Die Radpartie

Silke and I took a Friday off, put our bikes on the train and traveled out to Werder, a small medieval fishing city just west of Berlin. The settlement began on a little island and so we started there too, eating a second breakfast of cake and coffee under the trees near the shore. The weather was warm and sunny, and we planned to take full advantage with a bike tour that would lead us to several lakes over the day. The idea was that at any given moment, we could spring into the water if we wanted.

Our first stop was the Glindower See, a large calm lake whose shores were crowded with little house boats. We found a perfect little beach between two boats, sort of isolated by the bushes and possibly the quietest most peaceful place on earth.

We shared the space with a duck pair and then a swan -all who didn’t much seem to mind us much. We swam out to the middle of the lake and the water was very fine. Upon our return to land, we discovered there was a plum tree shading the beach, it’s boughs heavy with dozens and dozens of ripe plums.

All around Werder we had seen fruit and “fruit wine” for sale. Apparently, fruit has been cultivated in the area since the 13th century by Cistercian Monks. I wondered if this plum tree was some sort of feral ancestor of an ancient orchard or if maybe a monk had sat on this very beach and ate a plum he brought along as a snack, then tossed the pit behind him -unknowingly planting this tree that Silke and I would plunder hundreds of years later.

Our trip continued toward Ferch though we stopped in Caputh, another old little town on the water accessible by a small ferry that is pulled by underwater cables.

We ate at the old ferry house and were astounded at the constant flow of traffic on the water of small motor boats, sailboats, kayaks, etc. that were in turn constantly interrupted by the constant traversing of the ferry from one shore to the other.

From there we began our return trip towards Potsdam, hugging the shore of the sparkling Templiner See all the way (except for a short detour to see Albert Einstein’s summer house). The whole day I had been haunted by a memory of a Claire Waldoff song about a group of friends riding their bikes out to Potsdam, Werder and Ferch. Back home, I confirmed that this Berliner chanteuse from the Weimar years had indeed been singing about a very similar itinerary, though the group never actually makes their destination. Here is the chorus of “die Radpartie” (the bike party) from 1931:

Wir fahr’n nach Potsdam, nach Werder, nach Ferch.
Es fragt sich bloß, wie komm’n w’r mit Miezen übern Berch.
Wat nützt uns denn die Pumpe, wenn uns der Reifen platzt.
Der Ausflug und der Sonntag, die wär’n total verpatzt.
Eigentlich hat det nich viel Zwerch
Mit Potsdam, mit Werder und Ferch.

The song is so full of old Berlin slang and mispronounced words,  it’s difficult to translate but here goes:

We’re going to Potsdam, to Werder, to Ferch.
The question is how we’ll get the chicks over the hill.
What good is a pump to us, if all our tires burst.
The excursion and the Sunday, they’d be a total mess.
Actually, there really isn’t any point
with Potsdam, with Werder and Ferch.

I looked all over the internet for a stream of this song but unfortunately couldn’t find one to link to. It’s definitely worth hearing -Waldoff has the classic cabaret style of an innocent high-voiced girl using dirty language from the street in naive, open way. If you are interested, write to me and I will find a way for you to listen to it. In the meantime, here’s a photo I took years ago of the head of Claire Waldoff that stands outside of the Friedrichstadt Palast in Berlin:

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