We made it to Berlin: between us we have a moderate collection of insect bites, only a little saddle-soreness, three dodgy knees and one niggly back muscle, but we are happy. Majorly off target given that we were originally heading for Copenhagen, but delighted to renew our acquaintance with Berlin. It is one of my favourite cities.
The weather was glorious, possibly a bit too warm. We stopped for coffee and delicious ice cream at Werder, on a section of the Havel amongst some very pretty lakes. As we sat in the sunshine, several blue light vehicles passed the cafe with sirens blaring at one or two minute intervals. So many vehicles suggested a serious event, either an incident or a training exercise – we hope the latter, but didn’t hear anything more. We then had a short countryside route to Potsdam, and then the long sweep into Berlin via the Grünewald and through the city itself.
Cycling in cities, particularly on unfamiliar roads at rush hour, is not usually my favourite thing. The cycle into Berlin was great fun, though: the cycle (and pedestrian and in-line skater) road through the Grünewald is wide, smoothly-surfaced and gently undulating, and even though you can still hear the road traffic through the trees, it still doesn’t feel like being in the outskirts of a capital city. Once into the city proper, I was very impressed at how smoothly commuting motorists, pedestrians and cyclists all moved at speed along their designated tracks, weaving in and out while mostly behaving the traffic signals. There were lots of bikes and the urgency of rush hour but it felt more orderly at junctions than, say, Amsterdam, where cycling at rush hour leaves me a little traumatised.
And the backdrop to all of this was riding the bikes along the major roads into Berlin centre from the west, past the Charlottenburger Tor, the Tiergarten, the Siegessäule and the Brandenburger Tor. Militaristic it may be, but it is all hugely impressive, and what a route to end a long cycle. Loved it all and would gladly have gone back and cycled the undulations through the Grünewald once again, even with tired legs – but hotel, shower and food were necessary.
After the joy of the arrival comes the inevitable, relentless cycle tour issue – laundry. We spent a couple of hours this morning at the Eco Express Waschsalon, having previously become acquainted with its cousin in Cologne two years ago and some distant relative with a different name in Bremen on this trip. If Bruce had never convinced me to try cycle touring, I would never have learned as much about European laundrettes. Must get round to writing that guide book. This most recent Berlin one was good: a pretty solid four out of five socks
We had an afternoon left to explore, and spent it drifting around Berlin Zoo in glorious sunshine. Far too much there to see it all properly. We dodged the queue for the pandas and spent time with pigs, antelope, wolves, bears, birds, monkeys, apes and – of course – the elephants, who were my reason for wanting to go there in the first place. Felt more tired today than I expected, even after a good night’s sleep. Dinner, beer and bed to round off the day, and then train back to Amsterdam for the last part of the trip.