Thursday, September 18, 2008

Hamburg Walkabout (7 September 2008)

I left H.'s house, turned right, passed by the U-Bahn station and decided to take a long, long walk. I missed just wandering around.

Walking down Osterstrasse, you can pass by the canals while the road widens with greens on each side and housing estates side by side with nicely settled 3-storey Northern Germany bricked houses and new developments.

Further south, I come close to Schlump, where the TV-tower is located. It sets the background to a massive, brown estate housing that seems to be standing proudly and at a big junction with a fading sun behind it. It flashes an idea in my mind: A photo collection of "Architectural Clichés"...

Concrete housing estate, and not-so-inviting skies behind.

Various colours of Hamburg and orange-bricks matching the oriental taste of this restaurant.

Street name reads "Collonaden" behind these colonades around Jungfernstieg. The grandiose of Hamburg Rathaus reach out to the expanding clouds.

Then, I decided to walk towards the HafenCity. This is currently Europe's biggest urban regeneration site. Billions of Euros have been invested in this inner-city island on the River Elbe, and architectural firms such as KCAP, Herzog & de Meuron, OMA have been designing the masterplan of and various buildings on the site. As a group of 4, we made a presentation on HafenCity last Spring at the LSE, and it was time I would go visit the site.

I figure "HafenCity" signs have been added to the traditional Hamburg road signs since my last visit.

Somehow, in my previous 5-6 visits to Hamburg, I never passed through Speicherstadt, this beautiful riverside area, that housed red-bricked massive storage facilities.

Some of these storage buildings are being renovated for the same use, while others are turning into office and residential blocks as seen in these pictures.

This massive development is Hamburg's 1st Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) investment. Red cranes fit the environment and can be seen all across the site, especially from this open, public-space.
Sunday strollers, fishermen make up the calm crowds around the HafenCity as a few tenants have moved into their new flats.

Children's playground overshadowed by construction, and cranes appearing once again at the HafenCity viewpoint. The further cranes are for the jewel of the crown, the Elbphilarmonie building that should look something like this, when completed:

Details on Elbphilarmonie and some curious people around the site.

Achievement of the day:
As I left HafenCity, I put back my music on. A guy leaning on railings by the waterfront said something towards me. I paused the music and looked at this very cross-eyed guy who was asking for directions to some bar/nightclub. I did not know about the place but when he said "it is near some Marco Polo-platz" I immediately recognised I was there a few minutes ago. Against his heavy German accent I was able to give directions:
"You have to go diagonally from here!"

"But how do I do that? Where do I turn right, where do I turn left?"

Against his anxiety and evergrowing German accent, I kept it cool to my surprise and managed with my German to tell him about a bridge nearby that he had to cross and then turn left from there until he saw people gathering at a plaza. I was proud of myself!

Boats parked at the river marina and Hamburg's elevated typology at the riverside...

Failure of the day:
I continued on the riverside through Baumwall into Landungsbrücken. The weather was getting better and there were countless tourists, young couples, old couples and families strolling by the Elbe. I took quite a lot of pictures and at one point came by an old accordion player with a sailor's hat. He had a nice background behind him with a huge sailing boat, for a nice photo. As I was preparing my camera, he noticed me and shouted at me to give him some change. I did not mind and was actually thinking of 'buying' his pose for my shot anyways. He had a beautiful smile in my interest and the potential capital gained from this interaction. I framed him at the left side of the picture with the partly cloudy Elbe background.

I went over to him and suddenly remembered I had spent all my change but 8 cents at the Bagel/Coffee shop earlier. The sudden change in his face from glory to misery really broke my heart. I was hopeless. I dropped the few copper coins as he looked carefully into my hands in sheer disappointment and I walked away in vein. I did not dare to look back as I was not expecting anymore hopeful sight in his eyes. He went on to play the same tune as I put my earphones back on.

I upset this smiling guy...

Approaching St. Pauli and its colourful scenes...

On my way back I had some more food for thought. Once more I realised: The author is a lonely man. It is the collection of lonelinesses that create the author's masterpiece, the book. But there is someone else, who is lonely in town. The author is as lonely as buildings. The author and buildings are the only ones that would dare to stand on their own against the crashing wind, as dark and static as they can be in the setting night. Buildings are lonely, therefore the architect is also lonely. The author and the architect have one major difference between them. The architect creates the loneliness, and the author narrates it. The building is designed to inhabit people in it, but is always created on a superficial reality in an enclaved and isolated dimension. The stories are written for people to read but are created at times of self-prophecy. The architect produces the loneliness, and the author reproduces it.

Ending a long walking day across the harbour at Övelgönne.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Your friends are lying in the sun, they wish that you were there...

Just over two years ago... You looked really OK, man. Pretty damn alive and kicking. All so silent, not in the forefront but making your presence felt.

I took a long hitch-hike, but a nice Afghan lady with a French car, driving from Norway took me all the way and made it so easy. Once I got to the city, rain was pouring down. I got by the huge convention centre in Hamburg and could not even see the dark side of the moon in the misty rain.

You with your hands pouncing on the familiar instrument... and him up in the front, gliding down the chords. And there was someone else on the stage that day. A guy (his name was actually "Guy") that married your daughter. The guy I had 4 beers with last summer in Istanbul, late late night... Before taking him to the airport 3 hours later. A guy who showed me the picture of your grandchild in his mobile phone. He smiled then. Huge smile. He said he really, really liked you, the grandfather of his child.

And also the other man, the one at the front of the stage, now making his guitar cry in the 2nd minute into the solo making our brains all so comfortably numb... He also said "you always were brilliant".

Last days of this summer, 40 years after you wrote and sang Summer '68, the song I listened to when I sweated under the spring sun of Aarhus, biking up the hill to the University... You left here.

I just passed over the river and the skies looked incredibly clear and beautiful. The evening lights set over the St. Paul's, and reflected from the National Theatre in various shades of reds and greens.

But you gave us the blues now... Like once you did when you took us to the great gigs in the sky...

The blues, the colour, once, of your fading eyes.

Two months ago I took this picture. Today, after two months, for the first time I walked by this landscape, and it reminded me of you... You said you had to leave this morning... May your soul wander around and illuminate hereabouts Rick Wright.

Monday, September 08, 2008

My Nobel Prize Speech

I vocalised the following speech in the shower a moment ago. It may be my Nobel Prize Speech or any other prizes I may win or any other speeches I may give for any reason in Sweden!
Here goes:

"It was the summer of 2006. The World Cup craze was all over Europe and across the Globe. I had completed my 5 months exchange studies in a small city in Denmark called Aarhus. A city with a population of 300,000. Before making my way to the Roskilde Festival at the end of June, I decided to take a 2 weeks vacation, travelling around Sweden and Norway. From mid- to the end of June, me and another friend saw numerous cities in Sweden and two nice towns in Norway. We would run into World Cup games at train stations, cafes in Stockholm or at our hostel common room and join the excitement.

Through the midway of these weeks we had a day in the northern central part of Sweden. We arrived via a nighttrain into a town called Ostersund. There was really not much to do in Ostersund as the summer season had not started yet. I had a brief look at a catalogue of the area and jumped on to the next train, that was the only morning train that could take us somewhere useful. So we ended up an hour later, around 10 in the morning, in Ore.

There were only two activities in Ore. Behind the train station was the mountain, Oreskutan where 2010 Ski World Championships would take place. We could climb the mountain. In front of the station was a lake and a camping area. We could swim in the lake. Now, although, I had swam in the first week of March, in the Danish sea, the water at 1 Degree Celsius, covered with snow and the outside temperature at 3 Degrees Celsius, and all naked for this 'Viking Club Activity', my friend was not too enthusiastic to try the 10 Degrees temperature water in Ore. So we only had the mountain option. As I have said, the summer season had not started yet, we were 3 days early so the mountain cabins were not even working. We had a whole day in front of us, because the next useful train passed at 8 in the evening, and we had around 1500 meters or more to climb up and down. So, we started.

It was a warm summer in Sweden in 2006. The weather at Ore was around 22 degrees. I remember starting the climb with 2 layers of clothes and going down to a t-shirt because of sweating. At the top I was at 3 layers, and my sweater was not even protecting us from the wind. After 6-7 hours of climbing up and down, wandering around and eating, we had completed a day's activity and took a train back to Ostersund where we would spend the night. Next morning, we had a train around 7 in the morning to take us to Trondheim.

The weather was blueish when we got to Ostersund around 9:30. Of course, at 63 degrees, umm... what do you call it...? 'parallel' ? Sorry, I can't remember that word now, but 63 degrees north of the Ecuador, almost at the beginning of the Arctic Circle, the days were very long and we were by the midsummer. Most of the hostels we tried were not opened for summer season yet, and the ones open had already closed their receptions at 8, 8:30 PM. And then rain started to pour down. As hopeless as we were, we decided to stroll on the main shopping avenue. In my guide book it said there were some Turkish and Kurdish shops there and maybe we could find some help.

To our surprise we immediately saw 2 kebab shops. I wanted to omit the first one as the owners looked too young to be helpful towards our misery. The second one was called 'Istanbul Kebab' and we welcomed the name of our hometown. The owner was called Bekir but he duly added people called him 'Alex' there. Or rather, he had called him Alex and some people acknowledged this. He must have thought Alex is a more common name than Bekir in Sweden. 'Alex Bekir', as we started to call him between me and my friend, treated us with a large dinner and told us that we could stay at the basement of his shop. We were really happy. Exhausted from a whole day's hiking, finally found a place to eat and stay for free at 11 in the evening.

'Alex Bekir' was really to see Turkish people coming from Turkey for the first time in 6 months. All other Turkish people he saw were the locals he knew and did not like much. We brought him some news and the 'country's air' as we say in Turkish. As the midnight drew in, one part of the sky would get blackish where the sun set, and the other part would get light blue where the sun almost started to rise again. 'Alex Bekir' was worried about how crowded the shop would get in this Saturday evening when the bars closed at 2 AM and the two kids who worked for him were not showng up. The boy worker called him at some point and told him he was taking a girl to a disco and would show up late, if ever. The girl worker was seen around the corner once during the night but had no intention to come for work. As the hours passed, we started to realise, 'Alex Bekir's complaints about the kids and our news from back home were turning into a request that Alex would ask from us, which would mean our fatal end.

During my 5 months in Denmark, I delivered pizza for 2.5 months, almost earning all my rent costs. On top of that was the Erasmus Grant my exchange program provided me, and I was happy to save some for travelling around in the summer. And this 2 weeks trip was part of these plans, and the only labour I was volunteered to do was activities such as hiking or trekking like we did that day in Ore.

To fast forward a little and summarise one of my most unique experiences, and why Sweden is always remembered as part of some special memories, I shall give you the scenery at 2:35 AM. After having climbed up and down 1500 meters, and been up since 17 hours and totally exhausted, I remember myself behind the counter, slicing Doner with my right hand, and frying potato chips with the left. Of course, if it were not for the electric Doner slicers that are unique for Europe (because in Turkey we still use the old-fashioned longknives to cut off Doner and I believe it looks much cooler and hygienic), I could not have done this. In fact, my first attempt at slicing the Doner ended in a disaster. It did not cross my weary mind that I was supposed to hold the slicer almost 90 degrees to the ground, parallel to the Doner and slightly touching it. As I stabbed the slicer, the Doner looked like a wild animal whose intestines just glushed out in pain. It took 45 minutes for the rest of the Doner to come to the same level as the part that I chopped out.

After I got acquainted with the Doner and potato chips, I was at one point, calculating the bill for a young Swede. Now, unfortunately I had not learned a word of Swedish (and only few of Danish), but to my liking, almost everyone talked English. And this kid, apart from the oriental interest he showed in me, as I felt it, was probably having a small crush on me. It is not that I have never been exposed to a such thing, and that I have very close gay friends, among which I actually feel special to be one of their only heterosexual friends (as they do not get along with heterosexuals too well), that moment just made me question my existentialism:

What was I actually doing at 3:25 AM in a kebab shop in Ostersund after having climbed up and down some 1500 meters, with a train to catch in 4 hours and hoping for some sleep? It was, as you may guess, a difficult one to answer.

Finally around 4 AM we got to get a 2 hours nap. Next morning we left a note to 'Alex Bekir' who welomed us and fed us at his shop. We left our phone numbers in case he would like to contact us when he comes to Turkey and told him that we would visit him again if we were ever around Ostersund. We also said something else:

While we 'worked' briefly for 'Alex Bekir', he made us wear the Swedish Football Team's t-shirt jerseys. You know, not the real jerseys but t-shirt versions of them, but with the similar fabric to a football jersey. Not a regular t-shirt fabric. Like a training jersey, but probably not an official brand but a €10 makes that are sold in street markets. Stinking of grease and doner, we decided we should commemorate our Ostersund experience forever with a memoir. Next morning, as we were leaving the shop, I told my friend to take the t-shirts and we added to the end of our note to 'Alex Bekir':

We are also taking the t-shirts to remember you and your generous help. We hope you don't mind.

This was one of my most spectacular 24 hours, and with humble, tired but warm smiles on our faces, we took our train to Trondheim and waved a brief goodbye Sweden that gave us this experience."

As soon as I finish this speech, I take a step back from the podium, take out that jersey from my back and wear it on. I salute the audience and smile at them...

Sunday, September 07, 2008

We stood by the great Schanzen fire.,1518,576781,00.html

10 February, 2007, Berlin:
I said I would definitely go check that film. I asked to see whether she wanted to join. She said:

"If you don't mind going alone, I'll stay here and do some work and wait for you. Then you can bring us dinner on your way back."

I saw the film Szabadság, szerelem at Zoo Palast. The film was set in 1956 Summer Olympics that took place simultaneously with the Hungarian Revolution. As the Hungarians were fighting back the Soviets, their world-famous waterpolo team was trying to beat their counterparts in the Olympics semi-finals. Both encounters (war and waterpolo) were quite bloody and further dramatised by the cinema's wonders. After the film, it was time for questions and answers with the film crew: The young actors had little knowledge about the Hungarian Revolution as they answered the questions from the floor. The audience was challenging the limits of Soviet brutalism and acknowledging Germany's place in the 'free world'. After their introduction, the producer of the film came in a nice, black suit. He was a mid-50's man with a chubby posture. He said some familiar words:

"I am proud to be here at the Berlinale, for the first ever screening of this film. It is, for me, of special significance that this film was shot on the 50th anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution and now is being screened here, where was once West Berlin and where now anyone from the West, East or anywhere in the united and independent Europe and the rest of the world can come and see it".

He had a reason to celebrate and his remarks were not incorrect but this amplified enthusiasm of west = independence equation made it almost feel as if the Hungarian Revolution never was.

2008 saw celebrations of 40th anniversary of May 1968 movements. Retrospective looks at various journal articles, photo images and stories from the year also paid tribute to Prague Spring. The whole year marked Europe's embracement of social democracy that was means, ends and last glory days of what once Europe flourished upon: the welfare states, and universal social rights spread across societies. Film screenings and concerts reminded a revolution-drained masses of what rights were being fought for 'back in the days'.

6 September 2008, Hamburg:
I suddenly remember where I left the posters.

Only half an hour ago I was feeling too tired and lonely in this great crowd. Thousands of young people enjoying the great warm Autumn weather and partying after a whole day's flea-market shopping and entertainment. Streets were filled with antiques from 1960's households, silver teapots, give-away vinyls, an old turntable, a funnily elegant, rusty chandelier, film posters from German comedy or cheap erotic movies of the former decades. By every cafe/bar, there was a young self-proclaimed DJ hitting some tunes, and all sorts of food from the regular kebabs to meatballs, falafel to tandoori, bratwurst to muffins. Beer was sold for 1 Euro at some stalls, tequila for only €2. It was all very inviting, but having passed by here earlier, I was feeling even lonelier in the mess. But I came back to Susannenstrasse from Altona with at least one purpose. I was going to get ice-cream from the same shop I did 2 summers ago during the World Cup Final. I wanted to stroll back and forth on the very same street and maybe this time I would run into someone I knew or wanted to get to know.

I walked up towards Feldstrasse but returned towards the Schanzenfest area via Schanzenstrasse where I once bought a %85 volume Absinth to a friend back in Turkey. There was some Reggae music and it was enough to get me in the mood. At Altona, at dinner time, I had quickly drunk 2 beers and 2 ouzos and all I needed was another beer and some movements. Within 5 minutes I was smiling at the people nearby and dancing slowly on my own. I walked back onto Susannenstrasse and then into Schulterblatt, the heart of the event. The live-music stage at the junction of Susannenstrasse and Schulterblatt was being dismantled. Time was 22:40. I took a small rest on a bollard on Schulterblatt. My head was somewhat dizzy. I was taking the last sips from my beer, giving my all into the music, now a mixture of some house, reggae and electronic beats from various sources. Across me, at the occupied theatre hall were the usual Schanzenviertel punks and metalheads. Behind me were the Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, Greek, Turkish 'kneipe's lined up properly according to geographic positions. Kafe X was in ruins and who knew where Ibo was at that moment. My head was just telling me to 'go with the flow'.

I suddenly remember where I left the two posters I bought earlier during the day.

They were from some funny German movies with a super-hero woman character in one of them. I forgot them at the cheap call-shop by the ice-cream place up the road when I called H. 3 hours ago before going to Altona to meet with her. I quickly got up to my feet and walked into the shop. I said to myself:

"If the posters are there, I will celebrate this by calling D."

Lurching from the alcohol, I slowly walked into the shop. I did not know Schulterblatt street was getting ready for some action at that point.

I was right. The posters were where I left them, at Phone Booth 5, on the ground. I picked them up, and sat myself comfortably on the stool and had a 8-9 minute conversation with D. on the phone. I left the booth, paid for the call and slowlz left the building, now filled with a misty cloud of waterpipe smoke and smell. Outside had already turned into a post-hurricane atmosphere, water over the streets, an emergency breakout, police tankers rolling down Schulterblatt and police forces marching orderly into the junction I was easily at 15 minutes ago.

A total darkness settled into the immediate sky. Around 25 people were running at me, and my dizzy and happy head was just dragging my feet into the middle of the incidents. I could see a fire on the middle of the road and there were barricades set by the police. All 4 sides of the junction were now being loosely covered by the police. A tanker swept the streets beside me. Its plate number read HH 7499. A beer bottle broke with noise 5 meters away from me and its shattered glasses hit my shoes and my jeans. I was surprised at what I was seeing and how calmly I was walking into the core of it. At that moment I recalled some blank cartridges exploding on the streets before I went into the phone-shop. The police shouted through megaphones installed on the green tankers:

"Everyone on the Schulterblatt and Susannenstrasse streets. Please evacuate the road immediately, move onto the side pavement and leave the junction."

I saw some of the tankers and bunch of cops with cameras and flashlights on them taking pictures of the people and incidents. I was right at the junction when the hell broke loose. Some 7-8 people rushed into the police and they were immediately repelled and beaten. I was pushed aside gently by a police into the mouth of Juliusstrasse, at the West edge of the junction, where most of the rebels ran away into. Now this 4th edge of the junction was also surrounded by the police and this was actually the one where there were no cafes/restaurants. Everyone on the street were either residents or the core rebels of the incidents. I was standing among them, watching everything still with utmost serenity, only 15 meters away from the police strip.

The tankers were filling up water to spray onto people if needed to repel them. I was expecting the rebels to come back to the junction and throw flaming bottles at them, but nothing happened within the following 30 minutes. The cops shouted once again:

"Juliusstrasse is surrounded by the police and no pass through the junction is allowed until midnight. Please use the further western streets up the road to exit the area".
I was disappointed at the lack of activity by the rebels. Apparently, as S. would tell me the following day, this is how they could run away from the police (after only a instantenous attack) and carry on their activities throughout the city in different events and gatherings. Slowly, the civil war atmosphere vaned. My shock as I had left the phone-shop had already transformed into curiosity. I was mainly suprised at one thing throughout the process. The police had treated me very kindly, while I was acting super-cool and rather imitating as if I was a tourist unaware of all of this and had no political ideology or consciousness whatsoever. This made me feel somewhat sick about myself as well but gave me a lot to think about.
Remembering scenes from May Day activities in Istanbul, or all the stories we heard about the pre-1971 and pre-1980 military interventions, in which the political right and left would kill each other, supported by the police and gendarmerie forces for absolute nothing (in effect), I realised how 'civilised' and rather 'organised' these whole protestations came about. It was as if the state had also given the social right of destructive rebellion to its citizens and regulated it with conscious police forces and rolling cameras. This is what many of us back home clashed about. Some argued 'police should get some education', some argued 'the police is the enemy by nature' and will always be confronted, so, the more agressive and stupid they are, the more we have the right to confront them. And this is exactly where it gets confusing. Have all these movements been made for self-justification against a brutal state that knew no rights or were they means of 'reminding' the state of the rights it levied on its citizens, taking the 'state' for granted? It seemed like the softer, the social-democratic, the reformist tendency to me, the stance that both the police and the rebellions were taking. All in all, this was a civilised breakout. In England, people would have already realised the unnecessity in it. Despite the common belief, Germans are still much more sentimental. Maybe, this is why I feel more at home in this country that founded the Romantic movement.
Later at night:

I decided to walk back home around midnight but took a really long detour as I was disoriented because of all the incidents. It took me about an hour and some exhausted legs but gave me a lot of time to think about what had just happened.

I thought about people back home who has what they consider as clear political ideologies. Some of them have been fighting for them which I always respected and at some points of my life, felt guilty of not contributing enough to. However, I did have my times of rebellion. Rebelling against the school's dining-catering policies, rebelling against family on education issues, rebeling against friends, joining protestations and walks for familiar global causes; war on Iraq, NATO gatherings, gay and lesbian rights. Above all, I have long rebeled against myself. The more I could not express within a community, the more I suffered personally. When I came to think of it, this was the biggest difference here in Germany. People still lived a much more communal life than in England. And they lived a more productive one than the guys back in Turkey. After all, Germany was still trying to preserve some of its social, welfare-state policies and people, especially the young ones, had no intention to succumb into losing them. In England, however, a different mind was prevailing, maybe a more realist one. At the capital of Capital, people learned the ways of not spending efforts on such movements. Or rather they have been drained of their free time and economic means to do so. Back home, we had too much free time, or created it, and there was always a question of doubt in our own movements. A disparity among the rebels. Somehow, we believed too much in the rebellion and rebelled against ourselves and each other too much to come up with something useful against the 'common enemy' that we forgot to define too long ago.

Friday, September 05, 2008

(p)art of travelling

"Art of travelling" is a major part of travelling. Sometimes it is all about good planning, and sometimes it is all about good decision-making during the process. A serene mind, good intuitions and an in-shape body will always go a long way...

- Sleep 11 hours, have a nice breakfast with omelette and milk-shake, get over the migraine.
- Go to bank to put money in your account, see the long queue, give up. Head to Bethnal Green Station to take a tube at 15:55, where you initially planned to be at 15:30.
- Get the Central Line. Change to Metropolitan line at and the train arrives simultaneously as you arrive in the platform. Good timing!
- Get to St. Pancras railway station, buy a ticket to Luton Airport and a delayed 16:03 train arrives at 16:18 right when you reach the platform.
- Embrace your luck and "good karma", arrive at the aiport check-in desk 3 minutes before it closes. Embrace your fast-thinking mind and your fast body-moves. Control your excitement, check your heartbeats and dose off in the plane.

- Arrive in Hamburg, adjust your clock, go to security check. Bus 39, U3,U1 and U2, and your're home.
- Eat dinner, go to bed. Next morning.....

- Fix breakfast, check emails, head to the Hauptbahnhof. You've got 12 minutes for the train you want.
- You have to tell your friend in Bremen that you're taking the next train. You don't have money on the phone. Nevermind, you'll do it at a phone booth once you get there.
- Find the nearest ticket machine. Choose ticket. Pay. Oh, you don't have change. Insert card. Damn, the machine didn't like the card. Go to the Travel Centre in stead.
- The queue is too long. Give up. Think of something else...

- Go the kiosk, buy a cappucino. Not for the cafeeine of course, for money change.
- Go back to the ticket machine, get your ticket, you're on the train 2 minutes before it leaves.
- Read Orhan Pamuk's new book on the train, recieve an unexpected message from your Turkish phone operator: "Your first 3 SMS outside Turkey are for free. So that you can tell your relatives back home that 'you've arrived safely'".
- Embrace your luck and the decision to keep your Turkish phone connected...
- Send an SMS to your friend.

- Look for a pen to write all this down to put it in the blog later. Can't find one.
- Take a sip from the coffee, relax and start typing all of this into your mobile phone.
- Once you're done (after 15 minutes, dizzy fingers, and 22 SMS long writing), enjoy the train ride and hope that your friend shows up.
- Boost up self-confidence in travelling and celebrate: Alles in perfekt Ordnung!

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Hamburg, noch einmal...

It has been almost two years since my last visit. As soon as we landed I felt the familiar cold again. That formal and mild cold that reflected from the coats of the mid-30's businesswomen or the cold the university student brought into Bus 39 in the evening's setting darkness after her gym workout in her jumpers. That cold at the platform of Ohlsdorf Station or the cold sound of slow escalators at the Lutterothstrasse U-Bahn exit. Escalators in the London Underground always run smoothly and are refurbished once they get a little old, but not here. The cold of the fugitive eyes in the carriage and on the heavy door handles that you have to pull aside to make your way out.

The cold immediately filled my lungs but did not make me feel sick, in fact, the contrary. It would be unfair, to summarise my feelings with cold here, as most of my experiences are warm and homely. I had a relatively warmer welcome from the Passport security. The more Schengen visas I have on my passport, the less they deal with me: Benefit of the unjustice for Rights of Travel. It did not feel like a lot has changed since my last visit. A lot has changed with me but not with this city. Young bikers on the side of the street passing by our bus, the Turkish bus driver helping out an elderly on where he has to leave the bus, evening lights on the shaking leaves of trees, empty beer bottles on the pavement and "übergang zu U2" at Schlump.

S. immediately recognised the change in my hair as H. opened their doors to welcome me once again. They both looked healthy despite H.'s own claims against it. We caught up since our last meeting from over a year ago in Istanbul, and updated each other with whatever was left to say outside our e-mail conversations. H. has been like an "aunt" for me ever since we met, and that's how I got attached with this city... The first time I met with F.A., or when I came down from Denmark to the coldest winter's day in 30 years of history, or spent a weekend with J., or with S.Y. and S.I. watching out for the ticket inspectors on our free rides, or when I met my family after a few months' separation, or when we drove from Berlin with A. to her first visit here. Each and every single memory just flashed back as I was gazing at the pictures on H.'s walls of her family and the other familar faces, including one photo I had taken, she framed of my own family.

After the previous night's long sleep, I had another good 11 hours of rest, pulling my weekly average from 4 hours to 6. Smells of nearby linden trees, sounds of the cheerful schoolkids playing, and the taste of "Wald Honig" fill the early afternoon. A warm shower, a stroll on the street and a ride down to the Hauptbahnhof and I will leave here briefly, to go on with the journey. It feels good to be back... and this time around, I am paying for my tickets on the U/S Bahn regardless of inspections. I guess I have more responsibilities now and there are other excitements other than watching out for the ticket inspectors. Maybe they will get also the escalators fixed with a little help from me... or maybe they should leave it the way it is, so I can feel once again that I missed this city.

Monday, September 01, 2008

even an end has a start

OK, this is a cheesy title to begin with, it is some lyrics from a cool Editors song, but it is not the most creative title. In fact, I have been writing cheesy blog's about how life is downstairs and upstairs and so on. But sometimes life is easy, at the roof terrace it is a bit breezy and sometimes it is just cheesy (just like this rhyme).

Anyhow, this monologue is actually a small farewell introduction. I am leaving my house, my beautiful city, the good weather and the good friends and the good view again, to go to an uncertain. As of tomorrow 4 PM, I will be retiring from my 17 years-long non-stop educational career. I may go back to it one day, but the coming years look like I'll try something different.

After some travelling in September, October will mark a fresh new start in a foreign city with no home, no work, no commitments but increased responsibilities, along with different heartbeats. Ambiguity might be scary, and the shite weather will definitely not be of great help. I adapt well. It doesn't necessarily mean I "belong", but I find a way. Or a way finds me. Or I just leave it to my intuition, or to my feet which always take me somewhere. Somewhere rather cool.

A hint: I am looking towards a harbour across the sea. Tomorrow, I will be at another harbour. And the day after tomorrow, I will actually be at another harbour, all of which I have been to before. Did you know that there are actually more countries in the world by the open-waterside (sea or ocean)?

There will be more motion picture, and then there will be soundtrack. Rail tracks, running tracks, airport runways, trekking routes, wheels on the left, wheels on the right and a paragliding flight. A smooth land and in the end, my feet will finally be on the ground (I told you, I don't necessarily "belong").

Damn, this feels awkward.