Last weekend, I concluded my sixth week of this running and biking tour. It was a good week for movement: My runs in the week were a bit longer than they had been in previous weeks, and my weekend long run was longer than usual at 15 km.
Even more, I got to do something I haven’t done for a while on a long run: I broke away from the local park and ran through the town and by the river. It wasn’t exactly a question of exploration (I knew these places), but it was nice to get out and see them again.
Even more, I made it a point to visit a tree — called the “Singers’ Oak” by the locals — that I’ve biked by and thought looked climbable. Turns out, it’s not (easily) climbable. (I’m not as tall as I had supposed.)
Still, I’m proud of myself for making it there to investigate.
All of that activity totalled about what I had done in the previous weeks (showing that I’m otherwise less active as it gets cold and dark, I suppose.)
What is there not to like about Berlin? It’s big and, even more, it has something that any foreigner living in Germany looks for: it doesn’t feel like Germany. It doesn’t feel like anywhere else, either. It just feels like Berlin.
I’ve been here quite a bit. Most recently, at the end of this summer, when I went thinking I’d be able to see the Pergamon Museum. But, I didn’t check in advance and I quickly learned that the Altar Room was under reconstruction and I decided to get out and explore the city.
Strangely, it wasn’t the first time I went out to explore a city and — in addition to seeing train stations and street fairs — found myself in an urban park. I’ve criticized myself before for squandering opportunities to do more ‘urban’ things (I like cities!) but, the fact of the matter is that touring a city is exhausting and parks help you recharge, and that there’s something special about the intersection of urban and ‘natural’ spaces.
The Volkspark has the fountain above — the statuary is of figures from fairy tales. But, even more, the park has something you can find in Dresden as well: ‘rubble mountains.’
After the war, there was so much rubble from the bombing that disposing of it became a problem. So, where there was once a flat park with gigantic anti-aircraft bunkers on it, the rubble was deposited by temporary trains. Then, I assume there was an intentional effort to ‘renaturalize’ the mountains of rubble.
Now, when you visit the park, you’d never know that the terrain isn’t natural. (Unless, of course, you’re a geologist. Then you might know. I don’t know.)
Scrolling through the photos I’ve taken in Berlin over the years, there are things like a Lego center (not worth the money) and the aquarium part of the zoo with the kids. And trips to the Tesla store to fantasize about being richer than I am. But, one of the things I keep returning to Berlin for is the fascination with ancient Rome that seems to be hanging around.
I’m not qualified — or super-interested in becoming qualified — to write about why Berlin (and, more generally, Prussia) became a repository of ancient Roman art and art inspired by ancient Rome. But, I’m glad that it’s there for me to visit.
The Altes Museum seems to me to be the red-headed stepchild of the Pergamon Museum. It doesn’t have entire buildings in it, but it has statuary and coins and it’s the kind of place where you can spend an entire day and come out with your feet tired and your soul filled.
Writing this, I want to save up some money (not likely, Christmas is around the corner) and head back. I’ve taken to drawing lately, and I’d like to try and draw some of these things I love looking at.
I never got around to making a blog post for week four. (To be fair, I mentioned that I was turning sick in my post on week three.) So, I’m going to combine the mileage from the last two weeks.
Here’s my mileage:
As you can see, that totals 97.5 km. That’s not nothing.
It’s unfortunate because these two last weeks of running and biking have brought me into Berlin proper, and then on to Potsdam. They are the last two locations planned on this run that I’ve actually visited in “real life,” (as opposed to as a ‘virtual tourist.’)
So, I apparently got less fitness in during the last week. I keep resolving to do more — run more, hop on the bike more often — but last week my wife was sick (leading to me being sick at the beginning of this week) and that cut into my time.
Nonetheless, I did three runs last week, and I’m proud of that. All together, everything added up to
So, where does 46.3km get me?
It turns out that it gets me to Zeuthener See. On the map, I found a tiny bit of Berlin which protrudes down into Brandenburg, so that I could rationalize that I made it to Berlin already.
Looking at the photo above, however, you can tell that I didn’t get to the part of Berlin that looks like… well, Berlin. It’ll be another 25km of running before I can get to the Brandenburg Gate.
To emphasize how rural the part of Berlin is where I’ve arrived, it’s worth pointing out that I just arrived at a hunting area named Jagen 37. Sure, it’s probably where millionaires hunt, imagining they’re keeping some noble tradition alive, but it’s still rural.
I hope to get to the city of Berlin proper next week, and maybe make a good start towards Potsdam.
It’s a bit strange that I got as much distance in this week as I did last week, down to one decimal place.
I honestly thought I’d get more mileage in. After all, last Wednesday (the 31st of October) is a holiday in Germany — Reformation Day, not Haloween — so this week I had my usual Wednesday commute, which I do by bike.
Still, if you look at the map, you can see that I’ll probably be able to make it to Berlin next week, if I keep the mileage up. (And, to be honest, I’ve maintained the same running distance for the last two weeks, so I think it’s time to up my running some.)
One of the nice things about this week’s run is that I got to visit, at least virtually, one of my favorite places in Germany: the Spreewald.
The Spreewald — German for the Spree Forest — is not really far from Dresden, where I live. So, every couple of years, we can visit. And, it’s a great place to visit, because it’s very different.
The way I have received the legend of this area, in eons past, the people who lived there dug canals in order to drain enough farmland to actually grow food. The result is a long network of canals that have an imperceptible current (the Spree river technically flows through here in a diverse way) and a culture of flat-bottomed boating.
The best I can tell, the traditional flat-bottomed boats are mostly for tourists now (like anything traditional and quaint, I suppose). Still, it gives the place an interesting and unique feeling.
What’s more, it’s the only place I’ve ever had fun canoeing, because you can really explore the canals in the canoe. On a lake, you never see anything that’s very new, it’s just nearer or farther away. In the Spreewald, you can make choices — do I go this way, or that way? — and around each corner, there’s something new to see.
Combine that with a long network of biking — or, for me, jogging — trails, and this is a place that I wanted to return to, even if it’s on a fantasy tour.
I’m not a bodybuilder or a performance athlete. My workouts are all tailored to the level where I can tell that they are improving my life. My runs keep me balanced, the strength training I do is great for my back. Not much more.
That said, the YouTube algorithm recently fed me a video on High Intensity Interval Training (which I cannot find in my history at the moment, I’m sorry). In the video, it was suggested that HIIT promotes muscle growth and fat burning and may even cure cancer. (I tagged that last bit on.)
But, I was intrigued.
My HIIT run
So, I programmed my running app to alternate between high intensity and low intensity every three minutes. You can see what that looks like in pace for me in the graph above.
I’ve done some other interval workouts. So, I wasn’t surprised at how hard the first three minutes at high intensity were. Or, that the following intervals actually got to a point where they maybe weren’t easier, but I suffered less.
The thing about the experience that surprised me is that I enjoyed it. There was something fun about feeling strong enough to push myself. It might be simply that I’ve only recently got back to running the route where I did the intervals, slowly ramping up my mileage and now it feels good to run what used to be a ‘long’ route at workout tempos.
Either way, I have the HIIT run saved in my app and I’ll be doing it again.
So, my first week of travel took me 59km. That’s not nothing. (I’m counting running, biking, and all the walking that Google Fit recorded when my phone was in my pocket.)
Interestingly, that’s taken me to a region called Schraden which, in spite of it being only 60km from where I live, I’ve never heard of. Already, I’m finding new green areas to explor. That seems to be my goal for this pilgrimage: to visit big cities and green areas. I’m prepared to be surprised by the in-between, but that’s where I live now.