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Published: June 28th 2014
Freckles and a horrible selfie.
First let me start by saying, my legs hurt!
Today was one of those days where I accidentally left my phone at home, however I think it was for the better. I got to view Germany in an entirely different light and beyond the tourist exterior everyone sees.
I went bike riding.
It was a gorgeous morning and Dirk has been mumbling for a few days about going bike riding so we seized the opportunity, I haven't been riding since I was 15 and my host family in China went for a ride with me at 9 o'clock at night around the West Lake. I remember coming within inches of cars and other bike riders, the streets were badly lit as well but it was an incredible experience. I also later found out that there have been many accidents and who knows what else on the same path we took... So needless to say I was a little worried about riding.
I borrowed Sabines bike and after a very rocky start and a few near misses with some thorny bushes and what looked to be stinging nettles I got back into the swing of bike riding, as
War wound 1.
the saying goes "you never forget how to ride a bike."
Dirk took me to where the last refugee was killed in Berlin along the Death Strip, I think I have mentioned before that the Death Strip was a notorious gravel based strip that made footprints easy to notice and offered no cover thus enabling a clear view for guards to fire. There are memorials everywhere for the last man killed and even a street named after him. Chris Gueffroy and his friend were trying to escape into West Berlin when they were shot at, Chris' friend survived whereas Chris was shot in the chest. The unnamed friend was later charged with treason and sentenced to 3 years in jail, there is some dispute whether this occurred after the fall or before. On the monument for example where he died it said he was charged after but some sources I have read say before. Either way he had his sentence reduced to a year and was released.
Berlin is also relatively flat thank goodness except for this one hill that was a breeze going down but awful to ride up, I have long since forgotten which gear makes
War wound 2.
you go faster or slower so there were a few times where the pedals went sailing around and my legs were pumping something chronic trying to catch up to them. There were also a few times where I forgot that you need to use both handbrakes and not just one, otherwise you risk flying into cars, stinging nettles or the road.
I admittedly came out with a few war wounds including a bruised ankle and a few scrapes on my lower legs. Bike pedals are vicious things!
Despite my Kiwi heritage I generally tan quite easily whenever I can be bothered facing the outside world and sitting in the sun, unfortunately my genes don't extend to making said tan even so I my face is full freckles and there are some new ones on my arms but my shoulders are beautifully tanned and then it just steadily declines. I have patches of white and brown and a little bit of red thrown in there as well just to add to the Neapolitan look. Very sexy.
We also stopped for an ice-cream along the Berlin equivalent of the River Themes, complete with boat houses! Dirk explained that there
War wound 4
were people living there because the rent is far cheaper and "hey who wouldn't want to live on a boat." We then went and visited the Russian memorial where 22,000 Soviet veterans of war are buried, it's a huge park with 2 archway entrances that say something in Russian (neither Dirk or I speak any Russian...) Inside there is a statue of a female bending down who represents the mothers of all those lost in the war and directly opposite about 4 k's in the distance is another memorial that represents liberty and it depicts a man holding a child in one arm, a sword in the other and beneath his foot is a cut swastika. Both statues were huge and quite daunting, Dirk told me that when the agreement was made between Germany and Russia to make this memorial that the materials are non perishable and basically graffiti proof. Understandably.
The highlight of my day however was the squirrel, it was incredibly cute and I spent about 10 minutes just watching it wash it's whiskers and look for food, Dirk laughed at my fascination and explained he nearly had an accident with one the other day who decided
to play deer in headlights. I still think they're cute.
Honestly I could harp on for hours about just how beautiful and clean Germany is but for your sanities I won't, I really did enjoy myself today even though my legs are abusing me at the moment.
After lunch which was a traditional German meal cooked by Sabine I spent the afternoon in the sun amusing myself. It was such a nice change from yesterday and the depression of the concentration camp and Dirk made for a great tour guide.
Tomorrow is a tour called "Red Berlin" and it's about Berlin and the Stasi and all that stuff. Very vague description but I think I will enjoy it.
Write more tomorrow!
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