Not Just Another Brick in the Wall
Resilience. Honesty. Self belief.
Berlin began sweetly. I had an old lady give me company in the InterCity train I took from Prague to Berlin. While I sat by the window and typed the first 2 chapters, she sat opposite to me and chewed on an apple she’d politely offered before.
She didn’t speak English and I didn’t speak German. But somethings don’t need words to be expressed. They’re just understood. And they seem most significant.
When she left, she handed me a packet of chocolate biscuits. And she smiled. When I left Berlin two days later, I also smiled.
There was something about the city which made my heart skip a beat; could have been the people who were courteous on the streets, the cheerful air in the hostel bar, the delicious food and dark beer that had me sigh with relief or just the assurance of the city that permeated its buildings, roads and clothing. The first night in Berlin though tested me. I had a problem with my bag which left me feeling helpless, not in control and just devastated the bubble of joy I’d built in the past few hours. But that night also emphasized what the city is all about.
Breaking down walls.
Control, safety, power – all walls of defense we build around ourselves, seeking to keep away our deepest fears. And sometimes, little things breach those walls and break it down. Little things like an unexpected obstacle, an external variable, an undesirable realization. Or big things like family, love and community – all of which tore down the walls Germany built in its history.
The city if rife with artifacts of its past – which I found intriguing. Why would you want to retain evidence of the worst things of your past? Why would a city want to remember its biggest mistakes? Why would a country not want to forget and move on?
And the tour around the city, a few hours in the basement of the hostel with 6 stand up comedians (one who turned out to be an India, hurrah!), and 3 hours at The Palast watching the grandest revue ever, I got the answer.
Sometimes, it is good to remember the bad. It isn’t necessary to forget the past to move on. You only don’t need to be stuck there. And Berlin isn’t stuck there. It acknowledges the truth, faces it and accepts it. It laughs at it. Between beers and pizza it humbly accepts its flaws. Amidst fashion and music it lifts its chin and shows you it is no longer the city of destruction, but a city that has built itself from scratch. In its streets of order, beautiful museums and memorial walls, it shows you belief – in its ability to rise above and beyond.
I caught the train from Berlin on a Tuesday afternoon, knowing I’d finally been in a city that touched my soul. And smiling, because I knew I’d learnt a lot in Berlin, about myself, my fears, but more than anything, that I could get up, dust the dirt off, and keep walking.
And I did it with a new bag.