Running home from Bernau

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This morning I woke up, caught the S-Bahn to the end of the line, and ran home again. The route I chose was to follow the Panke river from Bernau for 25 kilometres until it arrived just a couple of footsteps away from our front door. It is a journey I have wanted to make for a while, passing through the north of the city alongside the river. As it happened, for the first third of the journey the Panke kept itself fairly well hidden. It was little more than a ditch when I began, running through an allotment colony just south of Bernau station, and then it swung away into some fields, only to appear periodically until I reached Buch, the Berlin city limits, and the overgrowth of the Schlosspark.

I paused at Buch for a break and something to eat – which appeared to be a mistake when I went to get moving again – and for the next few kilometres I ran through a fascinating edgeland landscape of fields, suburban gardens, allotments, lock-up garages, old sewage fields, electricity pilons, industrial and business parks, and both under and over a couple of motorways. Along the way the Pankeweg, as the trail I was following is known, began to take me through some more familiar landscape, such as the Karow Ponds, and then it took me across yet another Autobahn and I was in the north part of Pankow, the waymarkers now painted on streetlight poles rather than trees, and the tidy suburban houses had been replaced by GDR-era Plattenbau.

By the time I reached the Schloss Schönhausen in Pankow – once the residence of the first President of the GDR and later the venue for the round table talks that would eventually bring about German reunification following the fall of the Berlin Wall – my legs were screaming at me to stop and just jump the bus home. “It is only a few stops,” I told myself, but that was a clincher for both sides of the argument, and so I pressed on. Now I was into properly familiar territory – the Bürgerpark in Pankow where we celebrated Lotte’s birthday last week, crossing the Berlin Wall Trail into Wedding/Gesundbrunnen, and the last couple of kilometres along the river through the Soldiner Kiez to Osloer Straße. The river may have been elusive at the start of my journey, but it became my companion as I came ever closer to my destination, and in the end the Panke delivered me safely home…

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Words & Pictures: Paul Scraton

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