Back in Kiel

I was back in Kiel this past weekend for a reunion - it is 30 years since I started studying in Kiel. More on that in the next blog article. I took the train from Berlin - it is really silly to take the car when travelling alone, it is just an hour and a half from Berlin to Hamburg with the high-speed train, an hour Hamburg to Kiel. In that time I can only travel half the distance in my car.

I stood at the window as the train was pulling into the station. I have been in Kiel a few times in the past years, but usually just passing through by car. As the train slows, pulling into the station, I survey the landscape - many old buildungs have been torn down, remodeled, replaced by new ones. The bridge at the Horn (the tip of the Kiel Fjord) seems to be pulled back (it has been!) and there is a smart building, direct on the water.

The youth hostel where I worked when I first came to Kiel is still there, a little castle built in the 50s high on the hill in Gaarden. Many of the Werft buildings are gone, the crane has disappeared, in their place are other things now.

The train station itself has changed completely - the old roof construction has been replaced by concrete waves - it looks very cold. There is a movie theater complex right in the train station, and the usual chains offering expensive food for the journey.

The bus, of course, left at 11.20 and I got in at 11.21. I am so spoiled in Berlin with our great bus service. Since I only had an hour and a half to get out to Suchsdorf, where friends I would be spending the night with live, and then to the university, I took a cab. Turned out it wasn't so far - Kiel is so small, it seemed so much larger to me when I lived there. I guess that was because I took my bike.

As we drive out of the station I am flooded by memories of a bygone Kiel that overlay the current reality. I see the Sophienhof squat that turned into a shopping mall while I was still working in Kiel. Many places have been remodelled, replaced, the companies renamed. But every now and then there is a little warp in the fabric of the current Kiel, and there are names and shops that are still there. The florist. The shop selling the little wooden figurines from the Erzgebirge. The natural foods store.

We head up towards Exer, I see the offices I worked in, so close to each other really, so far apart in time. The Ostseehalle, home of the handball club THW Kiel seems much larger than I remembered (as I hear in the evening, they added 3000 seats, which were immediately sold out as season tickets).

There is still the farmer's market on the Exer. Up around the hill, just before Schrevenpark is the tobacconist's where I bought my first pipe. I liked the whiskey-flavored Borkum Riff tobacco best, followed by cherry.

In no time we are crossing the Westring. Gas stations have sprung up here, hardware stores. The street we lived on looks the same, although they put an autobahn through cross-wise. Passing over the autobahn I see the balcony of our old apartment. Those were amazing times, when we lived here. We were young, studied hard, had fun parties, worked hard, trying to change the world. I wonder - did we really change anything?

Past the Nordmark sporting fields, through Kronshagen and we are in Suchsdorf in no time.

Now the taxi driver turns to me and says: where is it you want to go? Now, I had looked at it on the map, but I was not planning on driving there. It is the first street off to the right after the last stop of the bus. I tell the driver that he is the taxi driver. He replies that this is no longer Kiel (we are now 5 kilometers out, Berlin taxi drivers have to know a LOT more streets!!). I say that it is off to the left, but ask him to consult a map. He refuses and just drives around, looking for this street name. I get angrier and angrier - I really don't have time, and this is costing me money, driving around looking for it. Why can't he check a map? Well, he doesn't have one.

I whip out my GPS map system in my PDA, but unfortunately he does not have 0000 as the code for his Bluetooth. I put it away angrily, he is fussing with his navigator. "Do you know how to work this?" he asks. Apparently, it is only pre-set for Kiel. I take it, punch in S and get Suchsdorf, punch in the street and the number, and get a map. Duh.

At least he doesn't charge me the full value on the meter, so I am somewhat placated.

We are in a newly constructed area, postage stamp size parcels of land with little houses on them, all new, with little shrubbery around. Standing in the dining room and turning around in place I can see windows in 11 different houses. While sitting in the living room and looking out the window I look directly into the kitchen of a neighbor, watch the neighbor have a drink of water while her husband rakes leaves from the tiny yard. It would drive me crazy to live here, but they like it, lots of families with kids, there are kindergartens and just outside of the houses there are ponies and cows and birds and a little river.

There's a regional train that goes into Kiel, 2 Euros for 8 minutes once an hour. I am the only one getting on this drizzly Sunday morning. By the time my train to Hamburg leaves it is really raining from the leaden, grey skies. Typical fall weather in Kiel.

Would I want to live in Kiel agian? I think not. Either a big town, like Berlin, or properly in the country with no neighbors.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

ich hab heulen können über die beschreibung des alten kiel. doch, ich würde dort leben wollen.