Paranoia in Berlin

A view of Berlin in the late 1970s.

Hardy has been trying to get me to Berlin for over 25 years. He is, I must admit, more adventurous than I. In 1978, we were both wandering around Europe, though not together. While he was trekking through Istanbul and hitchhiking across Yugoslavia, I was lounging on the beaches of St. Tropez and holing up in an apartment on Portugal’s Algarve coast. But we had agreed to meet up in Berlin, a city that made me nervous, and check out Germany together.

I still have my guidebook from that trip. Here, in part, is what it said: “The trip across East Germany to Berlin is foreboding….” And, “If you travel by train be sure to get off at the main station in the West. Otherwise, in ten minutes you will find yourself stranded on a platform in East Berlin.” And, “Travel in the GDR is not always easy psychologically…the main obstacle to a visit is not red tape, but paranoia.”

Foreboding. Stranded. Paranoia. Those were the words that stuck in my throat like cold chunks of currywurst.

I’m not into conflict. Cold war, hot war, lukewarm war, I don’t care. It makes me uncomfortable. So instead of a train to Berlin, I took a ferry to the Canary Islands. There were a lot of Germans there, though no communists, and the weather was warmer. But I always felt bad about not holding up my end of the bargain with Hardy. So here I am. In Berlin. Waiting for his arrival.

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