After several days of being fairly thrifty, I splurged on a Cold War bike tour, therefore combining history with one of my favourite pastimes – biking! I could hardly contain my excitement.
The tour gave us a chance to get away from the touristy parts of Berlin, and trace part of the line of the old Wall while exploring the former East. My bike was called Marie Curie (she did more than just pioneering radiation work, you know) and had an awesome squeaky toy that attracted dogs.
After exploring some of the architecture of the East, we visited the East Side Gallery, an international memorial to peace. What remains of the Berlin Wall is actually quite little, and this is the largest section still standing. Besides history, I also love street art, and dug several of the pieces on display:
After the gallery, we crossed over to Kreuzberg, a hip little area that was part of the former West and a huge spot for activism and immigrants during the Wall years. There I had one of the best falafels I’ve ever had, followed by baklava that was divine. There’s also plenty of restaurants, little shops, and small side streets with politically charged graffiti to keep you occupied for an entire afternoon.
Marie Curie and her pals kept following the path of the Wall, and as we rode we learned about some of the escape attempts and misconceptions about the Wall itself – the biggest being that it sprung up overnight. This is partially true – a boundary appeared overnight, but no matter how many labourers you have, it’s pretty darn impossible to build such a massive project in just one evening. What did happen on that fateful night, however, was that barbed wire and fences were installed along the future site, and soldiers tore up roads to make them impassable. So, it was true if you’d, say, gone to visit your Grandma in the East that night – when you awoke in the morning, you were now a permanent resident of East Berlin. So hopefully you packed clean undies.
In all seriousness though, it was another devastating event that the Germans have experienced, and absolutely fascinating to learn more about. If you’re ever in Berlin – bike tours are the way to go! Exercise and knowledge all in one shot – just brilliant.