Do What You Want To, Do What You Will ... - 9 1/2 Weeks - CycleBlaze

September 28, 2019

Do What You Want To, Do What You Will ...

...Just don't mess up your neighbor's thrill ... day off in Berlin

Some of you may recognize today's title as lyric's to a Frank Zappa song. 

Frank was pretty popular all through Eastern Europe in the 70's and 80's, mainly for poking his (middle) finger into the eyes of authority with equal measures of intellect, profanity and insanity. It was a heady mix and lapped up by the folks here.

There is still evidence that this appetite still exists.

We did the classic walking tour of post war East Berlin today. We started with the Wall memorial on Bernauer Strasse. This is one of the first areas where the wall started to be put up in 1961 and also one of the first areas to be torn down in 1990. The whole memorial  is very well done, providing both a clinical explanation of the politics of the time and the physical construction but also the very human stories of what all this meant. 

It might seem trite to say, but there are two sides to every wall.  There were tragic stories associated with the wall, both in Berlin and throughout the world as one of THE symbols of the cold war.  However the other side of the wall story is that, through the inexorable will of the people living on both sides of the wall, both the real one and larger metaphorical one, it is now gone.

The wall memorial does a very good job of capturing all of this, and the rest of what we saw in Berlin today is a testament to what happens when you remove barriers between people and promote connection and understanding.

Whoa. Getting deep. Time for a pretzel and a beer.

Queue up the next stop. Brandenburg gate, the Start / FInish area for tomorrow's marathon. As we approach, the area, the sun is shining and there are thousands of people checking things out. Regular tourists like us plus thousands of marathoners, all palpably excited and happy to be here. And when I say thousands, I mean thousands. There will be about 50,000 people running in tomorrow's race. It's a good thing that we are here today as it will probably be a mob scene tomorrow (a good natured one though). Oh yeah, there are Erdinger booths set up everywhere and also dudes selling pretzels. Check our watches, 12:05. Two beers please and a pretzel for K. 

We're sitting in a small 'beer garden' on the west side of the Brandenburg Gate where the finish area is. There are Germans, Americans, Colombians, Taiwanese, Chinese, Kenyans, South Africans, Brits ... folks from everywhere and all having a good time. As I look across the finish area I see the  The Dome and Towers of the German Bundestag building, both European Union and German Flags flying  as equals (straight out in a stiff wind ... that's a problem for later though). What an example of happens when you tear down walls and build bridges! Getting deep again, time to get moving.

We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering back to our hotel via a few other tourist areas (e.g. Check Point Charlie - interesting but overrun - a bit like Times Square) just taking in the street scenes.

One thing worth mentioning though is a little 'stumble upon' we had. I could use (not need) one small piece for my SKS (German) fenders. It's about a $1 piece but to get it online in Canada it's going to end costing about $15 with all the shipping. Most large German bike shops will probably have it in stock. So, as were strolling along, K spots a bike shop in a nearby square ... "The Steel Bike Shop". Great, let's check it out. As we get nearer we see several beautiful vintage bikes in the windows. As we get closer still we see people sitting at tables behind those windows eating cakes and drinking coffee and beer. 

So, no fender bits, but a great apple cake and coffee for me and chocolate cake and tea for K. Also lots of marvously restored classic steel bikes, Colnago's, Willier's, Bianchi's, Puch's and many others I didn't recognize.  Also, while we're in there putting our feet up and noshing down the cakes, the skies opened with a deluge for about 15 minutes. Timing is everything. All clear when it was time for us to go.

We finished off the day with a wonderful dinner at Oriana, a M. Michelin recommended restaurant in the Oriana Hotel. Very good food and a great ambiance. A combo of art deco, '70's lounge with a modern open kitchen ... sounds wierd but it worked really well. Great staff, lively atmosphere and a jazz / funk trio that started playing at about 9. Drums (bearded guy with ball cap), keyboards (bearded guy with hipster fedora) and sax's, alto through to bass (long haired guy somewhat reminiscent of the Blue Sax guy in the  Muppet band). These guys were no muppets though, they were good. Gave me an ear worm that stuck all the next day too ... in a good way!

The Berlin Marathon tomorrow morning! The race goes right by our hotel at the 11 km mark so we don't have to go far to watch!

Song of the Day, Bad Guy by Billie Eilish. 

This was playing at the marathon finish area as we were walking back there after a little walk around the Bundestag buildings. The roller skate races had just finished and folks were dancing around, having a few beer and pretzels and just enjoying the day. All good, and the song and the artist fit the Berlin vibe, at least for me.  On the edge of what will become mainstream, but it's not quite there yet. Iconoclastic and sooo distainfully ironic, as only a 17 year old can be. Duh. It helped a little that when we could first hear the song playing we were walking of front of the main Bundestag building. Very impressive and imposing. It has also been known the Reichstag and back in the 1930's through 1945 is was occupied by a particularly Bad Guy. That's now well in the past and the current occupant is a Gute Mutter. Party on!

West end of the Berlin Wall memorial on Bernaurer Strasse. Well worth a visit if you go to Berlin. We were there just before 9 am and almost had the place to ourselves. By 10 the Flintstones (aka tourists ... but not us!) were out in force and it started to get a bit crowded
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The West was on the left ... East Berlin on the right. The whole 'park area' was effectively a no-mans-land with multiple barriers, lights (still standing in the back) and guard post towers.
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Some of the victims of failed escape attempts. I believe there are pictures, in chronological order, of all the the folks killed while attempting to breach the wall
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The west side was covered in graffiti. The east ... bare concrete. I think this guy is pretty cool
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Some of the pieces form this section have been rearranged as artworks in the current park ... nice touch
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Rebar and concrete. It says a lot about the society you live in when this is how you present yourself to the world, then .... and now
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Finally! ... and we stayed in Glasgow instead of joining the party. Live and learn
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Beautiful day as we were approaching the Bundestag and Brandenburg gate
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So much has happened her. Both good and bad. It's party time now though as this is the final finishing straight for the Marathon tomorrow. Lots of people just checking it out and reveling in the day!
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Since we are in what was East Berlin, K has adopted a suitably Official Eastern Block persona for the occasion
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Here's a Chinese contingent that will be racing tomorrow
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Got the pretzel, only missing one thing now ...
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Len DeMossI love those preztels..I recall in 1990 of buying a big pretzel and a huge bottle of beer and walking around forever with that beer in a paper bag eating the pretzel. Here, a pretzel like that would set you back $8 USD.
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1 month ago
Mission complete, Erdinger's in hand!
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EU and German flags over the Bundestag - prophetic
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and here's an olive branch for you ....
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A group of Brit EMS techs and Firefighters who are volunteering tomorrow. There were groups like this EVERYWHERE
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Steel Bike Shop ... the bikes were for sale, but mostly for show. Most folks were there for the coffee and cakes!
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Just some more cool stuff we saw while walking around
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Interesting exchange with a street vendor at Check Point Charlie ...' No pictures of my stuff" ... "You're putting your stuff on a public street. It's a free country, I can take a picture of whatever I want" I got my gas mask picture.
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Len DeMossIn 1990, all along the existing Wall and the River area, there were hundreds of people selling all kinds of Russian military clothing, hardware, etc. Just hundreds of people selling stuff. I recall that I bought a beautiful Russian knife (still have it somewhere).
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1 month ago
Very storied history, but a bit underwhelming, and overrun, in person
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Len DeMossWhoa!!! NOW that has changed since 1990!!! OMG, in 1990, it was just a shack there with the name Checkpoint Charlie!
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1 month ago
Tour boats on the Spree approaching the Berliner Dom and museum Island. Another storm brewing in behind . It hit us when we were about 5 minutes away from our hotel! That's what gore-tex is for I guess
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