When I was nine years old, I was sent to a sanatorium for children with lung diseases.
On a wintry morning early in the year, I was put on a bus together with thirty other boys and sat filled with a mixture of faint homesickness and keen excitement. The reason for the latter was the location of the sanatorium: we were heading for the sea, the Baltic Sea coast, and going to spent six weeks there!
And what a magic time we had! – Jolly snowball fights and breakneck sledge rides. Long walks across endless, plain, silent fields covered with white, white snow. A snow glaring in the sun and growing brighter with every step we took until we could barely keep our burning eyes open. I still dream of those white plains sometimes, of that blinding light.
There was that sick duck, barely alive, that we boys took to the sanatorium and tried to nurse up again (it died nonetheless).
Running through the snow every morning. Barefoot. Ten metres out and ten back. A measure to strengthen our immune system (it seemed to work – and it gave warm feet for the rest of the day).
And – boy, how time flies! – we wrote postcards and letters to our parents and friends back home. Telling of our adventures, about the food – and about the one big, magnificent, stunning thing.
It must have been a tough winter back in that year when I was nine. The Baltic sea was frozen, frozen as far as we boys could see. Right to the horizon there was nothing but snow and jagged, cracked, chunky ice. Even as a boy I stood in awestruck silence.