Today I’m traveling to West Berlin to find a friend who lives somewhere southwest of the center of Berlin. If I can manage the timing, I’d also like to visit the memorial at the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp. The line to West Berlin that I need also goes to Orianenburg, where Sachsenhausen is located. I’m waiting right now at the Orianenburger Strasse S-Bahn station. It was about a ten-minute walk from my apartment, and I’ve already had my pick-me-up cappuccino from the café I’ve come to like very much.
Traveling alone, especially in a foreign land, forces me to think a lot. My displacement lends itself to singleness of purpose I simply cannot muster at home. Everything about my life there will work on autopilot if I allow it. Here, I have to think through almost every step of my day. I feel as though I’m learning a great deal generally through immersion, though I can’t really make a list of the things I’m learning. I just feel myself broadening, I guess, and seeing more of the world as I see more of the world.
I realize after not too long that things today are going to go very differently than I’ve planned them. One must be prepared not to freak out when this happens, and I am well prepared in this regard. After waiting for twenty or so minutes for my S-Bahn (through a time during which my line should have arrived in the station but did not), walking back to the apartment to check the status of the appropriate train line on the internet, realizing my line isn’t running at all today for some reason, and then returning once more to the same S-Bahn station to board a different line that I saw twice earlier in the morning, the train I board stops inexplicably a few stations north of where I need to be, and I find myself standing in a station with which I’m unfamiliar in a part of town I’m not prepared to trek across if I maintain my interest in meeting my friend. The part of the announcements that I understand is limited to the cryptic, “Train ends here.” This is confusing, since this line clearly does not end where I’m standing. But some part of it is 100% true, since the train is now empty and chugs off with a “not in service” sign lit in the windows.
As I stand in the station, looking at transit maps and trying to figure where to go next, another train arrives to replace the first, and I take it to a stop near my original target destination. At this point, though, I don’t really know where I am, and I wander for an hour before I find my way to my friend’s place. We eat a leisurely lunch and he sends me back north on a double-decker bus that simplifies return transit significantly. It’s 5:30pm when I arrive. Sachsenhausen must wait for tomorrow.
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