Erika was visiting Berlin so we smacked down one of my bike’s seatposts as far as it would go, and hopped on bikes for a Berlin tourist 101 ride. Berlin to Potsdam is one of the first rides people talk about doing here, through the forests, past lakes, up what Berliners might call a hill (for the area), over a famous Cold War spy bridge, and into a strange suburby town filled with palaces.
The ride to Potsdam goes through the Grunewald Forest, which is beautiful (although it doesn’t have to – the first time I rode this direction on my way to Dessau, I absolutely missed the entire section).
One derailleur malfunction later – helped by a dude who stopped to help us out by pointing out how to strap it up for the new couple of miles – and two hair ties holding things just about together, we were rattling our way there with a horrible noise accompanying us. My bike was finally kicking up a fuss after riding from Berlin to Budapest last month.
The second you get to Potsdam everything gets a little special. And by special I mean it’s like hitting Narnia-meets-model-village-suburbs. The first clue that you’re about to arrive somewhere unusual is some gold statues just outside it. Over Glienicke Bridge, where East and West German spies used to do trades during the Cold War (and now features in certain spy films), there’s a huge castle in the distance. It’s a cold, grubby grey thing. It feels special and strange even when you don’t know what it is. I love it.
Potsdam has an epically odd park of palaces, which is basically the German Versailles, called Sanssouci. It’s bright yellow, so I’m a fan. But when you enter and see the garden, stacked and symmetrical in some kind of Instagram heaven, it’s pretty incredible. It is called Germany’s answer to Versailles. It is not small.
Inside the park are a bunch of ostentatious houses and gardens.
Here’s the route on a map. Interpret your way through Grunewald.