It’s the little things in life. A friendly gesture, touching words or a smile. Many times it’s the little things that end up having an important meaning. An acquaintance, a random meeting, an unfamiliar sight. Sometimes, it might just even be a milk carton in Berlin.
My journey from Rostock to Berlin starts in a common way. It starts wit a goodbye. Martina drives me to a petrol station and leaves me with a warm hug. Her license plate ‘GG LOL 1337’ still conjures a smile on my face. Guess that makes both of us nerds. “Do you mind if I drive fast”, asks Johannes, a 45 years old architect who pulled over with his brand-new jaguar at the highway entrance. I share my stories about lifts in Eastern Europe, drinking beer and smoking weed while driving and I assure him, not being worried at all. He responds with an equally skeptic and shocked glance. I’m sure I could spot a slight motion of his crow’s-feet, which again I interpreted as brief smile. Johannes drives fast indeed. As result of a 250 km/h maximum speed, we reach Berlin in record time.
In sunny weather, me and Dan meet one last time in Berlin. We wanna seal our North cape trip with a ‘goodbye beer’. We look back on 6 crazy weeks, recap the funniest memories once again and we’re both, happy and sad. Happy because we’re not forced to hitch hike with minus degrees anymore and sad due to our upcoming goodbye. We part company at a train station, in the early morning, slightly drunk. Another hug, a tight hug, that would have probably led into more if our gender constellation was any different. I am happy, that we decided to hit the road together in Copenhagen. I am glad for sharing these last 6 weeks together with a friend.
My stay in Berlin brought me to Berlin-Mitte. One of my best school mates, David, moved apartments 2 weeks ago and his new one offers a balcony view over our capital, that could not have been any better. David works for our government, which allows him to give me a private tour in our Reichstag building on my 4th day. Until then, my morning ritual will be identical every single day. A capsule coffee combined with some in paper rolled tobacco and a view to Berlin’s skyline, that appears to be shrouded in fog, which gives it a slightly mysterious touch.
In order to fulfill my tourist duties, I spend my 3th day strolling around the city. I pass myriads of stately churches, modernly designed McDonald’s branches, all different kinds of Kebab shops, a tourist trap disguised as ‘Ritter Sport colorful chocolate world’, vegan restaurants whose painted and sprayed facades make them look like they just came out of a Tim Burton movie, and a wall. A wall that separated East and West Germany 28 years ago. A wall, that on the present day separates me from the tourists, who try to take artsy pictures on the decorated side of the wall. A wall, that appears to be tiny compared to the one I saw in Palestine. But who gives a fuck about walls in the middle east anyway.
My walk through Berlin made me finally admit, that I am not a city person. Some corners and areas were definitely able to enthuse me but in general, Berlin, despite all the hymns of praise, left a sobering impression. An impression I can’t blame on the city itself, but on my own individual interests. Still, David’s private tour through our parliament building surprises me in a positive way. An almost majestic seeming mix of modern and old architecture, spread their own specific charm. This combined with the subtle knowledge of important decisions been made on this ground, almost made the German Reichstag become my unexpected highlight of Berlin…if it hadn’t been for the milk carton…
My last night in Berlin. My last cigarette on David’s balcony. It’s Sunday morning when the sturdy apartment’s door snaps shut behind me and the lift brings me 25 floors earthwards. Another goodbye, definitely to many of these recently, but at least it’s only a temporary one this time. I leave Berlin with a satisfied feeling and the certainty, that I will never have to use ‘I’ve never been to Berlin’ ever again, while having conversations with, most likely Asian, travelling acquaintances.
It takes me 3 lifts in order to get to Leipzig. Lift #1, a young couple, that works in a refugee cafe and maltreats me with Berlin Underground Gangster Rap music, drops me off at a big petrol station on the highway. Lift #2, Barbara from Poland is actually driving 600 kilometers to Saarbrücken, my home city. ‘Is it time for another surprise?’ – ‘No, not this time‘. 3 weeks later and I would have definitely taken this lift, but for now, I let her drop me off at another gas station and wish her “Safe trip!”. Lift #3, George from Kenya would normally just pass Leipzig, but he offers to take a 40 minutes detour and bring me to my host’s place. Generosity, you usually get confronted with when African people pick you up. Generosity and interesting music. This time it is Nigerian Party/Raggae music that makes me smile. He drops me off at Martin’s apartment. An old friend I made 2 1/2 years ago in Thailand. It nearly makes me feel nostalgic.
The little things in life. A young child reminds me of my own childhood. It’s St. Martin’s day. A day, on which children walk through the streets carrying little homemade lanterns. I remember crafting some fancy ones at my Kindergarten. Snail shaped ones, ghosts or moon formed bodies made of cardboard. This child, I met in a deprived area, did not enjoy this luxury. A small, circular, with foil covered hole, a faint light shines through, plain painted sides and a shape, my former math teacher would have referred to as cuboid. An used, converted milk carton. The weak light inside the lantern makes the children’s shiny eyes appear even brighter. Fully unimpressed by other children’s masterpieces. Without a sign of jealousy she’s swinging her lantern in front of me while we are standing in the same train. Happy with what she has. A virtue, most people have forgotten about nowadays.
Happy with an old milk carton. A milk carton, that made at least one other person happy on that night.