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Omananda aka Torsten Klimmer grew up in East Germany from where he successfully escaped in his search for freedom. During his subsequent spiritual voyage, which took him on travels around the world for twenty-eight years, he discovered powerful and unconventional techniques that helped him gain insights into a deeper meaning (of life). He was initiated into a world of ancient wisdom through direct mystical experiences that he discloses in great detail in this distinctive poetic volume. Transcendental Journeys combines an insightful personal viewpoint with a higher reasoning that could help connect readers to an eternal truth that dwells deep within their own hearts. Lively descriptions of sometimes-otherworldly dimensions abound in this extraordinary and fun story. Omananda’s investigative personality and the transcendental insights he acquired make for wildly entertaining and educational reading material as he combines his authentic interest in emancipation from oppressive authoritarian regimes with his consistent respective goal of completely liberating himself from any repressive thought constructs. This contemporary non-fiction adventurous traveler’s tale speaks with a voice that connects everything on our planet, and it suggests common sense solutions to issues that pertain to all of humanity. www.transcendentaljourneys.com
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Liczba stron: 562
DISSOLUTION - The Mysterious Disappearance of the Wondering Mind
Trigger Factor - How It All Began
Resistance - Standing Out of The Crowd
Black Sea - A Bulgarian Experience
Journey To The Other Side - How I Made It Across
A Chilly Welcome - My Arrival in The West
Integration - Freiburg im Breisgau
USA - First Impressions
West Coast - California Sunshine
Traveling Through Mexico
Mayan Temples in Deep Jungle - Tikal
Cave Explorations in Central America
A Crazy Boat Ride in Honduras
Life in a Caribbean Stilt Village
Eye Opening Initiation
Mysterious Energy Clouds
Round Trip - Psychic Intuition
India and My Fear of Change
The Labyrinth Experience
Out of Body Experiences in Indonesia
Reality Check in Switzerland
INTEGRATION - Self Empowering Experiences in Altered States
A Trip Without Return - California Arrival
San Francisco Dreaming
Unexpected Visuals - Exploding Colors
Wildly, Beautiful, Crazy and Free People in Goa
Hidden Dimensions - Revelations in Unknown Territories
Consortium of Collective Consciousness
Vibrational Sound Healing
Living Naked in The Jungle
True Love Never Dies - Angelique
Hawaii - Tropical Lovers Paradise
Traveling - The Real Life School
Angelical Higher Education
Letter To The Goddess
OVER THE EDGE
The Embodiment of Nataraja
The Grim Reaper
Living in Japan
Painful Reptilian Invasions in Angkor Wat
Flashback in Bangkok
Cambodia on a Motorcycle
More God-Medicine, Please! The Shiva Linga Temple
Sainj - What a Strange Trip It’s Been
MANIFESTATION - When Dream and Reality Merge into ONE
Liquid Crystal Vision — On a Mission from God
Flower Power — Hawaiian Baby Wood Rose Seeds
My First Ayahuasca Ceremony — The Vision of Paradise
A Spiked Journey — Albert Hofmann's 100th BD Symposium
CLEANSING & HEALING
Ritual Celebrations — Contact with Indigenous Cultures
Peyote Ceremony — Initiation and Sacrifice
Defense Front of Wirikuta — Successful Media Activism
Huichol Ritual — A Group Prayer for the Heart of the Earth
Shamanicumpari — Growing Eyes in the Back of My Head
Drug Addictions — Toxic Schock
Flower of Death — My Search for an Adaptogen
SOLUTIONS FOR HUMANITY
Reintroduction — Now What?
Dream Conscious — Temple of the Imagination
The Duty — Divine Purpose
Illusion and Reality — Differentiation Changes Our World
Stepping into the Circle — Come UNITY
Children of Gaia — Common Sense
Systematic Plan for Legalization — Tribal Legislation
Closing Words — Final Poetry
Call to Action — Join the Tribe
This multimedia book is linked to free videos and photographs of the related website & blog, where you can download the audiobook with shamanic music and subscribe to the podcast.
Revised Edition: March2018 — ISBN: 978-3-947533-00-8
Author: Torsten E. Klimmer (aka Omananda)
Copyright © 2018 www.omananda.com, San Francisco, California, All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or in any means — by electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise — without prior written permission from the publisher with the exception of short quotes in reviews and publications on social networks and elsewhere, in which case a link to the publisher www.omananda.com and the publication www.transcendentaljourneys.com must be used!
Cover Image: “Maria Divina” by Carey Thompson www.galactivation.com. All photography and art, unless stated otherwise, Copyright © 2018, Torsten E. Klimmer
Life's essence — LOVE — is realized when sharing what we know by heart.
I wrote this book for several reasons. Number one, I had to! It’s been stuck in my mind and it wanted to come out, like a baby already late for birth. Creative energy was pushing hard from the womb of creation. Eventually, I had to sit down and make sense out of everything I had gathered during the last three decades that I’d spent traveling the world in my search for freedom.
I had no idea how much time it would take to write this book, but once I started, there was no turning back. It was similar to when a person experiments with psychedelics! When the sunglasses have been shaken off and the rabbit is sucked into the vortex, the world never quite looks the same again. It appears in brilliant hues with new thoughts forming in a flickering mind’s vision that starts to gaze through the mirage of creation, shape-shifting into infinite space. During such an artificially altered and refreshing perception, a brilliant light with a halo might suddenly turn (you) on, as if lightning has struck out of the blue. Extinguishing this spiritual fire is futile once it’s ignited, which brings me to another reason why I wrote this book. Psychedelic Spirituality! Yes, I have smoked pot, and yes, I am experienced with psychedelic substances of all kinds, but they were not what I initially imagined.
To be clear, I am not advocating drugs in this book, so your kids can also safely read it. On the contrary! I learned about harm-reduction and treating drug addictions that are at epidemical levels in most Western nations, with psychedelics! As a medical professional, I bring quite a bit of knowledge into the area of drugs, since I dispensed pharmaceutical drugs professionally. It’s also worth mentioning that by the time of writing this book, I don’t even drink a drop of liquor, coffee, or smoke anything. I don’t take chemical drugs either, and I keep a clean, meat-free diet. Guess what? My life is not boring at all, as you will soon find out.
I wrote this book primarily for people who have never eaten magic mushrooms or participated in an ayahuasca or peyote ceremony, so that they can also understand the profound spiritual significance of the conscious use of ancient shamanistic technologies, without having to ingest any of those scary-sounding substances. You can look at this book like a flight-simulator for an airplane pilot. Your body will be safe when you read about the non-ordinary experiences described in this book. These can be very far out, so you might think I made it all up. No! I tell everything in this book exactly as I experienced it. Especially the lessons I have learned from faceless, ego-less, angelical beings! Only the character names have been changed to protect the individuals’ privacy. Everything else remains authentic to the facts, as I experienced them. Transcendental Journeys elucidates a natural progression of how I came to some unexpected, yet rational conclusions.
Of course, I could have published this story as fiction as that might attract a larger audience, because the book reads that way! But I would have missed the point by doing so — for you to know what’s possible in this world! Therefore, I guarantee there are no imaginary episodes in this literary work whatsoever, other than the fact that all of our subjective realities are imaginary constructs of, and in, the mind. The world is not exactly the way we perceive it or think it to be, but how we project it! But let me not get too far here, so I don’t freak you out. (That might come later.)
It is common knowledge today that fear has been, and is used to control people. Anything that could wake up the masses has to be detained or annihilated for the civilized world to continue, to keep the order of the new world. In the meantime, ancient knowledge and the wisdom of indigenous shamanistic traditions from tribes all around the world get mowed down, like weeds in a garden, by those who have either not identified the healing properties of certain life-saving herbs, or by the people in control who consciously know that allowing psychedelics could create the love ®-evolution we so very much require.
Furthermore, I wrote this book as an artistic statement and inspiration of spiritual activism. This means to become active spiritually and to begin to change into a better, more conscious, aware, and constructive co-creator of reality. Many of us scream for change and look on the outside for it, where we can get overwhelmed with so many possibilities and so much information! Most people don’t even know where to begin and drop the ball before ever investigating where to start or what their actual goal and life-purpose might be. To me, it’s quite simple (today). We all have to start with ourselves. I list simple methods in this book that can help anyone awaken their full potential and live it too (if practiced). I compiled it in the form of a travel diary, although, I did not only travel on this planet! Apart from voyages through untouched jungles, vast deserts, high mountain regions, and tropical islands on earth, I also journeyed through astral realms where I met some of my teachers who are spiritual beings without physical bodies. Wild, right? But true.
A personal reason I wrote this book is that I processed my past in a meditative and healing way, which brought up a lot of memories for me. I was ready to let them go and make my life public for one major reason. I want to help humanity become better in our approach to finding solutions, instead of getting stuck on problems. It doesn’t mean we aren’t good enough. I think humans are amazing creatures capable of extraordinary things. I know we have it all within us to fully bloom into the brilliance of our true nature. But we do not become well when we are purposefully misguided and get increasingly addicted to the toxic stuff that bombards us from all angles in most metropolitan areas, on mental and physical levels.
A good reason to read this book, or at least give it a try, is because it’s entertaining. This fun and true story begins in East Germany. Yes, I am from Germany, and we are stern people. Believe me, I tried to get rid of my ‘Germanness,’ but it’s not an easy job! I am still working on it, which reminds me that I wrote this book initially in English, which is my second language. So, if some passages sound odd and my editors did not catch or manage to mold into “proper” English, please forgive me. I guarantee you’ll still get the point. I do thank my editors for walking with me through this book and making it what it has become today so you can enjoy the transcendental journeys with me.
There were other reasons too, why I wrote this book. I am passionate about serving a higher purpose, being truthful, acting with love and kindness, respecting and developing tolerance towards one another, not judging falsely, acquiring discernment, and above all else — self-realization and compassion. What I hope you will read are not just philosophies by someone who could be falsely judged as a person who dared to chew through a taboo subject for it to be digested well, pooped out and rot away. Believe me, we cannot turn a blind eye any longer to the fact that I, and many others, have learned so much from sacred herbs and medicinal shamanic use. And not abuse! Heck, many people have woken up for real and the discrimination and illegality of entheogenic substances is a disgrace to our ancestral heritage. It simply needs to change, like the wall in Germany had to come down. It was just a matter of time before it did! But prior to physical changes taking place in our three-dimensional world that we commonly agree upon as “reality,” we have to bring the subject in question to a wider audience. And I aim to do that with this book!
For your information, I am not a religious or dogmatic person, nor am I against any believers or belief. All I know is that I know very little and that we are all entitled and responsible for maturing our vision and understanding of life and what it means for us. There are underlying principles from which the world is shaped and changed. These cosmic laws appear throughout all creation and we can learn how to observe and be guided by those patterns that are the foundation for life. As human beings, we have the ability to fully awaken, anywhere on this planet, especially since we were born to learn and evolve so that we can become the living proof of our true nature! But before that can happen for most of us, we have to sort out the basics for everyone, like: shelter, clean drinking water, non-toxic food, free holistic healthcare, and a great practical education! In reality, however, the question remains: how can we eradicate poverty, hunger, inequality, pestilence, and despair? It’s not like we don’t have enough money. We print that stuff!
It’s obvious to me that waking up collectively and becoming aware and caring human beings is the great antidote and alternative to the mindless wars and destruction that needlessly still rage in many places on our outstanding, blue planet. War financially only benefits a few wealthy and corrupted maggots! Money, in my opinion, is wasted on weapons-trade and defense budgets when we could redirect it intelligently to create a better world for everyone, together! Thou shall kill is not a commandment in any of the major religions, nor is it a part of the future most of us dream about. Surely, change is the only constant in life, but are you ready for it? Because the awakening cannot be stopped! Those who would like it to go away can’t do a darn thing about it.
Oh, by the way, I have a direct connection to a divine and cosmic couple. Lord Shiva is the destroyer of spiritual ignorance. He removes it without compromise! Shiva’s fire burns all that is not real and transforms it back to its original, uncorrupted state of pure vibrating consciousness. Goddess-power Shakti, and life’s creative principle is Shiva’s consort. She represents all creation in the phenomenal world, and together they form divinity in Hindu mythology. The primary object of worship in Tantra is the Shiva Linga, a metaphor of both female and male reproductive organs during the act of lovemaking – the penis in the vagina throbbing forever! But the Shiva Linga is also a representation of the torus-shaped energy particle that is the primary building block for life! Much of this book speaks with the wisdom of Vedic codes, which are hardly noticeable at first as they fade in like faint background noises. Over the course of the story, they come in more and more like rhythmic drum beats.
What’s in the book?
There are three parts to this book and nine chapters. Each part is different from the other, but the story is very much connected. All three parts are also published individually, as eBooks. Basically, this is just like three novellas in one book. Apart from 71 interwoven stories plus preface & prologue, there are 73 photographs and QR-codes to hyperlinked, related videos and websites.
The first part, DISSOLUTION - The Mysterious Disappearance of the Wondering Mind, describes my dangerous road to physical freedom from communist oppression in the socialistic society where I was born. Driven by a burning desire for freedom, I set out to escape East Germany as a young person, before the Berlin Wall fell. In the first chapter of this book, I clarify the reasons for my escape and the resistance movement I experienced during my former life in the GDR. When I arrived in the West, I began to first see glimpses of non-ordinary states of consciousness that eventually culminated in a spiritual awakening in Indonesia, after I had travelled for a couple of years through the USA, Central America, and parts of Asia and India. This leads to part two of this book, called INTEGRATION - Self Empowering Experiences in Altered States. I begin to make sense of a mushroom-induced awakening so as to not go mad in a society that does not understand much about the significance of spiritual emergencies, which can be induced by psychedelics. I start to learn potent life lessons by going deeper into the journey of self-discovery in this colorful and very personal part of the book.
Solutions for humanity are addressed in the important and final third part of this book called, MANIFESTATION - When Dream and Reality Merge into ONE. In it, I describe how we made activist films that helped to kick out the billion-dollar mining companies from Mexico, which were in direct violation of the law. During this critical and dangerous mission, WWF protected natural zones, and native cultures were saved. I was a crucial aspect of another important peaceful activist movement that turned into the biggest synchronized worldwide meditation in the Guinness Book of Records! Unify focused on world peace through inner peace. In this book, I share how it all came to be. The United Nations Human Rights Film Festival screened another Omananda film. The reasons for our filmmaking efforts are detailed from behind the scenes in this part of the book.
Integrative experiences with the medicine are described with visionary brilliance throughout many chapters, but especially in the second half of the book. I have had direct contact with ancient, indigenous medicine tribes that have used psychoactive cacti and other herbal plants since immemorial times. The healing prayer-ceremonies in which they utilize those psychotropic concoctions are an integral aspect and the foundation for their colorful and artistic lives. I also write about drug addiction in this book since I speak from experience. I list successful harm-reduction practices to suggest smart drug policy updates. I introduce unique plans for preventing scheduled substance abuse in this book while simultaneously advocating legalization of mind-altering and sacred herbs under controlled conditions outside the pharmaceutical, medical, or religious framework. I clarify in simple terms for anyone, and especially those who should be all ears, even if they only drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes, why what is considered normal or legal is not necessarily safe.
My unique viewpoint results from having grown up indoctrinated in an oppressive communist environment, where I was kept away from substance abuse other than alcohol and nicotine until the age of twenty. Then I risked my life and escaped successfully to travel the world for twenty-eight years with the primary purpose to understand how to truly free myself. Risking anything to understand what’s real was on my agenda back then, because I realized swiftly after my escape that physical freedom was not enough to be liberated from the paralyzing conditionings of the mind and the limiting constructs of Western society. Somewhere on my transcendental journeys, however, I began to comprehend that there is more to life than we commonly perceive, or what we’re told. Thankfully today, I often look at the world with a somewhat aloof and cosmic, but not arrogant, perspective. What I can offer you with this book is a potential discovery of very specific secrets that might open unknown worlds to you, especially when you read between the lines!
The Visionary Writings of Omananda carry hope for a more loving, empathic, sharing, and truly caring free humanity. I also elucidate easy-to-practice, yet, powerful, non-religious, spiritual methods and exercises for personal transformation with helpful hints and suggestions. The later chapters of this book are more poetic than the earlier portions, as I express a deeper reasoning that builds throughout the book. The language changes from the beginning towards the end, which goes hand in hand with my own character development. The book starts with a somewhat ordinary and ignorant, although curious, perspective and it ends with, well … I leave that open for you to find out.
There was no freedom of speech in East Germany and a truthful word when spoken can be powerful and scary to those who might have a good reason to hide behind lies. What is this truth that can be so widespread and worrisome that it has the potential to overthrow entire superpowers? Of course, what might be true for me might not be true for you at all, and that is perfectly all right (with me). There are as many angles to a crystal ball as there are viewpoints and we all watch the miracle of existence unfold from our individual perspectives. Still, we remain unified at our core where the true perceiver dwells.
Enjoy the ride, Omananda.
DISSOLUTION - The Mysterious Disappearance of the Wondering Mind
Some time ago, I was walking through Christiania, the alternative part of Copenhagen that attracts many tourists, probably because marijuana1 and hashish are openly sold there. Pushers belonging to organized crime control this area of the Danish capital. Many bars, organic and commercial food restaurants, as well as art exhibitions and work shops dominate this not-so-clean peninsula that has managed to maintain its independence despite the Danish government’s continued efforts to tear it down.
The drug dealers are an issue, explained a Danish girl with rainbow colors in her hair and a free spirit. Tanja must have been in her late twenties. I met this roller-skating performance artist and actress at a local art exhibition. The truly alternative and conscious people do not like the crime that comes with illegal drug dealing, she said. People, even police officers, had been shot in Christiania. Tanja suggested to legalize weed altogether so that the situation could be legislated.
Tanja grew up in Christiania and raved about a time when she freely roamed the streets there as a child. How different she grew up compared to me, I thought. I had only been to Copenhagen ten years ago and I knew virtually nothing about it. Tanja offered to show me around. So out of the blue, I found myself getting an inside view into the backstreets of this graffiti laden place, in the good company of a blue eyed pretty Scandinavian girl with well trained legs and a mini skirt.
Christiania, so I found out, contains really cool alternative houses that have been constructed over many decades. Food gardens grow there in the summer and fig trees even thrive. There are many communities and safe places for kids to play with alternative schooling systems. Most people drive bicycles and ganja2 plants can be seen growing on the streets. Everyone has free healthcare.
I frantically photographed plenty enticing artful creations until the sun had set and the unconventional tour concluded. We settled next to a glowing fire-bin near Pusher Street where Tanja told me about her life as an actress. Apparently, she got fired from her last job because of her radical left wing (political) views. Proudly she said that she was a communist. I told her that I grew up in the German Democratic Republic (GDR) or East Germany, from where I successfully escaped. Communism never really worked, I said. Only socialism has ever existed and growing up in it was hard enough!
According to Marxist-Leninist idealism that they tried to indoctrinate us with in school as kids, communism can only work if the entire world became communistic, that is a society which functions entirely without money. I admit the concept of getting rid of money sounds intriguing, especially when considering how much havoc money and the power it can buy creates. But there was a good reason why I ran from East Germany, which was like a big prison complex to me.
After a heated conversation, Tanja was suddenly very curious about my escape story, as many people are. Upon her asking me to tell it to her, I said that it is a fairly long tale that would be better for another time. But she insisted and in a nearby cozy café I began to tell Tanja how I risked my life in the search of freedom.
Trigger Factor — How It All Began
Sweet 16 — Torsten in East Germany
When I was fifteen and in the middle of class on an ordinary school day, I was unexpectedly called to our school director’s office. Upon entering the large room, I saw a huge army general who was decorated with many colorful medals and seated next to our benevolent director. He asked if I could imagine joining the army for three years and studying medicine there. They both knew of my wish to become a doctor and I was one of the best students in my class, a good kid up until then. What they did not know is that, for me, the army was a red flag. I associated it with war and killing, rather than patriotism or serving my country. In the history of Germany, patriotism was so well advertised through the propaganda machine of the Third Reich that it ultimately led to war against everyone else. Hitler tried to play God in his madness for superiority (and amphetamines). The Nazis killed a lot of people and created much misery around the world. As a result of WWll, the atomic bombs were dropped on Japan. Israel was also created and continues to smolder like an old wound that has never managed to heal. Of course, from the perspective of the patriotic soldiers who fought to ultimately “liberate” the German people, I should have been psyched to join the army! But I replied honestly that I could not imagine that. The dreadful story of my grandparents’ lucky survival of the potential war crimes committed in Dresden1 during a cold night of February 1945, when British and American bombers attacked the Saxon capital, had even traumatized me as a young child.
My grandfather was physically disabled as a war veteran and at home with my grandmother in Dresden during this horrific air raid. He quickly realized a life-threatening emergency was taking place when the door was blocked by rubble as they hid in the cellar of the house that also served as their bunker. They were trapped in this dark space below the earth together with other inhabitants fearing for their lives. Only with the help of a hammer was my grandfather able to dig a hole in the wall sufficient to get them out. He had realized that they would suffocate if they did not escape in time. After he dug a hole into the wall big enough to serve as an emergency exit, he asked if any of the others also wanted to escape with them together into the streets, but none dared to. They were never seen again. When my grandparents crawled out of this hole, my granny described the situation as follows.
Napalm bombs had set the streets ablaze and burning people were running around screaming with their bodies burning from inextinguishable fires. Rivers of knee-deep water from blown water pipes and corpses filled the streets, along with too many drowning babies my grandmother wanted to pick up, but just couldn’t. They had to run for their lives while bombs fell from the sky like raindrops with the squeaking sounds of terror. Pain, fear and death were part of the hellish theme in Dresden that night, as firestorms raged ferociously. According to my grandmother, it was extremely difficult to walk against these scorching winds as they tried to make their way to the River Elbe, where they thought they would be safe from the town that was under siege and on fire. When they reached the riverbanks with its ice-cold water, airplanes with machine guns were shooting people there as well! Thankfully, my grandfather had experienced surviving the front in Russia. He knew and even taught me how to fall towards these flying death-machines, which minimizes the chance of being hit by a bullet. Luckily, they survived, or my mother and I would never have been born.
Upon the defeat of Nazi Germany, the victorious allied powers asserted their joint authority and sovereignty over the formerly German Reich as a whole. According to the Potsdam Conference of August 1945 that was also called the Berlin Conference of the Three Heads of Government of the USSR, USA and UK, Allied-Occupied Germany was collectively administered by these countries and ultimately divided into two main sectors that became East and West Germany. Constructed by the German Democratic Republic in 1961, The Berlin Wall was built as a guarded concrete barrier that physically and ideologically divided first Berlin, and then all of Germany! I was born and grew up in East Germany, which belonged to the Russian sector.
To this day, the United States of America and Great Britain deny the use of phosphorus bombs2 in Dresden and the fact that low flying airplanes were shooting civilians at the riverbanks. Dresden did not have many strategic military targets, although the Americans claimed that the bombing was justified. The official reason for the devastating attack on Dresden and many other German cities was to deplete the morale of the German people. Both of my grandparents had only one wish for me in life; that I would never have to experience war!
I was already a pacifist, and I did not fancy a hierarchical system, like the military, nor having to obey orders enforced by the command to be shot or imprisoned if I did not do what my superior says. Also, being exposed to a radical social environment, like the army, would leave little space for common sense. Tolerating the mandatory 1.5 years military service was hard enough for me to swallow, so I absolutely did not want to study medicine in the army as well.
When I told my mom what happened in school, she got very upset. I should have said yes, she said, so that I can study medicine, but I was young and naive, so I argued with her, not knowing that she had a good point. I learned the hard way later on that the Eastern German regime gave free higher education to only 3-5% of what they labeled as “intelligent” people. This term apparently meant to them, people who do not question authority and blindly accept communist idealism.
Shortly after this incident, I received a letter to appear at a pre-military medical checkup, to determine if I was physically able to attend the army. I traveled to the local city for my medical appointment where many youngsters were ordered to make an appearance that day. My appointment was at 9:30 am, and the medical tests took 30 minutes. Afterwards, people were released to go home, but not me! I had to wait from 10 am until 5:30 pm, and I was the only one left by then.
It was already dark outside when I finally heard my name over the loudspeakers giving me instructions to enter Room Six that was located at the end of a dim hallway. The room was divided into two segments by a bar-like elongated podium. I saw five men dressed in a businesslike manner in dark suits sitting in an elevated position on the left. Behind them were three pictures of the head communists of the country. On the right side of the room, about a meter and a half below them, was a little chair. “Please sit down, Mr. Klimmer,” said one of the men, pointing at that chair.
They opened a folder with “my life” in front of them, from where they could read information about me. They also had my passport. I remember the conversation going something like this, “Mr. Klimmer, we see you have a great life ahead of you. You are one of the best in school, and you want to study medicine. We endorse this great choice of yours very much. It is such a wonderful profession, and we invite you to study in the army and become a medical doctor for our troops.” There was a little moment of silence, and I thought to myself, “Are they offering me what the army general in school already did but this time assuming I wanted to take the deal? Perhaps this is a misunderstanding?” So, I clarified and gave them the same answer, but this time I elaborated on the reasons why I could not accept their invitation, but they did not take “no” for an answer.
The conversation continued as they first spoke kindly and offered me a life one could only dream of in East Germany. They painted a picture of a future with me becoming a successful communist doctor in the army, having a lovely family with wife and kids living in a nice house, driving a car with a real 2-stroke engine that would normally take twenty years for delivery, and using a telephone that took ten years to acquire — basically anything one would need to be happy in order to live in that grey country under Russian oppression. In spite of that, I could not allow my living soul to compromise and accept this tainted offer. I felt drawn from my heart to make love, not war, and I had a burning desire for freedom that was and remains a driving force within me until this day.
During the course of the tough hour and a half conversation in that room, the pressure started to slowly build towards psychological torture, as these obscurely evil-looking characters began to act out a scene that felt just like a horror movie. With nasty faces and aggressive tones, they yelled at that innocent little boy — me — who was forced to sit on a lowered chair. They said they could draw me into the military three months out of every year, as they are legally entitled to, and that my wife would cheat on me during this time, and so forth. It just went on and on, deep into the ugly. Towards the end they tried to threaten me and suggested that if I did not sign the document they presented me with that would commit me to go to the army for a minimum of 3 years, they would make sure that me and my parents’ lives would become a living hell. They shouted at me, saying that my parents would lose their jobs, and I would never get one. Nor would I be able to go to university and study anything, unless, of course, I signed that paper!
Although, their lips were still moving and their grimaces were agitated, their voices had gone silent to me. I was somehow looking at this traumatizing scene from an aloof perspective. Their angry words bypassed me somehow on conscious levels and their staged emotions had no immediate effect on my psyche. My ears were shut and my heart was closed. When they finished with what had become a monologue, the big guy in the middle threw my passport on the table saying that I should be very careful what my answer was going to be, because it would determine the future of my life!
With a calm and firm voice, I replied that I was sorry they had wasted their time with me and that my decision about going to the army was made long before I entered this room. “One and a half years” I said, but not one day longer. With distorted angry faces, these growling communist prostitutes that were paid to pressure innocent kids into signing these binding contracts to be brainwashed concluded, “Just wait, Mr. Klimmer, and see what will happen to you!” At this moment, my decision to escape East Germany was made, since the country did not offer me a future I could lovingly embrace.
Resistance — Standing Out of The Crowd
Graffiti Girl — Street Art
The official way to leave East Germany was to write a legal letter to the government saying that you could no longer tolerate their regime, you are therefore politically incorrect, and you want to leave the country permanently. This letter was called the “Ausreiseantrag” in German, which translates into English as an outside-travel-application, or (ATA). After that was submitted, the long waiting period would usually begin that could take anywhere between six months to ten years before official permission to leave the country was granted. Out of the blue, a 24-hour notice would then be given that would open a brief window for the applicant to leave immediately without any option to return within the next ten to twenty years, even to see close relatives. In the meantime, applicants would have to report weekly to the local police station. The kind of torturous treatment described in the previous story, and probably even harsher treatments, would be repeated.
The illegal way of leaving the country involved crossing the land border between East and West Germany. The “death strip” started with a three meter tall wall, a mine field, German shepherd watchdogs, sensor-based automatic machine guns, soldiers ready to shoot from towers, an electric fence, and another three meter tall concrete wall. Attempting to cross it was certain suicide and many people died trying during the time when the Berlin Wall1 between East and West Germany stood. My life in East Germany, was not so bad that I had to risk it being killed. It was preferable to listen to my mother, Angelica, who encouraged me to go the legal route by writing an ATA.
Although I never actually submitted an Ausreiseantrag the communists blocked my higher education since I did not commit to joining the Army for three years. I was not even permitted to go to gymnasium and I did not want to learn any of their unappealing and boring jobs on a long list they wanted me to choose from. My mother finally persuaded me to become a nurse and study medicine as a secondary educational option, but my focus still remained on my original goal of becoming a doctor when I enrolled.
The first assignment in nursing school was to create a large poster to persuade people to donate blood. A book inspired me to write a story about a woman who had had an accident and its aftermath. From the story I wrote, it was not easy to tell she was in trouble until the very end. The story described someone having a mystical, out-of-body, Near-Death Experience, or NDE. While I no longer have that project, I remember that this woman, who was clearly on the other side of life, was pulled back into her body by the insertion of the needle to give her the life-saving blood. When the director of the nursing school came into our classroom she asked who wrote the story on the poster. I lifted my hand, and she said, “Mr. Klimmer, you are clearly in the wrong school! You should be a writer!” Indeed, the practice and love of writing had etched itself deeply into my imagination2. I had been writing from an early age, since my father encouraged me to keep a daily diary.
I was one of five males studying nursing with 350 women for three years. During lunch breaks, I would often go with one or more female classmates to a local pub to eat schnitzel and drink beer. I recall always seeing an older man sitting mostly alone on the same table in the corner of the pub. One day, a friend of mine who lived in this part of town told me that the man was a famous writer. Keeping in mind what the director of our school had said after seeing my poster story, I approached him and asked what he would recommend I do to become a writer. He responded, “Go travel and write your stories down!” This truly surprised me, because I had expected to be told to study literature or something like that.
In East Germany options for traveling were limited but not totally prohibited. We could officially travel to places like: Bulgaria, Romania, Russia, Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, Croatia, and even Cuba, although travel was quite expensive. I visited most of these countries with my parents as a child as a vacationing East German family, with the exceptions of Cuba and Croatia.
Back then one of my best friends in East Germany was also called Torsten. Many things were not available in East Germany and this also seemed to apply to unique names. Like me, four of my good friends were also named Torsten. This particular friend, who I shall refer to as Torsten H., had already done what I was planning to do. He and his mother had written their ATA, so they were on the list waiting to leave the country. They did not care much about what other people thought about them. This was unusual for East Germans, who were typically very concerned about what others thought of them.
The general public was extremely afraid in East Germany to speak their truth and express what they really thought about the regime. The Stasi3 would collect information about citizens through random people. For example, they might approach individuals who fit their profile to ask if they would like to make some extra cash on the side. They would then pay considerable bribes to get folks to speak to them about their friend’s behavior and political views. This was how they collected information about people and why you could not trust anyone back then. I did not even trust my own father because he was in a high-ranking position that individuals typically could not achieve unless they were a member of the communist party. Today, we have computers, mobile devices, and social networks that do a great job in delivering large amounts of personal data that can be processed and observed digitally by government organizations for a variety of reasons. Nevertheless, most democratic Western governments today are much more liberal than the GDR ever was.
One day, Torsten H and his rather unconventional mother asked if I wanted to join them for a prayer service at an Evangelical church in the local town where people with pending ATA’s gathered to share a peaceful vision for freedom in East Germany. After my first meeting, I went every Saturday, although I had not yet delivered my ATA. Even before I started attending these political events held under the protective umbrella of religious services, I had noticed army personnel surrounding the church plaza on Saturdays between 06-07 pm, when every road that led to this area was blocked off with large vehicles carrying commando soldiers heavily armed with Kalashnikovs. Accompanied by German shepherd dogs, they seemed ready to attack.
The effect of this over-the-top military presence was that the few people attending those church prayer services attracted a lot of unwanted attention. Also, we did not feel safe and the priest could not directly say anything against the oppressive communist regime or he would probably have been taken away immediately. Although churches were tolerated by the regime, communists generally preach atheism and do not allow space for any type of believers — other than those committed to the Red Revolution.
On the rooftops of the local buildings surrounding that church plaza were photographers with large telephoto lenses who took pictures of the people attending services. These practical intimidation methods also served to collect data on the individuals opposing the system, even though we had no violent intentions and only held a burning desire for freedom. When the Berlin Wall finally fell in 1989, reports surfaced that plans for concentration camps were found, including a list of people to be picked up!
The oppression was so bad that most of those who attended one particular liberation and freedom day expected to be arrested. I was waiting outside the church before doors opened, when I noticed a man in a suit standing so close to me that he was virtually breathing down my neck. I walked away from him, but he persisted in walking along with me like a shadow. I began to walk in figure eights, but he continued following only a few centimeters behind me. Then I started to talk aloud to myself about the ugly illusion following me that looked like a stupid Stasi agent. I kept on talking in a very derogatory and arrogant manner about this man and making fun of him, saying how dumb he must be to sell his soul to the devil. I did this until he eventually left, but it took me a while to lose him, and it was a very unsettling experience for me.
The government’s strategy became increasingly clear when I was working in the closed psychiatric ward as part of my practical nursing training. Politically incorrect people were sometimes admitted there based on a doctor’s order claiming that they were paranoid and delusional. I had to administer large doses of psycho-pharmaceutical drugs intramuscularly against the patient’s will. They violently screamed as I watched them become virtual zombies. The government and their agents tried to make people who were critical of their system appear psychotic with various measures. For example, I was walking home from school on an ordinary day and while crossing a plaza filled with people on my way to the bus station, a man in a suit suddenly jumped out of the crowd right in front of me with a camera. He took my picture, and then disappeared back into the crowd! After experiences like that, I admit that even I became slightly paranoid, especially once I started planning my escape.
Black Sea — A Bulgarian Experience
East Germany — Twentieth Birthday Photoshoot
Two of the three years in nursing school were hard for me to complete, not because I found it difficult to understand what they were teaching, but because I was so impatient to leave East Germany. When I finally gave my oath and received my nursing exam, the time came for me to mail the official letter — my Ausreiseantrag — to begin the process of leaving as I had planned. Just when I was about to drop it into the mailbox, a little voice within me suggested waiting until after my return from a two-week vacation to Bulgaria that I had booked to celebrate my twentieth birthday. Together with my two friends, Torsten M. and Elke, who was my girlfriend at the time, we set out on a journey to the Black Sea.
The airplane on the runway in East Berlin was Romanian, and it looked rusty from top to bottom. I stepped into it against my will after managing to convince myself that entering this poorly maintained jet would be the only way to fly to Bulgaria at that time and that missing my vacation was the sole alternative to climbing aboard. It was only the second airliner I had taken in my entire life, with the first being a comparatively high-end Aeroflot airplane that took my entire 8th grade class to Moscow so that every pupil could view Lenin’s corpse. He had been embalmed and conserved in a mausoleum on the Red Plaza.
From my isle seat, I had a clear view into the cockpit where I observed a laughing crew having coffee and possibly drinks. I wasn’t sure it was alcohol, but it certainly looked suspicious. After the plane lifted off and climbed to the traveling altitude, the shrill sounds of an alarm penetrated the entire airplane! No announcements were made, but the crew suddenly jumped up and started running frantically through the aircraft with tools. The passengers generally looked very worried, myself included. This activity stopped after a few minutes, and the crew went back to their cockpit party. The same alarming procedure repeated about half an hour later, but it now seemed to be routine for the crew, so I was less frightened. My friends and I were very happy to land in Bulgaria alive, but we were not so pleased with our accommodation that was basically in a tent village.
Since our money was almost worthless, we could not afford much. Our vacation package had little entertainment to offer other than a mediocre beach scene, and the food was barely edible. On top of that, we had to obey rules and were not allowed to leave our tent camp that started to feel like a miniature prison. Nonetheless, during our first day on the beach of the Black Sea that looked rather blue, Elke and I became friendly with some hip-looking lifeguards. One of them was tall and very tanned. His name was Victor, and he wore brand name sunglasses. His fit upper body was shaped just like the letter “V” in his name. Victor invited us to drink Russian champagne with his friend, and we quickly started pouring the intoxicating bubbly into carved-out watermelons. We also made pyramids of champagne glasses that we filled from the top and drank to the bottom.
One night, Elke and I climbed over the fence and went off with our lifeguard friends to check out their local town a few hundred kilometers away. That adventure gave us a chance to finally see some of Bulgaria. After we had finally arrived in Victor’s town and slept in his garage that was also apparently his home, Victor made sexual advances on Elke. It aroused my jealously and made Elke uncomfortable, so we decided to leave immediately. We spent the rest of our vacation traveling through Bulgaria using some spending money I had made on the way.
Despite the very real risk of dying in a Romanian airplane on the way back home, we returned to the tent camp to check out on our last vacation day. When we arrived, our travel guides expressed concern that we had disappeared off the radar for nearly the entire vacation time, but we stayed silent about our adventure and kept the details of our actual whereabouts a secret. They seemed happy we were back so they would not get interrogated about our disappearance.
When we arrived at the airport the next day, we watched a news report on TV of a substantial amount of East German refugees gathering in Hungary, who seemed determined not to return to East Germany. At that moment, it occurred to me that I needed to be in Hungary right away! I looked at the departure times and destinations of planes departing Sofia International Airport and memorized the information just in case an opportunity arose for me to jump planes. I seriously considered boarding a plane bound to Hungary, a country East Germans were officially allowed to travel to, instead of flying back to East Berlin. When in a transit zone, they don’t always check your ticket when entering an aircraft, I thought, but I was uncertain since this was only my second flight. If I were caught, I’d surely be deported and imprisoned, so I looked at the risks and got cold feet.
Journey To The Other Side — How I Made It Across
Balloon Rescue — Street Art
Shortly after returning from Bulgaria, I applied for a travel visa to Romania. I obscured my intention to defect by adding Hungary as the transit country. Elke did not want to escape, but she wanted to accompany me to the Austrian border, so she also applied for her travel visa separately at the same time I did. She received her visa in the mail right away, but when I opened my letter anticipating a visa to freedom, my heart suddenly sank. I felt nauseous when reading the note that said I should turn myself in immediately by reporting to the nearest police station. Was this a demand for my arrest, because I had been going to the peaceful anti-government church services for more than two years? I wondered if I should comply? Many people tried to escape from East Germany during those uncertain days. Back then, stories circulated of entire trains filled with East Germans being taken to prison on their way to Hungary. Police confiscated travel visas by raiding peoples’ homes that had already received them.
Despite my reservations, I dutifully went to the local police station on a Friday at 4:45 in the afternoon. Two police officers looked at me right away and requested me to be seated after I showed them the note I had received. They then asked me a simple question about what campground numbers I wanted to visit. I must have looked totally perplex since I had expected them to interrogate me, question my integrity, and possibly arrest me. Since none of those things happened, I asked if they could please wait a moment and left the room.
The police station’s office was closing at 5pm and would not open again until Monday. I had already booked myself a seat on an airplane bound to Budapest the following Thursday. Flying to Hungary would rule out the psychological pressure of sitting through a long train ride with the possibility of being detained on the way. There seemed to be one window of opportunity for me to get out of the country, and it was now. If I did not get this visa before next Wednesday, the option of getting to Hungary would quickly diminish, like a fading dream. East Germany was about to lock down all land borders to any bordering countries. I had only this chance to process my visa during these last few minutes before the coming weekend, so I ran to the nearest bookshop, opened some maps of Romania and realized no campground numbers were listed on them. After heading back to the police station, I gave the officers random numbers between 0 and 200, and they let me go. To my surprise and relief, I received my visa in the mail the following Tuesday. Seeing it made me feel as if I had won the lottery, but I was still concerned about one possible problem that could hinder my escape plans.
I had a limited amount of vacation days from work, so I worried that if someone with access to the airline booking data compared it with my working schedule, they could notice the inconsistency and understand that I did not plan to return to East Germany. I was so nervous that someone might notice this discrepancy during the week before my flight that I even smoked cigarettes, which normally totally disgust me.
At that time, I was employed in a unique hospital that was gifted to Hitler by Mussolini as a token of his appreciation, since Mussolini was freed from captivity during WWII by German troupes. The hospital is situated in the middle of a forest and, from an aerial viewpoint, is shaped like an airplane. I was working in the general Intensive Care Unit or ICU, which was the most interesting place to be from a medical standpoint. Nurses had a lot of freedom and responsibility to make decisions on medication schedules and crucial assessments. In this environment, I felt more like the doctor I aspired to be. All of the hospital’s politically incorrect medical personnel, the majority of its hardline communists, and even Stasi agents operating at the hospital, were all working together in that unit. I recall many moments when we clashed with each other over our political views during night shifts when no patients were in critical condition and we had some spare time. My generation refused to keep their mouths shut any longer! I realized that words were powerful game changers, and we had intense conversations some nights.
When the assistant head general surgeon was on duty, who I thought was one of the most disgusting communists I knew, we confronted him about how “eroded, unstable and bound for failure” the communist system in East Germany was. He was the kind of doctor who would torture patients by literally sticking his arm up their anus to his elbow to remove stool stuck in the patient’s colon as they screamed in excruciating pain. His boss, the head general surgeon, was a complete nut-case and a full-blown communist. He was a virtual death sentence to the patients he operated on, because they always became infected and often died afterwards as a result of his highly unprofessional approach to hygiene. He did not change his street clothes or disinfect himself properly when entering the operation chamber, and even his tie would sometimes be seen falling into the wound of his unconscious anesthetized victims during an operation. Nobody dared to say anything to him about his malpractice because he was the top communist of the entire hospital. As a result, the mortality rate was extremely high whenever this creepy surgeon was on duty. I saw people dying like flies in the ICU. Roughly 60% of our admissions went straight to the morgue, but that was just normal for us. Sometimes the best I could do was help a patient live through my shift, so I would not have to prepare their empty shell for the morgue.
Several times when I was on call I had to pick up corpses anywhere in the hospital with the “Silberpfeil.” That was the nickname for a famous race car (in German) and also for the metal casket on wheels used to transport corpses to the isolated pathology building on the far side of the forest. The usual scene when opening the door to this nightmarish place was truly morbid. A corpse, often cut open, would be spread out naked on the pathology table. We had to take the corpse we were transporting in an elevator down to the cellar where a pile of dead bodies awaited us the moment the elevator door opened. Then we had to unload the lifeless human body by throwing it on the pile to complete this seriously uncomfortable task! Death became as normal as life for me.
During my final week in East Germany, I saw two policemen walk into our medical unit. They wanted to speak with the head doctor of anesthesia, who was my boss and also our neighbor in the village where I lived. I often played tennis with this great doctor. It was unusual for someone like him to be in such a high ranking position. He had not submitted to communist idealism and remained politically neutral. When the police came, I felt very worried and wondered if these officers were there because of me. It was not unusual for police to visit our unit since criminals were often admitted after being injured, but we had no such criminal patients at that time. All they had to do was ask for my schedule, compare it with my booking at the government-owned airline and my cover would be blown! I later found out that they actually were there asking about me, but since my neighbor and I were good friends, he vouched for me and told them that there was nothing to worry about. Thankfully, they left without ever looking at my shift schedule!
The day of my departure finally arrived after three years of patiently waiting. It was an endlessly rainy and grey day, with no sign of blue sky or sunshine. My mother and her boyfriend at the time drove us to the airport in Leipzig. Nobody said a word in the car. When we arrived, my mom started crying. I asked her to not cry like that and to pull herself together, since her crying could blow our cover! My mother and I knew then that we would not be able to see each other for the next ten to twenty years. It was a tough choice for me to make and a hard reality for my mother to swallow. She loves me very much and I am her only child. After a final hug, Elke and I checked in and soon after that we were seated. The plane lifted off, and we landed in Budapest. When we stepped out of the airport building, I swiftly jumped into a cab and gave Elke a gesture to hurry. We took that cab to a metro station, quickly jumped into the next train, and for the next two hours we changed public transport repeatedly like that, until I felt confident that nobody was following us. I could not help feeling that I was being watched.
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