BERLIN FAHRRAD FEVER
TEXT: DANIEL COLE
To get you inspired to cycle more, something which is a favourite German pastime, we present five perfect places to bike to this springtime.
Berlin is as bike-friendly as they come. With over 600 kilometres of bike paths, and grandiose new schemes in the pipeline, it’s no surprise that over two-thirds of households in the city own a bike.
In 2021, the Berlin government unveiled the ‘Radverkehrsplan’, with a goal of upping bike traffic to at least 23 per cent by 2030. In order to do this, the local senate has set in stone a goal of having a bicycle network that extends to over 3,000 kilometres. And this is just in Berlin alone.
Surrounding Berlin in the state of Brandenburg there are over 7,000 kilometres of interconnected bike paths and routes. Some of these routes extend across the entire state, heading as far as Copenhagen and further.
With Spring just around the corner, we take a look at some of the best bike-excursions available to and from the German capital, covering routes for all competencies.
Kostrzyn, Poland (80 kilometres) – peddling to Poland
The Polish border is just under a day’s bike ride away from Berlin, with the offer of pierogi awaiting those who make the journey.
The bike route is actually part of a much larger, pan-European trail that goes all the way across Germany to the French coast, called the Europourte ‘Europaradweg’ R1. Well-signposted, the route picks up from the city centre, heading around Europaradweg R1 and the woods of Grünheide, all the way to the stunning national park Märkisches Schweiz.
En route, the bike tail passes the Pyramid of Garzau, an 18th-century Prussian mausoleum, and an antique narrow-gauge railway at Buckow, hidden among the wild nature.
Eventually, the stretch traverses through bountiful fields full of storks and plum trees before arriving at the Oder-Neiße-Radweg that separates Poland from Germany. At the end of the day-long trip, the route crosses the river into the Polish town of Kostrzyn, a quaint little settlement with bountiful borscht and pierogi; all in all, a fair reward for a good day’s biking.
Berlin to Beelitz (35 kilometres) – speed cycling to the ‘spargel’ source
As soon as the colder days start to become yet more reclusive and the daffodils begin to tease you of the warmer days ahead, it can only mean one thing: spargel time is coming. What better reason than to journey on the Asparagus Road, the Spargelstrasse.
Beelitz is the German capital of asparagus. More than that one can also find Beelitz-Heilstätten, a disused and spooky sanatorium, and Baumkronenpfad, an elevated tree-top walkway.
To get there, the bike route once again follows the Europaradweg R1 past the ‘Bridge of Spies’ – Glienicke Brucke – and through Potsdam. The bike route then hugs Templiner Lake before crossing over to Schwielowsee.
The route journeys through fields and farmyards, before eventually arriving at Beelitz. Should you arrive at the right point in the year, there will be an abundance of streetside spargel-peddlers waiting to greet you, to fuel your engine for the ride back.
Niederfinow Boat Lift (40 kilometres) – bike to boat, fit to lift
Connecting the River Oder and the Oder-Havel Canal, the Schiffshebewerk Niederfinow was one of Europe’s biggest and oldest functioning boat lifts. A staggering industrial contraction, the 60-metre-tall canal transports boats between the two tributaries, by physically lifting them up and down using a system of mechanical pulleys. Today, the boat lift has been retired and replaced by a newer, bigger lift system, located right next to its predecessor.
To get to this wonderful, gargantuan steel contraption, start in the north of the city at Buch, and join the Berlin-Usedom bike route to Bernau, and then through to Biesenthal. From here, the cute countryside transit carries on to Eberswalde, the forest town of Brandenburg, where your journey carries on along the picturesque Finow Canal until it gets you to your destination.
Berlin Flughafen-Brucke (70 kilometres) – bike and fly to Berlin’s oldest airstrips
The German capital can proudly boast that it has more disused airports than it has functioning ones. In Berlin, you can bike along the runway at Tempelhof, before peddling off through the city to former airports of Tegel, Gatow and Schönefeld,
Starting at Flugplatz Gatow, a former RAF base on the city’s eastern edge, bike along the Berliner Mauerweg, which follows the old Berlin Wall, in a clockwise direction. Across up into Spandau’s old-town, cross the River Havel, to the recently closed airport, Tegel.
From here, the Berlin-Spandau Ship Canal zigzags back through the city, through Tiergarten, down to Bergmannkiez and to the historically famous Tempelhof, the former airport, now a public pak.
To get to the last airport, bike towards S-Bahn Neukölln, following the Teltow Canal, and join the Berliner Mauerweg cycle path once more, through Rudow until arriving at Schönefeld. Sitting next to the newer BER airport, Schönefeld is the city’s most recently closed airport.
Westhavelland National Park (60 kilometres) – a drive to darkness
Westhavelland is a star-spotters paradise. Also known as Sternenpark (Star-Park) the protected reserve is officially the darkest part of Germany, where excessive light use is totally forbidden.
To get there, follow the Havelland Radweg bike route, which starts in Spandau. From here, follow the route through the old town of Nauen, through tranquil villages, forests and historic farmland. As you enter the national park, there are monuments dedicated to Otto-Lilienthal, the pioneering German who spearheaded the global-aviation industry.
Throughout the park you’ll be hard pressed not to spot a deer or two, storks and other assorted birds. At the centre of the park is the village of Rathenow, where camping options are available for those looking to stay the night – an activity which you should partake in, in order to see the night sky.
Daniel Cole is a Berlin-based writer and musician, and co-author of Lonely Planet’s Epic Bike Rides of Europe.
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