I’ve never been one to get things the right way round.
So, following Berlin’s incessant stalking, I finally made it to the city to find out what it wanted. This was its first message:
I don’t speak German but Ian does. This meant that I spent the whole trip being the Teller to his most eloquent Penn, which is a little ironic because if you know us then you’d probably cast us in the opposite roles on looks alone.
It’s more than a little annoying being the one who can’t communicate, particularly in a place like Berlin where if you’re not accidentally stepping on history, you’re finding yourself sharing a currywurst table with a woman who was smuggled across the Berlin wall by a complete stranger as a child. I was very glad that Ian was there to translate. He said, ‘Have you seen the film the Lives of Others?’ and she laughed and said, ‘No. I don’t watch those films. I lived it.’
I don’t have much more to share than this; the thing that I found myself thinking, over and over, as we walked around, was that in Berlin you don’t go looking for stories, they seek you out. And the amazing thing about this is, that while you are walking into people’s stories at every turn you learn that every single one of those stories was a voice that someone once tried to silence. The oppressors, the Nazis, the Stasi, those who attempted to shut people up and dehumanise them, succeeded only in making themselves less than human. Those voices which attempted to make sure that no other voices ever spoke again are now drowned out in the ubiquitous stories of places like Berlin, where even the quiet blocks of concrete speak for those who could not do so in their lifetime.