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August 8th, 2000 · No Comments

August 8, 2000 Berlin Layover

Day 222

Berlin is certainly a city with a diverse history, part of which I remember occurring in my lifetime. So when we arrived, I immediately signed up to do the Berlin Bike Tour. It turned out to be an “insider tour” taking us to places the tour buses don’t go. Walter, one of the Odyssey riders arranged for the guide to come to our hostel to start the tour. It was a very convenient way to do it, so I didn’t have to think about where I was going.

We rode our own bikes and followed Andrew the Australian tour guide down the bike paths and sometimes over some slightly rugged mountain bike terrain. Of course being an Odyssey rider helped, because Odyssey riders can do anything!

The tour took us by the entrance to Hitler’s bunker, a site which is now used as a playground. It is an unmarked spot on the terrain, but the cats like it, it’s filled with sand.

We also saw what is left of the Berlin wall. I was not surprised to learn that when the wall came down, the locals had to rebuild it so I and the millions of other tourists could see it as it was. The wall was a demonstrative reaction of the communists after a meeting between President Kennedy and Premier Khrushchev in 1961 that went bad. After that meeting the wall was built surrounding West Berlin keeping the East Berliners away from freedom in the West.

We peddled by Checkpoint Charlie, the former American sector where the people had to pass through to get back and forth between East and West Berlin. I was rather moved to actually be on the road that was the site of so much tension between America and Russia. I made a mental note to return later when I could spend some time exploring the area.

As part of Germany’s descent into Nazism, the students and professors at Humboldt University burned the books in the square.

In that location today, is a monument, it is an eerie view down into a room with empty bookshelves. The ghostlike effect is especially striking when viewed at night. The bookshelves when full would hold 10,000 books, the amount the students burned.

Here is a section of the wall that is still standing. It is covered with graffiti images, some of them are very interesting art work. Al felt really sad to see the wall. He could feel the pain of so many people who were separated from their loved ones and freedom.

On a lighter side, I loved the Velo Taxi’s in Berlin. They are powered by a single cyclist and are seen all over the city. It is assuring to know that as a former Odyssey rider, I can have a new career….velo taxi driver!

Tags: Germany · Northern Europe