Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Dear Stranger,

I wish I could remember your name, since you gave me such a lovely afternoon in Berlin. My traveling companion on my Europe trip was still stuck in meetings, and I was touring the city on my own. I knew that would be the case so I had a plan. I was armed with a guidebook to follow the Berlin Wall around the city. I had no idea how long that would take. I also had no idea how sad that would be. The day before I met you I followed the inset stones weaving around the city. I learned so much. Mostly, I learned how ignorant I was. I had no idea that there were actually two walls and that the space in between was called No Man's Land. In some spaces the two walls were close together, and in other places they were far apart. No Man's Land was where people died, because snipers shot at people that tried to escape from one side to the other.

Along my walk that first day, I found an entire section of wall that was still standing. It was hard to get to and backed up to a fence. It made a much bigger impression than the pretty stones inset into the pavement. It was littered with graffiti, and radiated the frustration, anger, and misery of the people. I hoped that it never came down, so that people would have something to look at, so that they never forgot. The pretty stones in the road did not give off the same feeling as this wall. The wall was tall and forbidding. Pictures of the wall were not enough. I stood there for a long time with my hand on that wall so that I would never forget.

The next day I met you. I had a lot of stuff I wanted to see that day. There is always more stuff to see than there is time. Honestly, I can't remember what line I was standing in when I met you. However, I think it was the Alexanderplatz. You were such a nice young man (as in younger than me) and your English was excellent. That was a good thing since my French was nonexistent. All of my other languages pretty much suck, too. My Spanish is fair to poor. However, as I recall, you didn't speak Spanish, so we were pretty well stuck with English. You were also traveling or were a student. I really can't recall the details now. However, we were both doing the touristy thing alone and it was nice to have someone to share conversation.

I can't say that you made the experience of looking at the crosses of the people who died in No Man's Land any sadder. However, it was nice just to have someone standing there feeling the futility of the whole mess. People can be so inhumane to one another. So cruel. We didn't talk about it and that was also nice. You knew a lot about Berlin, so it saved me having to look up every building in my travel guide. That was a welcome change. You also knew some background stories that were funny. It felt good to laugh about anything. After all of the sadness of the last day and a half, laughter was good. We even took a brief tour through the Volkswagen dealership. We weren't car shopping, but I was curious about a dealership that had every single automobile inside. It must be interesting to test drive those babies. I thought about inquiring, but then decided that would be really just mean, and I would probably wreck the car driving on the wrong side of the road. Karma works exactly like that. However, it was really fun looking at all of the cars indoors. It was like Barbie and Ken's cars for grownups. It was really weird. Of course, you had warned me that it would feel odd, so we both burst out laughing as soon as we made it outside.

I was really disappointed when it got to be late and you needed to go, and I needed to get back to my hotel for dinner. It was an excellent afternoon. You were the sunny side to Berlin. The rest of that trip was all sadness and tragedy and death. So, thank you for coming along and making the end of my day in that city something that was nice. I am so sorry that I can't remember your name. I want to say that it is some variation on Michael, but that could be wrong. I suppose it doesn't really matter. Your name isn't important; it was, and is, all about the spirit and harmony that you carry around. Thank you for being a bright light for me back in the summer of 1999.

Best Wishes,

image found at


  1. just about made me cry with this one! What a beautiful letter and what a special endearing memory...sweet

  2. I can't imagine the emotions you went through while you where there so glad you found someone to share it with even though you didn't know him/her..what a memory....a beautiful post~~~

  3. My niece is in Europe now and I just saw pictures on Facebook of the still standing portion of the wall with the graffiti. Powerful. Nice letter Robin.

  4. There are several places in Europe that I'd like to get to someday. The only other countries that I've been to are Canada and Ireland. If, no make that when I do make it to one of the beautiful, historic cities that right now I can only read about and occasionaly see on TV, I'd love to meet up with your stranger....

    Can you imagine what an amazing person he must be today?



  5. Your mention at the end of Summer of 1999 brought my memories of that summer. I was a few cities away enjoying my maternity leave with my newborn eldest daughter...born in the summer of 1999 while you were walking around the wall.

    Its wonderful meeting people who are strangers who are content to want nothing more.

    How sweet!


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