Solitude. There are many ways to explain this word as it belongs to the category of the most underused terms in the English vocabulary. While the dictionaries state that solitude means having a sense and/or place of loneliness, there is more to this word than what is presented in print. Solitude can mean the process of finding peace within yourself; in other words, your own inner peace. Solitude can also mean having a sense of serenity in a place where silence is the norm. Solitude can also mean finding your own personal identity as you try and reflect on what happened, try and make sense out of it, and move on knowing that you are in uncharted territory known as the future, and what you did in the past is considered irrelevant in the present.
For me, solitude means everything mentioned above plus one most important ingredient: identifying yourself through your own reinvention. This means when your life is in dire straits because of a series of tragedies or a situation where you cannot bear it anymore, you seek to find solitude to find out who you really are and what you can do to make a difference and be happy from it. This can only be done when you need to get away from society- from everything and everybody- for awhile just to reflect on what happened and plan ahead for the future with a new sense of identity.
Like many of you before me, this year was the year for me to seek solitude and find out something about myself, as a lot of events happened in my life that forced me to reconsider who I was, where I come from, and what I should really be doing. Even though I do not want to go into detail about this, as this is my own personal matter, I felt that need to flee the ever changing pace of society- the one that is no holds barred and everything goes no matter what the circumstances are- and spend some time in my own personal confinement where I can take the time and find that inner peace that was missing in my life for the longest time.
There were a lot of things about Flensburg that made me want to take a trip up there. It was not because of the beer, even though it is one of the most popular microbrews in Germany. It was not because of the rum despite the fact that it is the birthplace of rum and was once a powerhouse in the industry. It was not because of the clippers, which have been dominating the seas for over 400 years. All of those characteristics will be mentioned at a later time. What makes this city special is the fact that it is the city of peace and harmony, where people are open to each other. It is also the place where if you needed some serenity and solitude, all you need is a few minutes by bike on either side of the Flensburger Fjord, and you hit the nature and that place of confinement where you can spend as much time to yourself as possible, while trying to find a way to clean up a life full of disaster and disappointment, heartbreak and hatred, sadness and strife.Â On the west end of the fjord, you meander your way past beaches that are kilometers long, crossing the Bridge of Friendship at Wassersleben at the Danish border before trekking into the forest and beyond. On the east end, you run across some gentle rolling hills and ponds, where between the suburb of Twedt and the town of Holnis, you feel like you are doing a cross country ski run. But there is one place in the city that definitely lives up to the name it carries. Located on the east side of the fjord, you will never figure out the reason why it deserves its christened name until you end up outside the city and you feel like someone pulled the plug on life as you know it. The name of the place I’m referring to is Der Strand der Solitüde. In other words, the Beach of Solitude.
Located just off the bike trail to the north of Mürwik, the Beach of Solitude is one that presents two different faces. On the one hand, it is a magnet for families with children who just want to take a dip into the icy cold Fjord or bake in the sun for a couple hours, while having the winds from the sea act as a giant air conditioner. There is a restaurant nearby, where you can sit on the terrace and enjoy one of the specialties of Flensburg, made of salmon, flounder, or other types of fish, and watch the sun set over the city’s skyline and landscape. However, the other face of Solitude is something you don’t expect.
When there are no people around, it can present you with a silence that you can only find in a vacant apartment, after everything is put away in boxes and loaded up into the moving trucks to ship somewhere else. With the skies changing color between blue, grey, and white and a gentle sea water breeze fanning your face and creating some really small waves on the beach, I found myself alone on this very sandy-colored but yet to a certain degree, rocky beach, where small narrow cone-shaped peninsulas made of rocks and sand extend into the fjord, creating shapes resembling the crescent moon. I found myself in a new dimension, where I was touching the air that was heavy of salt and mist. I was looking around to see if there were other people there- to the east where the woods, ponds, and the bike trail were facing my back; to the west, where there was nothing but water with a piece of land far, far in the background- and still there was no one who came by. It was an eerie feeling that I had when I was at the beach. It felt like I was in some sort of purgatory and I was forced to reflect on my actions in my past life before the judgment was made, whether I would be in Adam and Eve’s Paradise or Dante’s Inferno, and part of this process was being alone in a place like this where no one is around where I could go back into the past to see the things I did or should have done differently.
While the last part holds true, I don’t think the Beach of Solitude is a purgatory of some sort. No place with that much beauty should be considered a place of punishment. I consider the place something where silence and reflection in response to the hardships faced (or to be faced) should be respected and reinvention of oneself is the norm. It makes you look at things from all angles of life, interpret them, try and make sense of them. It makes you go into the deepest self to look at the flaws and find ways to fix them; or handle them if they cannot be fixed. It makes you ask and answer the most difficult philosophical questions that have been burning inside of you for a long time; like for example, why am I here on this planet, or why can I not get the girl I want, or in my case, why life can be so wonderful the one minute and then cruel the next. I had a lot of questions that needed answers and no one was able to get the job done. Therefore other alternatives to answering the questions needed to be found so that I can find my way to myself and take care of the business that needs to be done.
After the longest time, where I scrounged round, raking my way up and down along the beach, reaching every tip of the rocky peninsula, taking a dip into the salient but shivering cold sea, and at times, just sitting down on the rocks, filling in the next pages of my journal, a young couple with two dogs- a Labrador and a black terrier came onto the scene, each looking for a sense of silence and relaxation as the dogs were feisty and wanting some fun in the water. Afterwards, a couple children kicking their soccer ball and imitating David Beckham and Miroslav Klose took to the scene, wanting to answer the call of being a profi player someday. This was my call to leave this place of silence, to eventually move onto a place where I too can eat a delicacy of Flensburg’s and enjoy the sunset, putting a close to a day of reflection and preparing another day, this time for redemption, as I return to what is known as reality, learning from my days in exile, not looking back at my past and looking forward to what is ahead. After all, that is what solitude is all about, and the Beach of Solitude is one of many factors which makes Flensburg famous, a city which I nicknamed The City of Solitude.