Love At First Sight
Published June 18, 2012
I must have been about 6 years old when my parents took me to Berlin for the first time. I remember it well. We stayed at the famous ‘Schweizer Hof’ Hotel. It was very expensive. It was the first hotel I’d ever been to where they had a swimming pool. I thought it was heaven.
A lot of German celebrities were staying at the hotel, too. Michael Schanze who hosted a TV show at the time used to fool around in the pool with us. I also vividly remember walking into the restaurant one evening and there was Rainer Werner Fasbinder with his entourage – an infamous bad boy German movie director who died young and probably not long after we saw him there.
More than anything I remember the feeling of homecoming, of belonging. Walking along the KuDamm (Kurfuerstendamm) towards the Gedaechtniskirche (what the Berliners call the ‘Hohle Zahn’ – the hollow tooth), and then on towards the Cafe Kranzler with it’s red and white striped awnings…all the names and places that were already familiar through the books that I’d read…
And so from the very first time I set eyes on it…I just LOVED Berlin. That feeling hasn’t changed.
I went to Uni here. I had my first ‘real’ boyfriend here. I got married here.
Every time I come back to Germany, Berlin is where I want to be. I grew up 360 kms west of Berlin, and if I could never go back there it wouldn’t bother me for a minute. When in Germany, Berlin is where I want to go, where I want to be.
3 years is the longest I have ever been away from Germany (and Berlin), but coming back this time it is no different. The moment I step off the plane I feel the familiar pang, a tightening around my throat…I’m home.
I feel hot tears gathering behind my eyelids, happy tears.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to live here right now. I know that one day I will again, but now is not the time. Australia has ruined me for city life. The way people live in Berlin feels unnatural right now – crammed into blocks of flats, 5 stacks high and 2 or three across. I already crave more space. More light. Walks on the beach.
But it still feels like home and I’m so excited to share it with my kids this time.
Funnily enough…they respond to it, too. They might not get the Brandenburg Gate, but they listen to me telling the story…how there used to be a wall that divided our city, a wall that tore families apart overnight, a wall that broke hearts and broke people, a wall with a ‘death strip’ where people got shot, killed and mutilated for little more than wanting to be on the other side of it, for wanting to be free.
Again, I have my own memories…memories of standing on the western side of the wall behind the Brandenburg Gate. At the time, you had to climb up some steps and stand on little platforms to get a good view of it behind the wall. I remember that there were people next to us who were crying. Others were waving to some person on the other side that I couldn’t make out, but I imagined them in a flat somewhere receiving the greeting through binoculars. Some were shouting and shaking there fists at the wall, their fate and the heavens…
All that has changed now. The square around the ‘Gate’ has been remodelled, the famous Hotel Adlon completely rebuilt from scratch. The space has been turned into a tourist circus with people dressed up as the Berlin Bear and Darth Vader, some hot blond chicks in Russian Uniforms and other monstrocities, but all of that is so much better than my old memories.
The pain has been replaced by joviality…but there is plenty of reason to be jovial. Today, we have coffee and Apfelstrudel in style at the Theodor Tucher Cafe just metres away from the Gate itself. It’s uplifting. It gives me hope. That the world is changing into a better place. That Berlin will be a happier place for the current generation and the generations to come…