Days and weeks are all mixed up. Dude, why is everywhere closed during weekday? I passed through towns and could not see a single open store. Well, the working hours of these guys are really unusual but what about bakeries if not open in the morning then when for god’s sake? Of course, it is nice to stroll among the streets in the villages and towns while looking for an open store. You can see 18-19th century dwellings saved from bombs during World War II. By the way, it is almost impossible to see regular bicycle roads or lanes in former East Germany. There are some but compared to the other towns of Germany none…
Aha, a doner restaurant!
– Hey, everywhere is closed but yours.
– Abi (elderly brother in Turkish) we are open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. even on the first day of May.
Aha, dude today is the first of May and I was wondering why everywhere was closed. There aren’t any people on the streets either. Even the bakeries are closed. May 1st, international worker’s day, is a public holiday. The shopping malls are closed. There is no one on the street. People are taking a rest. There are no clashes occurring between the police and the workers. There is no one jumping over fires. No protests. It is peaceful here. So this is the way how Germans celebrate the first of May. We had a deep conversation with the men at the doner restaurant. We also talked about racism. Until 20 years ago neo-Nazi groups were demonstrating on the streets of this town on May Day, but now this is a peaceful town. On that day, I had a short brake in a park where some neo-Nazi teenagers with swastika were sitting nearby.
I was looking at the map on my GPS while eating biscuits. “Dude, which road do I take to Berlin?” Then, one of those teenagers called at me. We talked in English.
– Did you come from Turkey with your bicycle?
He translated to his friends in German.
– How many kilometers did you cycle till now?
I called him next to me and showed my GPS screen: 10 320 km. He got surprised.
– But Turkey is much closer.
– I cycled through Bulgaria, Moldova, Ukraine, Russia, Finland, Arctic Circle, Sweden, Denmark and Germany. I extended my route a bit.
He made okay sign with his hand and handed over a bottle of beer. Prost (Cheers). People like such acts. Well, you have to accept if something is offered!
Even though I had to struggle with the cold weather (I must admit that those days were the most adventurous ones and amazing at the same time) the Europe stage of my tour turned in to a holiday with lots of fun, the hard winter time was the bonus. Let’s head to Berlin without spending time strolling around.
Even it is said that camping outside camping areas is forbidden in Europe, it is very easy to find a camping place in Germany. You may just enter any forested area and pedal through. When I camp in a forest, there are some issues I pay attention. First I try not to use my stove if possible. If I have to, then I choose a stony or wet place without any dry leaves around. Although I trust into my equipment and thoroughly camped during the last three years, I won’t want to take a risk to light a fire in a forest. Furthermore, I pay attention to the prickly ivy usually hidden under dry leaves or mud. Therefore, when I erect my tent I always check also from the inside since I’m using an inflatable mattress. Those are all experiences I gained during my previous Turkey-Japan tour. The last three days I had to sleep on stones in the Gobi desert on a deflated burst mattress.This was a good lesson I learned in a hard way. J Also, I never leave any garbage behind when I leave a camping place. These are some issues I pay attention.
There are many rivers and lakes along the roads heading to Berlin. Many birds migrating in May use these lakes which are also my camping places. Dude, these birds are so loud: “chirp, chirp, chirp” never ending not at night nor in the morning. I haven’t heard such intense noises before. I messaged with a friend of mine a bird photographer.
– Buddy, they are continually chirping. Why? I’m not able to sleep. They are on a never ending chirping mood.
– Dear Gurkan. They are on pairing season. I checked from your website, you were camping right at the shore of a lake. During this time period of the year you have to stay away from lakes and rivers.
At the end I arrived in Berlin. When I saw the signboard of Berlin I got disappointed. Is this really the signboard of Berlin a city one of the biggest in Europe? Hummm. Let’s take a photo of this. Two aunties stopped next to me and asked where I’m going to. I asked them whether it is possible to cycle through the forest on the right hand side to enter the city. “Yes, of course.”
Well, I cycled in to the forest. If a region is heavily forested then a “forest sign” is displayed on the screen of the GPS I’m using which I haven’t seen for a long time, lastly in Norway, Sweden and Finland. Oh well, also in Russia. But all were unfrequented areas far from any settlements. Now, I’m about to enter Berlin and this sign is displayed on the screen. How come, dude? Is this a forested area within the city? I pedal for a while for almost 5 km. J Dude I really pedal towards the city center through a forest. The best on this is that the view of the pathways is gorgeous and further there are unpaved bicycle roads. I pedal 5 more km. Buster, what is this? …
– Beg me pardon, how can I go to the city center?
– Just go ahead, the road will take you there.
Well done, they did really a great job! I cycled till downtown and can claim for sure: Berlin is a capital occupying the largest green land among the cities I have visited till now. Not only the entrance of the city, but also the exit is so green and on top of it the city itself has many large parks.
The first stop in Berlin is the Turkish embassy since I need visas for Austria, Czech Republic and Switzerland. The Turkish embassy moved to its new building in January 2013 which is the biggest among the Turkish embassies. Really, the building looks like a castle. Before arriving I had talked to the counsellor Yusuf Bey (Mr. in Turkish) who was waiting for me. I was hosted for a couple of days in the embassy during which I met Mert also an undersecretary at the embassy. He visited me after hearing that I had arrived and we got friends immediately. Mert is also one who tries to realize his dreams. He jumped from airplane several dozen times. He decided to learn snowboarding and went to the mountains during winter. He is a three star scuba diver. When I met him he was about to buy a motorbike. We also went together to the shop to buy his motorbike (it arrived one month after I had left Berlin. He is now traveling in Germany). By the way, he is cycling to the embassy every day as do many other embassy employees. Even, our ambassador rides on bike from time to time to his office.
Bicycle is a significant transport vehicle in Berlin more widespread than I had thought. I stayed for 15 days in Berlin and visited almost all museums and strolled among streets. This is Berlin from my point of view…
First of all it is the second best capital I have visited till now but the first is still Seoul, South Korea. I liked the regulations, marking system, obeying the rules related to cycling. For example, if you are on the road at night and your front and back lights are not switched on you have to pay a fine. I have heard so many times about fine issue in countries concerned about riding on bicycles but saw its application only in Germany yet.
The metro system, road system and infrastructure planning was done during Adolf Hitler time. I think there won’t be anybody who would not get impressed by Berlin. The city has a natural environment which I haven’t seen in any other capitals. Everywhere is so green due to many forested areas.
One morning I went downstairs in the embassy to take my bicycle. I opened the front door and encountered a fox just in front of me… My response was
– Dude, pssst!
(It didn’t look at me, was not scared also. Her turned back shaking his tail)
– Heyy buster, my photo camera had broken what a pity.
– Psssttt woof woof!
A man came from the security room next to the main door:
– What’s up Gurkan, with whom are you talking with?
– Abi there is a fox here.
– O yeah, he is passing every morning through the embassy. He lives in the forest next to the building.
Also, one day I strolled around in the forest. People were roller skating, riding on bicycles, skateboarding, jogging and walking. There were so many bird species louder than the cars. On the huge grass area people were reading books, having sun bath, sleeping or having picnic (but not barbecuing). Well, what was this place? Tiergarten, when you check from Google map you would recognize that it lies in the middle of Berlin, a huge green area. Such similar green areas are scattered all over Berlin. The former Tempelhof Airport used during World War II is now a public park. For this place situated in the city center both the people and the government struggled and still continue to struggle. Why? This place was turned into a marvelous outdoor field for hobby activities, sportsmen and people. The government intended to build a shopping mall on this field. The people protested against: “We are using this site. Beg your pardon!” The government is waiting for years for the people to give up. As far as I understood the decision what to build or what not to build there, is only given by people. To undertake anything without the consent of people seems to be hard.
As I saw the parliament building in Berlin I got surprised. There are only about four policemen around this huge building. Hundreds of people having sun bath are lying on the grass field in front of the building. It is visited as if a museum. The building is an old one with a glass dome on the roof offering a look into the parliamentary proceedings as well as panoramic view of Berlin. It is interesting since there are skyscrapers and other high places much more suitable offering a much better view of Berlin. While ordinary people view Berlin from the dome, below them parliamentarians are working. While the government takes decisions people ascending above the heads of their representatives in the chamber views Berlin. The parliamentarians know that people are above them. Is this what I think? Yes, the core of this issue was mentioned by a friend of me who is a reporter, Ismail: This glass dome was designed to symbolize the sentence “The people are always superior to the parliament.” A psychological pressure put by folk.
I know Ismail Cevik since three years. I was just back in Turkey from my Japan tour and he pedaled from Germany to Turkey that summer. He had sent a message to me. We couldn’t meet at that time but we just met in Berlin. He came with a SmartforTwo car. I had always liked these cars very much, but I traveled for the first time with it in Berlin. There are hundreds of such cars throughout Berlin. You may pick up and drop off a car as you need being a registered user. You swipe your card on the windscreen reader and drive. You check whether there any damaged parts when you sit in and also leave the car. We went to Ismail’s house where a delicious meal waited for me. While returning we didn’t see the car, probably taken by someone else. : ) With Smart cars, bicycle roads and marvelous metro and tram together with necessary regulations, it seems that Berlin with a 4.5 million population solved the traffic problem. Meanwhile, you won’t encounter any underpasses or footbridges built in the city center as in Turkey where they are placed in the silliest way.
I stroll around Brandenburg Gate and watch people taking photos. The US embassy lies on the right hand side and on the left the French embassy. Passing the gate you see the British embassy on the right hand which let the side road shut off due to security purposes and ahead the Russian embassy. In the middle of the square you see a Russian soldier surrounded with US soldiers all carrying their national flags. One kilometer ahead comes “Check point Charlie!” Again US soldiers and the flags of the nations I mentioned. Honestly, I felt annoyed from this situation!
One day I took a metro to go the Turkish district. I like to take a metro and if the distance is long I read my e-book. I saw this in Japan where everyone read an e-book in silence. Then this became a habit also for me. Anyway, since I’m with Mert we chatted. At a station about six teenagers boarded the metro. They were shouting at each other and swearing in German.
– Mert what’s up?
– Nothing, teenagers are having their fun.
– ?? Why doesn’t anybody complain? Where are they from?
– Romanian. Take it easy Gurkan.
– Why dude, I am annoyed from their shouting. I’ll go and talk to them.
– Let it be Gurkan. We arrived, this is our station.
Actually, I got it later why Mert didn’t let me. Why didn’t anybody say anything? On that day I realized how the genocide on Jewish people still sticks on the young generation. Nobody is saying anything because otherwise they may be accused for racism. Maybe they had complained before and then left it as it is, who knows. The reason why I didn’t see flags in Germany after Norway and Denmark became obvious to me now. The Russian and American soldiers at Brandenburg Gate all mostly touristic shows introduce some alteration in the culture of the society!
We got off the metro. The place we came to was Turkey. What the hell is this? Turkish Is-bank on the left Turkish bagels sold on the right.
In front of us are mobile stands on which fruits and vegetables are sold. All the street signboards are written in Turkish. You won’t see any Germans in this district anywhere you go. Meanwhile, this district is called little Istanbul. Why Istanbul and not Izmir, Ankara, Trabzon, Artvin or Erzurum? The interesting thing is that everyone coming from Turkey is told to visit “little Istanbul” in Berlin. You may make a sightseeing tour in Berlin first and then “little Istanbul” or vice versa.
The German Economics minister mentioned in 2011 that it was a mistake to invite the Turks as Gastarbeiter (guest workers) in 1961. Hey, this year the 50th anniversary of this migration is to be celebrated, isn’t it a late declaration? To say “We thought that the Turks would turn back to their countries after a while” is not enough.
The perception at that time was that Turkish workers would work only temporary in Germany but in 1964 the recruitment treaty between Turkey and Germany was changed to allow them to stay for longer than two years while it was too expensive to hire and train constantly new replacements. After a couple of years they were also permitted to re-unite with their families and eventually became settled permanent residents. These guest workers helped fuel Germany’s economic miracle. It is not fair to blame these guest workers for unemployment in response to economic downturn. They became German citizens with an intense economical input. By the way it is said that: “If all Turks would return to Turkey at once, the German economics would collapse.” : )
My answer to this sentence is….. YEAH DUDE YEAH ….
The contribution of the 4.5 million Turks in to the German economics was 40 billion $ in the year 2012. On the other hand, that of 65 000 Japanese living in Duesseldorf was 42 billion in 2012. Okay, Turks are really hard working but not as much as the Japanese.
Well, you would say that you are already writing but still I say go and see! (By the way, I will mention the Japanese issue in my next articles. They learned the 105 words they are speaking from the Germans. : )
I acknowledge that Germans are right at one point. There are Turks not speaking German although living for 50 years in this country. There are old Turks going to the physician with their grandchildren for interpretation. There are German bride convoys which I initially thought they were Turks. There are German children mimicking Turks. The one whom you will ask an address would most probably be a Turk. Dude, is this here Turkey or Germany? There are too many foreigners taking advantage of the opportunities of the EU for themselves. It would be abnormal that Germans wouldn’t be annoyed while I got.