The day will come when I will die. So the only matter of consequence before me is what I will do with my allotted time. I can remain on shore, paralyzed with fear, or I can raise my sails and dip and soar in the breeze.--Richard Bode

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Berlin and Potsdam

I have Odysseus, my Vstorm, parked out in the cold, drizzly rain (hope he doesn't mind), while I am cozy warm in my room in the Hostel.

Each day, I wake up thinking I will head off toward Poland, and each day I look out the window, see the rain, and say: "Nah. Poland can wait. I'm not riding in this weather." Instead, I have been exploring the heck out of Berlin. Mostly, I have been taking tours led by young university students from the United Kingdom. They are here working on on a PhD in history (or some other subject). The tours have been excellent.  Meeting place for them is at the Brandenburg Gate.

The first tour I took told us all about the Hitler years. We stood on top of the bunker where he committed suicide. Now a parking lot is built over the bunker. Germans wanted to erase all memory of him and of those terrible years. After he was dead, his body was burned so that nobody could come see it.

Just down the street is all that is left of the infamous Berlin Wall. What a brutal time in history that thing represents.

Around the corner and down the street is Checkpoint Charlie. It was the only crossing between East and West Berlin. There is nothing there these days except souvenir stands. I didn't even take a picture. I did take a picture of this guy, though. There are hundreds of these pedal cabs running around, taking tourists here and there. There are also lots of people zipping around on bicycles. I guess with 27% unemployment, a lot of Berliners can't afford a car.

Today, I took the train to Potsdam. Here is a picture of the palace where Stalin, Churchill and Truman met to divide up Germany and Berlin at the end of the War. See the red star? Stalin had that planted just to show the other two guys they were on his territory.

The "Wall" ran right through Potsdam. The orange pole shows where it once was. The grassy strip between my camera and the wall was a "No Man's Land". Try to escape through there and you got shot. Maybe you can see the machine gun "tower" just to the right in the picture. It is just to the left of the blue sign.

Here is the "Bridge of Spies" across which the Soviets and Americans would swap spies back in the day. There is a marker right in the middle which shows the demarcation between Soviet and American territories. This bridge was opened to the public the day after the Berlin Wall fell, and it has been open ever since.

Potsdam is a very interesting place. It was the home of the German Kaisers, and it has some beautiful buildings and palaces. The Soviets let the place fall apart, but now it has been renewed (tax money hard at work). Probably the most beautiful of all the palaces there is Sans Souci. It was built by Fredereck the Great who, among his many accomplishments, introduced Europe to the potato. Here is his grave. Can you guess what people put on it? You got it: potatoes

This internet connection has slowed to a crawl, so I am going to shut down this post. It probably is not all that interesting to most people anyway. I plan to get back on the road tomorrow, so maybe I will have more motorcycle tales to tell in my next post.

Bye for now,