By Katrin Schönig:
Paul has spoken about the concept of Heimat many times on this blog and elsewhere. Whenever we talked about it, I was sure of the fact that Berlin is my Heimat – the place where I belong, the place I understand. Here I can wander the streets and feel at home, even when I am lost.
Yet having spent the last ten days at the Baltic Sea (Ostsee – as we Germans call her), I started rethinking the concept. I spent a reasonable period of my childhood on the Baltic, living on the island of Rügen and in the Hanseatic city of Stralsund. So a walk along the beach in heavy winds was very much part of my childhood, as was a quick jump in the never-quite-warm-enough sea. When I was nine we returned to the big city and I haven’t looked back. I never wanted to live on the countryside or a small village by the sea. And I still don’t want that!
But walking along the beach, my feet cold from the water and covered in sand, listening to the gulls sing and the waves breaking, I know that this place is a part of me as well. It is the Heimat of my mind. I can think freer here when I look out at the sea without seeing anything. The wind ruffles my hair as much as my brain. But while my hair needs a good brush afterwards, it feels as if my thoughts are now in order. I know again where to go and what to do.
So although I am sure I don’t want to live here, and I am also not sure if I belong here, I know that the Baltic – my Ostsee – with its smells, sounds and feelings belongs to me and is as much my Heimat as the city I live in.
Words & Pictures: Katrin Schönig