On Sunday night I arrived in Potsdam for the second of my four-week swing through Europe (with apologies to British separatists). So far, I have been impressed by how helpful everyone has been. On leaving the airport, I immediately struggled with my extremely weak grasp of German, trying and failing to buy a ticket on the bus. Fortunately, though, a German hostess helped me out, and I managed to navigate my way to Charlottenburg S-bahn and from there to Babelsberg and my hotel. After orienting myself, and not having colleagues to meet (for a change), I decided to head out for a run.
Babelsberg, it seems, and Potsdam more broadly, is surrounded by parks, forests and lakes. According to google maps (thank goodness for hotel wifi), the closest of these green and blue blobs to my hotel is Park Babelsberg, so it was in that direction that I set out, headphones in, and braced against the single-figure temperature.
I had probably run about 300 metres when I became aware of a man running beside me wearing business attire and waving. As I stopped, so did he, bent over puffing and panting to regain his breath, before rising and handing me the key to my hotel room. Apparently it had fallen from my pocket a while back, and he had been chasing me to return it. I think my lack of German made it difficult for him to tell me to be careful as sternly as he would have wanted, and it certainly made it difficult for me to be as effusive in my thanks as his good deed warranted.
Ed: At this point I would love to embed the map for the run, along with the pictures I took, but runkeeper's embeddable maps are broken at the moment. Anyway, it can be found at http://runkeeper.com/user/jimsteel/activity/77584686, including a few pictures.
I ran on, past the local football stadium and across into Park Babelsberg. Almost immediately I was greeted by what a naive Australian would call a castle, but which I suppose in reality is just one building amongst some kind of feudal estate. As I ran on I encountered more, and more various, buildings, in very good condition and with scatterings of people wandering around looking at them. I ran on, along the edge of the lake (the Tiefer See), past a bar serving cyclists watching the sunset over the lake, around to a small bridge near a university embedded into the forest.
Running back, I abandoned my simple and easily followed route, and just wandered amongst the little trails winding through the park, heading towards and around towers and stately homes at whim. By the time I got back, I had racked up 7 or 8km, which I was happy with, given how long I had gone without running.
After showering, I again headed out, in search of dinner. I wandered into an Italian restaurant near the hotel, and sat down. Throughout the meal, I answered the waiter's fairly predictable questions in stuttering, broken German. He obviously knew I didn't speak much, but he humoured me and allowed me to struggle on, which I liked. The food itself, some bruschetta followed by tagliatelle with a gorgonzola, spinach and walnut sauce, was pretty good. I made the mistake, though, of ordering Lambrusco on the strength that it was the only red wine I recognised. I should perhaps have considered that the basis for my recognition was more of notoriety than renown - it was a pretty ordinary excuse for wine, especially for my Australian palate. Nonetheless, I was pretty happy sitting there, as the other patrons chatted away in German and I stared contentedly out the window at the sleepy boulevard.