Arles, Southern France. July 1990, 30 years ago almost to the day. Germany, not quite re-united yet, follows through with a unified currency. The East German Mark is exchanged 1:1 for up to 2000, 4000 or 6000 Mark depending on your age; everything beyond is devalued by half. We are allowed to take out up to 2000,- DM in the week after the union. I seize the opportunity, take out 2000,-, buy a new light-weight tent and a train ticket to Southern France for what will be my first solo-trip, and one to the real West: la douce France. La Provence is my destination, the local French putting my school-French truly to the test. I get off the train in Avignon. Among the numerous first impressions on a trip where more often than not people were irritated by my “exotic” East German passport is this: there are towns left unharmed by the war. Inner cities centuries old, undestroyed by air raids. Mind you, that war had been started by Germans, and it had caused the death of millions and left destruction all over the world, and the air raids were there to end it the Hitler madness. What my trip brought home though, too, was what harm it had inflicted upon Germany as well, which had quite an emotional impact on me. The ruins here were those of the Roman Empire, of ancient forerunner cities, not those of medieval and Renaissance and Baroque towns leveled to the ground as in the case of my hometown, Magdeburg.