Since I left the US on January 2, 2015, I have lived in or visited more than 30 countries, close to 45 different cities. So many cities around the world, all as diverse as the people who live in them. Some of them left lasting impressions, others were just places on the map that I could check off and move on from. But none has ever captured my heart the way Berlin has.
Oh sure, there is Medellin, Colombia. Oh Medellin! La ciudad de mi corazón! It will always be the city of my heart. The fresh bright “gringa” heart I have harbored since I first learned to speak Spanish as a child, the part of me that loves the Latin culture and Spanish language. Medellin with its stunning views from any vantage point. The perfect warm spring weather every day of the year. A crazy skyscraper filled bowl, surrounded by mountains, with almost 7,000 people per square kilometer.
The loud streets are filled with colorful autobus, motos, and cars. It’s not a very bicycle or pedestrian friendly city, except for Ciclovía, but it has an incredibly innovative metro system including the first ever cable car created for the inhabitants of a city, not the tourists. Its history is dangerous and scary and makes my friends and family question why I would ever go there, let alone love it. But love it I do.
Ciclovía: Each Sunday and public holiday from 7 am until 2 pm certain main streets of Bogotá, Cali, Medellín, and other municipalities are blocked off to cars for runners, skaters, and bicyclists. At the same time, stages are set up in city parks. Aerobics instructors, yoga teachers and musicians lead people through various performances. Bogotá’s weekly ciclovías are used by approximately 2 million people (about 30% of the population) on over 120 km of car-free streets.
Before I stepped foot in Berlin, I thought Medellin would be my place. The city of my dreams. Then, I got off the plane in Berlin and my heart split in two. I still love M
edellin, as a matter of fact I will most likely spend the majority of 2019 in that most glorious of cities. But Berlin is the place my heart took root and my own true self grew up from the fertile ground.
Maybe it was because I was ready for the lessons Berlin had to offer me. Maybe Berlin helped me to be ready. Maybe it was a combination of the two. I’m not sure it matters, not really. Because the end result is the same. I am renewed. No journey is a straight line, and I think from the time I left the US my trajectory was curved in this direction, but when I settled into this city of black clad hipsters, swinger clubs, techno music and history, it hit its stride and set me off fully into the curve of my final awakening.
I feel at home here. Yes, I want to know more about the city and its history etc., so I work four days a week and on Fridays my friends and I do “Friday Funday” and go to museums, parks, Christmas Markets, and other fun Berlin style adventures. But I also love to stroll around my kiez (neighborhood), check into my favorite coffee shop, and spend the day writing. I am happy to visit friends for a glass of wine at street side cafes, meet for lunch at the food truck fair on Sundays, or just hang out on my balcony enjoying long summer nights.
Of course, there are exciting things to do here too. The ballet, the orchestra, the philharmonic, mega rock concerts at Mercedes Benz Stadium, techno clubs like Berghain, sex clubs like Kit Kat, small live music venues, beer gardens, secret and outdoor Kinos (movie theaters), beautiful municipal parks and so much more. I’ve been to two swingers’ clubs and will go to Kit Kat for New Year’s Eve. But I don’t need the excitement. I just need this city.
I sometimes laugh that the city I fell so hard for, is a place where I don’t even speak the language. (Unlike Medellin, where I also speak Spanish.) But I do have German heritage and have always felt that somehow my ancestors are speaking to me, even on the first day I walked down the street here, I felt somehow connected. Maybe a past life, maybe a future? I love not knowing why, but also feeling so sure that this is my place, these are my people.
As this year comes to a close, I feel like every little thing I see or I do has to be burned into my memory. Every Christmas market and look of awe on a child’s face when Santa floats overhead on a wire. Every glass of glüwein in a souvenir cup, every night when I light my Christmas tree and look at the beautiful traditional glass ornaments I’ve purchased. Every touch of my lover’s hand or lips. Each Smut Slam and erotic reading night. Every smile and coffee I share with my friends. ALL THE MOMENTS.
In just two months, I will be leaving this place of my heart, the place my soul was set free, not to return for almost a year. You see another lesson I am learning is about taxes as a resident of a foreign country and a US citizen. I need to change some of my financial situation before I can settle here the way I want. So, in true adult fashion, I am leaving, (kicking and screaming and stomping my feet!) to manage my business so I can come back and do it again, but even better.
I have no doubt the beautiful friendships I have formed here over the past two years will be maintained. Technology is great. We can text, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to our hearts content knowing that I will be back again before too long. My romantic relationships? Well they tend to be a little more difficult to manage, don’t they? I am sure of one (we maintained our relationship before, after only one month, through 10 months of my travels), not so sure of the other. But there’s no guarantee in any relationships are there?
The world I am headed to, (Central and South America for most of the year) is a totally different place than Berlin. The values are more traditional. The mindset less open. Though the people are amazing and friendly, my polyamorous preferences will be a challenge there. My kinky tendencies a bit more difficult to realize. I can see already it will be yet another phase of growth and change. Bring it on. It’s not always easy, but generally I love to look back and see how these periods have changed me for the better.
I am so sad though. I cry almost every day, and it’s not even time for my period. I am sad every time I hope to see my boyfriend for two days but only get one. Of course, because I miss him now, but more because I know we have so little time left. Each coffee I share with my girlfriends is one coffee closer to “the end” (for now) and it feels awful. But on the bright side, it’s really causing me to pause, to enjoy the moments. I am actually quite good at that already, traveling really has taught me to put down my phone and BE, but now each moment feels even more poignant and special.
As the day draws closer and I start thinking about packing and purging, storage and suitcases, I admit, a sense of adventure is joining my sadness. Boosting my mood little by little. The fun of new adventures, the excitement of pushing myself out of my comfort zone, the expectation of new people and new places is starting to open my heart up again. I love adventure. I love new things. I love new places. I can do this. (I have to do this, so I might as well make the best of it, right?)