Today was to be the big reveal. Returning to the place we called home in our childhood.
We knew the street was no longer named after Lenin, but instead reverted back to it’s previous name Landsberger Allee, a major street easily found on the transport maps. We had in our heads what we expected to see. And so with that we set off.
The weather was beautiful. We took the M5 tram and got off somewhere along Landsberger Allee. The plan was to walk to 175 and see, however our anticipation got the better of us, so at every few steps we would look around asking if this was it, trying to jog our memories. Finally when we reached Weissenseer Weg (the former Ho-Chi-Minh Strasse) I knew we were there but not quite there. So we started to search around in vain on one side of Landsberger Allee. Surely, even if the flat had been torn down, the hill that was nearby should still be there, right? Still no luck.
At this point my sisters were trailing me claiming they were doing all that they could to find this place. It took stopping 3 different old women and asking them specifically for Leninallee and for ‘der berg’ before we made our way to the other side of Landsberger Allee and found the prize.
In hindsight, as the first old woman said, ‘there is Landsberger Allee, the old Leninallee, just walk to number 175’. Like duh!
Anyway, I was walking abreast with M’sa when we came upon the back of our flat. I said ‘this has to be it’ and she said ‘nooo’ dubiously for she did not see the playground she remembered. Then we walked further and saw ‘the stairs’ and again I said ‘no, this is it’ though doubting myself. As we made our way down the stairs it became clearer to the two of us that we had arrived and we wanted to go round to the front to confirm. Just at that time, N’ku, yards behind us, starts to squeal like Columbus probably did when he ‘discovered’ America.
It was so familiar yet so different. Everything looked so small, and I wonder if when we were kids things looked larger because we were so small. It being a bright sunshiny day didn’t help the image I held of a very gray foggy Berlin. In addition there were vivid colours in use in painting some of the walls. We took pictures, oriented ourselves to where the schools must have been (empty space now), and found our way to our beloved ‘auf dem Berg’, the nearby hill. It also looked quite small! We found the last name of a friend at a nearby apartment and left a note in the mailbox anticipating that the parents still live there. Trust there was no hesitation in ringing the bell. Alas, no answer. Here’s hoping we get a callback.
Sideview of Leninallee 175: The balcony was attached to the kitchen. We hardly went out there as the pigeons had made it their home. The fourth set of windows were ours with the one nearest the balcony being our bedroom.
The parking lot: I cannot believe there is a Trabant there. It’s as if nothing has changed. It looks SO SMALL compared to other cars, though, the poor thing.
Back view of the apartment complex: From these windows my sisters would throw chocolates and sweets (from Western Germany mind you) down to the neighbourhood kids who otherwise had no exposure to such products. No wonder we were so popular. Birthday parties at our apartment were quite well attended and we counted amongst our dear friends 16-17 year old teenagers (approximately 8 year difference). What we wouldn’t do to find them in particular.
The flat structure in the forefront with the yellow awning is the cafeteria my sisters had some school meals in.
‘Auf dem berg’ (on the hill): there was a large Soviet-style military statue in the front. Probably where this ‘doorway’ now is. I remember looking out our back view windows towards here on Silvesternacht (December 31) for the fireworks. We also learnt to ride bikes and fly kites here. My sisters have fond memories of clowning around in the trees on class excursions.
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