|Distance in km||131.7|
|Elevation in m||574|
|Grüner Hauptweg Length in km||71.2|
|Amount of newly ridden kms from wandrer.earth||34.5|
During the Tour de Tall, the trees in Berlin suddenly sprang into life and green was everywhere! This cemented my next Grand Tour: the Grand Tour de Grüne Hauptwege (Grand Tour de Green Main Routes) – where I would cycle the twenty officially designated routes connecting parts of Berlin through as many green areas as possible.
The idea for connecting the many green areas in Berlin started in 1994, not long after Berlin was reunified. This became more concrete 10 years later with the help of many volunteers surveying the green areas who came up with connecting paths that would, as much as possible, avoid busy roads. Volunteer organisations are still responsible for the upkeep and marking the routes with its distinctive signage (blue and white stripes plus the official route number).
These routes (in total over 500 km in length) were designed with pedestrians in mind, so the official gpx routes are optimised for pedestrians and not cyclists. When planning the individual Stages, I therefore have to stray from the official route in order to stick to paths where cycling is allowed. I also made some small changes to the routes, so that I could cycle some new kms and increase my wandrer.earth score.
This Grand Tour starts off with the longest Stage – the Queen Stage right at the start! This is as the very first Grüner Hauptweg starts at the very west of Berlin and ends on the opposite end of Berlin, the eastern border to the town of Erkner. It roughly follows the river Spree through central Berlin. The glacial valley in the route’s name refers to its geological location – the (Warsaw-) Berlin glacial valley.
Before long days of cycling, it’s ideal to get a good night’s sleep beforehand. Unfortunately my blood glucose had other ideas, as I had a night of high blood glucose and needed to inject some bolus insulin to try and lower it. This meant I was extra groggy when I woke up and was preparing for the day ahead. I had my usual breakfast of porridge and coffee – particularly important after a rough night – where I reduced my bolus and basal insulin since I would spend quite a few hours out cycling.
I headed out west towards the start of the first Grüner Hauptweg which is at the Albrechtshof train station right at the border between Berlin and the town of Falkensee. I headed immediately towards the Spektegrünzug (Spekte Green Corridor), the first green section of this Stage.
The Spektegrünzug is a lovely area with small lakes and lush meadows that cut between the large estates on either side. The Spekte was a small outflow from the larger Havel river; it has since disappeared due to mismanagement of the water supply in the late 19th Century. The paths of the park lead directly to central Spandau, the busy streets being quite a contrast to the park!
The river Spree – which I would be following for most of this Stage – meets the Havel in Spandau and eventually leads into the Elbe and the North Sea. Before getting to the Spree though, the official route takes a detour into the Murellenschlucht und Schanzenwald (Murellen Gorge and Ski Jump Forest) nature reserve. In this area, there is the Denkzeichen zur Erinnerung an die Ermordeten der NS-Militärjustiz am Murellenberg (Monument in memory of those murdered in the Nazi military justice system on the Murellen Mountain) by the artist Patricia Pisani. This consists of traffic mirrors along the path to commemorate and reflect upon the soldiers who were executed after deserting the Nazi army.
After this detour, I headed straight to the Spree and towards the Schloss Charlottenburg (Charlottenburg Palace). I had taken this path during Stage 1 of the Tour de Tall and similarly to that Stage, I stopped at home for an early break with Nadja and the cats. I had a coffee, ate a flapjack, topped up my water supplies and injected one unit of bolus insulin. My blood glucose was still pretty high so I needed more insulin to help lower it further.
I continued along the banks of the Spree all the way to central Berlin. Back in the days when I also used to run half marathons, these paths along the Spree were my favourites to run on. This area is full of parks, important buildings – like the Reichstag and the Bundeskanzleramt (Chancellor’s Office) and busy train stations.
The Nikolaiviertel (Nikolai Quarter) is the oldest part of Berlin, it was first recorded in 1727, and was just further down the Spree. I said a quick hello to Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels too. The route passes along the East Side Gallery from the Berliner Mauerweg (Berlin Wall Trail) before passing under the Oberbaumbrücke (Over Tree Bridge).
I crossed the Spree to cycle through the Treptower Park which was full of people enjoying the warmer temperatures. I cycled under the Abteibrücke (Abbey Bridge) and into Plänterwald (Plänter Forest). Whenever I cycle in this area, I always think of Nadja doing the Berlin Triathlon since the swimming and running take place here.
I paid a visit to the Eierhäuschen (Little Egg House), a tavern that was built in the 1800s. Before German reunification, this tavern and the nearby Spreepark (an amusement park) were popular day trip locations. However, after reunification the area was bought by a private owner who went bankrupt so the Spreepark and tavern were left in a state of disrepair. The city of Berlin has funded restoration works for the Eierhäuschen and the Spreepark area which are currently in the beginning phases – it’ll be interesting to see what the end result is.
The official route takes the ferry across the Spree and into the Oberschöneweide district. However, I decided to cycle further down the river and cross the Spree using the Minna-Todenhagen-Brücke instead. I rejoined the official route through the Wuhlheide forest before getting to the picturesque old town of Köpenick. It is here that the third river of Berlin, the Dahme, meets the Spree.
I followed the Spree towards the Müggelsee, one of the largest lakes in Berlin. There were some lovely views of the industrial buildings in Friedrichshagen on the opposite side before I headed deep into the large forest on the southern banks of the Müggelsee. The sandy swimming spots were pretty busy and there were lots of people swimming in the lake too!
I was now reaching the end of the official route, but before getting to the end, I decided for another break. In between some lovely houses around the Hessenwinkel area, there is a nice little cafe frequented by the many cyclists in the area. I had a lovely slice of blackcurrant cake and coffee. My blood glucose was only now within an acceptable range so I decided to inject another unit of bolus insulin for this cake.
After the break, it was not far till the border of Berlin with Erkner at the Dämeritzsee (Dämeritz Lake) and the end of the first Grüner Hauptweg. I cycled back home on the northern side of the Müggelsee and the Spree towards central Berlin. Once I reached Alexanderplatz, the insulin I injected started working and I needed a gel to boost my blood glucose and get me home safely.
This first Grüner Hauptweg cutting across Berlin is easily the longest single Grüner Hauptweg and really takes in some wonderful nature and has a mixture of modern and historic parts of Berlin too! I was very happy that most of the Stage was in shaded green areas since this was much cooler than if I was cycling along main roads. I wasn’t happy with my blood glucose throughout the Stage, the high blood glucose from the night before carried through the day making it more difficult than it needed to be. Such days are physically tough since my body is not using carbs properly. I can only hope that the next Stage – which tours through Spandau – will be better.