Soon I discover that’s not all that’s wrong with this station. It has an empty, chilling atmosphere, then strange things start to happen.
I look to find the exits, there are none. I realise I’m trapped. I have wandered into a place where time has stopped, an alternative reality where things are familiar, yet strange, ‘fremd’, where my destination no longer exists, and to go there is ‘verboten’.
How to escape?
‘Geisterbahnhof’ is inspired by my experiences of travelling around the two Germanys both before and after the end of Communism.
My first experience of Communist East Germany was in 1978, when I travelled on an overnight D-Zug or express train from Nürnberg to West Berlin.
The train took a slow and meandering route, passing through stations with at that time unfamiliar names like Saalfeld, Halle, Bitterfeld and eventually Potsdam. In the early morning the train crossed into West Berlin.
That journey has left visual impressions that have stayed with me all these years. Looking out through the train window at the drab grey buildings and townscapes, the factory chimneys with their v-shaped reddish-orange lights, the empty platforms, guarded by East German soldiers, the stern officials on the train, the border guards with dogs checking under the train for escapees before it proceeded into the West.
Living in West Berlin from 1979 to 1980 I experienced the day to day reality of the Berlin Wall. I was in Berlin only a couple of years after David Bowie had been there, recording his album ‘Low’.
I had been fascinated with the idea the divided city since I first read about the history of Berlin as a student of German at Trinity College Dublin.
The East frightened me, yet fascinated me. I went on many day trips via Checkpoint Charlie into East Berlin, and visited Potsdam and Dresden.
Though I never lived there, the East for me became very familiar. I empathised with it and the people there so much, I felt it was kind of ‘home from home’.
On 31 December 1989 I was in Berlin for the New Year celebrations, marking the end of the Wall, and since then I have followed the gradual transformation of the East.
In 1992 I travelled around Central Europe using the Interrail card, visiting Romania, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and much of eastern Germany.
One night I took an overnight train which ended at Rostock Station in the north of the former GDR. Like many stations in the East, it still appeared as if caught in a time warp. The platforms looked like the set of a spy thriller, or a Hitchcockian mystery.
My time in the East has never left me, though the East as it was has long since disappeared. What I’ve seen, what I’ve experienced is still there in my mind, though in the real world it is now mostly invisible and forgotten.
I wanted somehow to gather together my ‘Eastern experiences’ into a short story, and the idea of a ghost station started to emerge.
There are overtones of the Twilight Zone, those old black and white war films. The piece has strong visuals and could perhaps be made into a short film, with the assistance perhaps of a heritage railway in Germany.
I’ve been ‘sitting on’ this story for several years, and finally wrote up the draft script on the 8 and 9th of August, 2007.
The completed script will be not available for free download, as I don't want to release details of the story until the project is completed. More info on the aidan.co.uk blog.