BERLIN MARATHON AND GERMANY
On 22 September I arrived in Berlin, and went straight to the Berlin Excelsior Hotel. There I met the rest of the South African runners who had been on the plane from Heathrow, and I was quite surprised to see Dot (from my running club). The hotel is very centrally located in Berlin, and within walking distance of almost everything. Shortly afterwards Eddie arrived from London, and we went straight to the expo to collect our running numbers. We did the usual, walking around the expo and then back on the train to the hotel (which is always more tricky than expected). The next day we spent wandering around the city, through the Tiergarten (a large park in the city), and a walk up the Victory Column (from where we could see the preparation for the start of the Marathon). That evening we all went out for supper at a local pizza and pasta restaurant. It was to be Eddie’s first marathon, and I think all our talk about the race put the fear of God into him (he seemed rather quiet and reserved).
The following morning (the day of the marathon) our group (the South Africans and Eddie) gathered in the Hotel foyer, and took a train to the start of the Marathon. What a performance to get everyone together and ready! Eventually we arrived at the start and decided to all run together at a 5hr pace (which suited me just fine). There were approximately 40 000 runners, and I thought that the organization was great. All a runner had to do was to find the letter indicating your starting group, and wait for the gun. There was a rather jolly atmosphere at the start. At last we were on our way. Vlam led the SA pack with his customary flag and lighthearted comments. There were so many runners that it was hard to keep in contact with someone. Needless to say I lost the pack as well as Eddie along the way. The weather was absolutely fantastic, and the route was nice and flat. The route was also very interesting, as it passes places of historic interest in Berlin and ends at the Brandenburg Gate (a spectacular end to the race). Amazingly we all managed to find one another at the end of the race, and we walked back to the hotel (which took a while - there were many places to stop for a beer along the way). Now it was time for a quick shower, and then we would hit the city again
The morning after the marathon some of the South African runners returned home, while others planned their own thing. I seem to have convinced Eddie that we should rent bicycles and travel around Germany for a few days, and maybe even go the Munich for the legendary beer festival.
On 25 September we spent the day finding cheaper accommodation, as well as somewhere to rent bicycles (not too difficult, as there are many places renting bikes). We bought a map of Germany to help us decide where to cycle, but it was difficult as there are so many options. We found a brochure on bike tours, and based on that info we decided to go North by train and cycle back to Berlin.
On the following day we bought train tickets to Rostock. We also bought some wire bike baskets, and bungee cords to hold them in place on the bikes. We booked a room in Berlin at the B & B Hotel for the night before we had to return home, and left most of our luggage at the Hotel. We only took the most necessary items along on our little cycle trip.
So, on the morning of the 27th we picked up our bikes and set off for the main station in Berlin. I found the trains are very nice (neat and on time!). What else did I expect - this is Germany! Therefore we arrived at Rostock at 13h24 on the dot. Fortunately Rostock is not a very big town and we easily found our way out of the city. We were on our way. We found a bike path which soon ended. Because we couldn’t cycle on the highway, we had to go through the countryside. Fortunately our route wasn’t very hilly, as our rented bikes were definitely not made for touring, dirt roads, or hills. Soon we arrived at Damgarten, a very picturesque little town on the coast. We found a pension (small hotel) in no time and took a walk along the waterfront. As the only two restaurants were both only serving fish, we went back to the pension for beers and supper. We had by now discovered that one can get a map indicating the bike paths, so from now on things would go a bit easier.
The following morning was very nice, and I woke to the smell of coffee coming from the kitchen. What a way to wake up! I must admit the coffee in Germany is even better than their cheese. After breakfast we went in search of a bike shop, as the chain of my bicycle kept coming off. We had the chain fixed in no time, but then it started to drizzle. I had to buy a rain jacket, as I wasn’t geared for rainy weather. Fortunately, by the time we were on our way again the sky had cleared and it was a fantastic day again (no wind, lovely sunshine, and excellent scenery). Instead of heading back to Berlin we decided to stick to the coast. Now that we had a bike path map it was as easy as pie, and we just followed the bike path signs along the coast to Stralsund. The whole of that day we cycled along the coast, which was as flat as a lake with huge white swans floating on the water. Life felt great, so we stopped for lunch and a beer in Barth before carrying on to Stralsund. By now we’d decided to tour around Rugan. As it was still early we carried on cycling. At around 17h00 we arrived at Gabritz, were we decided to stay for the night, and after a quick shower it was beer time again. Supper was very interesting (fried aubergines in a mushroom sauce with green beans - very nice!).
On the morning of the 29th we awoke to yet another fantastic day, with blue skies and sunshine. So, after a hearty breakfast we continued along the coast. We cycled through small scenic villages like Gingst, Trent and Schaprode. We took the ferry across to Wittow and carried on past Wiek to Putgarten. Putgarten is a very small scenic village, where a huge fair was taking place. Due to the fair there wasn’t a single room available, but the atmosphere was fantastic (beer, German music, and lots of sausage!). From there we carried on to Cap Arkana, another very interesting place, but now there wasn’t much time to look around as it was already getting late and we had to find accommodation. So it was back on the bikes again, but this time with some urgency as the sun was starting to set. We had a fantastic ride from there along the coast, warm weather and no wind. We easily found accommodation in Juliusruh, and after a quick shower it was time to find food again.
The following morning we left the very nice hotel in misty weather, but it cleared quickly and we had another fantastic day. After first taking a wrong road, we at last got onto the right path, passing many villages along the way. The route varied as we cycled past farmlands, forests, and along the coast. At midday we stopped for a beer, and as usual Eddie had to have his pastry! After lunch we cycled though a nature reserve past Prora, and ended in Osteseebad Sellin. It was really easy to find accommodation, as it was the end of the tourist season and everywhere we went there was room available. For supper it was pizza, as I hadn’t had a pizza for some time. The weather seemed to be turning, as it was very humid and overcast.
There was a huge thunderstorm during the night, and on the morning of 2nd October we awoke to a half clear sky. Breakfast time was always great on this trip, as there was normally a large variety of cheese, yogurt, bread, fruit, and cereal, as well as coffee. We carried on cycling along the coast and through the woods, and arrived in Thiessow in very windy conditions. As it was windy we didn’t spend much time there before we carried on. Along the way we passed Middelhagen and Morrizdorf, where we crossed with a small rowing boat to Seedorp and Putbus, where we spent the night. I found it surprising how little English is spoken in that region. The language barrier makes it rather difficult to order off a Germen menu, especially if you are vegetarian (so the easiest thing is to order pizza).
The morning of the 3rd was very overcast, but there wasn’t any wind or rain. We cycled down to the harbour to find a cycle path, which turned out to be an interesting path through the woods on a gravel road. Our poor bikes were taking a bit of a beating as they were both stuck in one gear (there were only 3 gears). We carried on south past Garz to Zudar where we got the ferry back to the mainland. As usual we stopped for beer and cake along the way, what a combination. The wind had picked up, and it was rather hard cycling into the wind on a bike stuck in one gear. At least it wasn’t far to Grimmen, a fascinating place with a history dating back to the 9th century. There are many old buildings such as the old Town Hall and gates, and the Patrician’s House.
On the 4th October the weather was great again. There was a cycle shop right across the road form our hotel and they fixed the bikes in no time. This was the most fantastic place to cycle as there are cycle paths everywhere. The nice part is that the routes are varied, some are dedicated cycle paths (tarred or other paving), and others are on dirt road or along narrow country roads. We cycle from Grimmen to Tribees, and on to Demmin where we stayed over.
We were fortunate that the pension where we stayed was right on the cycle path, so the next day we just had to carry on straight down the road. Again we cycled through rural Germany on to Neubrandenburg. We passed so many villages along the way that in is impossible to mention them all. These villages are very small and surrounded by farmlands, perhaps potato fields. There were various vans traveling between the villages, some selling bread and pastries, others selling fish, and others meat. As the bread van passed us we spun around back to a village to pick up some apple strudel. I think we were very lucky with the weather. There were many wind farms along our route, indicating that there must be a lot more wind than what we had experienced. We arrived at Neubrandenburg in good time and booked into the Radisson Hotel (must have been out of season, as normally there’s no way I could afford the Radisson). At last Eddie could have his earl grey! I couldn’t believe it was already the 5th, and we’d better catch a train back to Berlin the next day. Wow, the time went so quick, with still so much I wanted to do. I’ll just have to go back.
On the morning of the 6th we woke to a very cold rainy day! What luck we’d had with the weather. Fortunately it was just about 500m to the station, for the train back to Berlin. The next day I would be back on the plane to Cape Town.