Thursday, 27 September 2012

Bike Ride in the Park

Biking appears to be a very popular and common way to get around, probably because Berlin has a highly developed bike-lane system plus you can take your bikes onto trains and buses. Cars and pedestrians really watch out for bikers and they frequently even have their very own stoplight to give them a head start before the cars go through an intersection.

If we were going into spring/summer instead of fall/winter I would seriously consider purchasing a bike. (Someone (Hi B.M.) suggested I get a scooter LOL) Maybe if we were here longer, or if we were living further afield, but as we are in Stadtmitte (city-middle), it’s not a necessity. My main reason would be to bike around the green spaces and parks, of which Berlin has surprisingly many; according to some reports a full 1/3 of Berlin is green-space.

The largest of these is the Tiergarten, (animal garden), and dates back to the 16th century when it served as hunting grounds for the ruling officials. Then near the end and just after WWII it was largely deforested because it served as a source of firewood for a devastated city. It has thankfully recovered and regrown and is considered a must-see treasure of Berlin. This huge 210 hectares (520 acres) lush park stretches through central Berlin and provides a relaxing contrast to the bustle of the rest of the city. 

Being a tree-hugger type and really missing being out in the woods, I decided that I would try renting a bike in order to better experience this park. I had discovered that the Deutsche Bahn (German Rail) offers a service called “Call-a-Bike”. When I explained it to our daughter she said it was similar to “Bixi Bikes” in Montreal. Basically you rent a bike using your cell phone. There are stands at all bus/train terminals plus major attractions; cost is .08/min to a max of 9€ a day and the bike can be returned whenever to another stand. So I signed up for the service, and took the bus to a particular starting point, the Siegess├Ąule (Victory Column). It was constructed in the late 1800's to celebrate the victory of Prussia over Denmark, Austria and France.This massive monument sits in the middle of a traffic circle known as the Gro├čerstern (Great Star). Many roads meet here and there are four tunnels under the roads to the monument. Once there you can pay 3€ for the privilege of climbing 276 stairs (I counted) to the top for a fantastic 360° view over the Tiergarten and indeed over Berlin.

 After climbing to the top and taking pictures, I climbed back down, rented a bike from a stand across the street, hopped on, and spent a relaxing wonderful afternoon cycling through the Tiergarten, taking in the sights, seeing trees, listening to bird-song, breathing in the wonderful fall air. After, I returned the bike to a different stand closer to home, and then took a bus the rest of the way. I could have biked all the way home, but rush hour traffic through major construction zones…eek…maybe next time I’ll be braver.

 Here are a couple of pics...with more on my facebook page.

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