the wind on my face and my hair a tangled mess, I knew we made the right decision.
With our confidence high, we ventured out onto a main road and headed for the East Side Gallery. I really mis-underestimated this whole city biking business. Riding a bike in a big city and in traffic is stressful! While many of the locals had no problem swerving between lanes and riding in the middle of the road, I stayed as close to the curb as possible, trying to ignore the cars wizzing past me. It was INTENSE!
We eventually made it to the gallery and it was so much more than I expected. I also liked how one side was strictly murals and the other was open for anyone to create on.
From there, we headed to Tiergarten, Berlin’s central park. It was a peaceful break from the traffic and the trails were perfect for bikes. The people watching was interesting too. I always knew Berlin had a reputation for being more liberal with gay rights but I didn’t expect to actually see same sex couples expressing themselves (half naked) in the woods! It was a bit embarrassing at first but now I can’t help but look back and laugh.
From the park, we decided to get back on the streets but chose to ride down side roads, avoiding the anxiety-ridden busy main streets. We found more street art, colorful neighborhoods and the unexpected.
To be honest, I wasn’t that excited about visiting Berlin at first. Visiting this city was Luke’s childhood dream, not mine. I thought it would be too modern, too big and wouldn’t feel “Europe” enough. It’s true that Berlin is big and it is modern but it has a special sort of charm to it that is all its own. It’s eclectic, colorful and welcoming.
After nearly 6 hours of riding around the city, we chose to end the day at a biergarten, congratulating ourselves for surviving the challenging bike ride.
As stressful as it was at times, riding a bike was the perfect way to explore Berlin. It also made me feel better about all the pastries I was eating!
What do you think? Have you been to Berlin? Have you visited any bicycle-friendly cities?