Did you know that by 1937 each day almost 90 flights started and landed at the old Flughafen Tempelhof?

By which time the main drawbacks of living in the direct proximity of the airport were noise, pollution and an occasional crash. In short, what we would recognise as adverse circumstances almost a century later today.

However, in the early years of the airport’s operation (just as a reminder, it opened on October 8, 1923) people of Neukölln living near the take-off runway had to deal with a much more unappetizing side-effect of early passenger aviation: nausea.

Not their own, though. Passengers taking those early flights often did so for the first time ever. Being locked up in a loud, trembling machine which then went up in the air only to face occasional turbulences made some of these poor souls quite sick. Enter sick bags. Which until 1949, when inventor Gilmore Schjeldahl created a vomit bag lined with plastic, were either regular paper bags and bags made of waxed paper. And these had to be disposed of fast before the matter inside them penetrated the container. Or before the smell got too oppressive.

That is why the sick bags used by passengers flying to or from Tempelhof Airport to relieve their tormented stomachs were then duly gotten rid of by throwing them out of the (then still opening) aeroplane windows… Also, being able to open the window most certainly helped some of the window-seat passengers circumnavigate the need for a sick bag…

After numerous complaints from curious Neuköllners whose balconies and fresh washing got soiled as a result, the airport authorities introduced a new regulation: the sick bags were to be collected by a member of the crew and stored on board until they could be disposed of elsewhere. Which probably meant, be dumped somewhere over a forest.  Full of unsuspecting hikers and mushroom-gatherers.

The destroyed and never rebuilt Waisenbrücke (however, we are keeping our fingers crossed for Berlin’s Stadtmuseum initiative to have the bridge reconstructed again) (image via @StadtmuseumBLN from the collection of Landesarchiv Berlin)

Berlin is like a bridge without guard rails. You are allowed to fall down, unlike in the rest of Germany.

From the 2019 survey “DNA der Hauptstadt” (DNA of The Capital City) carried out of Berlin’s Senate

Rainy East Berlin’s boulevard, Stalinallee, captured by Rudi Ulmer in July 1957 (photo via Bundesarchiv)

“One morning you can smell autumn. It is not yet chilly; it is not windy; in fact, nothing has changed – and yet everything has. It spreads in the air like a crackle – something has happened: until now the dice held its balance, it swayed…, and… and…, and now it has rolled onto the other side. All is as it was the day before: the leaves, the trees, the bushes… and still, now everything’s different. The light is bright, gossamer threads of spider silk are floating in the air, everything has been given a new start, magic is gone, the spell has been broken – it is straight autumn from now on. How many of those have you seen? This one is one of them. The wonder lasted some four, perhaps five days, and you wished it would never ever stop. This is the time when old gentlemen get sentimental – it’s not “the last of the summer wine”, it is something else. It is an optimistic premonition of Death, a cheerful acceptance of the End. Late summer, early autumn and what lies between them. A fleeting moment in each year.”

First published by Kurt Tucholsky (as Kaspar Hauser) in “Die Weltbühne” magazine in October 1929.

A stroll on a quiet autumn day at the Neue See, a small artificial lake in the Tiergarten Park, painted by one of Berlin’s leading artists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, wonderfully named Lesser Ury.

Ury is mostly known for his incredibly atmospheric paintings of rainy Berlin streets and plazas but he could clearly also master less inclement conditions. The painting, dated at some time between 1910 and 1920, is filled with cool mellow light of an autumn afternoon – light which seems to be almost radiating from the picture and as much as the calmness it presents. Happy the soul whose walls it decorates today!