Ways of Remembering


Berlin, Germany – May 2008

I scan the tourist map, every tiny line and word, searching for the Berlin Wall. How is it that one of the most intriguing tourist attractions in Berlin isn’t clearly marked? My eyes sweep past something called Eastside Gallery. Maybe that’s it. The hotel reception confirms this, so my husband and I set off in that direction.


It is spring, but a cold wind blows. From time to time, blue sky manages to push through the gray clouds. The dour face of Checkpoint Charlie brightens briefly and then falls back into shadow. I take off my coat and then put it back on. Then I take it off again.


Only a few clusters of people are gathered in front of the Wall, leaving lots of room to linger and ponder. Countless autographs from visitors past are scrawled in the spaces between. Some of the graffiti has begun to creep over the artwork.


A group of young Spaniards giggle as they scrawl on the Wall in black marker. One of the girls looks to the left and then to the right before digging into the cement with a key. A tiny chip falls into her hand. She squeezes it in her grasp and holds it close, a victorious smile on her face.


Everyone wants to remember. T-shirts. Shot glasses. Snow globes. Keychains. Pins. Stickers. Postcards. Thimbles. Teaspoons. Those last two have always baffled me. Hey, wanna see my thimble collection? I’ve got them displayed on a special rack in my living room!

When I was younger, my fridge was adorned with colorful mementos of trips taken. However, some places were missing – Papua New Guinea and Anguilla and a couple of others. This gnawed at me. Empty spaces on the humming metal door. When I moved overseas, I realized just how heavy those magnets could be. How much room they took up in my luggage. I loosened my grasp and gave them all away.

Remember where you were. Those vibrant deviations from the system of your life.

Some leave things behind. Others bring things home.


Some gather images in analog or digital. Or scribble impressions in a journal.

Only the very bravest can hide the moments away in the private treasure chest of the mind.


17 thoughts on “Ways of Remembering

  1. Love that last paragraph but I promise not to borrow it this time πŸ™‚ These days I find there is almost more satisfaction in getting rid of unnecessary stuff than there is in acquiring it.

  2. “Those vibrant deviations from the system of your life.” So good. At a later age we reach a point in our life where, if one has the option to choose, the vibrant deviations might become the system … at least for a while. I’m seriously looking at that.

  3. Love the post – they’re gorgeous photos of the wall (the curriculum vitae part is my favourite – I find it so frustrating seeing all the graffiti over it all though).

    • Thank you. Yes, it’s a little annoying that some feel such a need to be noticed. I’m sure that the artwork on the wall has changed since these photos were taken, because of the grafitti.

      • They painted it all fresh for the 20th anniversary of the fall of the wall – so it was all lovely and clean when I moved there in 2009, but sadly by now it’s all graffiti-ed again…

  4. “Remember where you were. Those vibrant deviations from the system of your life.”

    The other day I met with some friends for lunch who spent a considerable about of time detailing all of their travels – the places they visited, the food that they ate, the clothes and jewelry that they bought etc. I enjoyed their chatter and their excitement. But I find that I do not talk about my “adventures” in the same way.

    As you know, I am not an easy traveler, especially when it comes to flying. For me, travelling is not a vacation; it is a way for me to gain new insight into the past as well as the present. What I take home are ideas, thoughts, experiences that give meaning to our finite world. I find that writing has helped me integrate these ideas more freely into my daily life.

    Another excellent post! Thank you….

    β€œWe travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls.” AnaΓ―s Nin,

    • Superficial chatter can be fun, on occasion, but some of us can’t help but look beyond the surface when we travel. I’ve stopped talking about my travels with most of my friends and family. They are unable to relate and their eyes glaze over after a couple of minutes or they change the subject to domestic things – new decorating ideas for their rec room, trips to the dentist, bundt cake pans that they got on sale at Target, etc. And then it’s my turn for the eyes to glaze over…. πŸ˜‰

  5. One of the poignant sections of the wall is near the Martin Gropius Museum, it is used in part for the open exhibition “Topographie des Terrors” that retraces the rise of fascism in the 30’s (on Wilhelm Straße)… Thanks for visiting my little blog πŸ™‚

  6. very though provioking post when you say some leave stuff behind and some bring home …I think I don’t do both as in my search of being a milimalist all I carry is a camera with me …so you can say I bring pics in analog form and share it in blog form ….love these street arts as we have here in Melbourne too…I somehow quiet like the idea of expressing oneself in a unique and artistic way

    • Hi Kavita. Photos are the best souvenirs, in my opinion. I do the same as you, except my photos are digital. I’ve seen some photos of the fantastic street art in Melbourne. I imagine that there’s always something vibrant to look at.

  7. Thanks for the Update on the Wall. When I went it was all in tact and I loved the mural of Brezhnev kissing Honecker full mouthed on the lips. The trabant mural looks good. Also thanks for liking my post “Bright Green”. Glad you have found the right place. MM πŸ€

    • Thank you for visiting, MM! I’m sure the Wall looks much different even since these photos were taken. Different, newer murals that are just as obscured by graffiti, etc. Love that shamrock!! Cheers- Julie

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