One of my favorite ways to get to know a new city is to take a bike tour. You get a lay of the land, are able to cross off some major tourist attractions of your to-do list and are able to justify any and all tasty treats you eat before, during and after, because hey, you’ve been pedaling all day. On a gorgeous spring day in late March, I took the 3 and a half hour, 15-kilometer “Berlin’s Best Bike Tour,” one of several tours offered by the company Berlin on Bike. Annd I’m so glad I did. Story and photo by ManAboutWorld correspondent Dennis Hensley.
The bike tour set off from the Kulturbrauerei, a charming complex of red brick buildings that during the Industrial Era was home to a beer factory but now houses restaurants, beer gardens and theaters. The sites we saw and learned about on the tour included a preserved section of the Berlin Wall complete with watchtower, the Brandenburg Gate, Museum Island, the Spree River, Tiergarten Park, the Victory Column, the hauntingly powerful Holocaust Memorial and the oh-so posh Hotel Adlon where Michael Jackson dangled his baby Blanket out the window. Along the way, we took a rest stop at a currywurst stand where I sampled Berlin’s most popular street foods, the currywurst, and a bottle of Club Mate, a trendy cold tea-like drink that packs quite punch.
The facts our guide Sebastian Becker shared about the city were fascinating and surprising, like that Chancellor Angela Merkel just lives in a regular apartment with neighbors above and below her, not a fancy government building. But what really made the tour special were the personal stories he shared. When he was a child, Sebastian’s parents were taking the family into the GDR (communist East Germany) to visit relatives, which you were allowed to do on special occasions and they snuck in a Monopoly game as a gift. When they got to the checkpoint, the GDR guards searched their car and found the game. Not only was it confiscated, but Sebastian’s parents had to be interrogated and body searched for hours in a private office while the children waited outside. I guess when you consider how Monopoly is all about American-style capitalism, it’s so surprise the GDR authorities didn’t want their citizens exposed to it. But you can bet the enjoyed playing it themselves.
The tour I took costs 21 Euros, 17 with the tourism board’s Welcome Card, which I highly recommend as it allows you to take public transportation and has many discounts for museums and so forth.
After the tour, Sebastian agreed to let me interview him for my Dennis Anyone podcast over lunch at a nearby sidewalk café, Pane e Vino, where you can get a delicious pizza or pasta dish for under 4 Euros.
You can listen to the podcast here. Dennis, Anyone in Berlin