One spoke is an accident. Two is not a coincidence. And two different mechanics saying, “Your rim is worn out—stop laughing!—your rim is worn out. You need a new one,” plus the cost of replacing a single spoke—let alone a full wheel rebuild, and when the hubs are also shot, meant bonus! New wheels! Minus side, I indeed cannot afford them, nor the replacement cassette, nor the replacement brake pads and cables.
Nonetheless, suck it up and all. I did my homework, cased multiple options, narrowed it down to a couple, then found one of them for 2/3 the normal price online, and yesterday a well fancy pair of Fulcrum Racing 5 CX arrived. A walk to bike shop and back, cassette fitted, tires swapped on (and let’s pause for a minute and remember the set of Challenge Strada Bianca I got a couple of weeks ago), now just recable-ing and doing the brakes.
And let’s remember six years of fucking glorious riding, bashing through forests, especially my favourite one around Flughafen Tegel, snow, rain, hail, ice, slush, mud, wild boars, foxes, falcons, dust and grit in warm summer mornings, endless laps of Tempelhofer Feld, thousands of kilometres on those old wheels now boxed away (I’ll probably bring them out when I want to practice trials skills or something equally rim-destroying). Cheers old wheels, you were mint.
Friday morning, perhaps the last hot day of summer after a week of proper heat and sun, David & I plus bikes meet at Alexander Platz, half an hour S-Bahn to the Dandenong of Berlin, Spandau, and bike south.
We get out of town quick, along side streets, past some farmers, and arrive at the Havel. From the opposite site I’m used to seeing it. There’s Grunwaldturm and the low hills of the forest across a glare of water. Along the shore for half the length, then inland past well posh houses, entirely around Groß Glienicker See, then into the water, swimming off the dust and heat.
Lunch, then on further along perfect fast trails through Königswald, around most of Sacrower See, and more swimming. We have time for the ferry (about 250 metres of cross-Havel distance works out to quite a few euros per kilometre), so stop in the Romanesque Revival basilika of Heilandskirche am Port von Sacrow.
More riding through Schösser and Gärten and Jägerhöfe, Wirtshäuser, through Park Babelsberg, and suddenly at Potsdam Hauptbahnhof and home in time for dinner.
Morning ride in the forest around Flughafen Tegel last weekend, when I was on residency in Isabelle Schad’s studio in Wiesenburg, Wedding. Up by the small lake, “Cripes that’s a massive dog,” at the dark, solid mass running across the track. “That’s no dog!” I think as it pauses and give me the beady eye in profile, “Wild boar! Cripes it’s big!” It potters off on skinny legs into the undergrowth where I can hear it and companion scruffing and foraging. This is right at the narrow end of the forest, houses and backyards just beyond the block of trees.
As usual, I pause on the lake rotunda and enjoy the view and stillness. A woman comes by with a pair of dogs. I say, “Excuse me, are you going left up ahead?”
“Are the wild boars out? There’s more than twenty of them in the forest,” she replies, quite proud of her mob of swine. “We had at least 14 piglets this year!”
Berlin, where I’ve run into a fox by Alexander Platz, saw another hunting a cat at night in the Uferhallen, where the forests in the city are full of wild boars, and there’s rumour of a wolf in Grunewald.
A couple of weeks ago, a bunch of us wandered into Grunewald and found a meadow at the north end completely hidden from other wanderers. Dasniya and Tam returned recently, up Teufelsberg this time. She showed me the photos on Saturday and blogged them herself. (Her blog is much more interesting than mine!)
I had to buy a new bike light today. Germany has some strange ‘regulations’ about what constitutes a bike light, things like brightness, flashing, whether a bike must have dynamo-powered lights or can have clip-on, all of that is in the Regeln. The Straßenverkehrszulassungsordnung to be precise. (Or StVZO if you wanna get all Abkürzung on it.)
This year, flashing lights are out. Because safety. WTF, Frances? I know! I had an argument with bored Polizei over this—it was a Friday night, they obviously had nothing better to do than pull over cyclists and engage in some haranguing. There’s probably a word for that like Ordnungspredigen. Oh wait! It’s German! You can make new words like that! “Of course flashing lights are safer,” I gegengepredigt in my scheiße Ausländersdeutsch, “People see flashing light as visual movement, which obviously is easier to identiy against a background of light noise–” “Nein! A proper German light must not flash because it is difficult to tell the distance of a flashing light—” “As opposed to just running your Auto up the arse of the StVZO-approved 5 lumens light which no one can see?” “Regeln sind Regeln.”
I had to buy a new light because my old one died, and the StVZO-approved front light frankly scares the shit out of me. 15 lumens vanishes when you’re in traffic and surrounded by cars’ front lights. I could really see drivers not noticing me until I was up their arses, and while I manage to throw myself over handlebars with some regularity (the price of badly excecuted technical riding skills), I prefer my suffering to be self-inflicted. So, off to the bike shop. It was a difficult choice between 300 or 600 lumens—which made me laugh with the insanity of it. Why stop there? It goes up to to 1500 lm!
9am on the train from Gesundbrunnen to Hennigsdorf. Eight hours later arriving back, much dustier, dirtier, kissed by hours riding in the sun, David and I, and bearing a 1970’s DDR blue and white coffee set, scored for an incredible twelve euros in Birkenwerder—which I would have never succumbed to if I’d known the scruffy trails we’d plough along later.
We were following the 66-Seen-Wanderweg, which circles Berlin in a 416km loop through lakes, rivers, canals, forests, quite a few small towns, and from which we deviated repeatedly and wildly, ending up in Oranienburg, almost in Sachsenhausen. Some time later we plopped down beside the water at Liepnizsee, ate excellent aged cheddar cheese, aromatic German Essener Art Brot, even more aromatic Wollschweinwurst, nuts and carrots and tart as buggery apples, and drank cups of tea from afore-purchased cups on their matching saucers.
Later again, we doodled around Hellsee and took a proper pause for making photos at the marsh, before barging off into sandy up and down forests until spat out near Rüdnitz. A dizzying 63km in six and an half hours between train stations on beautiful winding, undulating forest roads and equally beautiful forest trails of all types. So now we’ve committed to doing the whole 17 stages.
Yes, I am back in Wedding. For a month. My first thought was, “Ooo nice! Cyclocross!” In my favourite forest with the peculiar name. (It’s officially Jungfernheide Forst, but everyone thinks Jungfernheide is the park in Charlottenburg-Nord, and it’s on the edge of Tegelersee, but Tegeler Forst is on the north-west side so that’s a name gone also. I call it Tegelerwald or Flughafenwald cos it’s got Flughafensee in it but no one knows what that is until I say, “The forest around Flughafen Tegel.” “Oh! That one.” and I see their eyes glaze over with “I have never been there. It is unlikely I will ever go there.”)
So, off for a ride. First this year in the forest even. And! A while ago, I inherited an iPhone 4s from Katrin. I haven’t had an iPhone or a smartphone even since I got so thoroughly irritated by my original one and was quite uninterested in even using phones for quite some time. It has GPS! Playtime! I had Trails installed on my old iPhone, and messed around with it last night to see if it could do what I want without leaking my data to the internet. Yay German software companies! (Seriously, they have an almost Pavlovian approach to data privacy.)
It rained yesterday, so the ground was nicely slushy, not dusty, fast, about as ideal as you can get without rain, snow, sub-zero temperatures and proper cyclocross conditions. And so very many horizontal trees. There was a massive storm a couple of weeks ago, and with all these newly fallen trees still green, it’s likely they came down then. I stopped as usual at the pavillion at the east end of Flughafensee, continued on, somewhere between automatic having done this route so many times and hyperattentive because I haven’t done it in half a year.
Back home and data fun. All kinds of excellent stuff like speed (average is a pathetic 22km/h, though slightly faster if I removed all the stops for lights, top speed was 37km/h, curiously in a 30 zone where I was going slower than the cars), elevation (334m up and only 330 descent, which means I’m currently hovering in the apartment above), graphs and maps, browser access over local wi-fi… The thing I really wanted though was to see where I actually went in the forest. I had a fairly good idea, but even the best online maps don’t include the smaller trails (and most just have the single access trail that cuts from west to east). And there it is! It’s not as straight as this zoomed-out map shows, but it’s still far straighter than I’d thought on the north-south stretch. Yes, this can be addictive.
Home one day early. Improbably cheap bus from beloved Wrocław to beloved Berlin through afternoon and evening, Snow departure. Snow across southern Poland. Snow and darkness in Germany. Two weeks before, Budapest to Kraków, another bus. Those photos were better. I was trying to do what I remembered from then, the combination of dirty and tinted glass, dim light, snow, cold air, interior light reflection. My memory was of them far more abstract. Another thing, then I was photographing towards the sun, this time the sun was on my front-left and I was photographing to the right or at most front-right. Still, a couple of them have something interesting for me. I had a strange daydream of spending winter on budget busses going back and forth across the Carpathians just so I could get the right dirty windows to photograph through.
Holiday deviation. Instead of Zagreb, Krakow. With an ‘´’ above the ‘o’ and pronounced Crackuff, ah I feel so ignorant. So, deviated to the bus station because all trains were overnight and the primary reason why I like slow ground travel is to look at things; looking at night not included. Bus then. A little narrow in the knee space, but no one next to me. And getting ahead of myself here: getting up at 0445 and using the sublime Budapest public transport at 0530 to get arse on seat and into gear an hour later.
So, Poland? Not Zagreb? Well, I’ve lived in Berlin a while, and Poland’s only 100km eastwards and the busses/trains are cheaper than a meal (seriously, bus from Budapest to Kraków was under 19€, for about 400km). But even before I decided to go north-ish instead of south-west-ish I’d been looking at maps and excuses not to go south, as much as I want to see the ocean and south. Krakow was the closest city I’d never been to that I also thought might be interesting. I also seem to be in high museum mode (as recent blog posts show), and Krakow has mediæval coming out all over the place. Monstrous black wooden mediæval churches in the countryside, frocked up nuns and monks strolling the pavement, frothy explosions of churchy spires.
Anyway, 630am on a bus. I just stuck the camera at the slightly dirty, slightly reflective window and went click click click. Mist, fog, haze, low cloud, greyness, everything leeched of colour and out of focus, eventually, once we got into the Carpathians (the best name for a mountain range ever) some snow (but honestly this winter’s been a wash out for the white stuff), below zero and the liquid, dry, glarey light that brings. I liked the effect of all these layers of reflection, light bouncing around, diffuse brightness, somehow managed to capture a bit of it in between over-excitement at the glorious beauty of the journey. I was so thrilled I only nodded off for about half an hour in Poland, that after less than four hours sleep last night.
Oh, and the piglets. Skoda. White. Ahead of the bus. Driver and co-driver laughing and talking animatedly with couple in the front seats about it. Bus tries to pass for a long while, so sitting on the Skoda’s bumper. Little pink pig ears and head pops up over the back seat. As we overtake, we see the entire rear is packed with piglets.