The Formative Years

In the midst of a cold January in 1983, I was born in Kaltenkirchen, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany. But my true roots lie in Oersdorf, a mere stone's throw away from Kaltenkirchen. Oersdorf, situated about 20 km north of Norderstedt, wasn't the picturesque village one might imagine. Instead, it was a standard settlement, characterized by single-family houses. In its early days, Oersdorf boasted meadows, a blacksmith's forge, and some ancient homes, but as time went on, it evolved into a more typical village.

Growing up in Oersdorf was like living inside a storybook with a modern twist - a tapestry of outdoor adventures and cultural experiences. My days were filled with outdoor adventures, playing with neighborhood kids, and observing the gentle deer that occasionally graced our gardens. One of my fondest memories was when we, the children of the village, decided to enact a marriage. It was a grand affair, complete with a festive parade, handcart processions, and my very first kiss at the tender age of six. This playful wedding was so convincing that my neighbor's female friend was even allowed to stay overnight!

Winter in Oersdorf had its own charm. Frozen ponds became our personal ice-skating arenas. Traditional events like the Easter Fire (Osterfeuer), the candle-lit parade of Laternelaufen, and the eagerly anticipated Kinderfest added color to our lives. Another significant event in Oersdorf was the annual gigantic flea market. It wasn't just any flea market; it was an event that drew people from all over Schleswig-Holstein. The market's popularity was fueled by unique red paper hearts placed in car windows and widespread paper announcements. I contributed to this tradition by penning a poem for the invitation letter, a poem that remains in use to this day.

My childhood wasn't just confined to Oersdorf. My family's travels took us to various places, each leaving a distinct mark on my character. Our trips to Yugoslavia, now mostly Croatia, were particularly impactful. Before the war, these holidays symbolized freedom and trust. I recall wandering alone as a 6-year-old, buying bread or ice cream, soaking up the local culture, and being enamored by the folklore and the relaxed lifestyle of Tito's Yugoslavia. However, the outbreak of the war cast a shadow over these memories. The war's aftermath was palpable during our subsequent visits, with the sounds of distant air fights and the lingering scent of conflict in the air. The images of public demonstrations against Milosevic on TV left a deep impression on me.

My family introduced me to the joys of skiing early on. Our trips took us to the snowy slopes of Meran in Italy, the majestic Matterhorn in Switzerland, and the serene landscapes of Fiesch in Wallis. As I grew older, these mountain vacations became my annual energy boost, preparing me for the year ahead.

Our family's wanderlust also took us to the rugged coasts of Denmark, specifically the island of Römö. The rough seas, endless sandy beaches, and the joy of finding unique shells are memories I cherish. The heavy winds of Denmark, which would whip the sand around, remain a vivid memory.

At home, I was the eldest of three, with my sister arriving in October 1984 and my brother in April 1988. My father was a dedicated professional in the insurance business, while my mother, the heart of our home, chose to dedicate her time to us. As I grew, I took to the waters, learning to swim, and soon after, my feet found their calling on the football field. I joined the Kaltenkirchener TS, a local football club, marking the beginning of my journey with the sport.

Despite its mundane appearance, Oersdorf was a treasure trove of memories for me. One such memory is the village's emblem or "Wappen." When the village decided to adopt an emblem, various designs were proposed and displayed at the local community center. The chosen design featured a bold blue horizontal stripe, representing the Ohlau, a small stream running through the village. However, the design didn't sit well with my young aesthetic sense. With the support of a school friend, I initiated a change to the emblem, suggesting a diagonal stripe instead. To my surprise, the village authorities appreciated my input and incorporated the change. At just ten years old, I had left an indelible mark on Oersdorf's history.

Another transformative event was the German reunification in 1989/90. The iconic images of the Berlin Wall falling are etched in my memory. In the days that followed, my family and I would drive our Mercedes to the East, distributing Haribo gummies and other treats to the local children. One of my most cherished memories is driving through the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, a feat that's no longer possible. Today, I call Berlin my home.

Looking back, my early years in Oersdorf and the surrounding regions were instrumental in shaping my character. From influencing the design of a village emblem to penning poems for a flea market, I was leaving footprints in the sands of time. The blend of local traditions, global events, and family travels laid the foundation for the person I am today. The world was vast, filled with wonder, and I was just beginning to explore it.