‘Bike Tours Meet Here!’ says the big orange sign, and I make my way through the crowd milling under one of the concrete arches of the Alexanderplatz TV Tower, to find the very inviting tour guide wearing a shirt saying ‘Berlin: Poor but Sexy’, the unofficial slogan of the city after a comment made by Major Klaus Wowereit in a 2004 television interview.
We’re divided into groups of 20, my guide Kevin is particularly charming with a quirky humour and great take on the artistic and cultural life of Berlin, along with cold war history – look out for him when you go! We started out with an introduction to the bicycles and road rules, along with instructions on using the squeaky toy provided to defuse any potential German angst over the cycle paths being congested. A little practice riding around the fountain of Neptune at Alexanderplatz, and we’re ready to roar.
Riding in formation along Unter den Linden and across the now empty site of the old Palast der Republik takes us to the haunting memorial for the 20,000 burned books at Bebelplatz, where I learn that the bank heist scene in Run Lola Run was filmed in the building opposite Humboldt University. The ride gives an incredible insight into this city, densely layered with such rich and intense history on every corner and beneath every cobblestone, from Gendarmenmarkt Cathedrals in the Huguenot French quarter to Checkpoint Charlie and one of the last remaining sections of the wall.
The highlight for me is our ride through Tiergarten, past the Berlin Zoo and a lunch break at the gorgeous Schluesen Kreug, along the canal next to one of the locks. We pass the angel of victory, and head back into the city via the Reichstag, where our group poses for a commemorative wave.
Learn about the contemporary furore over the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, stand on the historic ground in front of the Brandenburg Gate and finally visit Museums Island. A great way to experience Berlin, especially for those with limited time!