Bauhaus by Bicycle

 

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This summer I packed my road bike in a cardboard box, brought a couple of bags, with clothes and cycling gear and flew to Berlin via Amsterdam. It was my first trip to Europe and I had a friend who cycles (Henrik) that I stayed with in Berlin and whom showed me around. The weather was pretty cool (13°- 24°) for what I'm used to in August. Berlin was fun. It's reminiscent of New York City in the 90's. First day we stopped at Rad Kreuz to get our bikes dialed in and went for a short (50 km) ride to shake off the jet lag.

There were a lot of differences between riding in Germany vs. riding in Japan; firstly cycles run next to the cars on the right not the left. Second there are cobbles, a road bike on cobblestone is paramount to using a rolex as a hammer. Finally Berlin and the surrounding region is almost entirely flat. After a couple days of riding, sightseeing and shopping in Berlin, the legs started getting restless so I rode out to the Poland border at Slubice. It was a mostly pleasant 200 km+ ride through the East German countryside with backdrops of vast sunflower fields, forests, century old brick and stone structures in all their warped, patchwork glory. Oh yeah, and delicious edible black berries growing wild on the roadside were a nice treat.

On Saturday I ventured southwest to Dessau-Roßlau to visit Bauhaus. I set out bright and early just before 7:00 AM expecting to hammer away the 150 odd kilometers of flat terrain effortlessly by 13:00 or 14:00... NOT ! The main obstacle impeding my swift arrival in Dessau was navigation. I glanced at the map a couple of times the night before, kinda remembering which main roads would get me there. Typically I'd plan my route in STRAVA's route builder and then upload the file to my (GARMIN Edge 520) cycle computer. Not having brought a computer with, I'd have been wise to map out a course on paper.

At about 80km Google Maps sent me through a field of sand for a couple of kilometers where I reached a pad-locked 8 foot high fence that appeared to be a park. Wrong again, after jumping the fence with bicycle and pedaling through a bit, it became clear that I was trespassing on a nude beach. Of course somebody chased me out screaming in German and threatening to call Polizei (Police).

 

Hard Copy

An hour later, made a wrong turn. Smart phone battery and spare battery completely drained. I asked a couple people for directions to Dessau-Roßlau but it seemed hopeless. Middle of nowhere in the German countryside, almost nobody around and no language ability. Within a few minutes, found a random guy who spoke English and explained my situation. Without hesitating, he offered to bring me to his home to charge the batteries. I totally thought I was gonna die. Reluctantly, I accepted his offer, went to his house, charged my batteries, and drank the mineral water he offered. We used a road atlas to plan the rest of my route and he scribbled it all down for me on a sheet of copy paper and we studied it a couple times. I was glad. I finally arrived at Dessau-Roßlau late afternoon (16:30), checked in to a hotel, walked around town and I ate mett (raw pork) for the first time.

 

Dessau-Roßlau Station

Sunday morning I woke up early and took a spin to the train station to check the schedule which was near Bauhaus. Normally I'd ride back to the start point of a ride, however, visiting the museum would make it difficult to get back to Berlin in time to hit up any Sunday flea markets, not to mention the (fun) experience of riding the bicycle-friendly German Rail back.

As soon as I crossed the underground corridor on the other side of the Dessau-Roßlau station the landscape changed almost completely from monumental brick and stone structures in Baroque, Gothic, Carolingian, Romanesque, and Classical stylings to simplified geometric structures, free of ornamentation. Walking toward the museum on Bauhaus Straße, I noticed the Job Center designed by bauhaus founder, Walter Gropius. The museum was like a refresher course in modern art history. It felt magical to be in the buildings where men and women changed entire systems of urban planning, engineering, architecture, graphic design, industrial design, crafts and painting. Fixtures, doorknobs, window panes, and banisters, all with incredible details, economy of materials, and poetically crafted. The Bauhaus influenced so much that we take for granted in everyday user experiences.

 

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  My ticket included entrance to the master houses. The cantilevered, cement formed buildings which sat peacefully on a quiet street lined with evergreen trees were the former living quarters and studios of Walter Gropius, László Moholy-Nagy, Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Hannes Meyer, Josef Albers, and other great minds. What a cool place.

Back at the train station I met up with Frank and Bennie, two Dutch guys that were heading back to Berlin. We bought a shared ticket for 18€ (up to five people) and Bicycle tickets individually for 5€ each. The really cool thing was these guys knew about the group ticket and how to deal with the train system which was super helpful. The train was mellow and we made it back in time to check out a couple of flea markets and scoop up some old school domestic Playmobil figures. Fun.

 

 
             

 

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Everyone is born a genius, but the process of living de-geniuses them.

R. Buckminster Fuller