Monday, September 3, 2007

Sans Souci

(Me and my trusty bike)

(The entire 100 mile Berlin Wall - outlined in green) (Remnants of the Wall found along the way) (My saving grace - Bratwurst wrapped in bacon discovered in Rudow) (Biking through the tunnels of green) (Sunset at Heiliger See in Potsdam) (Castle Cecilienhof - no rooms available) (Hotel Voltaire found me) (The royal crown atop the Brandenburg Tor in Potsdam) (Albert Einstein at his summer house in Caputh) (Lake Schwielowsee) (Me) (Myself)

(and I)


Sans souci (meaning "no worries" in French).

This was the theme of my weekend.

Friday afternoon, I walked away from Reuters carefree. It was a successful week where I completed a compelling story on Parkour.

Friday night, I found a dive watering hole and relaxed with some true Berliners as we rapped out about politics and life in an intimate underground setting.

I woke up Saturday morning refreshed and ready to take on the world. I gathered my energy by munching on some cherries at the farmers market and daydreamed over a coffee of what to do next.

I was looking for a solo adventure of exploration. I wanted to find my shadow and see what it looked like.

Staring at my bike, I realized it was that simple. I would go on a journey along the Berlin Wall with my trusty mountain bike. Before I departed, I threw my toothbrush in my purse, just in case the afternoon became the evening.

The Berlin Wall Trail – a path following the 100 mile devious Berlin wall.

Yes, 100 miles. It took me by suprise. When people talk about the Berlin Wall, they usually mean the border that ran through the middle of the city, dividing it into East Berlin and West Berlin. But the Berlin wall is much longer; it includes the 80 mile long border between West Berlin and the surrounding state of Brandenburg.

The bike path, following the wall of division, was a $6 million project envisioned by Michael Cramer, a political leader and avid cyclist.

I decided to take the southern route with the goal of Potsdam (roughly 50miles). And so my tour began. Following canals and at times cycling right on top of the base of the Wall, I paved my own course.

In other words, I got massively lost. I found remnants of the wall and proudly snapped pictures, but eventually I had no idea what path I was on.

Sans souci (no worries).

Since my orientation senses were off, I listened, and low and behold I found the beat. I was in Rudow and the town was celebrating the sunny day with a street fair.

I eagerly welcomed the bacon wrapped bratwurst and live music. I found my way after hanging out in a bike shop and was pointed back on course.

I cruised on, tucking through the green tunnels and giving a hoot and holler with every new turn. There was nobody in sight, just me and my trusty bike.

Eventually I made it to Potsdam, 6 hours later and 2 euros short (as I need to jump on a bus at one point to get back on track).

It was 8p and my breathe was taken away. I had reached the Heiliger See in Potsdam for sunset. I anxiously freed myself from the uncomfortable bike seat and perched myself on the bank to watch the skies performance.

As I was getting comfortable, I thought, what next? Do I try to find hotel? Train back to Berlin? or bike through the night?

Sans souci (no worries). I didn't want to ruin the moment, so I kicked off my shoes and relaxed along the lake.

An elderly couple, sipping wine and enjoying the setting sun's show, became my advisers. They suggested to overnight at the Schloßhotel Cecilienhof (a hotel in an old castle).

I biked write up to the entrance of this massive structure. I could not stop chuckling. I wonder how many kings and queens road up this path, and here I come with a purse as my overnight bag and sweat dripping down my back.

At 8:40p I parked my bike outside the entrance, tossed my hair around, walked in and asked for a room.

A stiff old woman said – No luck.

I told her - Sans souci (no worries).

I blindly biked through town, knowing something would click. Hotel Voltaire found me. The striking outdoor façade reeled me in.

Once situated in my room, I took off on foot and explored the Dutch Quarter and grabbed a bite at a café before the cities gates. Rustling through my purse to find my wallet to pay, I came across my toothbrush.

It was a good time to put it to use. I called it an evening, ran my toothbrush under the water, and anxiously awaited the morning.

Sunday morning, and my first stop, Sanssouci castle (yep, this is where I learned the term). It is the former summer palace of Frederick the Great and is often counted as a rival to Versailles. I bowed down to the columns of history.

Next stop, Albert Einstein's summer house in Caputh (4 miles south of Potsdam). I sat in Albert's room and attempted to be enlightened, but I could not challenge the theory of relativity.

Sans souci (no worries).

I saddled up on my bike and went to the lake, Schwielowsee, which Albert Einstein floated the summer days on.

It was here, as I was sitting at the end of a dock, with the sun directly behind me, that I was reflected.

My shadow was found.