If Berlin Were a Stirred-Up Showcase

A large apartment complex built above a street in central Berlin, spanning the street like a bridge made of homes. Two large human eyes are painted onto the facade of the building; cars and trees line the street.

“Dein Herz kennt keine Mauer.”

Around this time last year, I was watching a bike light peer through the dusk, wheeling down a dirt path saturated with that evening’s blue-gold color scheme. Sunbeams — all spectral and river-bent and free-falling ultraviolet — plunged into the Landwehrkanal.

My cloud eyes closed for a blink.

Opening again, they revealed a refracted version of what was previously there: a lawn, a path, a canal that flowed like a continuum and ended on the same one.

In the Beginning

To Neukölln

If Berlin is a stirred-up showcase, then the beginning will be incomparable. It’ll be the most incredible mixture of Here and There. Air and atmos like a quickening heartbeat, trees like maple and sycamore.

It’ll be a place of variable light and wide aperture and blurry fleeting confidence. It’ll be a classroom, a test, a subway, a park, a friend, a beer, an apartment, a wood floor, a job, a paycheck, a winter, a summer.

During the Middle


It’s a place where the low contrast makes the high contrast stand further out, exposing extremes. An extreme: bright pink spray-painted onto dull facades. So bubblegum it’s like those in my (sometimes) temerarious mouth.

I would’ve thought that I’d feel so open heart like the Hauptbahnhof when spring clouds clear up. The middle is more mature by bounds but also newly conflicted. Overwhelming at times. And I am too, so I’m trying to tone it down.

At the End

Quietly at First

Periodically these external moments that feel like when you finally arrive. Just pure, you know? The city can be that way — just like literally any other location if you give it enough time and mind. Replace the bubblegum pink with crimson or sage or rain-fed colors and you’ve basically got the same thing.

In the end, you could say Berlin was fake modest and definitely lacking some self-awareness, which contributed to some awful displays of egotism.

I decided to leave it as it was. I figured that if Berlin really was a stirred-up showcase, then just ripping the patterned paper off the walls and leaving them bare was more appropriate than trying to repaint the whole damn thing right then and there.

So there was no shouting of “let it be known!” atop Berlin’s version of a mountain (read: small hill). No firm conviction that the entire thing is empathy — like, visceral, physical, tangible empathy. There was no consensus that our life-force permeates the soil. No agreement that our neighbor is an augur and that humanity is magic, transfiguring ordinary things into countless new ones and learning to care about all of them.

Instead, I took the bus to the train station to the airport. Boarded a plane out of Schönefeld and then connected onwards. Far distance felt close, and I got all choked up, I admit. It surprised me because it meant that actually I had cared and that I’d been cruel.

The only thing there at the end was a never-ending continuing on. Quietly like a spider at first, but continuing on nonetheless.

Blood Beech

Berlin, it might not seem like it, but that was my unfinished love letter.

I didn’t want to wait. And didn’t know how to say it any other way. At its core though, I could be here until forever ends. Do you think you’ll be there too?

Author: Erik Fruth

Erik lived in Shanghai for a year studying Mandarin and eating voraciously. He moved home to work and write then relocated to Berlin to daydream about last summer.