The twin pillars of any good weekend break are alcohol and sightseeing in large quantities. Make the most of your time in Berlin by combining the two on a Bierbike tour of the German capital’s highlights.
The sheer number of tourist sites in Berlin can be overwhelming, especially if you are on a two-day stag-do where drinking takes precedence over sightseeing. Which is where the Bierbike comes in handy.
The concept is simple, efficient and genius – Vorsprung durch Technik, as they say in these parts.
It’s essentially a rectangular bar on wheels for up to fifteen people – six on each long side, two at the back and one “barman” pulling pints in the middle. The sober company rep sits at the front and steers, while there are a series of pedals along the sides for punters. The front bumper is simply a huge keg of beer, which is piped to a beer pump in the middle of the Bierbike.
We arrived a little early at Bierbike HQ on Wilhelmstrasse, in the former East Berlin, so had time to check out a local site, Topographie des Terrors. Here, a 200m section of the Berlin Wall that divided East and West Berlin has been left perfectly preserved. It’s more or less a free outdoor museum which depicts Nazi atrocities and tells of the history of the wall including stories of the people killed trying to climb over it.
After our history lesson, it was time to board our carriage, but before we could make a move we were given a few ground rules (don’t get drunk and don’t urinate off the bike being the two that stuck in the mind).
Our sober company driver had a bell above her, so her ringing it was our cue to start pedalling. It was quite hard work – especially from a standing start when stuck at traffic lights which suddenly changed to green. The traffic lights are an icon of East Berlin – the cool little man wearing a hat on the pedestrian crossing lights is known as Ampelmann, and he can only be seen in East Germany. Shops all over town sell Ampelmann memorabilia such as mugs, fridge magnets and t-shirts.
Soon the top attractions came thick and fast – first up was Checkpoint Charlie, the former crossing point from East Berlin into West Berlin. Nowadays, two American soldiers stand guard and charge €2 for a photo to be taken with them. The area was crammed with tourists as our Bierbike passed, most of whom were more interested in taking pictures of fifteen boozy Brits on a bike than a significant piece of 20th Century history.
We then cycled/drank our way past celebrated Berlin landmarks Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag, before having a solemn moment of reflection as we skirted the Holocaust Memorial.
By this stage the beer was flowing from our 20 litre keg and some of us were having difficulties with our co-ordination – remembering to pedal when the bell rings, while drinking, taking photos, holding on for dear life and singing is hard work.
The Bierbike has a sound system, so we hooked it up to the best man’s iPod – the soundtrack to our tour was like an indie disco as we sang our hearts out for England.
Central Berlin, or at least the parts we saw, is mercifully flat so we could cycle along at a leisurely pace, although there was one hairy moment when we had to ascend a humpback bridge over the River Spree, the ten of us with pedals cycling flat-out reminiscent of Team GB’s dominance in cycling at the Olympic Games.
Coming back down the hill and around a corner was scary, as we were flying at such a speed that if the Bierbike had have toppled over, surely half of us would have been crushed!
Roads like Ebertstrasse and Wilhelmstrasse are huge tree-lined boulevards which were fairly traffic-free as it was a Saturday, although it was inevitable that there would be some road rage as cars and tour buses were stuck behind us. Some were beeping their horns at us in frustration but most were doing it to get a wave out of us.
At one point a bus full of Japanese tourists overtook us near the Reichstag, waving at us and filming us as they went – we could well have been the highlight of their European tour.
But alas, our tour couldn’t go on forever, and our excellent driver took us back to the Bierbike depot all too quickly. In the space of two hours, we had had a good cardiovascular work-out, drank plenty of strong German beer and enjoyed a bit of culture.
Isn’t that what life’s all about?
If you fancy a trip on the Bierbike, you can hire it for €280 and then buy a keg of beer for a further €90. This works out at around €26 per person if there are fifteen of you. See www.bierbike-berlin.de for information.