Tue 10th Sept.
Camping outside of Berlin.
I was now leaving Tuesday. I’d left it a bit late trying to mail too many people and getting Lisa some presents for taking me in on a whim. I got to the station and there was one last train to Hannover for that day that would get me there at a decent time. I bought my ticket from a machine and went to the platform. I didn’t have much time as a buffer and the lifts in Berlin central station were painfully slow. I started panicking frantically and sweating with nerves. If I missed this train I could be in serious trouble. I got to the platform as the train was getting ready to leave. Three out of three journeys on trains and been stress-filled nightmares. I asked the man on the platform where I could board with the bike and he said I couldn’t. I explained I’d bought a ticket and needed to board this train now. He said it wasn’t a train for bikes and blew his whistle and signalled to the driver. I had a go at him but he told me to take it to the box office. I told him what I thought of him and his uniform and went back down the lift shouting and swearing. This could really mess things up.
I had to think about what to do next. I was luckily allowed to refund my ticket and book one with the bike included for tomorrow morning at 10am. Now the only problem was, do I request another night at Lisa’s or go into the woods I came in through.
I spent about an hour writing the text to Lisa, highlighting the situation, asking politely and saying it’d be fine if it wasn’t okay for her. I left the station and went back to the centre of Berlin, hoping for a positive text, but Lisa had made plans, and for her to take me in for one more night would mean dissolving those plans. She’d given me so much already, I didn’t want to ruin her nights plans be housing me another night, so that was definitely a no-go. I thanked her again for everything.
I braced myself for the woods, hoping I wouldn’t have to, but going anyway. By the time I got going in was 7:25. It was dark by 8 and I knew the woods were about an hour away. Trouble indeed. I hoped for that text inviting me back and I didn’t get it, and rightly so.
When I got going, I really had to move quick. The front tyre was loosing pressure due to the valve being loose, which slowed me down and made pedalling harder.
When I thought about camping outside Berlin, being in my tent for the night combined with the rush to get there before dark, I instantly felt the adventure and sense of wildness you got from leaving a city. It started to feel exciting. This is conjured up the purely unknown. Not knowing where you’ll stay, or if it’ll be okay.
A voice in you wants it to be over as quickly as possible, so your on the other side of the night into the next day so you can enjoy the stress-free sensation of riding the bike.
All you really need is to get through it, find the best spot you can, get down and let time do the rest.
Every now and then I thought Lisa might text Raby, who’d have a spare key and invite me over that wave of warmth and relaxation came over me, then thinking about what was ahead I had the instant dread of having to camp. The thought of four walls, wonderful electricity, interaction with friends through the online world and a blissful nights sleep. Comfort personified.
But then I remembered I had the spare key, which was locked in Lisa’s flat.
By now it was dark. Time had run out and I still had to get down. It was only in this panic that I got to see west Berlin and how extraordinarily different it is from the east. This really is a city of two radically different halves. High end shops and restaurants. 5 star hotels, men in suits on the pavements and expensive cars on the streets.
It made me think that if the Soviets hadn’t put the wall up, we probably wouldn’t have the incredible place that is east Berlin as it is now. I would never imply the wall or the misery and death it caused to hundreds was good, but it’s bizarre to think that the more vibrant and interesting part of the city was born out of so much misery and poverty.
I was still in Berlin and still pedalling, but it was becoming more and more suburban. I didn’t think I was still in the city until I saw the occasional underground stations. Finally a passed a black woods on one of the lakes. I went back to investigate and despite it being pitch black and terrifying from the outset, I went in.
The light from the street illuminated the first 20 feet or so. The rest of it was totally pitch black. I couldn’t even see silhouettes of the trees. I hesitated, not wanting to transcend into the darkness, but thought rationally and went in.
I used the torch on my phone. It lit the ground ahead of me for a few feet in a stark white light. It reminded me of the first Silent Hill game, probably one of the scariest games of its time, famed for it’s dimly lit scenes, creating the constant feeling of unknown horror.
I put the bad thoughts to the back of my mind and looked around in the dark for a spot. I noticed there were concrete steps ahead going down and made sure I was careful. I found a spot about 75m from where I entered. I could see lights of houses through the trees in behind me, which I took as a good sign. People were nearby.
I set up in complete darkness as quickly as I could. Once I was down, I shuffled about a bit and eventually got off to sleep, having one of the worst nights in the tent yet.