When To Say When

By Jane Mountain | September 2, 2013

6447 km so far.

Woke up this morning in our sweet hotel campground just before the alarm, with the wind whipping up a frenzy in the tree tops above our heads. Thinking that Stephen was also awake, I rolled over and started talking to him.

“I wonder if they serve waffles for breakfast here?”

“Why are you talking about waffles,” Stephen replied. “I’m sleeping.”

Oops. Stephen hardly ever sleeps later than me, so when he does, I know it means he has had a bad sleep during the night.

Stephen’s note: See my blog post yesterday about my bruised femur.

Don’t Dream It’s Over

Since the weather sounded downright nasty, I reached over and switched off the alarm so Stephen could get some extra rest. I spent the next two hours reading Game of Thrones: A Clash of Kings while the rain dripped down and the wind blew.

Eventually we got up, bundled up, and made our way into the weather. As we ate breakfast under the conveniently placed gazebo outside the hotel (which didn’t open for breakfast until much later), I observed that this would probably be our last camping spot in Europe.

outdoor tent in the rain germany

Hotel camping comes with lots of bonuses, like big outdoor tents.

Whoa. What a strange feeling. Today is the end of this part of the trip. After this, everything must change.

Through The Enchanted Forest

Knowing that this was our last day on bikes until Asia (not counting the solo trip I plan to take later this month), we resolved to ride the 91 km to Berlin, no matter what the day threw at us.

Our first few hours took us along a pretty canal bike path, with a few other bikes and a few boats going by for scenery.

Kayaks on the canal, not far from Berlin.

Kayaks on the canal, not far from Berlin.

We could hear the wind howling, but it didn’t really slow us down, since the canal was lined with stately old oak trees. Our lunch destination today was Oranienburg, which is 45 km north of Berlin.

Jesse, who we’ll be staying with in Berlin, had sent a helpful email the other day to let us know we could take the S-Bahn from there straight to his place. We laughed. Why would we take the S-Bahn when there’s a lovely bike path?

As I was just thinking we must be around 10 km away, we were shocked to see a 26 km distance marker for Oranineburg. Ugh. We had been going slowly, letting the lazy meandering of the bike path set a lazy meandering speed for us. Oh well, so far the weather was holding steady at only slightly yucky, and the bike path was peaceful and deserted.

We pushed on, into the middle of a pine forest. We’ve seen a lot of such forests on our trip, but this one was different. The rusty red floor of needles and pinecones was free from undergrowth, leaving wide open shadowy spaces beneath the trees. It felt enchanted, as though a few forest sprites might pop their heads out of the canopy at any second. This is the land of the Brothers Grimm after all.

By the time we reached Oranienburg, we both agreed the morning had felt more like 60 km than 40. Maybe the magic of the forest path is to make any bike ride feel twice as long as it really is?

A Sunny Feeling Is Taken Away

Exhausted, we decided to grab a quick lunch at a bakery and then continue on to Berlin. Germany seems to be dotted with bakeries which all serve middling pastries and OK sandwiches. We are already missing the bakeries of Denmark. The Danish know their way around a Danish.

Anyway, we found one such middling bakery, dutifully ate our unappetising sandwiches, plus three donut balls, a piece of dense crumble cake, and a large icing-sugar-coated piece of dough. Sometimes it’s wonderful to be a cycle tourist.

This all came to about €10. It is lovely to be back in the land of reasonably priced goods, even if they’re not as tasty as their northern counterparts.

We stepped out of the warm bakery, got on our bikes, and that’s when the rain started. It wasn’t proper rain, with big fat drops falling prettily down to the earth. It was English rain, a thick haze of cold drizzle that will likely not end until spring. Combined with the gusty wind, this meant the drizzle swirled about, hitting us hard in the face and making our hands numb almost instantly.

Yuck. Where is that S-Bahn station again?

First We Take Manhattan

Before riding on, we had to find internet to email Jesse and let him know we’d be arriving today instead of tomorrow as originally planned. The problem with that is that Germany doesn’t seem to have public WiFi. We’ve been to 15 countries so far, and Germany is the first where internet is sparse, almost non-existent. One would think they’d be pretty advanced here, compared to say, Lithuania or Croatia, but no. Here, free WiFi is a rarity.

Anyway, this meant we had to go to the train station, where there was a McDonalds, which we’d heard always has WiFi. McDs did have WiFi, but we weren’t able to get on without promising it our first born, or eating there, or some such unthinkable thing.

Once we were at the train station, with the wind and the rain and the exhaustion, the decision was easy. We had a two-language conversation with the woman at the ticket booth, who, like most Germans we’ve met so far, didn’t speak any English. For less than €10, we could cover the rest of the distance on the metro, and be there in no time.

Yup, we felt a little lame taking the easy way our for our last 45 km in Europe. We also felt really good about it.

It was the right thing to do, it was more enjoyable than riding, and it got us to town in plenty of time to surprise Jesse by being 24 hours early. Ha ha. Sorry Jesse, thanks for handling it so well! And as Jesse helpfully reassured us, Oranienburg is technically the outer edge of Berlin, so we had actually ridden our bikes to Berlin.

So here we are in Berlin, well-fed, a little lubricated with beer, warm, dry, and comfortable. We have a million things to do to get ready for Asia, but for at least a few days, we’re just hoping to get some rest.  

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