Paddington is hot. A West Berlin of spiv glamour, in-transit morals and a getaway airport connection flashing its lacquer at the east’s plaints and art-sharp PR
January 1, 2013 § Leave a comment
The infamous city section cuts past the Reichstag with its colourful history and the dome climbed in victory by the Red Army, hugging the Brandenburg Gate, through the middle of Potsdamer Platz and then out to Friedrichshain along the Spree. But this is barely 15 kilometres of the ride.
With some relief from the Christmas crowds, I find myself in quieter spaces. Along busy roads and populous quarters it passes, but also through areas of ‘no-man’s land’, spaces that some have appropriated for themselves for those characteristic gardens and their huts, or for letting a dog run free for a while. Much of the no-man’s land remains vacant. More than two decades after the ‘fall’, people seem reluctant to build and buy in that space. Thus, even on prime real estate around the city core, weed-infested blocks sit empty beside apartments for the fashionable inner-city types.
But the path also runs along railway lines and canals, around villages on the Brandenburg border, through fields and vast forests. Far from the grim black-and-white pictures purveyed by the ‘official’ history of the wall, towards the south-west it skirts the holiday playground of the Wannsee. Here inland beaches where nudists still frolic in summer – for nudism was fostered in the DDR – sit cheek by jowl with extensive forests and their tracks. I imagine the pleasure of the builders as they cut through the areas where mansions of the rich and famous are found, turning them into places for all to visit, subsidised by the government (although too often government leaders reserved some for themselves). And to add to the thrill, the path becomes a ferry for crossing the Wannsee itself.
Germans have rather liberal understandings of what constitutes a fahrradweg. It may be a wide, smooth path, clearly signposted. It may be a peaceful forest path that you have entirely to yourself, with perhaps a deer or a hare around the next bend. It may be a road with no shoulder, which one shares with trucks and buses and cars. It may be a cobbled street, or perhaps a rough farm track that rattles the teeth out of your jaw. It may be a dog-run, bespattered with turds that the locals obviously believe assist with fertilisation and preserve tyre rubber. And it may be narrow, muddy wheel furrow that had been made by riders themselves desperate to find a way through. Add to that the frozen puddles upon which I constantly skid, the snow that threatens to drift over the path, and the wind that bears the promise of more bitter temperatures, all beneath the lowering December clouds. At least they cannot be accused of lack of variety or challenge. read more