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Berlin Vol 5.3: bikes, airfields and margaritas

Monday 10th – Tuesday 11th April 2017

I woke up on my third day in Berlin to find the sun was out. The day before we’d dressed for summer but still took out our jumpers and jackets and just ended up carrying them around. Today we figured we’d live on the edge and just go out in our skirts and dresses. That was dumb,

Our plan for the day was to head to the old Tempelhof airfield which has been been turned into a park. I’d been before but this time we were going to rent bikes to ride up and down the disused runways.

Our first stop, however, was Lidl. We went to pick up picnic food for lunch and left with hummus and vegetable crisps. I didn’t think I liked vegetable crisps (but I didn’t say anything because the Vegans could actually eat them) but these were so good and so addictive. Apparently. I do like them now. The highlight however was the freshly baked bread. Not because of the taste – although it was good – but because of the slicing machine we got to use to cut it up. It was the best thing since sliced bread. Yes I made that joke at the time and yes I am still proud of it.

From there, we got the U Bahn to Tempelhofer Feld. We got the tube to Paradestrasse – which my various apps told me was the closest stop to the park. Perhaps stupidly, we hadn’t googled bike rentals beforehand. One of my friends had rented bikes here before but said that the bikes she got were not very good. On our arrival, she cracked out Google and found a place in the area with a decent review called Donkey Republic.

We walked for a quite a while (passed an earlier U Bahn stop – Platz der Luftbrucke) until we got to the place where the map said Donkey Republic was. But we couldn’t spot anything. It turned out that Donkey Republic was an app – not a bike rental shop. We re-googled and found another place a little further on called Fahrradstation. I forget how much exactly they tried to charge – I think it was about €60 for four bikes for one day – but we managed to negotiate a cheaper price as we only wanted the bikes for a couple of hours.

I was a bit nervous about taking the bikes out. I had assumed we’d find a rental shop closer to the park so I wouldn’t have to actually cycle the thing on the road. It’s been such a long time since I’ve ridden a bike I thought I might have forgotten how to. Thankfully, although I was a little shaky to start with, I soon picked it up again and there were cycle lanes the whole way (most of which were on the paths instead of the road).

By the time we finally arrived at the park, the weather had (obviously) completed clouded over. It also hadn’t occurred to us how open the old airfield would be and, therefore, how windy. I should have known – last time I was there, there were people land surfing down the runways.

As we rode in our skirts and dresses, trying not to flash too many people as we went, we passed people in their scarves and coats. We headed towards the old aircraft hanger and to an old plane, now fenced off, and dismounted to eat our little picnic. We’d eaten most of it when we decided to pack up and try and find a less windy spot.

We raced a bit on the runway – my peddles kept sticking and feeling loose but they seemed to get a grip after a while – but ultimately we decided it was too cold. The air warmed up as soon as we left the park. Although I use the word “warmed” loosely. I was a bit sorry to say bye to the bikes so soon but I was also very happy when we arrived back at Fahrradstation.

From there, we found a place for coffee. Or, more precisely, for vanilla chai lattes. I’m not entirely sure the name of the place. From a Google, I think it was Konditorei Frau Behrens Torten. The inside felt like a quaint French home. There were paintings, old-fashioned furniture and quaint china. The cakes on display looked particularly good so we also tried those. The Vegans had an almond vegan tart, the Veggie had a cream and strawberry tart and I had a huge slab of coffee and chocolate cake. We all left feeling a lot warmer and happier.

From there we went back to the flat for a rest before heading out to dinner. Our destination was a Mexican restaurant Santa Maria near Kottbusser Tor. They had a Happy Hour deal on margaritas – €5 instead of €6.50/7 – between 7pm-9pm so we made sure to arrive on time. Unfortunately, there wasn’t immediately a table free for us but we were still able to get some seats so we could order a drink while we waited and it wasn’t long before we got our table.

Santa Maria isn’t a vegan place, it just has several vegan options (although weirdly there was an option to have the vegan options with non-vegan cheese) so I got to order the Puerco Especial burrito – pork belly with guacamole, chipotle cream and salsa (€12 if you want it to come with cheese too, which I obviously did). I remember coming to Santa Maria when I was studying in Berlin for the summer and living round the corner but I don’t recall the food being particularly standout. Either my memory sucks or something has changed, however, because it. Was. So. Damn. Good. And the margaritas were the perfect accompaniment.

After food, we headed across the road to Luzia for some of their reasonably priced (€13 a bottle) prosecco and that is where we ended our last night in Berlin.

The next day was a lazy one. We slept late, mooched around and then emerged to wander over to Haberlandstrasse and, just beyond that, over Bayerischer Platz U Bahn, Cafe Haberland. The two places are named after two of my distant family members and my friends wanted to see them. So we stopped by the cafe for a fresh orange juice before we left for Tegel airport.

To save us stressing, we ordered an Uber to the airport. We could have got the U Bahn and then caught a bus but this seemed less risky. But then we hit traffic. It was chockablock. Thankfully, however, the distance from Schoneberg to Tegel wasn’t much so it still didn’t take much more than 30 minutes.

My memories of Tegel airport aren’t great. I was running seriously late for my flight and genuinely worried I could miss it. I found my check-in desk, passed it, went through security and realised my gate was literally right there. It was convenient but there’s really not much to do in that airport. This time, however, I didn’t really mind it. There was a cafe for us to grab some over-priced food – my sandwich wasn’t great but my friends’ pasta was apparently very good. As was my chocolate muffin. And soon enough, we were on a plane and waving a sad goodbye to Berlin.

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