And so to my day in Potsdam.
Reassured that the bicycle route would be Germanic in signage – lots of “atchung” and “verboten” and pictures of a cycle, I set off in light rain, first stop the Berlin Olympic stadium. It was painless although a singular lack of signage, did not pass unnoticed on my part . A rising sense of apprehensive anxiety was, to some extent, allayed by a dedicated cycle path with stencilled stylised images of a bike. Who knows where it was going but hundreds of Germans were all going in the same direction, not to Russia surely?
At last, road signs directed me to the “olympicstadiumplatz”.
The 1936 Berlin summer Olympic stadium and complex is, how can I say it, not unexpectedly, germanic! The main stadium is grey granite, “powerful, bold, taunt and unconquerable “! Big thick square columns.
Adjacent is another arena whose design and layout evokes the ancient Greek Olympiad site. Wondrous feeling. Again I keep thinking of the thousands who filled these sporting spaces – the pomp, pageantry and not forgetting circumstance, as Herr Hitler opened the games. I have a fascinating sense of history at such times that is all the more relevant when I am acutely aware that my father’s generation was part of that history.
Around the perimeter of the main stadium were sculptures, in the same grey granite, of past german olympic champions ( only males of course) , looking not surprisingly “powerful, bold, taunt and unconquerable”! They were completely naked, not that I particularly noticed.
As the Olympic complex was not precisely on the main cycle route from France to Russia, here my daily dose of disorientation slowly engulfed me.
Within the space of 15 minutes I was forced to ask 4 Germans in succession, directions – 2 had no idea, the 3rd tried to send me back the way I came, the last was the local postman who knew most but not quite enough. SO … You can ridicule me about MY deficiency but when 4 apparent “locals” can’t even read a map or have no idea about where a road is ( turned out it was but a few hundred metres away) , amongst my convoluted mixed emotions, there was one other, none other than my old friend: “schadenfreude”!
Potsdam is quite something. The town and surrounds reminded me of an Austrian like setting without the Alps. The whole region is an UNESCO World heritage site. Wide cobblestones streets, pedestrian traffic only and somewhat touristy with respect to shops but the parks and gardens and palaces built by Kaiser Wilheim the umpteenth and his sons and heirs, again are mind boggling. There is an analogy here between religion,cathedrals and Kings and Queens and their palaces, but I am not sure what it is!
I cycled there following a lake on my right and returned, by a twist of useful disorientation, by an unintended different route, through the Grunewald forest on a dedicated cycle and walking road! A fortuitous “wrong turn”‘ .
Then spent a few hours in the evening trying to find a specific shopping complex, to no avail. Took the metro back to my hotel and collapsed onto bed.
Thursday I shall take a train to Hannover to spend the day with Aaron and his family