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600 km. to Berlin

a travel blog by heraclio

A short cycle trip I made in the early spring of 2000, mostly wildcamping in the german forests, to Berlin and former East Germany.

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600 km. to Berlin

Amsterdam, Netherlands

In the forest near Emmeloort,

Five months sice my last trip cycling all winter as a bicycle messenger in the Amsterdam city centre. Unusual for me to winter in cold and rainy Amsterdam, most winters I spend in Southeast Asia hating the dutch cold.

But then most of my friends consider me crazy leaving Amsterdam on a bicycle trip for Berlin while it is still cold and miserable weather.

Not that my time in Amsterdam these last five months was all that bad dating a whole bunch of weird and strange women.
Each and all of them a good case for a physciatrist. No big surprise there I met them all at my job but Miss Zelda Sabayo but she was only being of surinam descent and an illegal imigrant who was after me for the dutch papers, get married and run away after five years with a dutch pasport.
A bit like the thai ladies who ply their trade on fat bellied farang males with lonely hearts and who have heard all these stories about beautifull and husband-devoted young asian ladies.

So I leave Amsterdam early in the morning carrying my tour bike, my tent,
my sleeping bag and the rest of my gear down the steep staircase of my house dressed in my old cycle gear, putting on my gloves and cycling out of the city leaving the hustle and bustle that comprised the centre of any big city the world over, behind.

Soon enough I'm in the middle of farm land, dutch farms and small old villages, entering the Flevo Polder which is full with birds, mostly water fowl, following the coast of the Ysselmeer which used to be an inland sea being connected to the dutch Waddenzee but has been turned into a huge sweet water lake since the construction of the Afsluitdijk, protection against the wild and unpredictable North Sea.

With the huge flat fastness of the Ysselmeer - the Lake of Yssel - I'm besieged by heavy wind in the face, a cyclist's nightmare but I enjoy the challenge pushing it hard.

Just outside Emmeloord, a dutch city just outside the Flevo Polder - Polder is the dutch word for land we won from the sea - I find myself a quiet wild camping place in a small patch of forest realising wild camping will have to
be my destiny all the way to Berlin and beyond due to my limited funds and the early time of the year, most campings still being closed.

permalink written by  heraclio on February 4, 2000 from Amsterdam, Netherlands
from the travel blog: 600 km. to Berlin
tagged CycleTripAmsterdamBerlinForestWildCampingGermany

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cycling the Dutch hinterland

Amsterdam, Netherlands

In Natuur Gebied De Klencke,

As nearly always during my cycle trips I try to wildcamp experiencing the best part of my day....at night in front of my tent, my belly full with good food, my sleeping bag inside my tent a-waiting my exhausted body for the night, promising my gray haired guarding angel a safe heaven for the night, not an evil soul in this wedland nature reserve in the dutch hinterland will devour my immortal spirit.

Yeah, sitting there in front of my tent in a small dune and surrounded by the blackness of a night not wasted by the big city light polution of a nearby town, the sounds of small nocturnat animals all around me while working on a six-pack of cheap
and luke warm Liddle supermarket beer one can get very phylisophical.

The beer goes slowly and the sounds of the forest - feeling very much protected here by my gray haired aforementioned and highly prised guardian angel - slowly invade my
body massaging my overused muscles, the smells of the fesh pine trees surrounding me waking up after a cold winter to the time of the coming spring, have the soothining effect on my strained mind like swee insence liquid burning in a small glass pot.

Early in the morning I wake up by the small shafts of sun light invading the privacy of my battered old tent.

The part of Holland between here and the border with Germany will be extremely flat, a bit like the proverbial dutch pancake and dotted with farms and old villages, the accents of the locals - despite being dutch myself - will be incomprehesible to my ears, in these small God fearing communities life centres around the catholic church right smack in the middle of the village`s main square.

My lunch and dinner times are often spent in a small restaurant or bar nearby the church, a place at the window will have my preverence, I will eat my meals quietly not looking for small chitchat with other clientêle whose curious and often suspicious eyes will send a clear message in my direction.....


They do accept my dutch guilders when I pay though, there is no higher standard when the color of money is involved I guess.

permalink written by  heraclio on March 4, 2000 from Amsterdam, Netherlands
from the travel blog: 600 km. to Berlin
tagged CycleTripAmsterdamBerlinForestWildCampingGermany

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Cycling in cold Germany

Berlin, Germany

Germany, Natürpark Nörclicher,

I cross the german border early in the day just after breakfast, I`m now fully in The Land of the Sauerkraut and Bratwurst people. T

This dutch german border is a big phycological border as well, almost like a point of no return, a bit like from here on things will get serious.

The mornings are still cold and allready at the moment of breaking down my tent, rolling up my sleeping bag, my fingers go numb and cramp together in the last of a winter`s embrace.

Luckily the german version of the american Mc Donalds have followed their american tradition of offering free coffee - as much as you like - over breakfast. Needless to say "I linger over breakfast" is getting a whole new defionition for me.

I`ve taken NO gloves, NO bonnet....and I did that for a reason...I wanted to get it rough, rough and physically tested, wanted to experience the rough side of life just one more time.

So I sit on my bike early in the morning, my gloveless hands allready dumb by exposure, my feet deperately trying to move up and down on the pedals of my bike feel like a clump of ice from my frigo, my heart beat bonking away in my chest while I can feel my teeth clattering in my mouth cavatity.

I allow my body and mind the luxury of the occasional cafe au lait in an obscure bar of a small german village that has not been bombed to rumbles during the last great war, a bar belonging to a village that could easily house the infamous story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin, a fable maybe but one that feels very real to my exchausted body and tested mind while drinking my coffee, eating my lunch.

When evening approaches I start looking around for a suitable free camping spot knowing fully well that my frozen hands will have the touch the ice-cold aluminium posts of my tent, roll out my sleeping bag......all these uncomfortable things preparing for the night....a small campfire might come in handy to fry over these cans of bratwursts I bought in the Lidle today

permalink written by  heraclio on May 4, 2000 from Berlin, Germany
from the travel blog: 600 km. to Berlin
tagged CycleTripAmsterdamBerlinForestWildCampingGermany

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A colony of rooks

Berlin, Germany

Germany, Natürschutsgebiet Femke,

Whether my wild camping place last night was badly chosen or not is maybe better left to prosterity.

The tree I was camping under last night was an ancient oak tree whose old and wrinkled branches were spreading out in all directions and made me feel like sleeping in a cradle while this ancient wooden grand mother was watching over me.

A large group of rooks must have thought so too arriving just before darkness while I was busy putting up my tent and preparing for the night.

I have a strong suspicion that last night`s ancient oak tree might very well have been their favorite sleeping tree...all evening while I was trying hard to get into a phylosofical mood, trying hard to contemplate these past five months in Amsterdam, reliving my non-travelling life back in Holland....these blue black crow-like birds were busy screaming at me....I was in their realm...camping under their watchfull grand mother, wooden or not....a bit like a finding a stranger in your bedroom I presume.

Waking up in the morning I found my noicy neighbors gone and the outside of my tent covered with their chakly droppings.

Point taken.

permalink written by  heraclio on May 4, 2000 from Berlin, Germany
from the travel blog: 600 km. to Berlin
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A meeting with a stray cat

Berlin, Germany

In Der Nähe von Beeden Bostel,

Some of the things that impress me most during these cycle trips and camping out for free in the forest, are the beautifully heavens lit up by countless stars whose cold light reaches me down there in front of my tent, drinking a few beers and waiting for bed time.

No big city lights out there, no artificially produced light polution in these dark green german forests.

Out there in the darkness surrounding my tent I can hear the presence of the original forest dwellers.

A stray cat on the prowl. I had allready seen him cicrling my camp while darkness appoached, probably checking out what I was doing on his territory.

He came back several hours later using the blackness of the night to approach my tent, his shadows lighting up in grotesque figures in the flames of my little fire.

With my head full with natural highs like dopamine and adraline caused by a whole day of cycling and slightly drunk due to several cans of Weissen brew I imagined I could actually sence the mortal fear radiating out of the little gray mice that too got attracted to my campside.. for other reasons though....most liky by the old smelling cheese I used on my banquette.

After five days of cycling I feel once more very free cycling through the "Land of
the Bratwurst and Sauerkraut People".

Avoiding as most as posibile contact with other human beings, mostly being to myself exploring the inner sanctum sanctorum of my private mind and soul.

permalink written by  heraclio on June 4, 2000 from Berlin, Germany
from the travel blog: 600 km. to Berlin
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Two versions of turkish culture

Berlin, Germany

Im Wald in der Nähe von Seehausen,

I cycle all day under an overcast sky feeling ready to jump off my bike and put on my rain suit. The animal kingdom around me doesn`t feel the need for protection against Mother Nature`s occasional bouts of pissing down her heavenly waters on us the mortal lower beings down on earth`s surface.

No, the animal kingdom is busy preparing for the fast approaching spring, the tradional mating season and reproduction time. All day I see male peacocks slashing it out with the competition meanwhile trying to herd together a flock of females.
Whenever the poor sod is distracted by females still on the loose or other males, someone or other will steal a few females out of his treasured flock.

Even in the peacock world all is square in love and war!

It is late afternoon when I decide to have my midday break in a small german village with the difficult to pronounce name of Pretzier. Cobble stone streets and old stone houses that date from well before the second war, I presume this place must have been too small for the Alleid Forces to bomb to pieces, mabye it was not even on their maps.

I enter a small turkish coffee house whose front window told me "Wir verkaufen Dönner und Bier".

Upon entering a wave of sweet nargileh tabbaco approaches me while I try to adjust my eyes to the dank and dark interior. Eight or nine tables are placed on each side of the small oblong room, a nargileh - turkish waterpipe - on each table.

detecting the sweet sugary smell of turkish mint tea among the nargileh odour I take a table at the window...yeah a turkish dönner kebab with beer and a mint tea to top it off.

A group of older turkish males in pale and dusty suits play cards at one table, each of them looking relaxed and occasionally talking a drag from the nargileh. Small cups of expresso and mint tea for them while soft chitchat rules the conversation at their table.

It is a bottle of Raki, the turkish version of the greek ouzou, on the other table that has customers, a group of rowdish young turkish males playing dominoe, no nargileh for them but a ashtray full to overflow with sigarette butts, no pale old suits for them but blue jeans and black leather coats.
Their banter is loud, excited and jumping from turkish to german and back again.

Interesting to see this complete change in culture in what are in essence one and the same people but different in age

permalink written by  heraclio on August 4, 2000 from Berlin, Germany
from the travel blog: 600 km. to Berlin
tagged CycleTripAmsterdamBerlinForestWildCampingGermany

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Weird late night sketches

Berlin, Germany

Im Wald in der Nähe von Friesack,

With the early morning cold doing a serious attack both on my gloveless hands and mental stability I cycle fast and with determination. Most of that mental deternination comes from the fact that by now I have a mental map of the Mc Donalds restaurants between here and Berlin.

If there is anything good about the fatty food coming out of Mc Donalds roadside restaurants is must be their american breakfast with is unlimited coffee.

While away the first hour of a cold morning in the Land of the Bratwurst and Sauerkraut people before I`ll have to do my daily 80 to 100 km. of the day, on the way to Berlin.

I watch my maps planning my route for the day ahead while sipping pitchdark and strong Mc Donalds coffee. I make some secret sketches of a business man in a five hundert dollar Armani suit, black attache case in one hand, dragging nervously from a filter sigarette in his other hand....hurrying to the counter...quickly take a early morning bite before the stress of the coming day will consume him.

Two young teenage ladies come in dressed in blue jeans and chatting gaily, probably from the nearby village.

I make a secret sketch of them too while every so often I glance back to the sketches I made last night in front of my tent.......Haaa, beautifull how phylosofical I can get and then try to capture that in drawings....an old lady friend stark naked while a horrible face shrouded in a veil looks over her shoulder....of course the roman cross is nearby too. Can`t by the love of God remember what inspired me to this one but I sure love it.

I`m pulled back from my last night`s reverie when the two Blue Jeans Girls leave their table shooting me quick looks, I think they realised I was sketching them.

permalink written by  heraclio on August 4, 2000 from Berlin, Germany
from the travel blog: 600 km. to Berlin
tagged CycleTripAmsterdamBerlinForestWildCampingGermany

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An old and deserted army barracks

Berlin, Germany

Berlin, 09-04-2002.

With my hands still nimb early in the morning after leaving my last illegal campground, I can nonetheless sense the fast approach of spring in the misty air.

It is only 60 km. more to the big metropole Berlin, the goal of this trip, but out here I am still surrounded with the wild harshness of Mother Nature. Wedlands with shallow lakes at both sides of this secondary road, lakes full with fish that attract all sorts of birds, herons, kingfishers, ducks in their thousands, coots and migrating geese.

The green fields of grass are alife with mice and I sea a big bussart sweeping down and grasping one from their mids. I guess that poor mouse didn`t expect to be on his menu today.

I`m getting closer to Berlin arriving at a cross road situated at what looks like an old army barracks. Big gates at both sides of the road and beyond sleeping barracks, big and ugly buildings whose broken windows give me a creepy feeling. The whole place looks like it is a state of serious decay.

Surrounded by these decayed and sinister looking buildings, not a living soul in sight, I realise for the first time I am in the former Eastern German state, a state that completely surrounded West Berlin, I realise that these two Germanies were exactly on speaking terms at the time.

This eerie looking place must be one of the army barracks surrounding Berlin, some thing they called the Ring Of Defence Against The Capitalist West, Throw in a few more words like Kapitaist Decadency and assorted stuff and you are getting the point.

The unsettling mental energy surrounding this former army site is disturbing the peace that has started to rule my heart since having come on this trip so I quickly leave this graveyard of the past behing......cycling, cycling, cycling.....

....cycling untill I reach Berlin, it is not far any more, I am nearly there...a dream I had in the further and darker recesses of my mind is about to become fulfilled...and the only thing it took was six very enjoyable days of cycling.

permalink written by  heraclio on September 4, 2000 from Berlin, Germany
from the travel blog: 600 km. to Berlin
tagged CycleTripAmsterdamBerlinForestWildCampingGermany

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Cycling under Branderburgerturm

Berlin, Germany

Berlin, a campground 20 km. from Berlin centre.

I leave my tent and most of my gear behind on the campground where I spent last night being the only customer for only 4 Deutch Mark a night, and cycle the last 20 km. to Berlin.
I could have reached Berlin centre late afternoon yesterday but I had no idea as where to stay, didn`t realy fancy the idea of a hard park bench, or worse the holding cell of a nearby police station after getting myself arrested over vagrancy charges.

At least the campground has got public toilets and...more importantly....hot showers, a place to wash my dirty body, use lotions on the hard muscle of my legs, a chance to shave off my week old beard, shampoo my ragged hair.

Leaving the campground early and in good spirits, my hair smelling of fresh shampoo, my body having been treated to the luxury of hot water and cheap soap, still wearing my battered old cycle gear but at least with clean underwear, I do my last 20 km. to Berlin.

The transition point between big city and rural country side, between the tranquility of the open land and the hustle and bustle, the stress and confusion of any big city`s traffic, is gradual.

The road is straight bringing me on a big boulevard with plenty of place for cyclists, I see plenty of tourbuses and big groups of rowdy and ederly people dressed in their sunday clothes and many carrying camaras.

I realise I have made it to the famous Berlin, the goal of this trip, when I cycle under Branderburgerturm.

permalink written by  heraclio on October 4, 2000 from Berlin, Germany
from the travel blog: 600 km. to Berlin
tagged CycleTripAmsterdamBerlinForestWildCampingGermany

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A lazy day in Little Istambul

Berlin, Germany

Berlin, Little Istambul,

Looking around while I lock my bike I know for a fact why this part of town is nicknamed Little Istambul, an area east of the famous Unter Den Linden Boulevard and home to a huge turkish immigrant population.

Short rotunt women near middle age walk by carrying head scarves and long pale dresses over woolen pants, rowdy kids in thier early teenage years hang against an old automobile giving me curious but bored looks. Most of the cars parked at the curb look on average about ten years older as cars elsewhere in Berlin.

The three to four storey houses look in a serious state of urban decay, glum windows with gray colored dirty windows radiate an uncertain future to those who live here.

I enter a small turkish coffee house that also does kebab and beer. Food and Warsteiner beer is what I am after, but also some interesting rustic scenes for my sketchbook would come in handy...maybe while away an tranquil afternoon in a turkish coffee house while drawing in my sketchbook and smoking the sweet tabacco from the nargileh.

Rustic scenes are all around me in this small but cozy typically turkish neighborhood gathering place.

Old bearded men in turkish djallebas eye me friendly from nearby tables while suckling contentedly on their nargileh pipes and playing dominoes or card games.

Males in their late fifties dressed in dusty suits sipping mint tea and involved in a heated conversation in turkish, smile at me benignly.

The cloud of nargileh smoke in this joint is overwhelming but I stay most of the afternoon nonetheless making sketches and participating in smoking nargileh.

permalink written by  heraclio on November 4, 2000 from Berlin, Germany
from the travel blog: 600 km. to Berlin
tagged BerlinLittleIstambulTurkishNargilehCycle

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