Friday, December 6, 2013

Photo Friday: My Loneliest Place

In May of 1988, I boarded a train in Glasgow, Scotland, and headed to Berlin, Germany. It was the first time that I had travelled abroad, my first time in Europe.

And I travelled alone.

I was doing research work for a story I was writing about Roland Axam, and for that I spent some time in Edinburgh, in North Berwick, and finally, East and West Berlin.

Because I spoke no German at the time, and I found that not many of the locals spoke English, I spent most of my three days in that Cold War-torn country without speaking more than a couple of words. To eat, I pointed to pictures of food on menus. I knew how to say "ein bier, bitte" and "danke," but otherwise kept my mouth shut.

I stayed in a pension off the Kurfurstendamm, the Kima, and spoke to no one. Not the hotel staff, not to the other guests. When I cleared my breakfast dishes from the table in the dining room, I received laughs from everyone for my efforts.

My only solace was that I wandered the greater part of the city, on foot, taking hundreds of photographs. I made lots of notes on being an outsider, on your own, in a city divided by a tall wall and landmines.

My favourite place to sit and collect my thoughts was Europacenter, with its shopping centre and memorial to WWII, the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. This large plaza was a common meeting place for all walks of life. It was the one place where I didn't feel lonely.

For the rest of the city, for me, seemed the loneliest place on Earth.

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