A nightly tour through Berlin is nothing unusual. A guided nightly tour on a bike however, is certainly somewhat unusual. Yet, this is not the only tour which “Berlin on Bike” has to offer. The creative business idea comes from Martin Wollenberger, who is known to everybody only as „Wollo“. He first came up with this idea when a couple of his friends from New Zealand visited him in Berlin and spontaneously rented a bike to explore the city.
The native of Reinickendorf, a borough of Berlin, with the mentality of a globetrotter recalls the following: “As a matter of fact, it is hard to say when exactly I came up with the idea. It is possible that I first mentioned it on my vacation in Amsterdam in the fall of 2003. There, at a hotel, a flyer about guided bike tours through the city was lying around and there, in the presence of some friends, I said for the first time that I wanted to do exactly the same in Berlin”. Once he had clearly articulated his idea, he soon started in the spring of 2004 with 16 bikes and six different tours. Back in the days, all tours started at Danziger Straße. “Everyday, I had to take the bikes out of the cellar and late at night, I had to bring them back down again”.
The beginning were rough: “It all officially started on Maundy Thursday but nobody showed up. On Good Friday and on Holy Saturday nobody showed up either. On Easter Sunday, all of a sudden, when I was about to accept an invitation for a cup of coffee from my sister, my first two guests appeared.” From that moment on Wollo’s business constantly grew. “True, at the beginning a lot of tours were cancelled. Nonetheless, I spend the time wisely by thinking about how to market “Berlin on Bike”.
During the first year the number of bikes had doubled already. The company moved into a facility of the Kulturbrauerei in the borough of Prenzlauer Berg. Wollo, who up to this point had been driving cabs, organizing parties, writing articles for the newspaper “taz” or who had been a cofounder of a computer company, finally found a profession he had always been looking for. “As a little kid I always rode my bike and I really loved it. As a matter of fact, I always wanted to do something which can be done outdoors and which refers to the service sector. A day full of tours is always a little bit like being on vacation.“
Today, ”Berlin on Bike” counts on 50 guides who lead the tours and on about 400 bikes which are available to the guests. The tours are offered in many different languages. Three tours from the beginning are still offered today: a general tour through Berlin, a tour along the wall and the nightseeing tour. The demand for the tours is very high. Especially people from Scandinavia are very interested.
“The combination of organizing, coordinating as well as the permanent contact with other people and the exercise in the fresh air, that is what makes me happy. Furthermore, I really like to deal with unusual enquiries and I enjoy realizing them. To give an example: Although it was a great logistic challenge, we enjoyed dealing with the 320 employees of a Dutch business consultancy. They spent one and a half days in Berlin. There is no doubt that our 5-hour-bike-tour which started right from the airport, was the highlight of their business trip.“
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