When my wife, daughter, and I arrived in Bonn, Germany, in August 1989, the country was divided into two nations, one democratic and capitalist, the other autocratic and socialist. A few months later the Berlin Wall had fallen and the socialist regime in the DDR had collapsed. By the time we left, in June 1990, Germany was a few short weeks away from formal reunification.
I returned in 1995 for a brief visit that was marked mostly by herding my small children and trying to avoid death on the autobahn in my rental Dodge Neon, whose maximum speed, fully loaded, was barely 60 mph. We visited our friends the Mekkis and were only in Germany for a few days. I noticed little and remember less.
Last year I visited my eldest son in Berlin, another brief, five-day trip. I was blown away. While living in Bonn-Bad Godesberg I had never been to Berlin. The night the wall came down, my friend Jan Volek and I drove to the border crossing at Hildesheim, entered East Germany, and got caught up in one of the most famous traffic jams of all time: a several hundred kilometer “stau” all the way to Berlin. We were running out of gas and he had exams the next morning, so we became the first people in history to go from East Germany to West with our car in reverse on the autobahn through the military checkpoint without stopping or being shot at.
Since my visit last summer I’ve been planning another trip to Germany. This will be a bike trip. My youngest son, who is seventeen, will accompany me to Cologne, where we will buy a pair of department store bikes and pedal across the country to Berlin. It should be about 800 miles if we don’t make too many wrong turns and if we don’t have to take too much evasive action to avoid our German stalker, Jens the Biker from Manhattan Beach.
I should add that my son doesn’t hardly ever ride a bike. Also, being able to count to ten and ask the age of one’s wife, I consider myself to be rather bilingual.
I like to travel light, so here is what I’m taking for the 21-day trip, including the clothes I will be wearing.
- Small backpack
- Pants: 2 pair, one long, one short
- Underwear: 2 pair
- Socks: 2 pair
- Bike multi-tool that I don’t know how to use: 1
- Tire lever: 1
- Shoes: 1 pair of sneakers
- Shirts: 2, one long-sleeve, one short
- Belt: 1
- Rain cape: 1
- Toothbrush: 1
- Dental floss: 1 roll
- Toothpaste: 1 tube
- Credit card: 2
- Cash: $500 Euros
- Hat: 1 SPY trucker gimme cap
- Pen: 1
- Notebook: 1
- Phone: iPhone 4, badly scratched but still has cool orange SPY sticker on it
- Book: 1, Undetermined
- Eyeglasses: 1 pair SPY Rx
- Sunglasses: I pair SPY Rx
Since we don’t know how far we’ll get each a day or where we’ll end up, we’ve decided to use Air B&B. Our first night is a really cool place in the corner of a Vietnamese student’s apartment for $11. After that we will look for more reasonably priced accommodations.
I think that should cover it. Istanbul, here we come. Glad my eldest son is staying home and manning the fort to shoot and kill potential thieves intent on stealing my other two pair of undershorts.
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