When I travel, I never know whom I’ll meet and what I’ll get up to. Well, I usually have a vague idea, but what happened in Berlin last year (2015) is a testament to how random my travels can be.
Last year I was in Berlin and wandered aimlessly to a church; Evangelische St. Thomas-Kirche. I had missed the opening by about five minutes so I started talking to the guy who was closing up.
We ended up talking for quite a bit and he shared some Martin Luther King, Jr. gems with me. Plus we had a long conversation about an old hearse that was parked up outside the church.
Turns out he had met Dr. King and is the guy in Berlin who promotes the fact that Dr. King had visited East Berlin back on 13 September 1964. Ironically, it was exactly 51 years ago to the date that we were having the current conversation; weird I thought. His name is Michael Markus Schulz and runs the Web site Martin Luther King Memorial Berlin.
He asked me if I wanted to see the place where Dr. King had visited in Berlin and of course I said yes. Violating travel tip #1; “don’t get into a car with a perfect stranger.” But although my heart was racing, we had developed a rapport so I went for it.
He took me to a spot where Dr. King stood just after the incident. It was a place where someone was saved by American soldiers while crossing the Wall from West to East Berlin. Today, there is a plaque at the spot on Stallschreiberstrasse between 49-39 block and you’d never know what happened here. I would have walked by without noticing had he not showed me. As a matter of fact, I’d never have even gone there.
We then jumped in his card and headed for the church where Dr. King had spoken.
You could actually see bullet holes in the walls of the building off to the right.
After this very moving moment of visiting a historic place. Martin took me to visit a friend of his, Ernst Guckel ( nickname Anatas), who was in a hospital, St. Hedwig, across the street. They had know each other since childhood. This man had also seen Dr. King in action when he visited Berlin. They were both pretty young at the time. They both had actually lost contact with each other on different sides of the Wall. So it was amazing to listen to their stores.
I also had a chance to see some of his friend’s drawing. He was even more excited when I recognized that one of them was from Avila, Spain. Sadly, he passed away in December without leaving the hospital as a result of his illness. I’m so glad I had a chance to spend some time with him. It was a very great visit.
It was quite the surreal visit and one that I will remember for a long time.