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Trabi Safari


Follow Me: Playing Tour Guide in Berlin

The Summer 2011 issue of ExBerliner features “Berlin’s most original tours.” While the Trabi Safari sounds fun—an hour behind the wheel of a Trabant, East Germany’s very inadequate answer to the Volkswagen—I’m pretty sure husband and I have this tour guide thing down pat after two consecutive weekends of hosting guests here in Berlin. The weather was abominable for the first—coldest day in July on record and wet to boot—and blazing sunshine for the second. Neither stopped us from dragging our visitors out on bicycles, the transportation method of choice here in Berlin. By now my Pashley has traversed every square inch of path in the Tiergarten and can practically lock itself up outside Der Schleusenkrug biergarten (also, coincidentally, a stop on the Fat Tire Bike Tour). It also knows to slow down when it passes a spot favored by Berlin’s band of nude sunbathers. My prudish gawking over the weekend prompted one FKKer—yep, they have an acronym which comes from a name that translates into Free Body Culture—to wave at my guests and me from his spot on the lawn. I wish I would have waved back, but instead I just bashfully pedaled away.

I have also been hungover in  the Bauhaus Archive (not, as one guest pointed out with some disappointment, the Bauhaus, which is in nearby Dessau), climbed the Norman Foster dome atop the Reichstag, cruised the Spree, forced currywurst on our unsuspecting guests, and visited the DDR Museum and inhaled its whiff of Ostalgia, i.e., snapped a tasteless picture of husband posing in situ on the loo in the authentic recreation of a DDR-era flat. For eating and drinking we mostly stuck to our little enclave on the border of Mitte and Prenzlauerberg, but there was one new discovery along the way. Clärchens Ballhaus is on Auguststraße, a street filled with art galleries, which along with its squatter-chic looking courtyard is why I assumed it was some sort of epicenter of boho. As the name would imply it turned out to be a ballroom, dating all the way back to 1913 and hosting a tea dance that very afternoon. We watched the dancers for awhile and admired the lost-in-time interior, which looked something like the lovechild of the Kibbitz Room and the Derby, then enjoyed a drink in the garden.

In the end we deposited our guests into the charmless arms of Schönefeld Airport in various states—suffering from a cold, hungover, saddle sore, and/or satiated. At least we can say none left Berlin unchanged.