Friday, September 03, 2010

One if by land. Two if by sea.

I am in the Büro. Years ago when I came to Germany to visit Johannes I often spent some time using the Internet in whatever office of whatever advertising company he was working for. Now he owns the company.

I am staying on Hufeland Str. in the same flat that we squatted in a decade ago. Now the building and the street is completely restored. The paint has been stripped from the massive wooden doors. The plumbing and electric redone. There is hot water and showers. There is central heat in the winter. The Jungen Stile (Art Nouveau) facades have been restored. These formally grey buildings used to be pocked marked with bullet holes. The bullets are still there, somewhere inside but they have been covered up with fresh plaster and yellow and white paint.

I remember how we used to line up every morning at the yellow phone booth on the corner. This was the only working phone for blocks around. We would meet our neighbors there and plans were made for the coming day.

I came to Berlin yesterday, from Riga by boat and train. I was on a cargo ship filled with Russian truck drivers. There were a handful of people with cars. Mostly everyone is trying to avoid the legendary traffic jams in Poland. I was the only person who walked on board the ship.

I had to go to Vecmilgravja Terminal a heavily industrialized port on the outer fringes of Riga. Yanis offered to drive me there in the middle of the night. We drove through the desolate cargo yards past the gigantic cranes and freighters at 1am.

I had to wait in the shipping office until all of the trucks had loaded. Then at 3:30am a tiny woman, dressed in black with a very official looking orange safety vest and bright red high heels led me to the gangplank of the Baltic Amber. I was impressed at how she navigated the cobblestones and abandoned rail tracks in spikes.

I was the only passenger to walk on board. There must have been close to 200 rooms on the upper decks of the ship. I had a cabin built for 4 all to myself.

I slept for a few hours and woke to bright sunshine. The sea was calm. From the deck one could see for hundreds of miles in all directions. There were banks of low clouds on the horizon, billowing like the sails of ancient ships. I practiced yoga while Russian truck drivers smoked cigarettes. They watched curiously for a few moments. I heard the word Yoga a few times. Then they quickly lost interest.

That night I slept like a baby to the thrum of the massive engines. In the morning we sailed into Travemunde. It looked like a cross between Monte Carlo and Innsbruck. The beach was lined with empty cabanas. There was a lone high rise hotel that also functioned as a light house. From there I hitched a ride with a car passenger to the local train station. Once you are in the German rail system you are home free.

As we sat on the balcony last evening in Hufeland Str. Johannes asked me: Why Riga?

I told him the story.