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Berlin revisited

It was 1990 and my father, sister and myself took a trip to Berlin (I forgot why my mother couldn’t attend). It were exciting times. The wall had fallen only two months before and crossing to East Germany was only possible through several holes in the wall. The east was unlike anything I’d ever seen before: the houses looked like they were going to collapse, everything smelled terrible due to some (brown?) coal they used and the poor exhausts of the Trabi cars. Still the place bustled with energy and I couldn’t wait to discover it on my own.

It was 1998 and I had just had the best year of my life. And it wasn’t in Berlin, but in Oxford. Together with great friends we had an amazing time. And suddenly I found myself looking for a place on my own. As luck goes with the stupid, I found the greatest place in all of Berlin. It’s a house with a tower that makes it resembles a mix between a church and a castle. The interior is even more amazing, not only 5+ meter high ceilings, but an amazing crowd as well. A 75 year old yoga teacher married to a 15 year younger man, a PHD in physics student, and a lesbian girl with personal hygiene issues.

She lived in ‘the tower’ (see picture). This 6m2 room was unique. Thanks to the height, it provided an amazing view over the city. Due to its size it limited possessions to the most essential. Due to the poor heating it only attracted people with real character. And great balance, as in order to get to the room one needed to walk over a 25 centimeter wide wooden board crossing the roof with no fence to prevent one from sliding down the roof and smashing into the garden. Needless to say the bathroom was downstairs, adding to the fun of ‘nature calls’ during Berlin’s cold winter nights.

It was 2010 and the pressure was on. I was seated in front of my manager’s manger’s manager’s manager and he shared a story of our the beautiful location where we had dinner with my colleagues. He explained that a couple of months before there had been a dinner in the same gigantic room inside the HQ of Axel Springer. The founder of the company had been an avivid fighter for reunification of Germany, which was the reason why this building was right next to the Berlin wall. Five years after the fall of ‘die Mauer’ the presidents who orchestrated it had been having dinner here: Gorbachev, Kohl and Reagan. In 2010 the USA was represented by George W. Bush and I sat on the same chair as he did 🙂

In 2011 things were very different. After over a year of traveling I was kindly hosted by a good study friend. One of the first things on my agenda was to visit my old house. It was like before. He told a nice story about his hitch hiking trip to Bosnia in the 50s. Rough looking local men caught him taking berries from some bushes. Neither side spoke much of the other’s language. They took him along to their village and sat him down without speaking. Then they shouted at their wife and only minutes later a delicious meal was prepared for him. He barely had taken a first bite when they gestured that:
‘Ffive years ago Germans came and were shooting at us from the mountains in the distance.’
‘Another German has come today.’ ‘And now we drink together.’


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