In the 20th century there were few more offensive symbols of man’s seemingly unquenchable need to spread hatred, division, and suspicion than the Berlin Wall.
Stark, grey, brutal — the wall was a concrete embodiment of the most stupid example of a siege mentality in history.
Which makes it all the more marvellous that it has been replaced by that most friendly of man-made constructs — the cycle path.
And what a cycle path.
The Mauerweg traces the 160-kilometre foundations of the wall and takes the cyclist on a journey through thriving city, uplifting countryside and history itself.
Serious cyclists complete the Mauerweg in a day — but that is to miss its point.
Starting at Potsdamer Platz, with its cutting-edge skyscraping architecure the blue-print of a modern Euro-city, you follow the grey Mauerweg signs away from the hubbub.
The trail is divided into 14 sections between seven and 21-kilometres long, and each has its own feel and story.
Yes, you will pass the former Gestapo Headquarters, or Bernauer Strasse, where an impotent wedge of wall still stands, the spot where protester Michael Gartenschlaeger was carved up by 120 Stasi bullets, the Glienicker Brücke, where Cold War spies were exchanged, and Lake Wannsee where Third Reich henchmen would party while planning the Final Solution.
The sense of history will stop you in your tracks.
But so will the sense of the future, because here, in the ruins of the Wall, 21st-century Berliners are now enjoying the simple pleasure of the city’s greenbelt. They walk dogs, they picnic, they rollerskate and the sheer normality of it all somehow adds to its beauty.
And onwards through Schöneweide to Schönefeld to Lichterfelde to Griebnitzsee and on to Staaken, Hennigsdorf, Nordbahnhof, each day will reward you with more than just a great cycle ride though some lovely countryside — you’ll get a sense of being part of much bigger and more significant. And not many bike rides can offer that.