Post #13: Coming Out, Falling in Love, and Planning to Start Over in Berlin, Summer 2017

Who would have thought that a few years after I came out, I would have relocated to Berlin and be happily remarried? After all in 2014 I was quite contentedly and enthusiastically teaching in Boston. While I was considering to retire in 2017 after I turned 61, that was still quite faraway. In hindsight a number of things came together during the summer of 2017 when I decided to join G, my future husband, in Berlin. In August I, a planner and not necessarily the most spontaneous person, had decided to sell my condo and move that October after only knowing him for two months! How often in life does one feel comfortable enough with someone to make such significant changes? Well … having the support of a great travel agent, an energetic broker, dear friends; and, of course, the feeling that I could take a risk and not lose a chance for love and adventure. While I had given thought to a long-distance relationship, but no, that did not interest me, and unlike G, who was still employed, I was free to relocate. If so, I needed to change at least some of the travel plans that I had booked for the next eight months; in so doing I could embrace a new plan and start over in a new city.

The desire for a new beginning was indeed coupled with my coming out three years earlier, as my travel experiences gave me time and perspective to ponder the answers to the following questions: Was I ready to settle down with a wonderful man as my partner? Did I want to redefine myself in a place that I perceived from my first impression to be even more tolerant and accepting than Boston? Did I want to adapt myself to new customs and a culture? Did I want to speak another language most of the time (at least I already knew it!)? These are just a few of the questions that I asked myself in the coming months and by the end of August the answer to all of them was clear: yes … But I am getting ahead of myself. Back to my arrival in Berlin so that the answers to these numerous questions make sense.

On Sunday, July 2, 2017 I arrived in Berlin for what was to be a six-week sojourn. I met my new landlord, who had already emailed me that due to water damage in the apartment that I had rented, he had a new one for me so that he showed that to me instead, which was a few blocks away; also near the Victoria-Luise Platz (Public Parks (Green and Recreation Spaces) / State of Berlin Public Parks (Green and Recreation Spaces) / State of Berlin) and near many of the sites in gay friendly Berlin that were of interest to me – what can I say? The studio apartment was small, but comfortable and the location appeared to be great. I was ready to explore my new environment! With the help of my Spartacus guide, Google maps, and other guide books, the next day I had breakfast in a wonderful café (Café Kalwil: – Home (cafekalwilberlin.de) ), went to a great bookstore (Eisenherz: Prinz Eisenherz Buchladen GmbH – Ihr Buchhändler aus Berlin (buchkatalog.de)), walked around the neighborhood, and ended up at the gay museum (SMU – Schwules Museum Berlin). During that coming week I had so much fun, discovering parts of Berlin. Among other things I joined a yoga class. The city had so much to offer – a city full of history and so open and accepting; let’s see, the first week I took myself to a fascinating acrobatic show: Chamäleon Berlin | Zirkus und Theater neu erleben (chamaeleonberlin.com)

There is little doubt that I thoroughly enjoyed myself in these six weeks in Berlin and used the opportunity to write about many of my impressions. So much to do and see in a city that appeared to be making great steps toward reconciliation with its past and was a delightful mixture of old and city and of city blocks and greenery. Well – yes, some Berliners smoked too much (and appeared to ignore anyone who disliked it!) and were much abrupt than Americans … still I was mesmerized … In some ways I experienced a whirlwind of impressions, which is corroborated, when I look back in my journal, my appointment book, and email exchanges from this period. Countless wondrous anecdotes of this fascinating city flashed through my memory (the last time that I had been here was 2012 with an old friend as a tourist). Now I was experiencing it from another perspective – as someone who was a traveler, a “Reisender”, coined a dear friend, who also lived in Berlin, to differentiate what I was doing from a more typical tourist, since I was trying to consider whether I could live here.

Before the end of the first week, I met the sensitive man (through an online platform) who a year later became my husband. While it is hard to characterize my feeling as love at first sight, in my journal after our second date, I asked myself whether I was falling in love … we were compatible at many levels and had similar interests. It was wonderful how quickly I felt so comfortable with him; with him I discovered the beauty of Central Park (Tiergarten), as well as the three moving monuments to the victims of Nazism, which I had seen before, and yet the one to Persecuted Homosexuals, I saw through different eyes (see Memorials – Stiftung Denkmal für die ermordeten Juden Europas (stiftung-denkmal.de)), the Street Fair in Schoeneberg (Berlin´s 28th Lesbian and Gay City Festival will be on July 02 and 03, 2022. (stadtfest.berlin), where I quickly learned about aspects of Berlin culture, politics, and more.

A cake in celebration of the Lesbian Gay City festival that I encountered on a bike ride

More importantly, after our first few dates, it was clear that it was so wonderful to spend time with him and when we were not together to think about him and to be in touch with him. Curiously, the friend who told me about this platform, knew G and was himself coming to visit at the end of the month; yes, what a small world indeed!

Meanwhile, I needed to solve a visa problem that had emerged – so that I could guarantee that I could land again in the France, a part of the Schengen area, in December as planned. In figuring out my plans, I had neglected to closely look at the 90-day rule in a 180-day period in which a tourist from the States could be in the Schengen area – so that when I had planned to land in France (after having been in Egypt) may in fact be a month early! Schengen Area – Visa Information for Schengen Countries (schengenvisainfo.com)

It was possible that it would not be a problem, but, given that there was unclarity, I was seriously thinking of finding another way to pursue my travel plans – with a visa and/or even a passport in an EU country. Prior to leaving Boston I had been made aware of a rule that children of former citizens of the Czech Republic (formerly Czechoslovakia) could petition the government and themselves become citizens, making it possible for me to gain Czech citizenship and that way live wherever I may want within the E.U, I, however, had missed the January 1, 2015 deadline. Despite a fascinating trip to Prague, I learned from my lawyer that – despite all the correct documentation — to have become a Czech citizen; I needed to have provided those documents before January 1, 2015 that exceptions are not granted so that an appeal would be a waste of time. The next question was could I become a German citizen by virtue of the German occupation of the in Czechoslovakia and that my mother had also lived in Berlin for ten years or more … no, I later learned through the help of another attorney that would not work.

The puzzle pieces came together – falling in love with G, wanting a new adventure outside of the States, and needing a long-term visa – so in August I had decided to apply for visa to live in Germany. Simple and yet exciting …. The planner in me had more to do – change my travel plans, plan to move to Berlin, arrange for a visa. Meanwhile, I continued to enjoy myself, which was not too hard, given the exhilarating things that I had planned – from hiking in Iceland (which, despite coming down with bronchitis, was definitely worth it!), to exploring Cologne, returning to Berlin, and biking in Slovenia (strenuous biking with breathtaking landscape).

Finally, I spent a fascinating month in London in September, where I saw 6 plays, went to countless museums including great exhibits in small and big ones, found fabulous bookstores, museums from the British Museum, the Tate and smaller historical houses, bookstores, shopped. Yes, I loved being there yet it became clear to me that it was not the city for me to call my “next home”, but that Berlin still fit the bill better. Who knows? It may have to do with where we spent our time in each place and whom I met – and yet something was clear to me – my decision to relocate to Berlin, a wonderful cosmopolitan place, was the correct decision. G. joined me in London for a few days for more theatre, museum visits, and to get my right ear pierced, which is to be a small statement that I am gay. After much careful deliberation, we ended up in a one of London’s most famous piercing and tattoo salons where I felt old. G chose the earring and I went to my fate (or destiny?) into a private room with a piercer – a trans woman – whose British accent I could barely fathom – and who took umbrage that I wanted my partner in the room “don’t you trust the piercer?” I was asked. Well, I did, and I happily have an earring!”

In London with my new earring.

I also returned to Berlin to plan for my visa for a week, as well as to reaffirm that the decision that was in the works was still the correct one. A city was so much theatre, music, art, a café culture, and history; the city had so much to offer. I remember quite vividly exploring in the Juedisches Museum that I felt as if the description of middle-class families in Weimar Germany brought me somehow closer to my roots. Meanwhile I was being drawn to this relationship with G — chance and risk – which were clearly tied to my later coming out and acceptance of my identity as a gay man. What an opportunity — perhaps seen as a second coming out – where I could reinvent myself in a new city. No, I was the same person who now had a chance to start over in a new relationship … and, yes, I would take that risk … otherwise we would have a long-distance relationship.

By the time that I returned to Boston on Tuesday, October 10th, I had already rearranged some of my travel plans; I had arranged on Monday, October 24th to return to Berlin to acquire my long-term visa to live there. Fortunately, when I returned to my wonderful condo (which I now had had for four years!) I was ready and eager for the change that I had planned when I was away. During those two weeks I had countless meetings to prepare to leave. Deciding to sell and move was both overwhelming and yet exciting; it was great to have the support of various professionals, close friends, and, of course G, who arrived a week later. On October 23rd I locked the door for the last time and was ready to start the next stage of my life. Having G next to me made it easier …

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