On Sunday I missed the group ride because I set my alarm incorrectly and overslept. I deliberated trying to join the group somehow, checking the next train connections, trying to figure out a way, but in the end gave up. It was one of the best decisions I’ve made in a while too. Because while riding in a group is fun, I also like riding alone. And for the first time in a long time, I got to do that this past Sunday.

I really, really enjoy riding alone. You ride at your own pace, stop when you want, and go where you want. And it’s that last bit which reminds me the most about why I love riding a bike. It’s the trill of discovery. One of my favorite quotes is from Hemmingway “It’s good to have an end to journey to, but it is the journey which counts, in the end.” Sometimes I’ll set out with no destination and just let the streets and my intuition guide me. Other times I’ll have a destination, but be directionless. Indeed I set out on this gorgeous autumn day with a destination. The rest was open.

I live in Berlin 13 years and have seen a lot of this city. However, this weekend I felt like a tourist for the first time in a while, and that was an incredibly romantic feeling to have. I’ve always wanted to visit Planterwald, where an abandoned amusement park has been overtaken by nature. On the way you pass through Treptower Park so I figured it would be a good opportunity to catch some autumn colors before they are too soon gone. I headed out of Prenzlauer Berg pass Volkspark Freidrichshain and connected to Holzmarkstra├če, pass Oberbaumbr├╝cke and over to Treptower Park. Sadly Treptower Park is undergoing immense renovation and there were fences everywhere, paths were dug up and blocked off. It really wasn’t as pleasant as I had hoped, but along the Spree things were better. I had underestimated the amount of pedestrians that would be out on this perfect autumn day, but as I rode and swerved around them, I took pleasure in knowing we all were enjoying the scenery just the same.

Further onto Planterwald. Unlike Treptower Park this is actually a small forest with some trails. The highlight for most, myself included, being the site of an abandoned amusement park. I did a 360 around the “Spreepark” and tried my best to get a glimpse of the park ruins, but the large perimeter fence made that pretty difficult.

Having arrived and seen my destination I had a revelation. Had I driven here by car, I probably would have thought about the next destination and set off. But being on a bicycle enables one to continue destination-less and discover things you would otherwise miss by car. And this is why I love cycling. Feeling unfulfilled and yearning to see more, I set about on a series of trails, which brought me past an observatory in the middle of an open space and a tranquil lake adorned with a weaping willow, that reminded me of the park I used to walk in with my grandfather as child.

And then in the distance I could see a large bronze statue peering out over the tops of the trees. In that moment I felt discovery!

In a moment of agreeable happenstance, I stumbled upon a Soviet memorial/cemetery. With over 7000 Soviet military soliders buried, it is the largest memorial outside of Russia. It is a wide-open, beautiful space that immediately evokes feelings of Berlin’s history. In all my years in Berlin I had never heard of this place and without my bicycle I would never have discovered it. On this gorgeous fall afternoon, I was a proud tourist in my hometown.

November 16, 2015