Saturday, February 11, 2012

BERLIN

One of the best meals of my entire European adventure.
AFTER putting Piroska to bed in the Hotel Berlin parking compound, I checked in.  For 46 Euro's I got a simple, compact but modern room for myself.  It was barely the size of a large bedroom with a tiny desk and washroom built in.

Waitress and Chef

THAT evening I wandered the immediate vicinity, stopping for what turned out to be one of the very best meals I'd had in all my travels.  The restaurant had been run by the same family for nearly 100 years and even though business was slow due to some construction (all of Europe seems to be under construction!) and the world wide recession that was just gathering speed, it was a pleasant evening.


This is the Smart for two, we should have got!
 BY the time I arrived back in my room at the hotel, I was pretty much wiped out.  It had been a long day's ride, full of excitement including the near collision!  I planned to get up early Saturday morning, and with tourist guide in hand, make a trip downtown to see some of the most famous Berlin sights.

City Hall at 6 a.m.
 WHEN the wake-up call came in from the automated service at 4.30 a.m. I could barely lift my head from the pillow.  I realized that I was getting close to pushing my travel limits, the combination of cool weather with rain squalls, hard riding without proper gear and the simple awe of what my senses were experiencing, were all conspiring to do me in!  But, for all that, I was pumped, hell... I was in Berlin! 

For a simple two day overnight ride... this was turning into a marathon adventure!

One view of the massive Berlindome.
ARRIVING in the dark at the center of the city, I had to use my headlamp to read my 'Mickey Mouse' over sized tourist map.  Berlin city hall was just to my left, I waited until exactly 6 to snap my first photo of the day, shivering in the dampness and coolness... I was surrounded by statues, memorials and famous landmarks of what is one of the premiere historical cities of the entire World.  You couldn't do it justice to describe the history and architecture, much of which of course was bombed into rubble during the sustained allied air offensive and the subsequent Russian invasion.

Kaiser Wilhelm.
EVEN though most of us are familiar with the post war occupied Berlin, especially the infamous "wall", the city is truly quite beautiful and dates back to 500 B.C. when the area was home to early Germanic tribes.  In more recent times of course, the city and country is famous for Mozart, Bach and Beethoven.  It was also the birthplace of one Karl Marx! 

How ironic is that?

Piroska at the Brandenburg Gate! I've taken Berlin!!
 THE Brandenburg Gate has been the historical entrance to the city, first constructed in the late 1700's and rebuilt as recently as 12 years ago after suffering the same fate as much of the rest of the country.  Much of Germany's cities were reduced to bombed out rubble by the concentrated air war of the 1940's.

Reich stag.
THERE are few landmarks more recognizable within the city center as the Reich stag.  Anyone that has ever seen any movie footage of the second world war, will remember the scenes of destruction around this government edifice.  I can recall a hundred motion pictures over my lifetime of this Grand building pockmarked and riddled with shell fire and bomb blasts...  Today, as you can see, it has been completely rebuilt and once again stands proud.

After WW2, the "Liberating" Russians left their mark.
MOST people know little of the Russian army advance from near defeat at Moscow followed by such turning points in history as Stalingrad, but the truth is, the German military led by Hitler, were soundly trounced by the strength of the Allies and especially the Red Army.  In amongst the historic monuments are latter day, post war reminders of the stunning victory of the Russkies.  Little time was wasted in memorializing their occupation of the city and defeat of the once mighty Wehrmacht.

Including a mounted T 34
GIVEN the early Saturday morning ride throughout the city, I found myself pretty much all alone.  I could ride my bike right up to the steps of the Reich stag, across wide Blvd's onto sidewalks for the best photo ops.  It wasn't until I began the trek back to the hotel that traffic began it's daily frantic pace.  By then I had seen much of the must see tourist destinations and for a guy that read so much about European and world war history in my lifetime... a significant event it had been indeed. 

and of course the famous "Victory" memorial.
ONCE back at the hotel, I packed my rather meagre possession's into my tank bag, tail bag and Givi trunk.  The hotel was just off the freeway that took me out of the city and back onto the autobahn.  

Kaiser Wilhelm Cathedral.
 COLD forced me off the road and into a well lit, warm and inviting McDonald's an hour south of the city.  After a mega cup of coffee and some McMuffin thing or other, I was ready to tackle what came next.  Remember, my overnight plan had disintegrated days ago and I was well beyond the boundaries of that simple day trip... I was on the road in Europe!

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