On the first weekend of September 2013, I decided to do what I had been planning for a few months. Most people who heard me talking about it considered this idea foolish, but I had to try it. And that weekend will always be on my mind as the weekend I walked from Berlin to Poland.
Even though I had planned this short and weird trip, most of the things you will read here are proof of my naiveté and the fact that I never traveled by foot before. So, I may sound stupid, and I may say that everybody that plans to spend a weekend doing this is a little ridiculous. But let me start with my story.
My trip started a little later than expected on that sunny September 2013. My idea was to lead Berlin from Erkner to save myself some time and strength before getting my feet on the road. After some problems with delayed trains, I started to walk from Erkner to Słubice around nine in the morning.
The first part of the walk would be along the old post road between Berlin and the cities east of it.
The First Day Walking to Poland
The first hours of walking were not as exciting as I expected, and it was hard to be excited about what I was doing. Mostly because I was walking in the middle of nowhere. For a few hours, I was walking in the middle of a forest without seeing anything besides what looked like the same tree over and over again. And I kept listening to some weird sounds that were not a part of the music I heard.
These noises often made me wonder about being attacked by wild boars far away from any help. But the most dangerous thing I saw along the way were spiders and tiny snakes.
The first thing that got me excited was when I stumbled upon Störitzsee.
When I saw that weird-looking lake, I knew I was on the right track, and things would be fine. Then, I knew my plans were working. I had to cross the Spree on a tiny bridge at Mönchwinkel and cross the big forest at Braunsdorf.
I was walking on city roads when I was training to do this walk. I was walking in the middle of a forest on a sandy track covered with plants this time. For a while, I thought walking inside the woods would be a great idea. At least I could avoid the sun and walk in the shade. But, the forest at Braunsdorf changed my mind since the pathway there was covered in spider webs and small insects. It was annoying, but it wasn’t a big problem.
The big problem appeared when I left the forest and started looking for a bridge that google maps told me was supposed to be somewhere it wasn’t. Ah, I made this trip with my cell phone as my only source of direction, smart, right?
So, this bridge wasn’t there, which you don’t want to face when you are tired and wondering why you are walking to Poland. I needed to think, and I needed to think fast. My 3G connection wasn’t working well, and I was tired. After walking around for a few minutes, I sat on the grass, sipped water, and started thinking about what I could do now.
I just finished walking for more than an hour without seeing anyone. I could walk west and try to find a road and cross the river. It would be a long walk, making my way to Berkebrück almost impossible. But it could be done. I could walk east and try to find some bridge crossing the Spree next to Fürstenwalde. Or I could try to call a taxi and go home.
I went back some kilometers to see if I had done something wrong.
Suddenly, I was the luckiest guy on the planet.
Some women were riding horses, and I approached them with my broken-down German and asked about a bridge. They spoke to me in English and told me I wasn’t far from a bridge and should walk some 20 minutes and get there. After a few minutes, the path before me turned into a well-defined track, and my 3G connection was strong again. I was, crossing the Spree and reaching half what I had planned for the first day.
I was going to Poland, and nothing could stop me now.
I arrived at Fürstenwalde feeling like the greatest man ever to walk among humankind. I was on my way to Poland, and I was right on time. I even saw a group of older people cycling around the track I was in, which made me even more excited to be there. I had walked a little over 25 kilometers, and there was another 7 km in front of me until I could rest my feet and sleep.
But these last 7 kilometers proved the worst part of the day. I wasn’t in the forest anymore; the sun was on my head, burning my brain. I was walking among Fürstenwalde, and everyone in the car looked at me with weird faces. After a while, it started to piss me off, and I was getting increasingly annoyed; it lasted until I saw the sign with Berkenbrück written all over it.
I found my way into the Bürgerhaus Berkenbrück, where I was the only person staying. I will always remember the look on the woman’s face when she asked how I got to the place from Berlin without a car or a bike. I got to my room, and it was almost 4 p.m. My feet had no blisters, and I wanted to rest for a while.
On the first day, I walked close to 40 kilometers, and I still had to walk something similar to this the next day.
The Second Day Walking to Poland
I woke up Sunday morning more excited than normal, and after a huge breakfast, I started my second and final day of walking to Poland. On this second day, I wasn’t walking inside forests anymore.
This time I crossed small cities. Briesen, Jacobsdorf, Pilgram, Rosengarten, and Frankfurt am Oder was on my way until I crossed the bridge to Slubice, and I was on my way.
Sunday’s walk started well on a tiny road surrounded by trees, which was great until I reached Briesen. There, Google Maps began to behave weirdly again, and I lost my way. I was close to the Briesen train station, and all I could see were the train tracks, debris, and yellow flowers.
My pathway was supposed to be somewhere there, but… I couldn’t find it. After trying my luck on different tracks, I found my way on some concrete tracks that looked like they had been built a long time ago and seemed to be used by, what I think, were tanks. I didn’t know much about it and continued walking.
Now, I was walking on what I thought was somebody else’s farm. While I walked, I could see some mustard fields, some cows, and lots and lots of windmills. The ground was a little wet, and I could see some footprints from deer and other animals.
And here is where I first saw some tiny signs that I later learned pointed the way to Santiago de Compostela in Spain.
Between Jacobsdorf and Pilgram, I walked along a bike lane, and a few times, I had to stop for a bike. Most of the time, I was completely alone with my music, and it felt like I was right on time with my plan. When I got to Pilgram, I found the worst part of the trip.
When I decided to walk to Poland, I tried many routes on Google Maps. My idea was to avoid big roads and the risk of being run over by some car. I didn’t want to deal with something going wrong somewhere I didn’t know.
Everything was ok online, but the road from Pilgram to Rosengarten didn’t have any place for me to walk on. This road was a small one, without a bike lane or anything. And I had to go on that if I wanted to reach Poland.
The kilometers between those two towns were the worst for me. It was the only time I was really worried about something happening, and when I reached Rosengarten safe and sound, I finally relaxed. I realized I had just crossed the 25 kilometers mark, and Slubice was almost there.
Those last kilometers were tempting since I could see some buses on the road, and they could deliver me close to where I wanted to go. Watching them go by and thinking about what I could do was hard, but I just closed my eyes and kept going. When I got to Frankfurter am Oder, I bought some ice cream, which made things even better.
This part of the Frankfurt am Oder walkthrough is hard to explain. I knew I was close to Poland and knew this would end soon. I was walking faster, taking fewer pictures, and when I saw a sign pointing how close I was to Slubice, I felt like screaming loud.
When I saw the bridge between Frankfurt am Oder and Slubice, I can easily say that I almost cried. I spent my last two days walking to Poland, which was amazing. I can hardly describe how I felt when I saw the Oder under me, and I knew I was walking where Germany meets Poland.
When I reached where the immigration office used to be, and I read Willkommen, I felt like the greatest man alive. That feeling of accomplishment, relief, and tiredness is hard to describe. Even writing this a year later is somewhat passionate to me.
But I was tired and needed to rest for a while and think about what I had done. I sat beside the Oder on the polish side and stared at the buildings on the other side. There were some people fishing, and there were some ducks. I don’t know how long I was there, but after a while, I called my wife and said that I was in Poland and everything was alright.
I don’t remember what I talked to her about, but I remember when she asked me if this call would be more expensive than a normal one because I was in another country now. This was the point where I realized that this walk only meant something to me and that it was time to go back home.
I walked through Slubice for a while and decided to find my way to the train station in Frankfurt am Oder. The train did what I walked in two days in less than an hour.
Next time, I will take the train.
My Weekend Walking from Berlin to Poland
This post appeared first, and in Portuguese, at Viagem Criativa.
And you can see all the pictures I took while Walking to Poland on Flickr.
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