3 min

Guten tag, Berlin

A major withdrawal from the bank of karma

Megan and new friend "Fichael" in the shadow of the Soviet war memorial in Treptower Park, Berlin. Credit: Megan Richards

We have finally arrived. And after two months of vacation, one bus, two airplanes (at both Gatwick and Heathrow airports, thank you very much), dinner at Gordon Ramsey’s Plane Food and a taxi we are in Berlin.

Our takeoff and landing was relatively painless compared to the endless trek in the suburbs of London with all of our luggage or the torrential downpour that welcomed us to Tuscany. I believe it has to do with the kindness of one particular stranger.

My wife believes there is such a thing as karmic banking. You know, do a good deed and, at some point, the universe will deliver you a little gift in return. Do a sizeable good deed and the universe will deliver an even larger gift. Do a somewhat unthinkable good deed and…. well, you get the idea. Thankfully while I was working for the “man” she was making some major deposits. As it turns out the teller is paying attention.

Before leaving Toronto I was talking with a friend (let’s call him Fynn) about a friend that he had in Berlin (let’s call him Fichael). I was hoping that Fynn could hook me up so we could expand our city Rolodex from two people to three people. Fynn and Fichael have known each other for years and stayed friends across continents, through several relationships. Despite their geographic distance they even manage to vacation together. We had heard nothing but good things from Fynn and other friends who also knew Fichael sang his praises.

Now Fynn is a busy man and so it took a little bit of reminding and a gentle nudge or two and by the time he passed along Fichael’s contact information we had already left Hogtown and were in Spain. But thanks to the wonders of the Skype, Fichael and I were to have our first meeting, Barcelona to Berlin. Although it was a bit awkward (I could see him but I have no camera on my computer so he could not see me) it was a lovely chat. The usual. “When are you coming? How long are you planning on staying? What made you choose Berlin?” And the standard greeting between people who don’t really know if they will like one another once they meet in person, “Let’s have a beer when you get here.”

After hanging up I knew that Fichael was goodness — no surprise really considering his relationship with Fynn. Excited with our new friend I immediately emailed Fynn, thanked him for introducing us to Fichael and emailed Fichael to thank him for a lovely chat and a “It would be great to see you when we get there.”

That must have been the moment when the karmic bank decided it was time for us to make a withdrawal.

The next day Fichael sent an email.

“You know,” Fichael wrote, “since you don’t have anywhere to land yet when you get here” — which, by the way, was over a month away — “why don’t you come and stay with me? You can stay for a week even if you’d like. And I’ll come and pick you up at the airport.”

Okay, so a stranger, even though Fynn knew him, was offering to host us for one week in his apartment and pick us up at the airport so we didn’t have to find our way there on our own on a Saturday night in the city with no last call. Really?

Once the shock had worn off I wrote back to Fichael to thank him for his generous offer. I sent him our flight details and a photo, so he’d know who he was looking for at Tegel.

As the days drew nearer a little bit of panic set in. What if Fichael forgot? What if he meant the week after we arrive and not right away? What if this was some cruel joke intended to illustrate just how crazy this whole adventure is, orchestrated by our friends at home as a cheap bid for our return?

My last email to Fichael contained all the pertinent information regarding our flight to Berlin. Once we were in transit all I could do was cross my fingers that he would be there. And he was!

Leaning against an information booth in the terminal was our stranger. Lanky and all Berlin casual we greeted one another like friends and headed out to what I thought was his car. I suppose for the next 20 minutes it would be. Fichael had come all the way out to the airport to get us and was taking us by taxi to his house. From the moment we stepped through the door it was comfortable. Wine was shared, there was indoor smoking and a lot of talk of Fynn and how great he was.

After a good night’s sleep Fichael showed us around. From Kreuzberg to Treptower Park with the giant Soviet Monument to the real anarchist part of town right inside Friedrichshain where there are still functional squats in old railway cars. And 15 kilometres later we were ready for a nap.

We have Fynn and Fichael to thank for our soft and welcoming landing in a town where we don’t speak the language and the sun doesn’t seem to shine in the spring.

I also have my wife to thank for making sure the bank was full before we set sail.

A little piece of advice. Next time someone comes to town that you don’t know but is a friend of a friend — maybe their name is Felizabeth or Faximillian — welcome them and do something good. ‘Cause you never know when you might need to make a withdrawal.