So after all that hoo-ha about traveling around the world, we find ourselves back in Berlin only one and a quarter years later? What the f**k happened there? I guess it was inevitable ever since we’d decided to leave the bikes in Motocamp Bulgaria. In Europe spring had sprung, bushes and fruit trees flowering. But compared to India it was bloody freezing!
To be honest it was great to be back and finally get to meet Polly and hang out with the others we’d got to know last time we were there. Another guy from England had since bought one of the charming old farm houses to do up and there was lots of stuff to clear and burn.
When someone dies in Bulgaria they post photos like these outside the house where they lived
Ivo had woken our bikes up out of storage and we were shocked to find how much extra stuff we’d left in our panniers. No wonder they’d been so damn heavy! Felt like Christmas finding all those beloved things though 🙂 And of course Sam had waited patiently on the shelf, watching over the bikes.
The weather kept getting colder and wetter and after days of hoveling up in our room, the little heater on full blast and wearing everything we owned, we gave up on the idea of going camping by the waterfall once more. We’d been craving the simple life by the campfire, but it was just too freezing and miserable.
Extensive internet research in the bar came to nothing except lots of empty beer bottles and overpriced shipping quotes.
Then we finally managed to find a friend of a friend who was taking his van to London and would drop our bikes off in Berlin for a very reasonable price 🙂 All sorted it was time to leave, even if it meant missing Easter. In Germany it had been the previous weekend, but Bulgarians celebrate it a week later… the weekend we’d arrive in Berlin. Oh well, the chocolate bunnies were safe this year.
The airline website refused to take any of our cards and by the time they finally would, the price had quadrupled! Not to worry. Apparently you could just go to the airport and wait till one hour or so before the flight. Then prices would drop dramatically to fill up the plane. And if not, we would just take a coach, though I was reluctant to embark on the 30 hour car-sick-hell journey. We sat in the airport all afternoon researching possible train and flight options on the internet, but the prices refused to go below a certain, still far-too-high amount. Ok, coach it is then! As the fortune cookies said, we love traveling!
Unfortunately the next coach wasn’t leaving for another two days… what!?! That’s not worth the hostel costs and the last flight was leaving in 50 minutes. So we ran to the counter to buy our tickets for crazy money, then looked criminally dodgy trying to rush the snail-pace queue at the security check. Luckily they let us through and we just made it, leaving the freshly fallen snow in the mountains by Sofia behind.
Back in Berlin the reverse culture shock had me depressed and in tears. German correctness and bureaucracy were threatening our freedom and put our travel plans in jeopardy. Funny, how in supposedly backward countries like India anything is achievable, as long as you fill in five identical forms with the same information, wait till they finish lunch, then make three photocopies, come back after the festival and wait with endless patience till they you’ve been passed through the ranks of supervisors and each rubber stamp has found its target. There you are sir. Have a nice day! But in Germany, they very efficiently inform you within the first five seconds that what you want is just not possible. It certainly felt that way anyways.
A few glasses of wine and a good night’s sleep later I decided to simply ignore it all and started to feel better almost immediately. Our energy was back and we launched straight into selling Seven. Recent insurance laws meant that a European bike can only be insured in the country it’s registered. To insure ours in Britain, we needed to renew the long expired MOT. To get one, we need to go to the UK. But we can’t ride there, cos we’re not insured! See what I mean? Infuriating catch twenty-two first world regulations… So no riding for us while we’re here 😦
Gravel roads and sandy paths had taken their toll and Seven needed a thorough scrub. But in Germany for environmental reasons you are not allowed to wash your vehicle at home. Polluting oil, petrol and the like would seep into the ground water. I actually agree with that kind of regulation. But it meant we had to push Seven 2.5 kilometres to one of those car washing facilities (where the waste water is properly filtered) to wash off the thick layers of Turkish and Georgian dust and mud.
Even squeaky clean it still took some time to sell Seven. At first only the I-pay-you-fuck-all-and-pick-it-up-tomorrow assholes called. They reminded me of the creep that got my number from when I sold something on gumtree, asking in a husky voice if I’d sell him my used panties. (A way to raise money for the trip maybe?) Seven being registered in GB really didn’t help. But when we sold the spare tires, crash bars and panniers separately, we could drop the price enough to find some serious buyers. Whoopie! The new owner, a twenty or so year old guy, would tear around fields and country lanes with her. Seven will have loads of fun 🙂
Now we just need to find a new bike. Meanwhile we get a chance to discover this famously interesting capital. One thing that’s awesome in Berlin, is that it’s ok to openly drink a beer in the streets. In fact, it’s almost actively encouraged!
So we do what we do best: making the streets and bars unsafe, sometimes with Hatti in tow. Of course the city is famous for its graffiti and painted houses.
Dozens of flea markets are dotted around every weekend. We can nosy around shoe boxes full of smurfs and old stuff like all the things we’d been finding in those old barns in Bulgaria. Discarded over there, these things are worth a small fortune in trendy Berlin.
And then there are little pockets where hippie communities live ‘off the grid’ in converted lorries and trailers. Clothes are left for swapping and a cafe offers a small income.
There are some wickid looking buildings, though I’m not blown away by Berlin’s architecture. But then I probably just don’t know enough about it. You best ask Aidan.
This being Berlin, you come across buskers all over the place. Whole bands set up in every corner of Mauerpark and people just chill with a drink anywhere in the street where some musical talent or other is playing away.
The Spree river and lots of canals flow through the city of course, all far to grimy to swim in. But fear not, there is the Badeschiff, a little ship on the Spree that consists entirely of a pool, complete with instructions, changing rooms, beach and bar.
Of course the history of The Wall is pretty famous. Pieces of it and little reminders are still all over the place. When it was built, it was often impractical to follow the exact border between East and West, so they just cut across, leaving pockets of West on the eastern side of the wall and vice versa. My dad knows of a family that lived on the “wrong” side and had to go through passport checks and searches every time they left the house to go shopping or to school!
One such pocket was simply used as rubbish dump and some day a Turkish guy came along and built himself a little house out of the stuff people had thrown away. There was even enough space for a little vegetable garden. The family still live at the Mauergarten today flying a Turkish flag, sometimes offering cold drinks and a history lesson to curious passers by.
Back at home I convinced my dad to let me grow salad and herbs on his balcony. Our nomadic lifestyle had deprived me of my beloved grow-my-own-food hobby. And the bonus is that those horrid slugs don’t make it up there, so we were soon munching our own rocket 🙂
Our laptop had started making strange noises and eventually refused to start up. An extensive take-it-all-apart operation soon found the culprit: a disintegrated plastic screw-holder-thingywidjig had made its way into the fan. I guess the laptop really did get rattled about on the bike! We removed a serious amount of Indian dust too. Aidan even managed to get it all back together again and it works 🙂
Being back in Europe means we’re closer than we probably will be for a long time. So we used the chance to visit our much missed friends in London. We had far too much fun to legally post any details here 🙂
Aidan’s parents wanted to see us too, so we popped over to freezing, bleak and beautiful Ireland for a few days to be fed and pampered by them. It was far too cold and wet to do anything useful. They even fired up the stove for me and I didn’t move from its side except to meet Aidan’s old mate down the pub. Oh, and to take their dog for a walk once. But she soon turned her back to the weather and ran home without me, so I climbed around the moss overgrown trees by the well to take some photos before giving up too.
Just as we were leaving London again Icebear’s cousin caught up with us. He’d heard so much about Icebear’s adventures, he wanted to come with too. How could we say no. So meet our new traveling companion Silvaner Skunk. (Why that name? A long story for another time…) Anyways, Silli or Silva for short. Like us, he can’t wait to go riding.