Tuesday, July 31, 2012

I was an urban planner in a former life

 So when I recently was apologized to by a pedestrian who was about to step into the bike lane, it hit me hard that soon I will no longer be in super bike-friendly Berlin biking... In the US, I think it's pretty common to get cut off by cars, or yelled at when you're on your bike. You have to be on your toes because drivers are not used to seeing you, and they are in general impatient and in a rush (which also says something about our culture in general), not to mention on their phones. But I will admit there can be stupid and reckless bikers just like there can be stupid and reckless drivers.

It's just so refreshing that biking is the norm here...and you see everyone from 2-yr-olds to 80-year olds do it. Which means that cars are used to waiting for you, and pedestrians are used to staying out of bike lanes. (As the author pointed out in a recent NYT article, in Demark biking is the most popular form of transportation because it is also the fastest. Same here, I think. Definitely faster than the U-Bahn in most cases.)

By the way, Minneapolis MN is rated the #1 bike-friendly city in the US (by Bicycling magazine), followed by Portland, Boulder, Seattle, and Eugene. Madison is #7 and Ann Arbor is #14.  And Minnesota is ranked the second-most bike friendly state.
check out this nice bike lane

bike parking
 And now...this intersection always amazes me (below). Every time I cross it. There is a very nice bike lane for bikers making a left turn that then goes up onto the sidewalk. It's beautiful, and so well-marked, and I am in awe of the urban planners who figured this out.
So amazed, that I went on Google maps to find an overhead view of it:
Look at that planning. See how the bike lane separates from the right side of the road about half a block back? So cars turning right don't cut off the bikers? Super smart.
And one more example from google maps, check out the lines on German intersections. You have the bike lanes, the pedestrian crosswalks, and the car lanes. The traffic lights are on the same side of the street, so cars have to back way up for pedestrians (this is also a city with more pedestrian traffic than most American cities). Also, no right turns on red. That way, you cut off too many pedestrians and bikers. I am well aware that we have less pedestrian/bike traffic in the US, and so the right-turn-on-red thing makes more sense. But really? Are those 20 seconds going to change your life?
Oops this post got really long...I feel rather strongly about it...if you can't tell. :) Next time you're passing a biker, give them 3 feet space, take a deep breath...

Monday, July 30, 2012

uh oh...

So today walking down the street I saw a headline that made me turn around..."Deathly ill, because he swam in the Spree". 70 cents? I had to buy it to put on my office door. Then I open up the story, and it's actually a triathlete, who swam 1500 m in the Spree and said he swallowed a lot of water...apparently got some very rare rat disease. Luckily (as the story continues) the doctors realized what it was and he will live! But at the bottom right of the article there is a warning that swimming in the Spree is not allowed except for authorized sport events.
oh yeah that's me in the Spree

Friday, July 27, 2012


I took a few little film clips while hiking because it was so hard to capture everything in photos. Turns out it didn't turn out that well on video, either, but you can get an idea. Some random forest song, rock formations, passing a train, animal life...At the end of our hike we took the train back from Schmilka to Berlin. The first segment followed the Elbe River at sunset, and we could see some of the rocks and cliffs we had hiked through.

The guy singing in the forest is singing this popular folk song, based on a poem by Goethe, given notes by Schubert.

Sah ein Knab' ein Röslein steh'n,
Röslein auf der Heiden,
War so jung und war so schön
Lief er schnell es nah zu seh'n
Sah's mit vielen Freuden
Röslein, Röslein, Röslein rot,
Röslein auf der Heiden. 

Knabe sprach: „Ich breche dich,
Röslein auf der Heiden!“
Röslein sprach: „Ich steche dich,
Dass du ewig denkst an mich,
Und ich will's nicht leiden.“
Röslein, Röslein, Röslein rot,
Röslein auf der Heiden.

Und der wilde Knabe brach
's Röslein auf der Heiden;
Röslein wehrte sich und stach,
Half ihm doch kein Weh und Ach,
Musst es eben leiden.
Röslein, Röslein, Röslein rot,
Röslein auf der Heiden.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Malerweg II: Hiking in the Sächsische Schweiz

Tuesday morning the Pension had breakfast 8:00-9:00, so we got an early start after a great German breakfast: warm rolls, jams, cheese, meat, honey, nutella, muesli, a soft-boiled egg...For the second leg of the journey we went through forests, fields, and then back into the more difficult terrain of the National Park. This section of our hike had some of the most spectacular views...but you had to earn them through lots of climbing!

Animal sightings: field mice, cows, goats, sheep, and, DAD, 2 deer!!

We came across a few trail sections that were not quite as well marked...including one section where we weren't quite sure which side of the creek we were supposed to be on. Had to do a bit of trailblazing, and crawl on our bellies under an electric fence...but we made it out okay and back onto the main path. :)

some Bratwurst for lunch

 After a huge climb involving stairs and ladders, we arrived at the Schrammsteinaussicht...an amazing 360 degree outlook, waaay above the treetops: 417 meters, or 1,300 feet up. It was beyond words and pictures. So beautiful.

chocolate bar break

last view from the top before it goes down to Elbe-level
Ende. after 40km in 2 days
putting our feet in the Elbe after the hike
Andy swimming in the Elbe
the victory photo
putting the feet up
We were not really "roughing it". At night we showered and slept in a clean bed... for almost every meal we had something wonderful. But the last meal was the cherry on the top of a great trip. We happened to end up on lounge chairs at a café overlooking the Elbe, which was a Bio-Restaurant with amazing food. Some of the best food I've had in Germany.
the hike.

Jessica walking along the train platform

some stretching on the train platform

Monday, July 23, 2012

Malerweg I: Birthday Hiking

We left Berlin on a 6:45 a.m. train and arrived in the little village of Stadt Wehlen around 9:30. We took the ferry to the other side of the Elbe River and had a second breakfast--some hearty eggs with sausage to fuel up for the hike. We got started around 11:00 and had about 20km ahead of us until we would reach our Pension (like a bed-and-breakfast, except quaint, affordable and traditional instead of the cutesy US variant).  The sun was already out and it was clear it was going to be a cloudless day - and it was Jessica's birthday! It will sure be a memorable one. :)

The first stretch of the trail was the most "populated." It went to probably the most famous attraction of the National Park - the Bastei Brücke [Bastion bridge].  This section was also more accessible - via road and train, so there were some people just hitting up this site without doing much hard-core hiking. I was continually impressed with how well-maintained the trails were, and well-marked (except for a few exceptions the second day...). There were lots of stone and wood steps, and on the really steep parts even handrails and ladders. It's great that they make this trail more accessible to everyone. We saw very young and very old people out hiking. And with the exception of a Spanish-speaking family we passed, we never heard any other foreign tourists - only Germans.
The trail had LOTS of these ups-and-downs, lots of little stairs...

And some amazing views to reward you at the top of the climb!
So hard to capture in pictures this vantage point

I think I look a little scared...
From the forest, and the stone ridges (or whatever you would call them), the trail led through agricultural areas--a little village, some fields and by farm animals (little goats!).
Then back into the sandstone, with some narrow passageways and climbs and descents...

group shot
This was one of the more spectacular views, from the "Brand". You could see these deep forests and fields behind them, some of the rock formations poking out of the woods.
Enjoying a beer at our rest stop...

And after 6 hrs and 20km of hiking, we arrived at our Pension, the Waitzdorfer Schänke, where we rewarded ourselves with a big hearty meal, more birthday cake, and some German beer. We slept well that night...early to bed and early to rise for day 2.

the trail the first day: from Stadt Wehlen to Waitzdorf
from the Garmin: our trail from Day 1
 below: elevation chart from Day 1. Starting at about 400 feet and climbing to near 1,200. That last up-and-down was killer because our legs were getting a little tired at that point after 7 hours on our feet.

More photos coming as well as Day 2 of the adventure!