We slept only a few hours before the alarm rang at 4 am. The application I had found online indicated that we would have about two hours to catch Venus making its passage in front of the Sun, before it would continue its orbital route out of our sight. The transit would come into view around 5 am – sunrise here in Berlin, and would disappear around 7 am. We had to find an elevated point. We bought freshly baked pains au chocolat from Meleks and made our way to the observatory like Zentrum Kreuzberg. I would see the sunlight slowly licking the tip of the buildings across the street while we were waiting, eager yet half asleep, for someone to exit or enter the building so we could sneak in the elevator hall. A man came by who had forgotten his keys and following what must have sounded like a surreal conversation, he rang his cousin and let us in.
The sky was remarkably unclouded – Berlin does the unexpected dumping of heavy clouds quite skillfully after all. When we made it to the top floor, the Sun had just began to arise and it was gently awakening us. The air was crisp. Ferdinand had made a thermos of tea and quietly we drunk a few sips. Such beautiful tranquility. The light was changing so fast, the nocturnal blues had mostly faded and a vigorous orange was now exposing our faces. I pulled out the strips of 35 mm films I had brought as viewing/protecting devices.
It was so tiny. This minuscule black dot was absolutely, clearly there, but it was perplexing. The presence was unreal and yet so absolute.
The night before, I was completely immersed in NASA’s mind-blowing live high definition footage of the very beginning of the transfer. Here, on my computer screen, there was this mesmerizingly thick black background and there was the Sun, rendered in such a violent beautiful red and there was Venus, a tiny spot creeping from that monstrous black, and the motion of it all was so delicate.
Once atop the 11th floor, I had been worried that it would have been too anecdotic to even be seen with our squinting bare eyes. I knew that it would have been a very small beauty mark, barely noticeable if one doesn’t know what to look at, a spot one shouldn’t even stare at too long. During our peeping-like observations, a resident of the building came to ask us if we were also living here, to which we answered no. He became dubious as to what were doing up there so early, he mentioned young people coming here to drink beer and I said “Es ist tea!”. He frowned and Ferdinand brought a black square of film to his eyes while telling him to watch through it as to see Venus, right there, in front of the Sun. He peeked a second, looked at us as if we were mad, or I suppose, drunk, gestured some unresolved issues, then left. He eventually turned around and said “Ich glaube kein Wort!”.