This essay was awarded a Gold by the Society of American Travel Writers.
The story also appeared in the travel anthology Chance Encounters: Travel Tales from Around the World
Standing at the edge of Alexanderplatz, I watch Berlin pass by. A young man with dreadlocks whirls his bike around an elderly couple walking arm in arm, while across the street, a man selling balloons counts out change in the warm summer air.
It’s 3 p.m., and we have been on a quest. My friend TJ has promised us curry wurst. Not just any curry wurst, but some of the city’s best. The sausages served with spicy tomato sauce are a favorite here in Berlin, so my boyfriend, Ben, and I have followed our friend’s eager pace to the heart of the city.
But the sight of the crowd-filled square, filled with white tent vendors and brightly-covered advertising, stops me in my tracks. Can this really be the Alexanderplatz that I remember? I see the iconic TV tower that looms over the square and the same circular time clock, but everything else looks different.
Up ahead, I glimpse Ben and TJ round a corner. Not wanting to lose them, I jog to catch up. TJ’s tall frame helps keep him in my sight. He is the perfect picture of a successful Prussian businessman: tall, middle-aged good looks, perfectly polished ways. Yet, no matter how many times I have seen him like this, it still gives me a start.
Berlin has changed a great deal in the past 25 years. For that matter, so has TJ. There was a time when this man was considered my “enemy.”