The Schlachtensee is in Berlin’s southwest. You can get there by S-Bahn train. With a long walk along the lake’s edge, you come to a very good beer garden. I love to swim in the bracing water and then drink lager or flinty white wine. As the sun falls, the light reflects from the lake to the tables, the empty glasses, and the sun-dazzled bathers.
The beer garden is in front of what was originally a 1750 building, the Fischerhütte, or Fisherman’s Hut, where there is a restaurant. Inside there are historical photographs and postcards.
One postcard records the dining room and the view over the lake in the year 1940. The tables are set with fine china and crystal, but the places are not yet occupied. To see the dining room deserted in that year leaves me with an eery feeling. I feel anticipation for the guests to arrive, but we will not see them. The sense of anticipation seems shared; the guests I think must be speculating about what lies ahead with the new war. I now know what these guests would like to know. They might all be ghosts by now. The view to the lake through the dining room windows has remained unchanged. The view connects the past to the present, the missing guests to us. The lake is quite indifferent as to whether the photograph was taken in 1940 or 2010.
Now, it is spring in Berlin and the trees are about to bloom. I am thinking about the lake and wine and the sun and how I will go swimming as soon as I possibly can.