My time in Berlin.
After the Brandenburg gate it took me about an hour to cycle across town and get to where I was staying. On Weserstrausse, in Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg. The friend who I was staying with Lisa, but she was back in Switzerland, so instead I met her friend Raby, who was also with us on the night out in Winterthur. She let me into the flat and showed me around. She was working from home so had to get back, but told me of an event they were going to that night and gave me her number to stay in touch.
I did some shopping and prepared a decent meal. I washed my clothes and aired my tent out. I was on the road to recovery. I met up with Raby later and picked up a German sim card and some credit so I could be in touch with people here. This was my third sim card, which made me feel like a sophisticated drug dealer, or some character from a Bourne Ultimatum movie. Sadly I couldn’t have been further from that.
We cycled to meet Andrea, who to cut a long story short, is someone I met in London years ago, through Claudia, who put me in touch with Judith and is why I was staying where I was. Andrea studied at Ecal design school, the same time as my friend Luke, who I stayed with in Lausanne, so it was a big crazy circle of coincidence and chance. Now we were meeting for some beers and then going to the event.
On the cycle across town to the design event, we accidentally joined up with a large cycle group that cycled around Berlin once a month as part of some campaign to promote cycling in the city. A few roads were blocked off for them and the had police escorts. It was quite a large group and we happened to tag along with them at exactly the right time.
We went into a tunnel and in the group of roughly 200 everyone started ringing their bell to add to the childish novelty of cycling through an area that would normally be restricted to cyclists. It was an amazing feeling for the first night in the city, to have joined this group and be cycling with them through Berlin at night, the mild air going through our hair through our clothes.
Once we were out the other end of the tunnel, the large group joined up on the stairs of the station the were outside of and celebrated what they had organised. our group of five stopped to take in the rush that just happened and figure out what it was exactly as we didn’t know at the time.
We went on to the design event and enjoyed free food, drinks and some promotional print material of the company holding the event. I ended up playing table football with a few people I met there until it was time to go. We headed back across town to a new bar that was typically Berlin. Dingy, cheap, run-down and had a good atmosphere. We stayed there till late and then got some food.
I wasn’t really used to drinking like this, so I knew I’d be paying for it tomorrow. I agreed with Raby to have breakfast and coffee around midday the next day and hang out if she wanted.
Lisa came back from Switzerland the next day and we caught up. We both had tickets to the festival on the 8th so were getting ready for that. But for me the rest of the week was spent, writing, researching, listening to design news and applying for things when I got back to London.
I had been thinking on the bike about what I wanted to do when I was back from the trip. I originally planned to go to India for a few months, but after realising the importance of family and friends, I decided to put the trip back and by home for Christmas time. Which opened up a three-month gap.
When I was in Italy I thought about WWOOFing in France (working on an organic farm with rent and food covered) and learning French. The other options were going back to London in search of work or going home to write and make new work. While in Berlin I started thinking about a move back to London for a few months and planning what I would do.
I went to parts of the city I’d been to before and looked in some of my favourite shops. Bought some excellent German beers to enjoy and stayed stocked up on food. I’d planned to party, shop and see more of the city when I was here, but I decided to take it easy, recover and save it for the weekend.
I finally got the tick bite checked out and the doctor I saw put me on antibiotics to clear up anything that might be left, although she didn’t suspect anything and told me not to drink too much.
I hung out with Andrea and Raby too and met more of their friends and went to a meal, a flat parties and a bar with them. Although on the second night with them had to leave as I was getting too tired and couldn’t keep up with the Berlin nightlife. My body clock was too different now. We also had a couple of homemade pizza nights in Raby’s flat that was a lot of fun, where I met a young playwright who told me all about her world as a writer.
It had also been a really good opportunity to improve my German with the shops I was going into and the friendship groups I was hanging out with. A few of the guys I met were interested in the trip and it was always nice to talk about that and debunk a few myths around it. I replaced all the essential wires too, so I could know charge my phone, iPad, GPS and camera again.
When the festival came around, Lisa and I were ready and went from her flat. She worked during the week for a design firm in town. The festival took place at Templehof airport, which was the city’s busiest airport in the time of Nazi Germany, but had been closed since 2008 and was occasionally used for club nights and events. It was also appears in ‘Indiana Jones and the last Crusade’.
The festival was good, but didn’t live up to the scale and excellence of Primavera, back in Barcelona. I got to see the Pet Shop Boys which was a good show and a laugh, Blur and Björk which was an incredible show. I was supposed to see her a few years ago but she dropped out, so that was good. She was also playing in London in the same week so I was seeing her around the same time as some friends back home.
The festival was spread out over two venues and shifted to the second one after 12. We didn’t go on the first night and I tried to find it and failed on the second night.
I had a day after to recover and had a another (much more successful) attempt at a full english with Lisa on the sunday. I went out to the Bauhaus museum and started making plans to leave the next day on Monday.
Originally I wanted to cycle across Germany, take my time going through the west and see a bit of Belgium, but had also set the date to come back for Thursday 19th Sept, which would mean getting across Germany quickly and keeping up a strong pace.
I thought about getting the train across Germany, but settled on going to Hannover, half way, which would cut three days of cycling out. I took my time on Monday and decided to leave on Tuesday, getting to Hannover then and beginning the cycle from there.