The tooting sound comes on, the red light above the door flashes and then they close. The train leaves.
I mix with the rest of the people on the platform and the fact that someone constantly keeps bumping into my backpack from behind is slowly getting on my nerves, so I walk faster.
‘Sorry, we are already closed. We work until 12 in the afternoon’, says the guard at the Belarusian embassy in east Berlin near Pushkin Avenue at five past noon. Well, at least he is so kind and offers me to make an appointment for next time.
I walk back all the way to the station but don’t take the steps to the platform. I keep walking and the concrete under my feet turns into green grass while the train station disappears behind trees, their leaves shining golden in the autumn morning sun.
It has been years since the last time I have set foot here in this park in the Neukölln district. I was still a child back then and we just moved to Berlin a few months ago. My parents and I used to come here for a walk while we lived near Sonnenallee or Sun Avenue to say it in English. Surprisingly (or maybe not) nothing much around here has changed since then and I can tell that even though I have not been here for so long.
I am back on the concrete and to my left I see the Havel river and many, many ships that are just standing there and swinging in the waves. I know this place. I still know it very well and maybe that is the reason I came back here today. To see if I can still remember.
It is just a concrete path by the harbor. On the left there is the water and on the right there a little wooden shacks that have small restaurants or cafés in them. I spot a refrigerator that belongs to a café and stores drinks in it and I am pretty sure that the exact same one has been standing here back when I was a kid. The same blue one with strawberry, vanilla and chocolate ice cream scoops on it.
On this street I tried out my new rollerblades when I was a little girl with short hair and Harry Potter style glasses. The same concrete path continuing for at least another fifty meters, by the same boats and same cafés as there are now. Nostalgia strikes me all at once as I keep walking now, twelve years later, remembering my parents holding my hands as I was skating and my attempts not to land on the ground.
I am passing by joggers, people walking their dogs, by mothers and grandmothers taking out their children in their strollers. A little baby boy looks up to me from the ground where he is sitting by his mother’s feet and gives me an adorable, toothless little smile followed by a laugh. Oh those beautiful big blue eyes in such a tiny little face. All I can and want to do is smile back, feel my heart fill with warmth and hope that one day my child will look at me the same way.
If there is one thing that I have missed while living abroad, then it is not any shopping luxuries or movie theaters or bars, as many would expect, but it were walks like these whose absence I felt so much.
One of the ships that I walk by looks like a fish and has Moby Dick written on its side in black letters. A father and a son pass by me on their bikes and I hear the son say:
‘Look, Daddy! A shark!’
‘No, it is not a shark. It’s a whale.’
‘No, a shark!’
The father is probably sticking to the plot of the original story in which case it should be a whale indeed, but the longer I look at the boat, the more I have to agree with the son. It really looks more like a shark than a whale, doesn’t it?
They say that if a black cat crosses your path that means bad luck is coming your way, but what if there is a bunch of ducks doing the same in a neat row? Any ideas?
The sun is shining and leaves are falling down in front of me. The air is cool but not too cold yet. Somehow it makes me think of a small piece of ice that is slowly melting in one’s hand, leaving a cool feeling on the skin. I guess that may be a way to describe it.
For some reason the park has a shortage on benches and the ones that are around are already taken. Either by mothers and their children, the elderly or the girl who has her hair covered and is sitting on what must be her boyfriend’s lap. Looks like fun what they are up to. The parents better never find out. Or maybe religious believes and morals have lost their meanings in western countries nowadays and everything is just show for the sake of keeping the general picture alive?
By the time I return to the Moby Dick boat, a big group of ducks has gathered in one spot while a couple, who turns out to be deaf, is feeding them pieces of what here we call ‘American sandwich bread’. Ducks in all sorts of colors. The usual brown and green ones, light brown and then black ones with a little bit of white in their faces. It does not take long and two swans join the scene. One white, the other light grey.
And so it goes by, a day in the park. I say, if you want to have a closer look at the population of a city or of a country, visit their parks, find a bench or go for a walk and enjoy the show for a while.