Whenever visitors ask me about the scenic route the Bus 100 offers, where to hop on, where to hop off, I tell them to forget about their ridiculous plan to see a compressed version of a city that most Berliners don’t care much about, travelling among other tourists out and about for a landmark safari. Instead, they should board bus and S-Bahn routes such as Ringbahn, S7, M41, M48 or, my personal favourite, bus number M29.
First of all: M29 is notorious for being unreliable. In terms of slow travel, capturing the rhythm of a place, M29 is the major challenge for one’s patience and temper. As Sara says, when the weather is really shitty, you will wait half an hour instead of ten minutes, and just as you’re giving up all hope, not one bus passed by but six, all of them filled to the brim. I doubt that. After being fed up once, I have walked along its route for an hour until three of them passed me. It’s a common thing: The number has its own time reckoning. Facebook pages have been dedicated to the M29.
On the other hand, its route stretches from Neukölln to Grunewald, connecting rather different neighbourhoods. Seven of them. On its scheduled 64 minutes long itinerary (add a fair amount of traffic jams, traffic light hell and extra dilly-dallying), the M29 bus passes several landmarks that are not as cliché as your average Unter den Linden tour, yet of some importance to the city and its inhabitants. Thus, riding the bus just for the sake of it has become some sort of pastime: Get in on Hermannplatz and get out at the last stop, then get back. Sitting on the top deck in the very front, one can partake in this meditative waiting game while pondering life and death and whatnot while watching the streets beneath, the city surrounding loud and dirty while that tank of mass transportation offers a safe getaway.
This warm and fuzzy bus feeling combined with a healthy dose of curiosity led to a photo excursion on the M29 bus. Sara and I jumped on and off on the route to discover what else was on the way, especially beyond Neukölln and Kreuzberg. Rinding the bus and taking a stroll in the neighbourhood, in turns, was our way to get in touch with some of the places underway, advancing into the Western city one bus stop at a time.
But it was not only interesting to see the surrounding change several times, but also how certain stops tended to flush certain people aboard. Neukölln was dominated by Arab families, Anhalter Bahnhof added some Picaldi-clad chavs, while on Kudamm the passengers completely changed and the typical Berliner Straßenmischung went aboard, just to get off at Halensee to catch the Ringbahn, where the richer people don’t ride buses but Mercedes and Jaguar.
One thing that struck out was the Ehrenmal der Bundeswehr, the memorial of the fallen Bundeswehr soldiers. Solemn, yes, but also set into a very strange construction. It was separated from the adjacent barracks, barely visible from the street and provided entrance to a small hall, where a simple but striking memorial was situated. The names of the fallen soldiers where displayed in a fading light on the edge of the lowered ceiling, commemorating one soldier at a time, barely readable until the next name was displayed. Once the sun shone through the perforated ceiling, a delicate pattern of patches of light lit the otherwise darkened room up. We stayed there a while, surprised about the calm aloofness of contemporary memorial building, similar to Mitte’s Neue Wache.
Since the bus we took that day, had its final stop at U Wittenbergplatz, we could’ve conveniently take U1 home to get away from buzzing Kudamm. But we were here to reach the end of the line, to get to Roseneck, where a completely other neighbourhood would greet us. I never liked this boulevard during daytime, so we hopped on the next bus as soon as possible – it arrived on schedule! – and patiently waited for Halensee, where the madness was over. Teupitzstraße was the last time we got off M29, took a stroll in the elegant residential area and soon caught the next bus. It was time to go home.