I remember a walk with my father. We were walking along Sophienstrasse in Berlin Mitte – on the narrow footpath, a bit away from the rest of the group.
In front of us, a bottle collector bent down to pick up a deposit bottle and put it in his pocket. My father was apparently completely unfamiliar with the concept. He asked or remarked “What’s he doing?” — he was astonished — I was astonished about him beeing astonished. A bottle collector!
My father was puzzled. Why would someone pick up a bottle that only had an 8 cent deposit value? I replied that from a certain number it would be worthwhile. But you would have to collect dozens, if not hundreds of bottles? Where would they all come from? Yes, people deliberately put their bottles under a trash can, for example, so that bottle collectors can collect them. And that’s a good thing.
Once again we escaped to my parents’ house. Berlin was gradually becoming too exhausting for us – and since we don’t have to stick to school vacations or other commitments the decision wasn’t difficult.
My parents’ house is in the countryside – in a village in northern Germany. There was not much going on here even before Corona. People like to come to this area to enjoy the silence. And I like the silence, too. No highway, no airport, no industry – lots of nature, a bit of farming, some birds singing, silence.
As a teenager, I sometimes even found it not quiet enough. And by silence I don’t mean the absence of noise or the absence of any noise – but mainly the absence of noise caused by human activity: passing airplanes or trains, a car in the distance, tractors – sometimes even the engine of a ship on the river Elbe nearby.
Of course, there are more such sounds of civilization during the day than at night. Therefore, at night it is always a little quieter than during the day. But even at night there was always some human activity to be heard – especially cars driving from one village to another in the distance – or music and laughter, if someone had something to celebrate in one of the surrounding villages. This had always annoyed me a little. You live in one of the most sparsely populated regions of northern Germany, sitting in the middle of nature – and yet someone somewhere always has to break the silence.
The Lockdown Silence was different. Now, finally, there were no sounds caused by people. No airplanes flying by, no cars in the distance, no celebrations, no music, no laughter. Nothing. Only silence. An oppressive, almost deafening silence.