Die Bärliner - The Bard College Berlin Student Blog
Tag "Biking"
on the Bard College Berlin Student Blog

(Credit: Anna Zakelj)

Before the storm of tests and papers that is finals week at BCB, in the lull of spring break, a friend and I made our way to Prague. The trip was an adventure. We didn’t plan much, didn’t have much money to spend, and I forgot my passport at home, adding an air of excitement to the journey that was accentuated by my whiteness and US citizenship. The trip was filled with encounters with odd and wonderful people. In transit, in a subway station in Prague, loaded down with backpacks and sleeping bags, we were approached by an old man. He exited the train going the other direction and walked up to where we stood waiting for ours to come. “You traveling?” He asked in a loud, goofy voice. “Where are you from?”

“Slovakia and the US,” we responded respectively.“The US! We’re neighbors. I’m Canadian. I’ve been living here a long time, though. I came over when I was young, just a little older than you two. I used to travel a lot. One summer some friends and I took a long bike trip through a few different countries and one guy died.” My friend Veronika and I looked at each other, confused. Was this the punchline to some strange joke? Should we be laughing? “We drank beers for lunch before cycling,” he continues. “We weren’t thinking about the consequences, forgot about the alcohol. He swerved and got hit by a car. He was young. 30 something. But that’s another story. What’s past is past.” Before we could really respond, our train came and he left, flashing a peace sign with a toothy smile and an emphatic “Bring back the hippies!” The whole interaction lasted less than five minutes. Let’s use this as a learning experience. As we part ways and go adventuring during the summerbreak, let us always bring our passports, be willing to talk to interesting strangers, and remember to never drink and cycle!

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The Wheel (Credit: Anna Zakelj)

When I was little, I didn’t like biking. I had a long string of second hand bikes, none of which ever seemed to work quite right — a complaint that had some merit but also one I used as an excuse to explain my otherwise irrational dislike of the activity. When I left home for boarding school at age 13, I took my bike with me and rode it exactly once a year. I soon stopped owning bikes and didn’t ride one for four or five years. After highschool, I took a gap year living and working in the outskirts of Portland, OR, where the buses run only twice an hour but the city’s  cycling culture persists. It took my 9am job, the infrequent public transportation, and an old man named Lou to get me on a bike again.  Lou gave me his old bike, helped me replace the numerous punctured tires, and switched out the yarn-secured milk crate on the back with real saddle baskets. I soon began biking almost everywhere I went. The change came from the necessity of getting to work on time, but biking quickly became integral to my happiness as well, allowing me to both mentally and physically distance myself from the stress of work. The movement had become a stabilizing habit, and, despite the physical exertion involved, it was easier, somehow, than sitting on a bus.

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Berlin has begun transforming itself into a much more environmentally friendly city. (© berlingoesgreen.de)

Berlin has begun transforming itself into a much more environmentally friendly city.
(© berlingoesgreen.de)

There are many ways to study the world around you: through science, mathematics, literature, anthropology, philosophy etc. Environmental Science is one of those ways–a way to study the earth’s past, its present, its future, and our relation to it. When I originally thought of Environmental Science, I imagined a lot of graphs and statistics depicting levels of CO2 in the air, but while that is a part of it, there is so much more to learn. I could never have been passionate about graphs or statistics, but when I began to study Environmental Science in my senior year of high school, I learned about how I personally could have an impact on the world and this is what interested me most. The graphs of methane bubbles in the earth didn’t motivate me to become more environmentally friendly as much as learning how to identify birds did. Learning Environmental Science is about finding what connects you to the world around you and why you should protect it. After all of the information and class and lectures and vocabulary, something that has stuck with me most from my studies was the case of Germany.

This past decade, Germany has produced the most ambitious environmental plan the world has ever seen.

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Maria Khan Biking

Maria Khan

In the autumn of 2012, I interviewed ECLA of Bard’s site manager Lars Köhler about the location and site of our campus. Lars explained why our location in Pankow-Niederschönhausen (in the quiet north eastern corner of Berlin) serves as an ideal setting for the student body. Our site manager remains firm in the belief that Pankow is the best place for ECLA of Bard, since it is quiet, peaceful and only twenty minutes away from the center of the city. However, a number of students would argue that the area is too quiet and would prefer to experience the livelier parts of the city. As such, Pankow remains unexplored by some of us.

Pankow tends to be a rather not-so-active district of Berlin with respect to night life, cafés and other activities, especially in comparison to bustling districts like Kreuzberg and Mitte. Pankow is mostly a residential area, with a population of young families and seniors. Despite it seeming not so exciting, Pankow has great gifts to offer if one sets out to discover them. A couple of months ago, I purchased a bike. The grey winter gave me plenty of time to fantasize about biking around Pankow once the snow melted in the spring. It has been nearly a month now since the spring sun decided to show itself. Though on some days the weather remains brisk, I decided to set out with my bike to explore my neighborhood.

To my surprise, Pankow is now one of my favorite places in Berlin. If one rides north, towards the area which is called Buch, one finds a small graveyard. This burial site boasts the grave of the country’s former currency, the Deutsche Mark. Traveling further on, there lie the beautiful Botanical Gardens of Pankow. On a recent visit, I rode my bike through the gardens and passed peacocks, deer, ducks, hogs and trees filled with the most colorful birds and bird houses. The botanical gardens have farms with mustard fields where the grass comes up to my chest. Riding hastily between the fields, I feared bites from strange insects. Undaunted (and unharmed), I emerged unscathed.

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