Note on Germany

On a train

I look out the window and see the rolling hills of central Germany. Homes packed together on hilltops, so that none will fall of the occasionally very steep sides, a church tower which only shows its top, the rest hidden beyond my view by the hill in front of it and its weather vane moving back and forth in a sudden gust of wind. Trees in the distance, covering the sides of hills still left untouched. And I'm happy. Happy that I'm allowed, able, to see all these beautiful things. Happy to look out the window of this train that's racing at 200 km/hour from Wuerzburg to Hamburg, seeing the unsung beauty of Mediaeval towns, modern windmills and small lakes in a setting orange sun over the Germany heartland.

The train passes through a tunnel and I notice my own reflection and I realize my eyes are sad. Sad. Why sad? Because I just saw a beautiful landscape roll by? Sad because I'm able, mentally, physically and financially, to visit friends and family in other countries without having to bother about much besides having a good time? Sad because of what?

And then I realize: for all the wonderful things I get to see, there is so much more beauty I won't be able to see. Time or space simply won't allow that to happen. As much as I would like to, I won't be able to see all there is to see. I will try my best, but will miss out or have missed out on so much.

I won't be able to see pre-Khomeini Iran, I won't see the opening celebrations of the China Olympics, I will miss out on the next solar eclipse, I won't be there when man colonizes Mars, I've only heard that Columbus discovered America, I will never be able to really share Marco Polo's fascination with China, for me, Eastern Europe will never show me its former glory. Sad? This, I realize, is why I'm sad.

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I look out the window again. Slowly, the sun is sinking over the horizon and is leaving a grey-orange cover over the hills that race past me. I feel regret and happiness at the same time, lucky while it lasts.

Why on the train?

It's July 2002. Like last year, I had decided to visit the LoveParade in Berlin, together with a bunch of friends. I took the opportunity to also visit family in Wuerzburg and Hamburg during the week prior to the LoveParade and meet up with my friends in Berlin.