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Home Exchange Berlin 2011: Cycling

by John Mensinger on October 28, 2011

One advantage of home exchange is you get lots of stuff that goes along with the home, such as cars, video games, hot tubs, and bicycles. Most importantly you get the exchange family, which looks after your interests and will help you get the most out of your exchange vacation.

I don’t specifically look for house swap partners that enjoy cycling, but it always works out that they own cycles. 50% are serious bicyclists. Heidi in Berlin was a dedicated environmentalist and was quick to help me with cycling in Berlin.

Our family is on the short side, she arranged to borrow a small road bike from a neighbor suitable for my wife and daughter. We determined I could ride her city bike, which proved ideal for the city and dirt paths in the countryside. She was a member of ADFC, the national cycling club. She had several guides to cycling in and around Berlin as well as detailed cycling maps.

It was puzzling to look at the map and see routes categorized as “Cycle Path, not good for cycling.” This designation became clear when I took the path along Karl Marx Allee. It was about a meter wide, marked in red, sometimes on the side of the road, more often on the sidewalk, separated from pedestrians by a white line. You had to be alert to avoid crashing into wayward walkers. All things considered however it was a viable and generally safe route to the center of the city.

One day I went into the center and cycled along the Spree River. There are many pleasant paths along the river, though they aren’t complete and you can’t follow the river throughout the city. On the way back I decided to follow roads designated on the cycle map as good for cycling. They tended to be quiet, tree shaded streets. It was a lovely way to explore diverse neighborhoods, the only disadvantage was every km or so you would have to cross a busy boulevard.

The Berlin chapter of ADFC offers group bicycle rides. There are one day and multi-day excursions. There are four levels of difficulty and rides for relaxed exploration or for serious road and mountain bikers. The easier rides are often combined with an excursion to a castle, museum, or mushroom farm. During the summer there is a mandatory stop midway through the day at a lake so you can cool off by swimming. We took one of these treks and were impressed with the leader that knew obscure forest paths and country roads. We were glad the mushroom farm served pastries and beer. You can get a brochure showing all the organized rides or get the information online.

Heidi helped us prepare for our Berlin home exchange vacation in many ways. She pointed out that there would be a huge bike rally in Berlin soon after our arrival. I dreamed about it for months. My next post will discuss it.

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