Monday, May 13, 2013

Mein Versteck

There it is, the most beautiful spot in Berlin, a place where you can sit in the center of a grove, shielded from the sun, wind, and rain and contemplate the intricacies of life as you take in the sweet smell of the geometric fields of intensely colored flowers (the pictures I have do NOT do them justice) and listen to the gentle roar of traffic in the roundabout and the sounds of Berlin carrying on around you. A place where you feel safe: your own little bubble set off from the hustle and bustle of the big city by a ring of flags declaring the boundary between this tiny paradise and Berlin. This is the type of place where I could spend many an afternoon just sitting and writing.

At least, that's what I was thinking to myself as I dashed across 4 lanes of traffic to get there, Janet's disembodied voice in the back of my head chiding, "Don't EVER do this!"

Once I got there, I was greeted with everything I expected and more. Unfortunately, since I was expecting utopia, this was not a good thing. I saw the beautiful flowers and smelled their sweet scent. I stood at the fountain and listened to the pacifying sound of water splashing. I sat in the grove, collapsed the umbrella that the foliage rendered unnecessary, and took it all in. But, upon closer inspection, I noticed that this paradise was not what I had hoped for. It was not untainted by the touch of man.

 In the midst of the fields of flowers, plastic bags, newspapers, and take-out containers lay strewn about. Graffiti marred the otherwise pristine (if somewhat wet) benches. Floating in the fountain with the ducks were bottles, magazines, more take-out containers. One corner of the park reeked of raw sewage. Litter in the grass all over, most of it invisible from a distance.

I was outraged. I had fallen in love with this little park, only to come and find it under attack by the hands of man. Feeling defensive of what had become my Versteck, my own little bubble of nature and tranquility, I immediately set about getting all of the trash picked up. After an hour of work and the realization that I had only finished about a sixth of the park's recyclables, I decided that perhaps this was a task for a day when I had more time. Below are all the bottles collected from the grass, which I managed to stuff into my backpack and lug across the city to recycle back at our apartment.

This experience reminded me a lot of the Art of Travel. I had this great conception of this park before I came to it, and, when I arrived, was greeted with much more than I had bargained for. Instead of swearing off travel because it didn't meet my expectations, though, I did what I could to make the experience better. Humankind may have polluted my little paradise, but it was also humankind that created the spot, and humankind that could just as easily make everything right again.

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