Day 1: Berlin to Luckenwalde, Germany

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Start: Berlin, Germany
End: Luckenwalde, Germany
Distance: 63.1km
Elevation Gain: 1164ft
Elevation Loss: 773ft
Time: 5h45m
Reading Material: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao – Junot Diaz
Audio Material: Diane Rehm’s Friday News Roundup (Domestic & International)

A beautiful day to begin. Our discontented winter is over and hopefully spring brings something better. With a latte (on the house) and a Chemex (for the road) from my new friends at Bonanza Coffee Heroes, we’re off.

The first 15km was spent mainly getting out of Berlin. The fully-loaded bike actually handles quite well, but you still have to move slow and deliberate in city traffic–much different than weaving lanes on a fixie in Cambridge. I won’t lie: spirits were low as I battled the last of Berlin traffic. My right knee had begun to act up, and I wasn’t able to enjoy the ride with so many potential dangers to track. A quick rest on a small patch of green in front of a Lidle and then, finally, the open road.

My mood immediately improved with empty blacktop (and 400mg of Ibuprofen coursing through the system). The remainder of the leg alternated on low-traffic two lane road and a nice, meandering paved bike path which tracked the B101 highway. Relying on Google Map directions, I did need to portage some railroad tracks, but otherwise the route was excellent. My favorite was when the road entered small towns (e.g Trebbin) and I got a few spins on some cobblestone.

My knee improved, as well. Keeping the right foot uncleated and spinning in a low gear at a constant speed helped. The last 30km was blissful with the dulcet sounds of Diane Rehm (say what you will about her voice, but she’s really the most balanced host NPR features) in my ear, I was finally able to settle into the ride. I think the knee should be fine and current plan is to try and lower the saddle a smidge and see if I can cleat without issue.

Decided to get my road legs under me early in the trip and opted for a hotel in Luckenwalde for the night instead of a field. Dinner was Italian at an Indian/Italian (also gyros!) restaurant. The town is old, beautiful and deserted. I leave you with the following descriptive prose from Luckenwalde’s wikipedia page:

In 1923, architect Erich Mendelsohn erected the Herrmann hat factory, a milestone of Expressionist architecture. During WW2, there was a Stalag for prisoners of war (Stalag IIIa). There was also a work camp for civilians. Nazis forced people to work for their war effort, else the families of people who worked there would perish. Lack of food and hard work killed thousands of them. Among them were Poles, Italians, French and many more. There were several places in town and around it where they worked. After the Russians showed up to liberate the camp, American POW’s ventured into town to to find Russians raping and killing, hanging women and children out of windows. German girls went to the Gi’s for protection and the Russians did not bother the girls when they were with them. But after feeling threatened by the Russians who had the guns they left town and headed back to camp. When they got there the fences were back up and they were now prisoners of the Russians. The Russians asked for name rank and serial number but the Gi’s refused telling the Russians they were comrades and should not be treated as prisoners. []

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