I went to Kladow yesterday. Berlin is a big place, Kladow being a very south-western part of it, formerly squeezed in between lake Wannsee to the west and the Berlin wall to the south and east. Kind of a dead end village. To get to Kladow, one had to take the prominent Heerstraße from City Center West for miles and turn southward around Spandau, driving through another – really rural – part of town, called Gatow, then pass big military barracks to finally arrive in this cul-de-sac place. Which it still very much is, despite two roads now open to go on to the former East.
It’s been years, since I drove down this street. I used to live in Kladow from 1996 to 1998. My husband and I ran the pro shop and golf school at Gatow golf club at that time. I took me a full hour to get there from where I live now. As soon as I was off Heerstraße on the southbound way to Kladow, memories came flooding back. Passing the fields of the Gatow farmers – once the only existing farms in West Berlin, I was told – I was back to our first trip down that road, to have the interview to get the business. I remember it being in the midst of winter, the sky drab and the road wet with rain. I was hard pressed to believe, this was still Berlin. The golf course was located in the middle of the military barracks, back then. Each and everyone visiting, had to pass the checkpoint at the gate. Members of the golf club showed their membership card, we had to provide the invitation, the guard phoned the club secretary, to check back and we were let in, finally.
The golf club was once built by the British soldiers by hand, using shovels. To pass their time and get a game of golf in, while protecting the wall and running Gatow Airport.
Meanwhile, the golf club has ist own entry road and the golfing grounds, handed back to the Germans long since, as were the barracks, have been excluded from the military area. This happend, when the first Irak war broke out and lot’s of German military surveillance units were moved to Gatow. You know, spying, top secret stuff. You couldn’t have a semi-public golf club on the grounds any longer, seemingly.
But back to the reason for my visit yesterday. When we first arrived at Gatow golf club, there was a local member, who was a real nice chap. He and his brother helped us setting up shop. They were both painters by profession and keen golfers on top. I remember, how they painted our shop for free. Really eager to help out a young couple. While we were there, they were also making sure, to buy lots of stuff off us and take lots of lessons. I suspect, it was more to help us than out of need.
Two years later, when my marriage ended with a big bang and I was left hospitalized in a mental institution for half a year, I was even more surprised and pleased, that this man came to visit on a regular base. It had never before occured to me, that this sportive, friendly guy was battling depression. Which was the reason for him, to come and look after me, knowing about the dark side of life himself. He would come and take me out to the garden, sitting for a while, chatting. A kindness, that was never forgotten. As I was pretty much alone in town during that time.
He was around sixty back then, I guess. So he must have been almost eighty, when he finally took his own life. I just had to go to his funeral yesterday and say good bye.
I had somehow underestimated the time it takes to get to Kladow, beeing ten minutes late in the end. So I let myself into the church quietly, taking a seat in the last row. When after mass, they carried Hartmuts urn by, his widow noticed me. Her face lit up and she put her arm on my shoulder. I was surprised about that. After all, beside the family members, there were maybe 80 more folks attending, most of them Gatow golfers. But maybe that one person from another golf club counts more, than all those expected. After Hartmuts ashes were set to rest, she was urging me to join the funeral party for a meal and a drink. But I had to leave, as I had promised to take my sweetheart’s mum for shopping in the afternoon. On the way back to Berlin’s north, I was glad to have this one hour drive. Just to remember a real nice man. Who in the end couldn’t take it anymore.