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South African Couple Riding in Germany


On the platform waiting for the first of the eight trains that would take me from Berlin to Darmstadt was a young couple with bicycles. We boarded the train in the car with the big bicycle painted on the side, hooked our bikes in the rack and asked where were going to ride and had been riding.

Craig and Sarah were from South Africa. Sarah was in Annecy, France, the week before for what she said was the biggest animation conference in the world. Then from Annecy they came to Berlin for a meeting. Now they were taking a train to Wittenberg then riding to Heidelberg. Craig was just following Sarah, riding and sightseeing while she worked.

Sarah works compiling video shows. She and a team of 100 mostly animators in Capetown are working on a Christmas special for Great Britain, the third year they created a half-hour program for the Brits for Christmas. She said, "The weather is always bad so they watch a lot of Telly." Craig said, "We barbecue. Christmas is the beginning of summer for us."

Craig and Sarah were riding mountain bikes on the road so they would be going even slower than I had been. Craig's bike was had three big bags, one on each side and one on top of the rear rack. He was talking about getting a front rack to spread out the weight. They will be riding for a week before flying back to South Africa.

We all agreed Berlin was a lovely city and we wanted to comeback. When I told them where I had visited--particularly the Soviet War Memorial and the Holocaust Memorial--we started talking about the history of Berlin and of Europe.

Since they are in their 30s, they were born under Apartheid, but it ended around the time they went to school.  Both of their fathers served in the military and hated it. I had read news reports about South Africa returning to conscription, which ended with the end of Apartheid in 1994. Craig knew very well about that news and was glad he is too old for the draft.

We went from the draft to politics. Craig thought it was very strange that we elected a draft dodger who calls himself a patriot. "If there's a draft, you go," he said. Up to this point he had been the bearded picture of fit, unflappable "chill" guy, but the draft made him animated. "My Dad thinks of his service as a total waste of time. Just smoking, drinking and boredom. But he went." Sarah said, "Trump admires dictators. That is strange to hear from a U.S. President."

Then we went back to talking about bikes and riding and wondered aloud if there is any place better to tour on a bike than in Germany.

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