The road to Berlin is not paved with gold but the air is alive with the song of our faithful friends on this trip – the nightingales Territories must overlap as we were never without their rich complient of calls. The visuals along our route were also far from boring – woodland, plantations, spargel sellers and colourful grafitti – at one point covering over a kilometre of wall.
The huge soviet scale of the streets and buildings started with Brandenburg, then the more affluent Potsdam. The final miles into Berlin were through beautiful forests of beech and oak, skirting massive lakes with beaches until we finally emerged by the Olympic Stadium and crowds of Munich supporters heading to the Bundes League final against Berlin. Finally Florence sailed along the vast avenue to the Brandenburg Gate with style and to many admiring looks. These were to be followed up with regular offers to buy her during our week in Berlin.
My favourite Berliners are definitely the sparrows who appear, chattering, from the eaves and trees after crumbs, reminding me of a time before we hounded them out of our towns and villages. My other favourite inhabitant was a far more transient character; Izaak came to stay. Unfortunately the weather had not picked up and whilst it stayed dry, days and evenings were very cold as we got to grips with trams and trains to negotiate the spread of Berlin. We did the tourist bits, visiting the wall, the restored synagogue and the site of the SS headquarters, but in Berlin sightseeing is a fairly emotional business as recent history is told candidly.
Hostel life is something I would gladly leave in the past, all three of us suffered the germs that come in with backpackers from all corners of the globe and are freely shared. Izaak’s stay came to an end all too quickly and saying goodbye to him far harder than bidding the big smoke farewell.
Back on Florence, we found a beautiful route out of the city through miles of forest (a highlight of which was a huge wild boar crossing our path) to a fairly mediocre campsite. Luckily we pitched before the next 30-odd hours of incessant rain, which brought temperatures down still further as we sat it out. We were so relieved for a break in the rain on Sunday morning and packed up a damp tent and headed for the Polish border.