Despite being raised in different hemispheres, in countries as different as feta and cheddar, SG and I are both beach people. While I grew up splashing around in the Pacific, spending long summers on the central coast of New South Wales, SG was in Baltic, grilling on grassy knolls, throwing a frisbee in the shallows that seem to go on for metres. I had Sydney Harbour, he had the promenades and piers of the Kieler Förde. For both of us, the water is balancing, comforting, puts us at ease. The lack of it is what is most noticeable about our life in Bayern. No sand, no salty water, no seagulls.
When I came to Kiel for the first time (or was it the second?) SG took me to the beach he frequented growing up. It was Winter, the water was slate grey, the sand the same. We got a take away coffee and walked the length of the beach, wrapped up in our jackets, chins tucked in. I may have made a comment – to myself, or out loud, I cannot recall – about how it ‘wasn’t really a beach’, but it was sand and water and I hadn’t been near either elements living in Münster, so it was enough. And when we walked along the promenade, the iciest wind skidding in off the flat sea, it was enough.
Living in Kiel now, after the landlocked states of Nordrhein-Westphalen and Bayern, I have come to love the beaches of the Baltic, in fact, I’ve come to love the Baltic itself. It isn’t as big or quite as blue, nor as willful and wild, as the Pacific. Kiel’s beaches don’t stretch for kilometres of minty surf thumping down on golden sand, minty surf that can shove you face first into that golden sand and hold you there until you come up gasping for breath, snotty nosed and panting, ‘holy shit, I just got dumped.’ The beaches here are a little smaller, the surf flatter. The water is brackish. But Kielers, because of their beloved Baltic, have the beachy attitude, the seaside mentality. They wear thongs and love fish and chips, they talk of ‘being by the water’ as if it’s the best possible thing. Because it is. And on a hot, summer’s day, the Baltic is as almost as blue as the Pacific.
When SG came to Australia last year, I took him to the beach where I spent my summers, growing up. He loved it. He stills talks about it, has already locked it into our next visit. He flipped about in the waves like a big, happy fish. Took out the boogie board, got battered by the big, minty surf. Got covered in salt and sand and ate fish and chips for dinner.
We’re going to miss the beach.