I’m sitting at the Berliner Hauptbahnhof – Berlin Central Station. It’s a huge, spacious building from 2006. Lots of steel, glass, marble and concrete, but in a way that’s pleasing to the eye.
And it is busy.
Trains roll past almost every minute. There are hundreds of people around me, escalators going both up and down, and tracks pointing in several directions. It’s beautiful architecture, transport power and a sea of humanity in transit.
A calm place in the middle of the bustle
I’m sitting on a bench-like structure sponsored by Ritter Sport. My back rests on a block that is topped by huge, square faux chocolate. My noise cancellation headphones tune out the cacophony and provide me with just the music that I want to hear. Pop-rock. Energetic beats and up-beat lyrics.
As I’m about to write how I am an incognito spectator to the life that’s going on here, something unforeseen happens. As I look up from my writing and look at people stepping on to escalators, a familiar pair of eyes lock with mine. Suddenly the crowd is gone, and there’s just two bearded guys sharing a smile.
It’s over almost as quickly as it began, as he steps onto his chosen escalator and disappears from view.
I look around, scanning the crowds. Nothing. No recogntion. These are people going about their own lives, just as I am. I’m not part of theirs, and they’re not part of mine. Still, my smile finds answering smiles from strangers as they come into my field of vision for a few seconds.
A playlist to accompany the moment
Offspring are pumping “You’re gonna go far, kid” into my ears, and my left foot starts to tap in tune with the beat. Two black-clad goths walk past. They could have been taken directly from the vampire convention I just left, but they aren’t. Just strangers, who probably don’t notice that I feel that I find them familiar.
There’s no grand narrative at play here, but it’s easy to graft one on. After the downgrading of America to a “flawed democracy” by some experts, it’s not unreasonable to call Angela Merkel the leader of the free world. And here I sit, in the middle of the busiest station in her capital.
Before I can travel further down that train of thought, a small bird lands in front of me. It hops off too quickly for me to catch a picture, but it is still cause for a smile.
A tired man rolls by in his wheel chair, obvioulsy a bit exhausted. Sunglass-wearing backpackers with elegant, short beards pass in front of me. A cute curly-haired woman in a light blue shirt looks at the information stand next to me, and smiles at nothing in particular. A blond traveller who bears a striking resemblance to my friend Signe pauses in the middle of the hall and looks around.
The only thing that all of these people have in common is that they’re all going somewhere else. This is a place of transition, not a place of destination. It’s energetic in a slow, relaxed way. Not the run/panic/wait rthyhm of an airport, but the steady walk of a host of individuals.
Together, they provide me with a swirling tapestry of modern day life. I’m both an observer and part of it all. To me, I’m the blogger thinking deep thoughts and growing a bit lyrical in my prose. To them, I’m a guy in his 30's sitting on this weird Ritter Sport contraption, headphones in, fingers tapping on a phone and smiling eyes that sometimes look up from the screen. I could be anybody, but to the others here, I’m not even somebody.
So different, yet so alike
A guy who looks like he belongs in the Turkish mafia of the 80's catches my eye. A white-haired woman in an elegant leather jacket stops for a moment, then finds renewed purpose and strolls away, her rolling suitcase trailing behind her. Mike Posner sings of a sad song, but the melody is way too happy for the lyrics. Someone who went to the University of Nottingham (judging from the sweatshirt) looks flustered for a moment, then follows a friend past me.
Soon, I am going to leave my observatory status behind. I’m going to get up and leave – letting one of the trains take me to Schoenefeld Airport and my flight to Romania. Kill ‘em with kindness. The words belong to Selena Gomez, but right now they also belong to me. Right now, the Hauptbahnhof belongs to me as well. It just doesn’t know it, doesn’t feel it, and doesn’t care. Soon, it’ll be mine no more, as I leave my spot and join the travelling hordes.
But right now, it’s perfect.
Colonel Bagshot’s raspy voice tells a tell of war.
“Is it your birthday?”
Sometimes you just want to see the world move.
If you like my writing, and want to free up my time, so write more, you can do exactly that, by supporting me via Patreon.