Friday, 8 February 2013

21: The Cold War in Berlin

One particularly grinding thing about Berlin is the cold.  This natural condition occupies the city for about seven months of the year and at first appears undefeatable - an enemy too strong who is destined to impose frostbite, colds and bronchitis despite the chemist's best efforts. But a new breed of warrior has risen from the ashes of heat to stand up to the bullying pest known as winter. Cyclists.  

This species of urban inhabitant has no age and fits no marketeer’s demographic. Snow, rain, hail or ice, light or dark, with or without helmet, these iron dragons of the sidewalk continue to peddle, regardless of how much Celsius threatens to drop his pants.

While tourists are blown through parks and across boulevards by fierce winds, Berlin grandmothers hustle and hurry the wind as if it were a pernicious child. Often gloveless and armed with nothing but a century old scarf, these men and women remind us all that winter can be defeated and that spring is more than a light at the end of a wet, cold, and slippery tunnel. 

A couple of weeks ago temperatures dropped to below -10C. This is when the warriors sparkle the most. Sure, their numbers are steadily reduced as wheel after wheel is locked away in cellars. Celsius' cruel dip merely advertises who are the real cold-munchers.

If you too wish to join this creed of weather whippersnappers, these meteorological Gods, here is a list to get you started:

1. Get a bike. These tend to have two wheels and a handle bar, but you'll want to settle for something that also includes breaks, multiple gears and a chain younger than thirty. There are ultimately two ways (perhaps even more) that you can get a bike You can try Craigslist Berlin or eBay Kleinanzeigen for a bargain. Or you can assemble one using various abandoned parts found across the city.

2. Don't wear a helmet. Research shows that drivers are more likely to be careful near cyclists who are not wearing a helmet

3. Decide whether you are a winter or summer driver. This will define what bike you buy/assemble/steal.  

4. Only stop at a red light at major junctions. Otherwise act like you own the road.

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