- Always take the designated bike route.
- The designated bike route will kill you.
However sketchy it is navigating the city on bikes, taking a car is infinitely worse because all the city is under construction all the time. We had hosteled with the hostile youth in Friederichshain, in East Berlin, which is an interesting place.
Somewhat new buildings stand next to renovated buildings stand next to burned out windowless hulks stand next to giant excavation pits. If it has been in one place for more than an hour it is covered with graffiti. The sidewalks are crowded and everyone has four nose rings, twelve tattoos, a fixie, and a pierced clitoris, even the men. Christian C. would not stand out here.
Tour guidebooks, if I had one, might describe our area as “eclectic,” but I would say it’s more of a “don’t carry anything larger than a twenty” neighborhood.
During the day the hostile youth are at the Brandenburger Tor taking photos to prove to their parents that they got some culture stuff, so that is a great time to sleep at the hostelry. Beginning at four-ish the youths trickle in, three longnecks in one hand and a fistful of condoms in the other, so I hope you’ve gotten your beauty sleep by then. Public intoxication is encouraged and the legal drinking age is six.
We pedaled downtown using Koepenickerstrasse, which is a mouthful, and at 6:30 AM there was an all-night doener shop at the subway exit where the old DDR Kultur Klub used to be, and there were at least a hundred hostile youth lined up for grease and meat to dilute the effects of their all-night raging. It was inspiring to see so many starving obliterated youth who were too drunk to fuck but not too drunk to stand up.
Berlin sidewalks are divided into pedestrian and bicycle halves to separate bikes from the cars but they are too narrow, end with no warning, and force you to dodge pedestrians who have wandered over into the bike lane, often clutching a beer bottle and a pram or both, and wrong-way cyclists who are supposed to be on the other side of the street but who forgot which hand was the right and which the left, all resulting in so much chaos and confusion that it’s often wiser to ride in the street pinned in the door zone getting passed by delivery trucks with inches to spare and last-second airhorn blasts up your shorts.
The bike infrastructure is further complicated by separate traffic lights for peds, bikes, and cars, including separate signals for bikes going left. Your first instinct is to be an orderly German and figure out which lights mean what until you realize that no one else understands them either and you simply look both ways and sail out into the intersection and pray.
We only saw one guy get hit by a car but he was wearing a helmet.
Of course there is a very easy solution to all this nonsense: Slow down. If you ride at 10-mph or less it’s like slow motion and totally safe, but ain’t nobody got time for that.
We got to the DDR Museum, which was packed thirty minutes after opening and cost 7€. If you subscribe to this blog and ever plan to visit Berlin your subscription will now pay for itself: Don’t waste your time or money at this junkhole. Instead, visit the German History Museum nearby or McDonalds.
We pedaled over to Alexanderplatz where we found one and had a Happy Meal to go with our SPY Happy Lenses. Then Woodrow stopped for ice cream and the lady gave him two scoops of chocolate in a cone and didn’t charge him.
“This ice cream tastes different,” he mused. “It’s really good.”
“That, my boy, is the incomparably delicious taste of free.”