Recovery by bike.

Last week I hit my mental wall. The constant barrage of new things combined with a total change of pace and change of direction with my “work” stuff left my head spinning. I think sometime between Friday night and Saturday morning, it finally stopped its whirling and settled down again…thankfully, facing the right direction.

Even before the spinning stopped, a few nice things happened…such as delicious pancakes. I am a total doubting Thomas when it comes to watching D. cook, but after he shooed me away several times, I sat down with my café and waited and this beautiful pancake emerged:

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Don’t be fooled by its asymmetry; it was delicious; and how nice is it for someone to make breakfast for you? In other Thursday culinary adventures, we also discovered the most spectacular falafel stop a few blocks from our place. For two measly euros, a fresh, crispy, falafel sandwich can be yours! (Some places use these defrosted falafel hockey pucks, which are fine!, but these were homemade with all sorts of yummy gemüse (veggies! another word) on top.) I think we watched the movie Precious on Thursday, too. That’s a real kick-in-the-face, but a beautiful story.

Friday, in an effort to clear my funk, I went for a jog in the Tiergarten. I haven’t jogged even one step since the Richmond race in November, so I made it only 15 or 20 minutes before walking. If you don’t believe that I had a crazy energy following me last week, such was the force field surrounding me that nada más entrar al parque, (just as I got in the park), I made a middle-aged fellow fall off his bike without even touching him. He slammed on his brakes while I was still two meters away (and really at no risk of running into him) and then, I watched him dump off, slow-mo. HIs wife came up to help him off the ground, and I could do nothing but watch. They weren’t mad, and he wasn’t hurt. No, none of that. Just weird bike falling.

Bikes continued to be a key-player in our weekend plans. We prepped by hauling one of the bikes to a repair shop, where D. proceeded to buy a new inner tube and repair it on the street for close to an hour. D. loves tinkering and learning how things work and I enjoyed watching people come and go by bike in the meantime.

Saturday morning, I woke up fresh as a daisy. D. and I had made plans to go climbing in Friedrichshein, at Der Kegel (The cone?). We got there with some combo of metro and biking…I documented from behind. Der Kegel is part of a “compound” called Cassiopeia, I think. It looks like an old, abandoned rail station taken over by punkis. And, in the middle, there is a delightfully priced climbing wall. At first, I was cheating quite a bit (starting on easier holds, using all of the colors instead of just the colors of my route) and then, I heard a little voice (D.) say: “Okay. You’ve got to start trying now.” Warm-up was over. And ya know, I did a good job. I still needed some pushes on the harder routes, not all of which I was able to do, but I tried new stuff and because of that, I accomplished new things too. It’s as if my warm-up to Berlin was also over, the time to freak out over everything and feel intimidated by newness, graffiti, the impenetrable language…that was a thing of the past and I just needed to dive in (or climb up) from here on out. (D.’s climbing hardly needs remarking on because he always does a good job. But, I do think it was a successful morning for him.)

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For lunch, or brunch as D. calls it, we went to Café Casero (terrific omelets and even better fresh juices!) and then wandered around the Saturday market in the plaza (something D. did because I asked…that is not his natural stomping ground.)

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Leaving Friedrichshein

We hopped back on our bikes and peddled over what felt like half of Berlin. Cruising at near-local speed (which is to say, not a Sunday stroll), we breezed past the East-Side gallery (a piece of the wall), an old (but for me, unidentified) brick bridge, past the Holocaust memorial (something I had seen on my visit with N.) and into Potsdamer Platz, the modern city center.

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On our left: Berlin wall.

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Unidentified brick bridge…

Never to be limited by what is cool, quirky, old, eccentric…D and I ventured into the mall, mostly to kill time waiting for his friend to get back to us about evening plans. (This surprises me about D.: he likes everything-old and new, hipster and traditional, standard and funky…) We took a few laps, did light grocery shopping, watched an elaborate “hen party” dance-a-thon (which will surely make it onto youtube based on the number of cameras! It looked like a bunch of friends surprised the bride-to-be by showing up and dancing in sync to several cuts of current pop songs). When we got tired, we went home, made dinner, and hung out with one of the flatmates, E., who was having a few friends over to toast to his birthday. It was fun to join in for a bit and, mostly, just nice that everyone (I’m not sure I’ve seen that in Spain..) could speak English with me and so I wasn’t left out.

Sunday, our Tour de Berlin continued with one of the most beautiful bike rides I’ve ever taken. We took the train to Potsdam and scooted around Park Sansoucci. It was at the peak of spring-i-ness…flowers blooming everyone, green grass flittering with the wind, pea gravel trails that felt like they were out of a movie…not to mention the various palaces that were scattered about the acres of park. Bikes aren’t technically allowed everywhere, but I’m not sure how one could traverse the kilometers of trails without one! Though I’ve never seen the gardens of Versailles, I assume this place must be something like that, except in Potsdam, entrance is free (minus the unfortunate 70 cents it costs to use the loo). We stopped for our picnic lunch in the botanical gardens, sitting in front of a row of no less than ten different types of irises. It was truly magical scenery. Even the neighborhoods around the park were charming. With our butts sufficiently sore from shock-free bikes and cobbled streets, we headed back to the Bahnhof and back to our place. PHEW.

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Stopping for orientation on our ways to the park. (Note: I never had to carry the backpack!)

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Entering the park…if we would have just stopped here, it would’ve been enough!

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Le tour guide.

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The on-again, off-again sunshine made it tricky to get a “normal” picture of the gardens.

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Chilly air=many layers necessary!

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Bikes with 6 gears aren’t made for hills. Either that or user error.

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One of the many slightly decadent buildings around the park.

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Gotcha!

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This was real.

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More scenes from the tour.

Academic progress: The only academic progress I could make the past few days was just to dump the old stuff that wasn’t working with my “Huevos” article and recalibrate. I think I’m going to go back to the drawing board and look for different theory…Happily, I’ve now officially finished 3 of the 4 online courses I’m enrolled in!

Gratitude: For the 180 that happened between Thursday/Friday/Saturday, for two excellent (long!) bike rides that were fun, interesting, and scenic from start to finish, for two new leads on Barna flats, for a nice morning in a cute coffee shop…

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