Letting Our Hair Down

By Jane Mountain | September 4, 2013

6447 km so far.

Since we’ve gotten to Berlin, I’ve just felt exhausted. Now that we’re off our bikes for a few weeks, finished with riding through Europe, and getting ready to go further afield, it’s time to rest. My body knows it, but my brain is having trouble settling down.

We’re planning on being here for a few weeks, but there are SO MANY things to do.

Our list swirls around in my mind when I should be sleeping, and swirls around when I am awake.

The Trouble With Travel

Just arranging visas for the many countries we plan to visit in Asia is a minefield (Stephen’s note: possibly poor choice of word here), made more difficult because we’re not in the country where we live, so no one here will grant us a visa.

We either have to send our passports off to a visa agency, or travel to London and take care of things ourselves. I think Stephen secretly wants to go to London, but I would rather stay put and let someone else sort things out for us.

Stephen’s note: It’s no secret. I want to go to London.

It also looks like we have to book our flights before we get our visas, which means likely shelling out for changeable or refundable tickets in case something goes wrong.

Meanwhile, we’re researching cycling in China and Southeast Asia. What will the weather be like? What will we need to bring? Should we abandon our tent and sleeping bags, or take them with us? Will our stove and fuel be a problem if we want to take the train or busses in China? Can we even hope to ride through China, with their huge highways and terrible air quality?

These are all questions we’d like some kind of authoritative answer to before we start booking our plane tickets.

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

Then there are haircuts and dentists and immunisations, and bike parts and maintenance, bike boxes to find, friends to visit, rock shows to go see. We should probably get some maps and plan where we want to go as well. We definitely won’t be bored here, once we regain the energy to get our act together.

So today, like most days for the next little while, started with us drinking a lot of coffee and tea, and making use of Jesse’s WiFi. Then we ventured out into Berlin, to get haircuts and find a place to work on our bikes.

As we were approaching the hairdresser Stephen had found for us, we realised we probably should have called ahead to see if they actually had any free time today. When you’re cycling, you get used to just showing up places without much of a plan. You kind of forget that in the real world, people book in advance, and show up at a specified time.

Sure enough, they couldn’t take us today, but we’re booked in for tomorrow.

We hopped on the U-Bahn to get to the bike shop we think will be a winner. They stock Surly Bikes, the American brand that we have, which are not all that common here. When we got to the shop, it looked pretty great. They have tons of parts, stock only steel bikes, and have a friendly and helpful staff.

When I saw that the bike repair shop was staffed by two women, I was sold. Maybe that’s a common thing in Germany, but in the US, you rarely see a woman doing maintenance or working in a bike shop at all, so it’s pretty cool to see female bike mechanics.

The bike shop, Radspannerei, has booked us in for next week as they are busy until then. An excellent sign.

Hello City

My first impressions of Berlin, albeit from walking for a short time in a limited area, are not the best. We were on some of the dodgier streets in this neighbourhood, and though it doesn’t feel particularly unsafe, it does feel like a big dirty city. Having been in perfect, clean Scandinavia for a couple of weeks before coming to Berlin may have been a mistake.

It’s kind of depressing to trek several kilometres down dirty streets, past decrepit buildings, and endless kebab shops. The U-Bahn stations seem to all be falling apart, and they were obviously not attractive places to begin with.

We have been very entertained by the ridiculous election posters hanging from every lamppost. Did everyone hire the same stylist, who assured them that looking gormless will win them votes?

The Berlin I remember from our last visit about 10 years ago was far nicer than this. Maybe I am remembering it wrong, or it just seemed great in comparison with London? Or maybe things have gone downhill in the last decade?

I had a small epiphany on the train, as we were looking out at the grey buildings on this grey day. Unless it’s LA, I doubt I’ll ever want to live in a big city again. At heart, they are all the same; concrete jungles crawling with all sorts of creatures, great and small.

Returning home, I collapsed into bed while Stephen went our for groceries.

He’s busy making pierogies, which we haven’t eaten since Poland, and miss greatly.

We eat well when we’re on the road, but it’s great to have a kitchen (a lovely kitchen, which Jesse designed and built with a little help from his parents) with lots of pots and dishes and supplies to cook a proper meal.

Thanks again, Jesse, for letting us invade your life for a little while. We’ll try to leave before we drive you too insane.  

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Hi, I’m Jane, founder and chief blogger on My Five Acres. I’ve lived in six countries and have camped, biked, trekked, kayaked, and explored in 50! At My Five Acres, our mission is to inspire you to live your most adventurous life and help you to travel more and more mindfully.

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