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Photo by Michael Jordan, enjoying a meal at sunset, Zangskar Valley, India

I haven't been everywhere...
but it's on my list!


Photo by Michael Jordan
enjoying a meal at sunset,
Zangskar Valley, India



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  #631  
Old 27 Jul 2015
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Right about the time the wall fell, I also got interested in artsy foreign films. One that really stood out for me was "Der Himmel Uber Berlin" which was a fantastic allegory of the relationship between East and West Berlin. It was made two years before the Berlin Wall crumbled and in the movie, the East Germans were cast in the role of angels, who were unseen by the mortals (West Germans) although their presence was felt.

The film was about one angel's desire to become mortal and fall in love, and experience things like hunger, humour, music and art. It followed his journey to break through the wall separating angels and humans.

ooooh, deep.


Berlin Victory Column, one of my must-sees in Berlin

Anyway, the Victory Column figured prominently in the movie, being the perch from which one of the angels peers over Berlin and the mortal world. Because it was filmed in black and white, I had no idea the statue was such a brilliant gold. So I had to leave these pictures in colour.


Angel overlooking Berlin


One thing the movie didn't show was this fantastic tiling at the base of the column


Looking up at der himmel uber Berlin


Another thing the movie didn't show was this cool art installation in the tunnels under the column.
Cameras record your silhouette and recreate it in pixels in front of you. Cool!


It may seem silly, but the Victory Column was one of my highlights of our trip to Berlin, partly because I was a fan of the film but mainly because it was one thing that hadn't changed from my memories of it so long ago.

Speaking of which, Hollywood did a remake of "Der Himmel Uber Berlin". They took out everything that was good about the movie and turned it into an insipid romance called "City of Angels". Grrr..
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  #632  
Old 27 Jul 2015
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Ich bin ein Pfannkuchen!

Two years after the Soviets erected the wall, JFK came to Berlin and gave his famous speech proclaiming, "Ich bin ein Berliner!". Some of his detractors made fun of him pointing out that a Berliner is a nickname for a German jelly-filled pastry called a Pfannkuchen. But Kennedy had it right all along. They only call it a Berliner *outside* of Berlin.

We downed a couple of Pfannkuchen in memory of JFK.


An exhibit at Potsdamer Platz shows the type of barriers erected as a precursor to the Berlin Wall


Neda reads up on the history of the wall

My fascination with Berlin is purely because I'm such a culture junkie. Neda's interest in this city is much more personal. The crumbling of the Berlin Wall was the epicentre of a huge social, cultural and economic change in Europe. As East Germany abandoned the communist system and embraced western values, a ripple effect spread across all the Eastern Bloc countries.

Neda was born in Yugoslavia. The echoes of the fall of the Berlin Wall fractured her country into many pieces, and Croatia rose from the rubble of communism. All of her childhood memories of Yugoslavia have been under this system of government, as she moved to Canada shortly after the war ended. So this trip to Berlin was a way of visiting the origin of where all this social change started.


A line of bricks running down the centre of Potsdamer Platz denotes where the wall once stood


Holocaust Memorial - 2,711 slabs of concrete rise up out of the ground like raised tombs to remember the murdered Jews of Europe
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  #633  
Old 27 Jul 2015
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All the pedestrian traffic lights east of the Berlin Wall feature the Ampelmann, which was introduced to East Berlin in 1961


Ampelmann is a uniquely East Berlin symbol. Wearing his little East German hat, he has become a bit of a nostalgic rallying point

In addition to art installations like above, there are now stores selling Ampelmann T-shirts, stickers and other merchandise, cashing in on his popularity. You know, just like the communists would have done...


Another East Berlin symbol - the Trabant

The first time I ever saw a Trabant was hanging 50 feet above the stage of a U2 concert. It was angled nose-down, with it's headlights shining down on the band like a spotlight: ZooTV. Regularly topping automotive lists as one of the world's worst cars ever made, the Trabant was an East German monstrosity that originally could not be bought from a showroom. East Germans had to order one and wait for them to be built and shipped to them.

When the wall fell, jubilant East Berliners drove their Trabants across the border and they've been inextricably linked to the city and that seminal event ever since. Today, Trabants serve much the same duty as old 1950s Fords and Chevys do in Cuba - as taxis and city tour vehicles...


Very little remains of the original Berlin Wall. We rode out to a piece of it called the East Side Gallery


East Side Gallery
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  #634  
Old 27 Jul 2015
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The East Side Gallery is a 1.3km stretch of the original Berlin Wall that features 105 works of art painted on the east side of the wall in 1990. There are so many great paintings here, but I've picked only a handful of them that really spoke to me.


Communism, where all property and means of production are owned by the common, as opposed to the individual...


I really like this one


And of course, an Angel one


A helping hand

Between 1961 and 1989, eighty people died while trying to cross from East Germany to West Germany. Before the wall was fully formed, East Berliners would regularly escape to the west via the west-ward facing windows of buildings that were right on the border. As the Soviets boarded up the lower-level windows, escapees lowered themselves via ropes or sheets, some of them died falling from higher stories.

Later on, when the wall was fully erected, many more were killed by snipers at the watchtowers aiming at them as they crossed a specially built "kill-zone" that was lit up by floodlights at all hours of the night.
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Last edited by lightcycle; 27 Jul 2015 at 11:07.
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  #635  
Old 27 Jul 2015
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The west-side of the Wall is covered in graffiti.


What the heck are all these blue pipes all over Berlin?

While walking around the city, we saw blue and pink water pipes snaking all over the city. After some Internet-sleuthing, I discovered that these pipes are actually linked to the naming of the city. A lot of people think Berlin is named after the German word for "Bear", which is also on the city's coat of arms. But the etymology of the word comes from an old Slavic word, "berl" which means "Swamp".

Berlin is built on low-lying marshlands, literally it's a swamp. When buildings are constructed in Berlin, they use pipes to pump the water out of the construction site so they can put in the foundation. They've painted them all sorts of pastel colours to pretty it up, but these pipes are indirectly linked to the naming of the city! Neat, eh?


The divide between East and West. Cherry blossom trees in the background in West Germany


Neda has to investigate the cherry blossoms, so I have to as well...


Trying out some German Wurst!

We rolled our motorcycles up on the sidewalk and nervously looked out for policemen as we chomped down on our currywurst. We were later told that this was not the best place to eat currywurst (true!) and that we didn't have to worry about getting ticketed as bikers get a free pass and can park just about anywhere they like in Berlin (sweet!).
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  #636  
Old 27 Jul 2015
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Another must-see on the list: BMW Motorrad Plant in Berlin

Even though the main headquarters for BMW is in Munich, the motorcycle factory is located in Berlin. So we *HAD* to visit the birthplace of our bikes. We weren't allowed to take any pictures of the plant, except for the showroom, but it was a fascinating tour where we got to see them assemble all sorts of bikes and see them get tested before they're shipped out.


Tim was our guide through the BMW Motorrad Plant

After the tour, he saw us hop on our Canadian-plated bikes. After finding out about our trip, he asked to take a picture with us and e-mailed us a copy! Great guy!

The fall of the Berlin Wall was one of most important historical events that happened in our time. We both have memories of it and were impacted in different ways by it. It was such a nostalgia trip riding and walking through the city and we both thoroughly enjoyed it!
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  #637  
Old 31 Jul 2015
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Updated from http://www.RideDOT.com/rtw/233.html



We're heading south again, zig-zagging our way through Central Europe. The weather here is sunny, however it's still cold as the summer struggles to wrest control from a stubborn spring.

New country today! This is the first time both of us have ever been in Poland. However, to avoid our last embarrassing moment with Portuguese, we research the language before crossing the border, keeping a cheat sheet of common phrases on our smartphone. Most important one: "Dziękuję" which means "Thank You" and is pronounced nothing like it looks. How do you get "Jen-koo-yeh" from "Dziękuję"? Polish is not phonetical at all.

*ugh* This is going to cause us some problems...

The scenery when crossing from Germany to Poland doesn't change at all since we are on the Autobahn - lots of trees. But you can tell that Poland is not as affluent as Germany, the roads are slightly worse for wear and the small towns that we pass through lack that very self-aware care-to-attention that the pristine German towns possess.

Neda is still on a mission to spend as much time in nature, and she's got a place picked out in southern Poland. Looking on the GPS, our path takes us through a large urban centre called Wrocław. Not knowing how to pronounce this, we kept referring to it as "Rock-Claw" over the communicators. What a cool name for a city! Rock-Claw! Sounds like a super-villain.

One thing we didn't research was the conversion rate for Euros -> Złoty. There are tons of exchange places close to the German/Polish border, some that look dodgier than others, and we don't know if we're getting ripped off when we stop at a diner to change money and grab some lunch. Neda ordered cabbage rolls and I ordered some Polish goulash. At least the food here is much cheaper than Germany! And delicious too!

We're not going to be losing any weight here in Poland...

As we sat in the diner listening to the other patrons and the Polish TV softly playing in the background, Neda turns to me wide-eyed and exclaims, "Hey! I understand some words!" Seems Polish is slightly similar to Croatian. Cool! Language duties have officially been handed over to her! As long as we don't have to read anything out loud, we should be fine.


Our hotel. Or close to it...

Our hotel in Wrocław is in an industrial neighbourhood, it's not a bad hotel, but the parking lot is next to a building that's been abandoned for quite a while and made a cool looking picture. When we checked in, we asked the receptionist how to properly pronounce Rock-Claw. She told us: "Vrot-Suave". What? That's nothing like how it's written! So glad we didn't butcher the name of her city in front of her.

I replied, "Jen-koo-yeh" and when she smiled back at us, I didn't feel like such a Tarzan after all. Although I probably said it wrong...


Big celebrations happening in town

We're just passing through Rock-Claw (I like our version better), but we decided to check out the city centre before we left. To our surprise, it was quite busy. But it was apparent that there was some kind of huge celebration today. We parked (for free, I *LOVE* Europe!) and followed the crowds to the city square. Our first impressions of Poland across the German border were a bit misinformed, Rock-Claw was such a pretty place! Multi-coloured buildings formed a backdrop as processions of soldiers and marching bands paraded through the square. Almost everyone was waving a Polish flag as they gathered to watch the celebrations.


Polish flag convention


Marching band
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  #638  
Old 31 Jul 2015
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Tuba Shakur


Different flag design

It turns out that we were in town for Polish Flag Day, which is celebrated every May 2nd. There are two versions of the official flag, one with just the plain white and red stripes and another one which has the coat of arms in the field of white. Flag Day is quite important for Poles, they've lost and won their independence four times throughout the country's history.


Town Hall at Rynek (City Square)


Ever since entering Poland, I was looking forward to trying the pierogi! OMG SO GOOD!!!!

You can stuff a pierogi with any kind of filling, typically it has cheese and mushrooms, and there are also dessert pierogi with fruit inside. Obviously I opt for the meat version. Fried, of course!

Definitely not losing any weight in Poland...


Bearded men are a common subject of Polish folk art, both the Jewish version and the Lord of the Rings kind
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  #639  
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Pretty colours!


Even the motorcycles here celebrate Flag Day


Polish hobbit

After a nice morning in Rock-Claw, we head south to Neda's intended destination - the Tatra Mountains. She had read that there are some great hikes there. As we climb higher on our bikes, the weather gets colder and much wetter. The Polish roads are all lined with billboards and advertisements that make the natural landscape seem a bit gaudier.


Tatra Mountains ahead. I guess they pay for their roads through advertisements.


We arrive in Zakopane, a Polish alpine resort town

Zakopane lies at the foot of Mount Giewont and is a popular place in the winter for alpine sports, and in the summer for hiking. We are kind of in-between seasons and Neda finds a fantastically luxurious hotel that just opened up and since it was low season, we got an amazing discount so we're going to stay here for a few days.
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  #640  
Old 31 Jul 2015
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My man-cave for a few days


Neda goes hiking while I hibernate


Neda is loving the nature!


The Tatra Mountains form a natural border between Poland and Slovakia and offers hikers amazing scenery


I join Neda back in town for a walk around Zakopane

While the big city of Wrocław offered up a modern-day version of Poland, Zakopane was filled with fantastic wooden buildings from the mid-1900s when the population here started to grow.
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  #641  
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Polish guest-house


Walking around the suburbs of Zakopane


We totally got suckered into buying Oscypek from this little old Polish woman

Oscypek is a smoked cheese made from salted goat cheese that's made exclusively in the Tatra mountains. From the small shack where she was selling the large bricks of Oscypek, we thought this little old Polish lady made these by hand back in her farm. Then we walked around town a bit more and noticed they were selling these same "Zakopane"-branded brickettes everywhere.

We totally overpaid for the "cute old Polish woman" factor...


These were sooooo delicious

Turns out Neda is not allergic to this kind of cheese. We bought a couple of bricks of Oscypek, one to eat and one to give to our friends that we are seeing later as house-warming gifts. But they were too good. We finished them both... No will-power.

So not going to lose any weight in Poland...


The Ural Mountain range is not close to Poland at all...
But here's a Ural motorcycle in the Zakopane market. Boxer engines rule!
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  #642  
Old 4 Aug 2015
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Didn't read up for a few weeks and all of a sudden it seems we entirely missed your passing through Leuven. Even worse, you were staying about 3 miles from where we live!

From your photo's it seems though that your hosts showed you the most beautiful places, so I'm glad that you had a nice time here!

Next time you pass by, let us know!
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  #643  
Old 7 Aug 2015
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Just caught up again.

Did you come across the Curry Dog in Berlin? Amazing what happens when you shake yellow curry powder over a ketchup covered hot dog.

Polish is a phonetic language. Some symbols change the expected sounds and the W is pronounced like a V, and ....... a whole more, but it is a phonetic language.

David-owski
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  #644  
Old 7 Aug 2015
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Kyrgyzstan

Have enjoyed your R/R from the start. Will you make it to Kyrgyzstan?

Mac
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  #645  
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Updated from http://www.RideDOT.com/rtw/234.html



In our rush to get to the good hiking in the Tatra Mountains, we noticed that we had bypassed Krakow and the area around it. So we're doubling back and staying in town for a few days to do some sightseeing. We're getting hip to the Polish alphabet and we're substituting our Ws for Vs now. Off to see Krakov! (although we're still not doing it entirely right. It sounds closer to Crack-Ooof)


Beautiful Wawel (Vavel) Cathedral, right on the banks of the Wisla (Vistula) River

We're booked an AirBnB apartment right downtown and our host Paulina drives us around town and points out some highlights of things we should see. She also takes us out for lunch and shows us some yummy Polish food to try out.


Paulina has battered chicken filled with butter and cream, it's called kotlet de volaille or Chicken Kiev, or Chicken Cordon Bleu


Around the neighbourhood where we are staying


Jewish quarter in Krakow
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