Wherever the Berliners have been keeping themselves through the cold dark winter, they’ve emerged. They bask in the parks and squares, they sip milchkaffee in sidewalk cafes, they linger on their balconies to watch the baskers and sippers. Above all, they flood the streets on their bikes. Little old ladies fly past on bikes, lap dogs catch the wind on their tongues from their perch in bike baskets, babies hoot at the passing dogs from their baby bike seats. If you squint, you see the Berlin sun pulled not by Apollo in his horse chariot, but by a little biker toiling merrily across the sky.
Berlin’s bike fever is contagious. Aaron and I have bikes, inherited from our dear Australian friends, and now I ride everywhere, and I love it. Biking in Berlin is easy. This city is the flattest place I’ve ever been, and as a Nebraskan, I know from flat. Bike racks flourish every few feet, so wherever you are, you can conveniently hop off and lock up. Most major roads have bike lanes either in the streets or on the sidewalk, and even where they are absent, there’s always a competent looking biker ahead of you to follow brazenly through traffic. And because of the swarms of bikers, cars expect us and make room for us.
Best of all, biking has made me pull out my Berlin street map again, growing dusty after I figured out the neighborhoods around my regular U-Bahn stations. Now I’m learning the above-ground connections to get from place to place and growing that much friendlier with my city. And, future guests be forwarned…biking has made an appearance on my sightseeing tour. My exhausted brother can attest that a bike ride makes a nice change of pace from slogging all over everywhere. We spent a splendid afternoon tracing the path of the Berlin Wall through the northern part of the city.
Don’t worry. We rewarded ourselves for our labors.