Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Path of the Berlin Wall

56 years ago, on the 13th of August, 1961, 30,000 soldiers surrounded West Berlin and put up 160km of barbed wire overnight, separating the entire city. Thousands lost their jobs, families were separated and even their homes. This was another turning point in Germany's troubled history, one that is still felt today. The Berlin Wall grew, going from a barbed wire fence guarded by soldiers with guns, to a fully secured border zone, almost impossible to cross. At least 138 people lost their lives in Berlin trying to cross and only about 5,000 managed to escape into the West.
It's been 27 years since the Wall fell, and its damage can still be felt in the capital. A scar runs through the entire city, marking where the Wall had stood, and memorials scattered along it, mourning its victims.
Sunday was the 56th anniversary of the erection of the Berlin Wall and many gathered to remember those who died trying to escape or even guard the Wall. Every year since 2011, an ultra marathon is held in Berlin, over the entire course of the Berlin Wall. Either solo or in teams, the runners run a distance of 160km, or roughly 100 miles. The record, by the way, is of 13 hours and 6 minutes!

I know I could never run that far, but cycling seemed possible. Some colleagues and I decided to try and cycle the entire length of the Berlin Wall in one day. If people can run it, we could cycle it. Our leader, William, offers to do about half the length as a tour with When in Berlin, so at least we had someone with us who was familiar with the course.
Photo credit: William Mollers
We set off at 6am, starting at the Brandenburg Gate, a historic place where many Berliners came to celebrate the fall of the Wall on November 9th, 1989. We headed south and slowly made our way around the entire length. We started off at a good pace, stopping every so often at important sights and memorials, and taking breaks when necessary.
Here, Germany and Europe were separated until the 13th of November 1989 at 6pm.
Watch Tower near the Havel River

We passed Checkpoint Charlie, the famous American checkpoint in the centre of the city, and Checkpoint Bravo on the outskirts of the city, separating East Germany and West Berlin. At Wannsee (a big lake in southern Berlin), we took the ferry across and stopped for lunch at a Biergarten. After a beer and some hearty German food, we headed out once again, this time at a faster pace. Some of the roads after lunch were quite rough, some not paved at all, but mostly beautiful. We cycled through forests, next to canals and rivers, on roads and finally back into the city, ending our journey 13 hours later right where we starting, at the Brandenburg Gate.
Checkpoint Charlie

Checkpoint Bravo, or Dreilinden

In total, we cycled 140km (we skipped a 20km detour around Wannsee and took the ferry instead), which took 7.5 hours. With all our breaks and stops, our journey took exactly 13 hours, just as we had planned.

Five days later, my thighs (and butt) are finally not sore anymore, but my head is still spinning. I learned so much that day, about “unofficial” victims, what the Wall really looked like outside the city centre, remnants still standing, how much was destroyed in order to have this built, and how much is still left to rebuild because of it. It definitely gave me a renewed appreciation for how lucky I am to have been born in a country like Canada and how fragile it all is.
Near the very first Checkpoint to have opened on November 9th, 1989

I'm alive!!!!

The route itself was gorgeous, well marked and easily to follow. Other than a few parts that were quite rough on the bikes (big, uncared for cobblestones paths, for example), but for the most part, it was smooth sailing. You can be sure I will be doing this next year again!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017


In July, I made my way to Edinburgh, one of my all-time favourite cities to run my last and definitely my hardest Spartan Race. This was always a city I wanted to go back to and with the race, it gave me the perfect excuse! Luckily enough, I also have a friend who lives there now, so I had someone to show me around and do the tourist things with.

We spent the first day walking around the Old Town, up and down the Royal Mile and in the National Museum of Scotland. It is a huge museum on every possible topic and era! We must've spent a solid two hours just skimming through the history of Scotland part. When I go back, I will definitely head back to that museum. We went up to the roof of the museum where we had an incredible view over the city. From there, we could see Arthur's Seat, an extinct volcano in Edinburgh. That was our next stop.

Last time I'd been here was only for two days and it was the middle of winter, so going up there alone didn't seem like such an attractive idea, but now with my friend who'd done it a hundred times, it didn't seem so bad. We also got very very lucky with the weather and had to shed most of our layers while hiking up! The view was breath-taking.

This year, I finally got the chance to go into the Edinburgh Castle. Last time I had been near the end of my budget and the prices were too much. This time, I calculated that in. I had to wait almost three hours to get inside, though. The lines were horrible. Once inside, I realized how huge of a fortress this really was! It was an entire town in and of itself! I got to see the 1 o'clock cannon go off, the crown jewels, the Scottish War Memorial, the Great Hall, and a few interesting museums, like the one about the medieval prisons of the castle.

To finish off my touristing, I decided that I couldn't leave Edinburgh without a Harry Potter Walking Tour. I had heard from a few people that The Potter Trail was a fantastic tour, so I headed to the meeting point and joined the tour. I was definitely not disappointed! We saw a few of the places that inspired J.K. Rowling to write her books, we went into the cemetery when "Tom Riddle" is buried and even scared some muggles by changing the traffic lights with our magic.

I couldn't have had a better trip to Edinburgh. The weather was beautiful, the people were lovely as always and if anything, it just made me fall in love with the country even more.

Thursday, August 10, 2017


In June, I headed to Paris for my second Spartan Race. Coincidentally, my dad was playing a gig nearby and we got the chance to meet up and spend some time in Paris together. I hadn't seen him in about 11 months, and my mom in 8. It was so wonderful to be in such a beautiful city and be reunited with my parents! We spent most of our times being tourists, going back to sights we'd been to 12 years ago, most of which I barely remembered. Our first stop was Montmartre. This part of Paris is definitely the stereotypical and picturesque idea that most people have of the city of love. It is so beautiful, up there, and you have incredible views of the entire city. Then, we headed to the Arc de Triomphe, and walked to the Eiffel Tower. It has been so long since I've seen these places and they are just as impressive as I remember them. The Eiffel Tower is just such an amazing structure!

We then met up in the morning and headed to the Notre Dame de Paris and actually managed to go inside. It is a breath-taking cathedral from the outside, and even more so on the inside. After eating in the Latin Quarter, we headed towards the Musée d'Orsay, a museum made out of an old train station. It has a huge collection of art, some very famous Van Goghs and when I was there, an amazing exhibit on impressionism.

The first thing we did on our last day together was to head up the Notre Dame de Paris. We got up extra early and got to go inside the bell towers of the famous cathedral. It was so worth it! My parents had never done it, so it was cool to be able to do this together. The gargoyles are really great and well preserved and you can just imagine yourself up there with Quasimodo! It doesn't really feel that high when you're going up and don't realize it until you look out and see where you are in the cathedral. The hard part was actually going back down the stairs as its an endless spiral staircase until you suddenly end up on the ground and the door opens back up. It takes a minute to stabilize yourself before being able to walk away!
After this, we relaxed for a while in cafés, walked along the Seine, checked out the Love Locks and made our way to the meeting point of our tour.
I work at Fat Tire Tours Berlin, and we are also have tours in Paris, so it just made sense to go say hi and do a tour with them as well. We picked the Night Tours, since I heard that was the best one. It really was! We biked around the city (it's way safer and a lot less scary than it sounds!), we stopped for the best ice cream in the city, had a lovely boat ride on the Seine and watched the Eiffel Tower light up. It was the perfect way to end a great few days with my parents in Paris.

I had the next day to myself after that so I headed to the Catacombs. I had heard so many good things about it, and having a sort of morbid curiosity, decided it was something I needed to see. It was definitely something out of of this world. Millions of skulls and bones all lined up and organized like a sort of weird arts project makes for a very very creepy underground visit. It was definitely worth the two hour wait in the blazing sun, though! I learned a lot about the underground world of the city and I don't think I'll ever see anything quite like it anywhere else.

I somehow managed to convince my boyfriend to come meet me after and we spent quite a bit of time walking around and taking pictures around the city before and after my race, which I will write about in a post soon! We only had about 36 hours together in the city, but it was well worth it. We finally had a bit of rain and some incredible sunsets, which made for perfect photography and a stunning end to a fantastic trip to the City of Love.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017


Back in May, I headed to Slovakia to run a Spartan Race, my first ever! I decided to turn it into a holiday (what a better excuse to travel than running!). I stayed in Bratislava, right next to the Old Town. I love going to a place without having researched it and having no idea about the history or the sights. I took a free walking tour first thing in the morning when I arrived and got to see so much and learn a ton about the city's history.
One thing I love about Bratislava is all the interesting and seemingly random statues throughout the city. Wherever you walk in the Old Town, you're bound to run into something interesting.

I saw the famous Most SNP, or UFO Bridge, built during the Communist era, St Michael's Church, where 13 Kings of the Austro-Hungarian Empire were crowned, the Bratislava Castle (which to be honest, was very underwhelming.. at least from the outside), we walked past the old medieval gates of the city, and finishing by the Blue Church, which is probably the most picturesque church I've ever seen! It really looks like a cake or a Smurf church!
UFO Bridge

St Michael's Church

Blue Church

After the tour, I headed back to the old city with the medieval walls. Inside the tower is a museum about medieval weaponry that eventually takes you up into the tower where you have a fantastic view of the Old Town and its narrow streets.

One thing to do if you head to Bratislava is to go outside the city to a neighbouring town called Devin. This town sits at the confluent of the Danube and Morava rivers, two very important rivers in Europe, and just outside the city on top of a hill is the Devin castle. It's only 20 minutes by bus from the city centre and is 100% worth seeing. I was blown away by this castle. Or its ruins, I should say.
This castle saw many many wars and was eventually destroyed by Napoleon. The ruins are really well preserved and you can just imagine this castle bustling with medieval life, watching over the country. From the top of the hill, you can see the shadow of Vienna in the horizon. I must have spent over three, maybe even four hours exploring the area, which extended wall past the castle hill. Definitely the highlight of my trip!

My race wasn't actually in Bratislava, but in Nitra, which is about two hours outside of the city. It's a beautiful town, with a castle on top of a hill, overlooking the city, though it's more of a cathedral than an actual castle...

I am definitely impressed by Slovakia. The people were lovely, the food was amazing and the sights impressive. I will definitely be back eventually to see the rest of the country!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Hey There Stranger!

Holy moly has it been a while since I've shown my face on this part of the internet! I have been so busy these past four months, and to be honest, haven't really had any motivation or inspiration to write. Here's what I've been up to recently.

In April, I ran three half-marathons and as you can imagine, ended up getting injured. In hindsight, three may have been a bit much.... I busted my knee somehow and though I'm still not sure what the problem was, my physiotherapist told me today that it's all healed! Only took four months..... Though I doubt the lesson was learned! I also started working with Fat Tire Tours Berlin, where I work as a tour guide on bike. It's a fantastic job (even on rainy days) and I'm so glad to be able to do something I love and have a great group of people to work with.

In May, I headed to Slovakia, where I ran my first Spartan Race. This year, I decided to do less half marathons and do something different; obstacle course. So I opted to do a Trifecta, which includes doing the three distance Spartan offers: Sprint (5+km), Super (13+km) and Beast (21+km). The trick is that you need to finish all of them within a calendar year. It gave me the perfect opportunity to travel a bit as well! I defeated the Spartan Sprint, I visited Bratislava, a beautiful city and a few castles along the way. The rest of the month was spent working and running (or trying to with a bad knee).

In June, I celebrated my 23rd birthday, and headed to Paris for another Spartan Race; the Super. That one was slightly easier than the Sprint, somehow, even though I was covered in cuts and bruises! My parents were in France at the same time, so we met in Paris for a few days. I hadn't seen my dad in almost a year, so it was a fantastic place to be reunited! Berlin in June was gorgeous, so I enjoyed as much of the summer weather as I could! I'm still discovering new things about this city every single day.

In July, I headed to Edinburgh to run the Spartan Beast, a half-marathon distance obstacle course. It was one of the toughest races I've ever done, it was freezing cold, raining, extremely foggy and windy, but I finished it and if I can do this, I can do anything! For a prairie girl, running up and down mountains for 6 hours with obstacles in between is quite the feat! I got to enjoy the beautiful city with a good friend, then headed back to Berlin, where the weather was much less than desirable, but there was work to do and tourists to entertain!

Now August is here, and I can't believe how fast time goes! This month is going to be action-packed. In just a couple of weeks, I will be heading to Iceland to run my second marathon ever! My Scottish bestie Megan will be meeting me there and after the race, we will be heading off on a road trip around the country. We already have a few things booked, our tent, GoPro and gadgets are all ready to go, now we just wait (im)patiently!

As you can see, lots of things happened in the last four months and I will try to catch up on all the races, trips and everything I've been up to in the upcoming posts.
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