As soon as you set foot on the enormous airport runway, you will feel a strong wind. A wild, ceaseless wind that has nothing to buffer it, nothing to contain it. A wind that is both soothing and refreshing, the kind that clears your mind, reminds you of the ocean. Instead of deep blue water, you will gaze at a green expanse of rolling grass extending past the horizon. As far as your eyes can see are millions of grass stems bending and nodding in never-ending waves.
You will also see a long, wide road, wide enough to accommodate six lanes of traffic. But now, completely void of any cars, planes or trucks. That road will lead you past hollow airplane hangers and the gigantic ornate shell of a once bustling airport. But the buildings are all empty, the droves of busy passengers, workers, and pilots are all gone. The loudest sound you will hear will not be a jet engine. All the big passenger airplanes are gone. Long gone. But you will not be afraid.
The weather is the strongest presence here. The atmosphere is ever changing and alive. When the sunlight falls on the meadow, it is magnified. Your skin will feel the warmth of the golden rays, your eyes will linger on the subtle colors of the delicate wildflowers, your nose will enjoy the sweet scent of sunbaked straw, your ears will cherish the sound of children playing in the grass. The meadow is open to everyone, there are no “keep out” signs or fences, everyone can roam through it freely. Have a picnic, collect wildflowers, sip some wine or beer, take a nap, gaze up at the sky, fly a kite.
A rare wild bird now makes its home here. When you look up, you will see this bird, it is a kind of hawk, it stalks its prey from above. It reminds you of the holy spirit the way it hovers in the air for a long minute, perpendicular to the ground, a perfect bird outline in the sky, as if tongues of fire would descend at any moment. Then it swoops down so quickly and gracefully that you cannot see how it caught the field mouse between its talons.
You will find you are not alone here, you will see many people dispersed on the grass, but there is still plenty of room. Everyone is enjoying the place as much as you are. You will see people on bicycles, skateboards and homemade contraptions of all kinds: wind-catchers, sails and paragliders strapped to backpacks and tricked-up scooters, and windsurfing boards on wheels. Everyone is in a good mood and gives each other space, space to just be.
People of all skin colors, all nationalities and all faiths are here, talking to each other as friends, simply enjoying their time together. Some are singing and dancing to music, they compose circles of swirling color, twirling and stomping in rhythm. They will make you smile. Every problem will seem small.
You will seem small too. One tiny wildflower in a beautiful, enormous meadow. And you will be happy.
We live in the part of Berlin where the streets are narrow, the old stone buildings rise like canyons above the cobblestones. The cobblestones are polished with age, they seem to be devoid of any straight lines despite the best efforts of those who laid them out. If you were to follow these streets down to the heart of the city, they get even narrower and more labyrinthian, the buildings get smaller, stonier and compacter, everything seems to shrink down to miniature the older it gets.
A city changes your perspective. It is a place where everything accommodates the human form, in it you begin to lose sight of your scale. You may feel big and important, but also boxed-in and restricted. You may begin to desire some freedom, in that case a visit to Tempelhof Flughaven is in order, formerly the city airport, now a public park.
This place really exists! Yes, a real place that gives you a glimpse of what it would be like to live in the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse!
Text and pictures by M.P. Baecker