Berlin Part One

Sep. 30 – Oct. 2 –

While the cycling group had a free day in Dresden on the last day of September, Jack and I mostly stayed in and packed for our Berlin adventure. We caught a few pix from the fire-bombed city’s rebirth as a tourist destination, but just didn’t get inspired to click the shutter much.

I wonder what Allen might have said if any of us had decorated our bikes like this fellow’s.
In the city, there were a few of these excavations fenced off from the public. If you stood far enough away, the fence material showed what used to stand there, before the firebombing. We never discovered what the excavations were all about: archaeological, clearing way for construction, or exactly what.

Our travel day to Berlin began with our last breakfast with the group, where we said farewell to those not headed to Berlin for the optional part of the tour. We taxied over to the train station with Laura, Craig, and Michael and caught the train from Dresden to Berlin’s central station, the Hauptbahnhof. Actually Michael got off one stop earlier to meet a friend.

We didn’t see Craig and Laura because we ran to catch the S-bhan over to Charlottenburg, and Craig and Laura were taking a taxi to the hotel near Checkpoint Charlie where the group was staying for the Berlin option. 

Then the rain began.

In just five stops, we exited again, but lost our bearings and left the station platforms at the wrong end. While we were sorting ourselves out, Page, Ini, and Lee wee awaiting our arrival at the correct exit . . . But we missed each other. Finally getting ourselves righted, we headed to 11 Heilbronner Strasse and rang the bell. Nothing. The rain came harder.

Another resident exited, so we didn’t have to wait in the rain too long, and once inside Jack phoned Page on his cell number, and we discovered our missed connection. It is not a long walk from the Bahn, however, and they came along shortly.

Had a lovely lunch of hot soup and all the fixins, and caught up with happenings, and then rested a while. My niece, Lee had to leave to get some work done back home, and Ini had an evening out with friends, so Page, Jack and I had a reprise of the lovely lentil soup from earlier.

The next day early, Jack and I set off to join the remains of the group for the tour of the Bundestag dome. We tried to get from the Hauptbahnhof to the Bundestag, but were unlucky with the U-55 (subway train) as the platform was closed off. So we walked over and joined up with the group for our appointment to enter, first the security checkpoint, and then the dome itself.

The dome of the German parliament building serves many functions, and combined with solar panels on the flat roofs of adjacent buildings, makes the structure nearly (but not quite) “off grid.” The dome itself vents warmer air from below, it captures rainwater and extracts both cool and warm from it to assist with climate control, and it focuses and concentrates (and shades when necessary) natural light so the primary meeting area is most lit naturally. Visitors circle along a ramp with an audio guide and see lots of the scenery around the structure and then circle back down, exit the dome and can walk around the flat rooftop to take pictures of the area.
This cone of mirrors plus the “shade” you can see some at the upper left (and rotates around to follow the sun when necessary), are the light-handling system.
Brandenburg Gate from The Bundestag.
The crazy roof of the Pottsdammerplatz, an enormous shopping area.
The Teirgarten with Winged Victory statue above the trees (and at the intersection of a million roads where traffic is insane).
Selfie with mirrors at The Bundestag.

Afterward, I took a photo of an interesting memorial to the 96 elected officials serving in the Reichstag (Parliment) during the Weimar Republic, who were murdered by National Socialists. The memorial is right outside the security checkpoint for the Bundestag.

After that, the group walked around “Mitte” or Central Berlin, and saw some sights that Jack and I had seen before, but it was fun hanging out with the group. We stopped for a coffee/tea/chocolate milk because it was damp and chill. When it began raining in earnest, Jack and I split off from the crowd and said our goodbyes to our cycling adventure “family” for this trip, anyway. We hope we’ll have the opportunity to ride with many of them again.

The statue above the Brandenburg Gate has been stolen and removed a few times throughout its history (notably by Napoleon) because it’s been seen as a symbol of might and strength. Actually, it is a symbol of peace, something we can all pray for in this day and age.
Rooftop gardens and gathering places abound in Berlin.

This cross-stone (“Khachkar” in Armenian) was erected in memory of the innocent victims of the Armenian genocide during World War I in the Ottoman Empire. It was here, in St. Hedwig’s Cathedral, that the first Commemoration Service in Germany to honor the victims was held, at the request of the German-Armenian Society on May 14, 1919.

That night, Page and Jack donned aprons and fixed our dinner of chicken Marsala (after heading to the grocery store to get the ingredients). Silliness (and as usual, excellent food) reigned. 

Cycling Tour Final Day Five

September 29 – 

This tour ended with an enormous “bang” as we had great weather and a beautiful, excellent ride to finish this Czech/German cycling adventure. We rode out of the “hill country” leaving Schmilka headed to Dresden. The group actually broke into two parts, four riders and one guide (Milan) for the group that would ride the entire way to Dresden; and the larger group that would cycle about 15-20 miles then catch a paddleboat the rest of the way along the Elbe, north to Dresden.

We began by heading through Bad Schandau, and enjoyed some lovely paths, sights, ferries, and pauses along the way.

Germany’s version of Pilot Knob in North Carolina.
A few climbs but on a bike path like this, who can complain?

Konigstein Fortress was first mentioned when King Wenceslas I of Bohemia affixed his seal on a decree “in lapide Regis” or “on the stone of the king.” In German, Konigstein = King’s Stone. It is one of the largest hilltop fortifications in Europe, but no longer maintained.

Saw this gaggle before boarding the ferry to head to the opposite bank. Once we got there, we saw the rest of our pack arriving to the ferry landing to cross behind us. We waved but none of them saw us.
Typical path surface and situation during this tour.
It looks like there’s a multi-eyed giant watching us from inside this church.

This raft reminded me of an overstuffed doughnut.

That’s not a person atop the rock, but some sort of sculpture.
This is a boat similar to the one the larger group took (except going the other other way).

Bastei Bridge. The Bastei is a rock formation towering 194 meters above the Elbe River, and is part of the Sandstone Mountain range. In 1819, August von Goethe said, “Here, from where you see right down to the Elbe from the most rugged rocks, where a short distance away the crags of the Lilienstein, Konigstein, and Pffafenstein stand scenically together and the eye takes in a sweeping view that can never be described in words.”

We pulled into the lovely little town of Pirna, definitely a spot to which we must return. Its lovely square sits high-ish above the river. Really pretty. A nice local lady, whose bike was on the rack next ot ours, was asking Jack about his rear-view mirror, attached to his glasses temple. That conversation evolved into Milan doing some translating for her, and then answering her question about our destination for the day—which led to the discovery that our intended path was blocked (under construction), and she recommended a detour to keep us out of the urban traffic. So we unexpectedly ended up re-crossing the river and heading north on the left bank for a while. The detour might have added some miles, but hat addition it was of no consequence.

I have no idea what this is.
More church roof eyes . . .

We stopped for a late lunch about 3 miles outside of Dresden, and enjoyed brats and beer at a lovely old beer garden, soaking up the sun, and savoring our final cycling day.

Quite frankly, arrival in Dresden was anticlimactic. Jack and I were astounded at the progress in rebuilding the city that has been accomplished since our last visit, some 10 years ago.

Milan, Jack, Craig, Mary and I waited for the others outside of our hotel (the QF Hotel), located directly on the main Old Town square of Dresden, and had a celebratory beer. I forgot to mention that we finally reached a full complement of riders on this day. Allen had emerged from the van on Day Three, John on Day Four, and Michael—who, behind our group, elected to ride with Vlasta from the boat all the way to Dresden—on day Five. At least he got one day of riding in — and what a glorious day it was, too.

Our closing celebratory dinner was held at one of the oldest taverns in Dresden, Kurfurstenschanke, founded in 1708. During our meal we met our guide for our exploration of Dresden by night, an actor playing the part on the city’s King Augustus II.

After dinner, we gathered for our tour, and our guide was engaging and funny, articulate and knowledgeable. It was quite a fun tour, although most of us were very tired by this time. It was, however, a good launching point for our free day in Dresden tomorrow.

The moon was out for our night tour. Difficult to capture, but one of my efforts at least turned out okay.

Augustus II, our guide, is depicted in the dark coat with the dark tricorn hat, in the middle-right.

Cycling Stats:

  • Ride time: 2:45 hours
  • Stopped time: 3 hours
  • Distance: 34 miles
  • Average speed: 12MPH
  • Fastest speed: 26.5MPH
  • Ascent: 172 ft.
  • Descent: 359 ft.