When an Icelandair plane arrives at the international airport in Keflavík the first thing the passengers hear over the intercom is: „Góðir farþegar, velkomnir heim“ – „Dear passengers, welcome home“. This is followed by a less heartwarming and less corny welcome to those on board that do not speak Icelandic „Dear passengers, welcome to Iceland.“
Upon my landing today I was not welcomed home. This is not surprising as I was leaving Iceland, landing in Copenhagen on route to Berlin. My welcome will take place on Friday when I return.
I once had the luck to be shown around Berlin by good friends of mine, Harald and Ines, who live here although they spend most of the year working as expat engineers, now in Dubai. One the tour they told me many things that I don‘t think I would have found in any tour guides. Both remember well the time when Germany was divided and Berlin being split down the middle into east and west. West Berlin became some sort of island, surrounded by the eastern territory and fenced in by the notorious Berlin wall. Apparently during this time, Berlin was called the West Pole, seeing that every direction lead east.
Many fled East Germany as it was a totalitarian, communist state. Many of those that made it and settled in West Germany were highly and well educated, in particular in the sciences. Some of these refugees ended up teaching and often the strangeness of the regime they had fled was mirrored in their teaching. As an example of this, Harald mentioned a chemistry teacher that taught him in junior high school and added poisonous gases to the curriculum. Harald thus graduated from chemistry knowing amongst other things that in order for a poisonous gas to be effective in warfare, it needs to be heavier than air. That way it seeps into cellars and bunkers where people tend to conjugate when being bombed or attacked. The Icelandic education system missed this one.
When I wrote the first Thora novel it included a German student enrolled in the University of Iceland. I borrowed my friend Harald‘s name for this character. And I killed him. But I did this out of great friendship. His destiny as a character in a novel would have been much kinder had I written another genre.
In the hotel I am staying in they allow smoking on the roof. Tonight Bayern Munchen won Real Madrid in the European football championship and the roof is crowded with tipsy young people celebrating. Makes me wonder what the rooftops in Munich are like now. I am actually a bit glad I am in Berlin, not Munich as any more people on the roof might cause it to collapse.
And it is no help taking shelter in the basement, what with the poisonous gases.
Yrsa - Wednesday