We grabbed a decent breakfast at the hotel fairly early, as we’d got to get ourselves off to the Marathon Expo, for collection of numbers, purchasing of unnecessary running equipment, and things like that. It was also Kas’s birthday. Happy birthday to you, etc!
The Expo was being held at the old Templehof Airport on the south side of the city centre. It was a par two or three by S-Bahn and U-Bahn from where we were staying so it took a while, and Kas wanted to be there fairly early to beat the rush of people trying to collect their stuff. Fair enough.
We arrived there on a beautiful morning and joined what could probably be described as a throng of people (how many people are needed to constitute a “throng” – or does it depend solely on how much noise they’re making?) waiting for the doors to open. When they did open there was, quite frankly, a faster start than there was going to be on the morning of the race.
And Templehof being what it is, we also had some considerable distance to cover before reaching any bits of actual “Expo”, and then the number collection point was at the very furthest end. I was glad I didn’t have a marathon to run the following day.
Anyway, shopping in a crowd of runners for things I don’t really need or want isn’t my idea of a fun morning, so I agreed with Kas to meet her back at the entrance in “a couple of hours” while I went off caching. Once I’d found the end of my ball of string and followed it back to the entrance, that is. Except the ball of string trick didn’t work because I wasn’t allowed to leave through the same rooms I’d entered by (in case I got trampled by the throng, presumably), and I had to leave via a different route. This new route took me a bit further along some of the old airport infrastructure. For the first but not last time of the weekend I marvelled at the monstrous scale of the architecture. It really is a huge building but, in my opinion, not a very pretty one. It’s not very nice to look at, even if it is big. In fact I think that was the point. Such things were designed and built to look and be permanent rather than pretty.
I eventually managed to find my way to the door where we’d come in and so was then able to follow a more or less clockwise route around the old airport doing the tupperware-shuffle. This part included walking the entire length of one of the old runways and it enabled me to take some pretty good photos in the bright autumn sunshine. The now closed airport hasn’t been chopped up and redeveloped, but instead has been turned into a public park and more or less left to its own devices. All the original taxiways and runways are still there, albeit a bit weed-covered in places, and it’s full of people running, walking, jogging, rollerskating, sitting about drinking beer and any number of other things that are traditional in urban parks. Including hunting for tupperware. I won’t say it was a rich vein of tupperware for me though. I’d solved a load of puzzles beforehand (with considerable support from the CO) but failed to find quite a few of them, and overall I had the feeling that I’d walked much further than my find count indicated.
The race was due to start on Straße des 17. Juni in Tiergarten with the course initially running out west (away from the Brandenburg Gate). Kas decided she’d like to go and check out the form up there to make sure we knew where we were trying to get to in the morning, which seemed fair enough.
To get there from Templehof Airport we took the U-Bahn straight up to Stadtmitte. This is one of those weird stations that was shut during the Cold War as it’s on a line which links the American Sector with the French Sector but happened to cross underneath the Soviet Sector, and hence during the Cold War it passed under the state of East Germany, I rode on that section once on my only previous visit to Berlin in late 1987. It was strange. Anyway, you can now exit the station and it’s a short walk over to Pariser Platz and the gate. It was too long a walk for us to complete without taking a coffee and sandwich break though. All the coffee shops here were packed, and we were fairly lucky to find a small table at the back of a “local” coffee shop (rather than a big American chain one).
From here we wandered through the Brandenburg Gate and had a mooch around the start/finish area. I tried to find a couple of caches but to be honest everything was closed off with barriers ready for the race so I thought I would look far to suspicious trying to do much up there. Kas was carrying a teddy bear that one of the kids had gained custody of for a period of time (one of the school bears, awarded for good achievement or efforts during the week). So for some reason the kids wanted us to bring this one to Berlin rather than looking after it themselves, so it travelled all the way over here with us and had its photo taken at the Brandenburg Gate.
At this point we decided to separate for an hour or so. I wanted to go grab a few geocaches in Tiergarten and Kas didn’t want to do much if it involved walking, so she mooched up and down the start aea and found a coffee stall while I dashed off into the park southwards to grab a couple of nearby caches, with somewhat more success once away from the race area.
When we met up again we decided to have a leisurely and slightly touristy wander down to Potsdamer Platz, which takes you through areas that have changed radically since the wall came down. They have laid a set of brass sets into the roads and paths so that it’s possible to follow the line that the wall used to take. When you’re at Brandenburg Gate you can’t help but notice how close the wall actually was to the gate.
On the way down the street you also pass the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. This is a very modern structure consisting of a number of concrete blocks of differing heights but roughly the size of a coffin. They are laid out in regular arrays with walkable paths in between and the effect is quite spectacular if you walk through the centre. The idea is to induce a sense of disorientation. It takes up a big chunk of a city block and is well worth a visit, but after reading the Wikipedia page it’s obvious there was, and still is, a lot of controversy about it.
We took the short trip back from Potsdamer Platz back to the hotel and when we got back Kas was ready for a bit of a late-afternoon snooze so I scooted off caching again, this time planning to try a few urban caches to the west and south of our hotel. Aside from meeting a German woman who was holding one of the caches I went looking for, and apart from standing in a massive dog turd, it was another unremarkable and fairly unproductive session of 4 finds but at least as many DNFs.
At some point I realised the time and had to say goodbye to my temporary caching buddy and get back to the hotel, where I had time for a quick shower before we went to a fairly simple Italian restaurant along the main road from the hotel. It hit the spot, and we were done early enough to get back for a nice early night. We had to get up frighteningly early in the morning as Kas’s wave set off at 9am, so she needed to be up and ready in the marshalling area by 7:30am at the absolute latest.