Berlin might be a young, vibrant, creative city, but during the long, cold dark winter all that youth and vibrancy and creativity is cooped up indoors. This winter was particularly long and cold: average March temperatures were below freezing and it snowed on Good Friday.
That’s why, when the warm weather finally arrives, the entire city collectively bursts out the door, strips down to the minimum appropriate clothing and heads to the vast collection of parks, outdoor cafes and riverfront clubs.
Indoor Berlin is already cheap by European standards, but outdoor Berlin is cheaper — and quite often free. So during a mid-May visit I spent as much time outside as possible, catching the transition from gloomy to glorious and witnessing the emergence from hibernation of a populace that probably vies with Scandinavians as the pastiest in the world. Here are my top suggestions for a sunny day out in the city. Prepare for company.
Berlin has hit the urban cycling trifecta: ubiquitous bike lanes, nearly flat topography and hordes of underemployed 20-somethings desperately in need of cheap transport. How to decide between spending 10 euros (about $12.50, at $1.25 to the euro) a day for a rental bike or 6.50 euros for a day pass for the city’s efficient (albeit indoor) rails, trams and buses? A frugal conundrum, but one with a solution: BikeSurfBerlin (bikesurf.org), a homespun organization that lends bikes to travelers at no cost from “depots” around the city (actually sidewalks outside its volunteers’ homes). The only (minor) catches are that you must have a Couchsurfing or BeWelcome account — or like BikeSurfBerlin on Facebook and send in a copy of your passport — and endure a gentle pitch for a small donation. I reserved online and soon received an e-mail with a location and combination to unchain my temporary new wheels.