Berlin and The Big Dog

I made it to Berlin! And I’ve officially completed seven days on the bike, one quarter of my total biking days. On Day 1 I was having serious doubts about whether I could actually do this and wondering why on Earth I’d chosen this adventure, but now I’ve biked for a week and I’m feeling pretty strong. Of course, things could still go wrong, and I should probably knock on some wood as to not jinx myself, but, I’m happy that I’ve gotten in my groove, I’ve already accomplished more on a bike than ever before in my life, and I’m still in one piece, mind and body.

On Thursday I biked from Werben along the Elbe River to Rathenow, a city in the former East Germany. Then yesterday I did about 85 kilometers into bustling, lively Berlin. Neither ride was particularly eventful, necessarily – save for a reroute because the ferry I planned for my crossing of the Elbe wasn’t in service and a close encounter with two wild boars just feet off the trail who snorted at me and appeared ready to charge when I stopped to snap some video of them.

Thursday morning was a beaut. Because I’d biked about 25 km further than planned the day before and because I only needed to do about 50 more before Rathenow, I gave myself the entire morning to chill. It was also a perfect morning to relax because I wasn’t with a Warm Showers host. Staying with these host families has been cool (for the most part, ha!) but with a warm shower, cozy bed and hot meal comes conversation and “together” time. I don’t mind that, and actually mostly really like it since I’m traveling solo and would probably go crazy without human interaction, but honestly it was really nice to have a morning on my own, to just do what I wanted to do, have some peace and quiet and enjoy a long, casual morning. The morning included a simple, but nice, breakfast in the campground “house” and, as it turned out, a fun conversation with a German gentleman from Hamburg over breakfast who was doing a week of cycling on the Elbe Trail himself.

Thursday night I stayed with another Warm Showers host, Judith, in Rathenow, but because I also had to teach one of my online English classes that night, and because she went out for a local concert, we didn’t have a lot of time to hang out. We did have time for a quick dinner before my class, however, which Judith prepared from the food we’d purchased together earlier at her local Lidl grocery store. Chicken, rice, potatoes and salad. I scarfed it all down.

Yesterday’s ride was a bit crazy. In Berlin I’m staying with Dawn and Dallas, teachers from Texas who’ve lived and worked in Berlin for almost 20 years. I found Dawn, who works at Berlin International School, through a librarian contact I’d made while working in Frankfurt last year. At one point I’d thought about speaking at schools along my ride, talking to students about my ride, mental health and sharing the books I’ve written. It turned out, actually, that I didn’t get a lot of bites on this idea, I think because it’s the end of the year for most international schools so the timing just isn’t great. Dawn ended up being the only teacher who invited me into her classroom. But, that meant I needed to be there by 1:00, before students left for the day around 2:00. This involved a very early start and a ride that didn’t allow many breaks. I made it to BIS with five minutes to spare, sweaty and tired. I hung out with her students, seeing the end of their “class meeting” and then talking with them and answering questions for about 30 minutes. It was really fun and I’m glad it all worked out.

Last night was the opening match of Euro 2024, the European soccer championships that happen every four years and that this time around are being hosted by Germany. If you haven’t already read some of the essays I’ve written regarding this, you should visit the main page of this website to learn more. Long story, short, my route is designed on the idea of biking through all 10 German cities that are hosting matches in the tournament. Hamburg was my first of the 10, even though things hadn’t yet kicked off when I passed through, and Berlin is number two. The host nation always has the honor of playing in the opening match, so last night it was Germany versus Scotland, a match played in Munich. Berlin, and all the other host cities have set up these public viewing “Fan Zones” in the cities allowing spectators to gather together and watch the games on big screens. It was my plan to go to the public viewing at Brandenburg Gate. However, damn, I took a nap in the afternoon and by the time I arrived in the city, the fan zone was closed, having reached capacity. I was definitely disappointed, but, oh well, sometimes shit doesn’t work out like you plan.

I then went walking to find a bar or other place to join fans, and the first place I encountered was The Big Dog Berlin, a hotdog restaurant that had TVs showing the game, fans already gathered, and some open seats. Hell yeah. Maybe I didn’t make it into the Fan Zone, but I made it into The Big Dog! It was fun. I ended up talking with a couple of guys, Chinese but living in Spain, and two brothers from Sweden who’d biked all the way down from their hometown. One of the Chinese guys (they’re in the city because Spain plays Croatia today in Berlin) bought me a beer which was sweet, and the Swedish guys couldn’t get enough conversation about American politics and our upcoming elections. I’ve found that Europeans are fascinated by Donald Trump and our current political situation. Go figure. Germany beat Scotland 5-1, so it was a coming out party for the relatively young German squad and a party-like atmosphere at The Big Dog.

Today is a rest day for me. My first! Yay! I’ll head back into the city soon, make a try (without a ton of optimism) at getting tickets for the Spain/Croatia match, then probably, if I don’t get a ticket, make my way to one of the public viewings which should be a lot less crowded since Germany’s not playing. It’s raining – again – but the forecast calls for sun later. Let’s do this thing! Berlin, I’m quite happy to be here!

10 thoughts on “Berlin and The Big Dog

  1. Karla Harriman

    Congrats on your first week Chris … I’m enjoying every bit of your adventure and love to read your posts each day … keep having fun and safe pedaling

  2. Gwen Krueger

    Sounds like a lovely and fun break in the ride. Enjoy! Dave and I are enjoying Spain and hanging out with M and D and S.

  3. Anita Gibson

    Chris, what a courageous bike ride! I am just catching up on all the posts. It’s an amazing ride. You are pursuing several passions, meeting people and making a contribution to the world of mental health awareness to boot. I smile as I think of you in the rain, in the sun and in the beauty of Germany. Yes, you are blessed and I continue to lift you up in prayer for a safe journey.


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