Oh Berlin, Nobody Knows Where You’ve Been

A severed city sleeps below
A silent sheet of stainless snow,
Its scattered centers whispering
Of different maps that decades bring
Where compass points are ill-defined,
The East and West of sleepless minds.

A severed city slumbers still,
The reborn child of iron will.
A web of interwoven lines,
Rivers, roads and great divides,
The names and claims they scrawl upon
The relics of the two-in-one.

A phoenix town raises her wings,
Sets snow-strewn branches quivering,
And greets the dawn through frosted glass,
And monuments to memories past,
And keeps her silent ghosts at bay
And lives to see another day.

I suppose Berlin was my first real fling. The first time I spent the night with a place without carrying it home in my heart. And who could blame me? Berlin is not a relationship-sort-of-girl – she’s the best-known enigma on Earth.

Despite countless history books, superimposed photos, every friend-of-a-friend with their decadent tales, nothing comes close to capturing her. No city center to hint at a heart but countless towns, clinging together against the cold, wrapped in a vast quilt of cultures. No scenic walk from one side to the other – we gave in to the underground, steps leading down from one world and leading up into another.

We threw snowballs in the Tiergarten – the only living souls in a winter wonderland of forested groves belying the bustling world beyond – and breathed onto frozen fingers*. An hour before the train back home, we stood at the top of the Reichstag dome and watched the sun – a perfect circle through the smog – as it traced its way through modern tower blocks and blackened monuments, illuminating history layer by layer before leaving the night in our hands.

*Did you know… the German word Handschuhschneeballwerfer is used as a way to call someone cowardly, and literally means ‘glove-snowball-thrower’.


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