Sunday, 27 December 2015

The Ghosts of Berlin

Berlin is a city filled with ghosts. It's a city that has a strange atmosphere that hangs over it, one that can't quite be explained. This is by no means a slate on what is a beautiful place. Quite the opposite, in fact, in that this odd feeling only adds to the allure, drawing in people from all walks of life.

It's taken me several weeks to analyse the forty-eight hours that I spent in Germany's capital city. I'm still mulling it over even as I write this.

This is a city that has experienced a lot and much of it is embedded in the streets and buildings. A feeling that someone is constantly watching you. A sense that anarchy could break loose at any moment. A feeling that anything could happen and that the extraordinary would surprise no one.

Last year, I wrote about ghostly encounters in Las Vegas. This year, it's the turn of Berlin and, for a city so steeped in history, it certainly doesn't hold back with the spirit activity.

On November 7th, I flew into the city on my very first visit (it won't be my last). The hotel I'd picked had come on the recommendation of a friend and, for the first time, I found myself staying in luxury. While the exterior matched a lot of the city in its stark grey concrete, it turned out that this was just a facade, one that fooled me. With a lobby that could fit my entire apartment building in it and a chandelier that looked like something from a fairy tale, I definitely felt like I was in the wrong place. Except that I wasn't.

My room was equally as beautiful with a comfortable bed and a view over the main road outside. The hotel was based in Berlin's business district and, across the road, were buildings that had bore the appearance of housing something useful. Much like the hotel, the exteriors were bland and functional, hiding what they truly were.

Yet there was a strange feeling to the room, one that made me cold and nervous. Turning off the lights only made the atmosphere heavier and, like a character in a horror film, I dived beneath the bed's covers. And, as night fell, I discovered why the room felt like it did.

I went to bed at around 2am on that first night. I hadn't drunk any alcohol and I'm now completely free of drugs and other medications. The only thing bothering me was the weight of the exhaustion that lay on my shoulders and head. I felt as though I was going to sleep for an age, hopefully only waking once the sun was up.

But there was something in the room that refused to let me rest. At the end of my bed stood a dark figure. Even with the light from the streetlights outside, I couldn't make out any of the figure's features. It was just a tall shadowy being that gave off an evil feeling. To me, it felt as though it had served in the military, more than likely in a far higher capacity than a mere foot soldier. This was someone who had been in charge. Someone who had issued orders rather than follow them.

As I've done so many times before, I commanded the being to leave. Yet it refused, instead steadfastly remaining at the end of the bed. Its presence made me ill and, some time during the night, I heard something that sounded like a gunshot.

That night I slept less than three hours. Normally I can fall asleep wherever I am (I'm one of those people who can, and will, fall asleep on planes, trains and in cars) and being in a new place rarely bothers me as I carry a few small creature comforts that help me to settle. On average I sleep around six hours a night.

The following morning, I was out of the room as soon as I could make myself presentable. I went and had breakfast and started on the rest of my plans despite the fog that eclipsed my brain. I was beyond tired and all I wanted to do was crawl somewhere warm and quiet for a few more hours.

I left the hotel at around mid-day and didn't return for another thirteen hours, falling into bed at around 1am. By now, I was beyond exhausted. I'd battled my fears, delivered a pumpkin, walked for what felt like miles, been out in the cold, attended a concert, danced like a fool, and had several long discussions with my friend. All I wanted was to sleep.

But that wasn't going to happen. As soon as the lights were out, that omnipresent feeling returned, cloaking the room in a darkness that was far blacker than the night outside. Again, the figure was at the end of my bed, watching over me like some kind of evil godfather. Again, I asked it to leave. Again, it didn't. It never moved and, despite the lack of facial features, I got the distinct feeling that it was looking at me.

That night I slept for less than two hours.

Once I'd returned home, I decided to do some research on the area. The adjacent streets house a number of embassies, museums and other government agencies. The building that was directly opposite the hotel, and which I could see from the window, was the German Resistance Movement Memorial Center.

Resistance Movement Memorial Center

During WW2, there was a plot to assassinate Hitler. It didn't go to plan and the members of this plot were executed in the courtyard of the building that now holds the memorial centre. Was the being in my hotel room one of the firing squad? Or perhaps the person who had ordered those executions? Maybe the hotel now stands in the footprint of another building that housed a military division and the spirit I was seeing was linked to that?

Thankfully it wasn't all bad. There was one presence that spent the weekend with me, making sure that I was in the right places at the right times. Were the people that apparently appeared out of nowhere to guide me on to trains, help me when I became sick, and helped me around a city that I felt like an alien in placed there by this being? Whatever it was and wherever it was from, it was a constant source of comfort during my two days in Berlin. After I'd dropped my package at the arena, I decided to take a walk. Despite my tears, there was a feeling of love and comfort that surrounded me. This was the complete opposite of the darkened being in my hotel room. Whatever was with me in those hours had the colour pink associated with it and was forever at my right shoulder. I don't know what it was, nor where it came from, but its presence was one that I was constantly thankful for.

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