Berlin to Kostrzyn, Poland Day 11 May 9th Berlin

Day 11 May 9th Berlin


John got up early to get my birthday present and card. Neither of us is sure exactly what is written on the card but I had little difficulty in knowing what to do with the bottle of wine and hazel nut chocolate.


We had decided to take a walking tour of the city. We took our bikes through the Tiergarten and locked them up outside Starbucks near the Brandenburg Gate.


Jeff our tour guide gave us a history lesson about the Brandenburg Gate area which took in Bonaparte, the GDR and Michael Jackson among lots of other things. We then had an opportunity to explore the holocaust memorial. This is made of over 200 stones and is an impressive piece of modern art, the significance of which is in the eye of the beholder.


We went on via Goebbels' massive Air Ministry building to the very tacky area of Checkpoint Charlie, near to which we saw a preserved section of the Berlin Wall.


The second part of the tour took in important sites and buildings in the old part of Berlin. Most of these were severely damaged during WW2 and badly renovated by the Soviets. The most interesting site was that of the Nazi burning of the books with its underground memorial, white empty bookcases. These are viewed through a sheet of glass let into the surface of the square opposite the university entrance.


The tour ended with a description of the events which led to the Berlin wall coming down. It would seem it happened more because of a cockup by the press officer who reversed the intention of the authorities.


The tour ended at 3pm and we went quickly back to the hostel where I had a very long and pleasant Skype call with Anne. I do miss my loyal and hard working stoker very much, particularly on my birthday.


We then rushed off on our bikes to the Berlin TV tower, arriving at 6.15 pm to take advantage of our prebooked VIP ticket. The ordinary queue was short but we went to the front to be whisked up the 200 metres in the lift to the viewing platform. It had been a sunny day and the visibility was excellent. The explication boards pointed out places of interest in every direction. It was great but the best bit was still to come.


Our VIP ticket entitled us to the next free table in the restaurant. We were soon going up the short flight of steps to the floor above the public viewing area. Here we had an excellent dinner while slowly revolving.


The tables are on a circular platform with a large disc, revolving around the central area, containing the kitchens, lifts etc. The windows and the central area therefore remain stationary. How the waiting staff find the tables is beyond me. It is a delightful experience and I am privileged to be there. It was a magnificent treat for my birthday, eating dinner as the view slowly changed, the sunset and lights beginning to come on over Berlin.


We left to meet Wolfe with his bike at the foot of the tower. John had met him in a youth hostel in Amsterdam and he had recommended the tower. We cycled off to a tea house in a theatre not far from the university where he works.


The tea house was another delightful experience. We sat on rugs and cushions on the floor and were served special tea. The room itself was substantial in size, dimly lit with a genuine bamboo ceiling and pillars. It was more like a hubble bubble den than a tea house but just as relaxing.


The day ended with various jobs that need doing on rest days, finishing well after midnight. It was certainly a memorable birthday.


Day 12 May 10th Berlin to Munchehote


Before moving on I should comment on the hostel we are leaving. It is a large modern concrete building with some 400 beds. It is superbly situated just south of the lovely Tiergarten and five minutes cycle ride from the centre. It is well run, busy and not for us noisy. It also has most of the facilities of a good hotel. Amazingly we saw small wild furry animals feared by Portlanders living near the hostel. Naturally they had almost no fear of people.


Much to our annoyance we could not get on the internet at breakfast because the service provider was down. John was not able to post his blog and we could not get the latest news from the UK about the hung parliament.


It was great fun exiting central Berlin. John said that it was like a speedway. It reminded me of the old days of commuting in London. Most cyclists were clearly going to work, travelling fast and no hostages taken. We joined in the rush and held no one up.


Our route took us across the Tiergarten and through the Brandenburg Gate before traversing the whole length of Unter den Linden to beyond the TV tower. From here we crossed and recrossed the river, once by ferry, before reaching Kopenick. Here we stopped for morning coffee and cake.

One of the most interesting parts of the ride was passing a long section of the Berlin wall. It was covered by a huge and varied selection of art, far too varied to describe. To give some idea, I particularly liked the one showing Honecke having a full tongues kiss with Brezhnev.


Once we had left the outskirts of Berlin we followed the Radweg 1 route most of the way. It was good cycling but not nearly as interesting as some of the days in Northern Germany. Here things seemed more subdued, particularly the landscape and the villages. In some villages we saw no one and even the country side was less attractive.


We arrived at the holiday village of Buchow. With its cobbled streets and lakeside position at the bottom of a hill looking rather Swiss had turned it into a holiday centre. We took the opportunity to buy beer before climbing to the hostel.


This short climb of some 50 metres in height came as something of a shock after days of near flat cycling. The hostel, a large country house set slightly back from the road, could not have been more different from the Berlin Hostel. It was much more like an English hostel.


We were made very welcome by the warden and his wife and served dinner of eggs and fried potatoes with rolls, cheese and salad. The warden even ate with us at both dinner and breakfast. In lots of ways the hostel is similar to YHA Street being old, small and, by UK standards, traditional. Because few people were staying we had our own room. But there was also an entire building with about 70 beds for groups who apparently come in the summer. While we stayed here the only sounds were bird song,


Day 13 May 11th Munchehote to Kostrzyn Nad Odra, Poland


We had a slightly shorter ride today to enable a final visit to a German town, Seelo. For the first time part of the route was slightly off the Radweg.


Also for the first time we set off in light rain in waterproofs though it was not long before the rain stopped. The ride to Seelo was very pleasant through tiny villages on undulating roads. As usual there was very little traffic.


Seelo is a pleasant town, now bypassed, but on a main road between Berlin and the Polish border. We needed a few things from the shops but more importantly John wanted to post his internet blog. We found a good internet cafe but anything to do with computers always takes a long time.


After a late lunch we headed towards the border on quiet roads. The terrain in the flood plane of the river Odra was board flat and we had a challenging head wind.


The whole area here must in Soviet times been given over to collective farming. The whole area seemed very run down. I suppose living so close to such a frequently overrun border is not very desirable.


For the last few kms we were riding on a dyke and looking over the Odra towards Poland. We finally reached the crossing point which now has two bridges. One of these is new and carries a major road. Our route was via the old main road bridge. Once, not long ago, cyclists and pedestrians just crossed the railway to the bridge. Now we have to divert almost a km to cross via a tunnel.


The crossing point here is via an island formed by the Odra. The first bridge got us onto the island and we passed a completely broken down border point, presumably German. We then crossed the island which seemed to have many barrack blocks but we don't know for whose army.


At the foot of the bridge leaving the island is a huge complex which formed the Polish border point. It is now completely deserted, in contrast to the huge queues which constantly formed in Soviet times.


Soon after this we checked into a hotel. John was quite rightly elated, in 41 days he had cycled all the way from Portesham to Poland, the country of his father.


Again in contrast to the last time I was here the hotel was comparable to most three star hotels in Europe. Even better it had good wifi which worked perfectly in our room.


Announcements were coming in thick and fast about a new UK coalition government. We were able to listen all, even to the special programmes on BBC Radio 4. We were just as well informed as we would have been at home. Amazing what technology can do when it works and hotels don't get greedy and overcharge for it.


The other surprising thing was that I managed to get a traditional Polish meal which had no meat in it.