Köpenick holds a special place in my mind as a homecoming from my childhood. I spent formative years bouncing around Bitburg, but returning to Germany as an adult during this period provided a similar growth trajectory. Spec Ops Technology was well underway, and the little company we started was gaining steam. As my business partner would say, I was busy as a one-armed wallpaper hanger.
I was in Berlin working on an airborne platform through the gruelling winter, focusing almost all my days on work. As spring came, I could start to venture out and make time for myself on the weekends exploring the country I had spent so much time in as a teenager. During this time, I connected the language, memories, food, and drink that had shaped me more than I understood before my return.
I left Berlin in 2012 in my professional capacity as we transitioned the aircraft to a new country. I visited again in 2015 with my wife. I showed her around the stomping grounds that had meant so much to our budding relationship when we started dating. I could show her the hotel bar I had taken so many photos showing her a tired, younger, much younger, me falling asleep as her day was starting. Eat at my favourite restaurant, have the best doner in Berlin, and drunkenly sit on a horse as is customary in Köpenick.
Flying back today has a starkly different feel, but a familiarity all the same. Brandenburg Airport is finally operational after all these years of watching it flounder. I will miss that approach for Tegel that often awoke me onboard the United Boeing 757, whose crew I had gotten to know for taking the flight so many times. Berlin has changed so much over the decades, and I guess this part of the city always appealed to me as it seemed a bit untouched thus far by what the West had seen.
It is not the same place, and I am not the same person, but the memories provide a practical litmus test of how different we can become. I look forward one day to showing my daughter Ada around this place - returning an even more distant and distinct person from the one writing this today. I relish in that joy of growth.