Blogging from Berlin…

I spent only one entire day in Berlin, but it was enough for me to say that this is one fantastic city and I need to come back for a much longer trip someday.

To recap a little, I arrived here yesterday afternoon, a little after 4PM and checked in at the Circus Hotel, that my friend Marc had recommended from a previous stay. I booked a bed in the hostel this time instead of a private room. At 19 euros a night, it was a pretty good deal. They put me in room 410 and I got a bed in the lower bunk by the window. My room has a fantastic view! There is something to be said for this high rise living after all… At first sight, this neighborhood reminded me an awful lot of Portland with the little cafes fringing both sides of the street and the trams going across it.


I intended to get something to eat and then go stomp around in the city, but things didn’t quite go as I had planned. I had underestimated how tired I was from the day before. I had ridden about 250km, practically all on the autobahn. Speaking of the autobahn, most motorcyclists would say that this is the worst, most soul-crushing riding you can do, but to tell the truth I was relieved to be on it and just making good speed. The past few days in the Czech Republic had been good riding, but slow going and I constantly had to have my wits about me. Out on the freeway, I could finally turn my brain off and just ride, and it was delightful to be reaching my destinations at pretty much the pace at which I expected.

The only exciting thing that happened on the freeway was getting pulled over by a cop. I was passed him and then he passed me and he turned on a sign that flashed and said “Bitte” and “Folgen” alternatively. I had no idea what it meant, but my superior deductive skills reasoned that whatever it meant, I was probably meant to follow him and stop when he stopped, which I did. We pulled over at the next exit at a gas station. He was pretty nice and informed me that my light was off. I groaned when I realized that the lowbeam bulb was not working. Thankfully I had brought a spare from Seattle. I told him that I was riding to Berlin and I would replace it there, and he said okay, although he didn’t think it was safe. I was planning to ride in daylight hours only anyway, so I’m not too concerned about the safety aspect. Riding with the high beam on is *not* looked upon kindly here, like in the US where motorcyclists are advised to leave their highbeams on at all times to make themselves more visible.

I was going to fix the light in Berlin, but when I looked at the service manual, I realized that replacing the bulb wasn’t a simple matter of pulling the headlamp off and swapping bulbs. It meant taking off the rails of the storage area, the side panels, the instrument panel, the headlamp housing, and *then* getting to the bulb. I was *not* crazy on doing that on a sidewalk in Berlin with a maybe-incomplete toolkit. Meh… I called BMW in Hamburg and gave them the spiel – international traveller passing throug the city – can you please squeeze me in? They asked me to come by the shop tomorrow when I got into the city.

(I made a pleasant stop at Dresden on the way, which is a pretty little city. I ate lunch at a really cool place where I ate liver and mashed potatoes. Mmm…)

As I neared Berlin, my GPS promptly turned itself off (ARRRRRGHHHH… die!die!kill!kill!). I turned it back on and luckily it stayed on and I got to my destinaton. No idea why it decided to do that, of course.

Switching back to Berlin, I ate a very early dinner at Fabisch, the circus Hotel’s restaurant, which served organic food. I got some schnitzel with a green salad and gherkin. It was pretty tasty for a deep fried piece of meat. I went back to my dorm to rest for a bit, and ended up spending the rest of the evening in bed, reading and then falling asleep on my book. Time was a-wasting and Berlin was a-waiting, but did my body care? Noooooo…..

I woke up bright and early the next morning, got a chocolate croissant and capucchino at a bakery across the street and walked south towards Potsdam Platz. I saw the remnants of the Berlin Wall and remembered when I read about the fall of the Wall many many years ago when I was a little girl, and not quite understanding what was going on. Little did I know then that I would be so close to the real thing when I grew up…

I saw some more tourist sites before I realized that I’d had enough and retreated into the Dali museum. It turned out to have only some lithographs of his, not the famous paintings, which was a bit of a bummer.

Next up I walked to Alexander Platz and got myself a SIM card for Germany. Then I wasted 6 euros on getting a day ticket for the subway and used it only once to get back to the hotel. I had intended to head out again to a couple of museums, but I ended up just lounging around and reading (damn those addictive Sookie Stackhouse books!).

If I had to tell the truth, Berlin is so huge and there is so much I want to see here that it would be impossible to see it all in one day. Rather than run myself ragged trying to catch everything, I just saw what I most wanted to see and allowed myself to rest up for the rest. For once I remembered that I am after all on vacation.

Tomorrow I wake up early and ride up north to Hamburg, where I meet Alex, a fellow couchsurfer.

Published by Rashmi Tambe

I am a motorcyclist from Seattle, WA. This blog records my motorcycle, code-monkey and travel related musings! For the other motorcycling related site I run, check out Global Women Who Ride.

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  1. Replacing the headlight bulb is easy. if you look from below. you will see the wires go into a rubber cap. pull the cap off. First thing to do is make sure you are getting good contact with the blade connector. I found mine was loose and causing my light to blink at random times. if this is not the problem, you could check the 7.5A fuse under the seat, or check the bulb itself. Glad your having fun

  2. @James: Hey James, are you sure I can get to the buld without taking a bunch of stuff off? That’s what the service manual says. I’ll check tomorrow morning though! If it’s what you say, it’s an easy fix.

  3. How’s the language barrier? Is there any? I traveled around Europe quite a bit as a college student, but I never had to drive anywhere myself (I took the train and in rare cases, a cab). I’m intimidated to go to Europe and have to deal with traffic signs etc in a different language!

  4. @Carolyn: Yes, there’s language barriers if you need to communicate anything that cannot be done with sign language, but only in the country with older people. The cities are far better, and younger people generally know at least a smattering of English.

    I understand the traffic signs if they are similar to ours or if they have pictures. The ones with just words, I have to just pray they aren’t important. :P There were some signs in the Czech Republic especially that threw me for a loop. Several streets were marked with a circular sign with an X (a cross) on it. I thought it meant “no entry” or “one way”, until I saw the conventional one way sign (circle with a dash in it). I later found out that the one with the X meant “no parking”.

  5. yea, it should be easy. I saw the same thing in the manual and realized thats to take the whole assembly out. When I went to the dealer to have mine replaced, they just pulled the rubber cover off and replaced the bulb. Pg 63.5 (pg 349) shows the connector cable to the bulb and Section 63.12.241 or page 63-7(pg 351) shows the bow to disengage to pull the bulb out. much easier than pulling the whole assembly. make sure to align the notches when putting the new bulb in.

  6. I find it amusing that I was reading (and leaving) Sookie Stackhouse novels all over NA last year, and now you’re doing the same while in Europe. :D They’re excellent summer reading. Engrossing and entertaining, but you can read them while jet lagged to hell and operating on 3 hours of sleep and not really miss anything. ;)

  7. I have lived in Berlin for almost 7 years and believe me – I haven’t seen anything close to all which is worth seeing…
    It is one amazing city for sure. If you would have stayed for longer I would have had some things to recommend, but as you said, you just gotta get back there. ;)
    I don’t miss living there very much, though. Living here is much better mostly. Cities make me sick after a while.
    Hope you had a good ride today and a great day in Hamburg!

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