I have only vomited from alcohol three times in my life. Once, when I was 15, two girlfriends and I decided to drink an entire bottle of 151 Rum, once in broad daylight in a U-Bahn station in Berlin on my 19th birthday, and after drinking absinthe shots in Bucharest last year. While none of these can be considered particularly pleasant experiences (especially for the people who were with me), only one do I look back on with fondness.
Berlin has that effect on me.
Every experience I have in the city is wonderful — in part because it is taking place in Berlin. My favorite city in Europe.
I return to the city frequently; so, when I happened to be in Europe during last year’s ITB Berlin (the world’s largest travel trade show), I knew that a trip to Berlin was on the cards.
For professional purposes, of course.
As I am clearly very committed to my professional growth, I only spent about three hours at the weekend conference. Instead, I deemed it more important to spend time experiencing Berlin, so I took a tour around the Reichstag (Germany’s parliament building), bought a vintage army jacket at the iconic Mauerpark flea market, floated naked through the saunas of Liquidrom and went underground on a Berlin bunker tour.
In between this, I also made friends with a group of girls from Hamburg. We spent the nights together and laughed and confided in each other in a way that only complete strangers in hostels tend to do. Then, one evening, they told me (as though we were breaking up) that they were driving back to Hamburg the following morning and I was welcome to sit in their spare seat.
Initially, I was excited to be included in the group’s plans. But, this thrill quickly gave way to panic. I had to recede my acceptance.
I had an ex-friend there who, despite us not speaking for the past two years, I couldn’t stomach the risk of running into.
“It’s a big city,” they proclaimed.
“You don’t know us,” I replied.
Then Hamburg started to haunt me.
The NYTimes deemed it the cultural city to travel to in 2017 thanks (in part) to its new concert hall — the Elbphilharmonie. The Hamburg Tourism Board did a long, long partnership with Culture Trip (a daily read of mine) to promote tourism to the city. Titles such as “Why You Need to Visit Hamburg Over Berlin Right Now” started popping up on my browser, daily. A friend of a friend spent a considerable amount of time in the city and kept querying why I hadn’t been yet.
Every list of “where to travel” seemed to include the northern German city.
Then, after a few months (seriously, what was Hamburg’s marketing budget with Culture Trip?!), it all faded away, and I completely forgot about all of these interactions and moments for the rest of 2017.
Until, my ex-friend and I started speaking again and found ourselves agreeing to lunch — in Hamburg.
Finally! I could see with my own eyes what the Tourism Board had been paying to promote. I clicked on their Culture Trip articles for the first time and was reminded of how I had dodged them for months.
It brought some chuckles.
A couple of weeks before landing in Hamburg, I was shopping in a T.J. Maxx in London with my Mum. Here I came across the most beautiful navy blue Chelsea boots. With only one pair in my size, I knew I had to have them. The leather was beautiful, the backstitching intricate and I relished in them not being black.
“Hmm the brand is Crickit,” I said to Mum, presuming they were an English brand. “Have you ever heard of them?”
Always wanting to know how much of a bargain I am getting, I Googled them.
“CRICKIT HAMBURG,” glared at me from the top of my cell phone screen.
The boots came with me to Hamburg, and I wore them plenty around the city. In the store, I had been concerned about the pointiness of the toes, but over time the leather had begun to stretch and soften and those fears that I would break all my toes for the sake of fashion diminished.
Until I spent the first day entirely on my own.
Walking all over the city, my left pinky toe started to hurt. But, being the hardcore woman I am, I ignored it and continued on. It wasn’t until hours and hours later, in a Starbucks’ toilet for the sake of being detailed, that I took off my boot to see what the fuss was about.
Blood. That was what was going on. So much blood that it had seeped through the leather and stained what was once a beautiful canvas of cool.
“WHAT THE…” I hobbled on the U-Bahn home.
I haven’t worn the boots since. Yet, they remain in my suitcase, taking up space and weight that I don’t really have to bequeath.
I’m torn, and I don’t know what to do.
I still love them, even though there exists this glaringly obvious issue. And will that complication ever really go away?
What if I never find another boot that inspires me to write nigh on 1000 words in one sitting? Is that even healthy? How much pain is too much pain? Will I ever be able not to see what is right there in front of me? Stained.
Surely, there is another boot out there that I will stumble upon similarly, see myself wearing, and it will feel comfortable from the get-go.
Yet, doesn’t the fact that I still want them after such a painful episode mean that there is something more at play. No boot has ever done that to me before, and they meant a lot. I have never seen a pair like them. Plus, it isn’t entirely their fault that I skipped getting a pedicure, wore too thin socks and walked around for about eight hours. I should work with them.
But then won’t I always be scared that the same turn of events could happen?
So, should I thank them for the time we had together and assure myself that the memories will never fade. But, also appreciate that my toes may never fit into their pointy structure and, therefore, lovingly but firmly leave them behind as I continue on?
A decision must be made before I return to Berlin in a couple of weeks.
*Originally published on April 26th, 2018*