Just returned from a weekend in Berlin. It was a stag weekend and it was extremely drunken mostly because it was the first time in years all the group had been a way together in years so there was much making up for lost time. We drank like 18 year olds but the hangover of 32 year olds.
Thankfully I am not dedicating a blog to the drunken antics of fifteen Scottish men in Berlin but rather to cycling in Berlin. Knowing that on the stag, all I would see was the inside of various Berlin pubs and clubs and perhaps get intimate with the inner workings of a German toilet I decided to get the earliest flight and do some sightseeing prior to meeting up with the rest of the guys who were taking a more leisurely approach to the stag.
I figured that the best way to take in as many sights in the least amount of time would be to hire a bike and treat it like some sort of Top Gear challenge. At the hostel I dumped my bag and got let down by the fact that they could not rent me bike. Undeterred I walked across the street and got a town bike for few hours, stuck the phone on the front and tried to navigate to the Brandenburg Gate.
This bike was a beast, clearly designed to be both indestructible and only able to achieve a top speed of 15 miles per hour no matter how much power you put through the pedals. There were three gears and no brakes.
Despite a few missed turns I easily found my way along dedicated cycle paths some separated from the traffic and some not but all safe. As I darted from sight to sight it is easy to see why the bike is the ultimate mode of urban transport. I could get a feel of the city around me as I cycled through it and felt the camber of its roads, the sort of feel that you simply don’t get from a car or the metro.
The bike is not shackled by timetables, rush hour crowds and traffic jams. You can go wherever you want to go. Feel like a coffee and cake in that cool café you just passed? Cycle up, walk in. With a car the story is infinitely more complicated by needing to find a parking space.
It was almost time to head back to the hostel and swap cultural for beer and my planned route to drunkenness took my beside the longest section of the Berlin Wall still remaining. It was a cycle that just evoked all sorts of images; the falling of the wall was the perfect TV event for the fledgling television generation.
As I sat down for the that first refreshing pint of many I reflected on a great day on the bike. Despite being in a huge, spread out city I was able to easily find my way without ever feeling like I would end up under a bus. It also reaffirmed my belief that getting around the city is easiest by bike.