Berlin † Lay down on the couch and take a nap, put together a new puzzle, plan the next trip. There are many ways to clear your head after work. Erik Kormann has a different strategy. The bus driver of the Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG) gets into the car and drives to Brandenburg to take Narcisse for a walk. Along the lake, across the fields, into the woods. Narcisse, it must be explained at this point, is a donkey. And Kormann can already say so much about him: “A donkey is only a human being.” Now the BVG employee from Köpenick has published his second book on animal walking experiences. Title: “Swap everyday life for alpaca”.
A donkey is an individual with a distinct character. “He also has his interests, which of course mainly consist of food,” says Erik Kormann. In between, the now 18-year-old animal (which corresponds to a human age of 40 years) needs its rest time and again. He recently went on a long haul with the hairy Frenchman at Flieth, not far from the Oberuckersee north of Berlin. “He barely walked for the first hour. He just wanted to eat everywhere, which is understandable because there is hardly any fresh grass in his paddock. He can snack everywhere, it’s pure temptation.” So it is always a matter of waiting until you are deeply relaxed as a person, it usually happens quite quickly and everyday life is far away.
Carpenter, photographer, cultural scientist, perfumer
When Erik Kormann enthusiastically describes his experiences with Narcisse (who is an asshole by the way), it doesn’t mean that he is dissatisfied with his job. “The BVG is a good employer and a bus driver is a great job”, he attaches importance to these statements. Like many of his fellow drivers at Germany’s largest local public transport company, Kormann is a career changer. Before that he was a carpenter, photographer (eg for the Berliner Zeitung), cultural scientist and perfumer. You can still buy the Steampunk fragrance he designed online. It costs 90 euros.
The vague idea of switching to BVG and joining the team of more than 5,300 bus drivers became concrete on a rainy summer afternoon in East Berlin. “I think it was in Rahnsdorf. After paddling on the Müggelsee, I wanted to go home.” The rain seemed to him a torrent, the windshield wipers of the bus could barely handle the mass of water. A girl who wanted to go outside looked anxiously at the streams. “Then the bus driver said: Dear passengers, we are going to make a detour today and the Kleene drive home to the door.” That was the reason to apply for a job at the BVG, says Kormann.
“I’ve never seen anything so beautiful”
Even if traffic is stressful and not all passengers are as nice as the bus crew at the time – Kormann loves the job and he took the driver from back then as an example. Once he drove the X7 bus from BER Airport to Rudow. Normally there is only one stop on this line. “But on the way, I saw three women standing in the cold drizzle at another stop.” He could have passed but stopped and said it was an exception. One of the women came up to him later and said she had never seen anything so beautiful. Erik Kormann says: “Well, in Berlin, of course, the standards are low.”
Of course he has favorite rules. At the top is the 169 to Müggelheim, Odernheimer Straße. “I like it when I have a break in the woods,” says the BVGler. “Foxes come by and sit in front of the bus door.” Eye to eye with the rich Berlin city nature, how beautiful. Kormann also likes to travel with line 108 to Waldesruh, which is no less quiet. “The best thing for me would be to always do laps around the Müggelsee. But unfortunately that is not possible.” Whatever the line, he knows that he and his colleagues have an important task for the city and for the climate: “I am happy with everyone who joins me.”
250 kilometers through the French provinces
Back to the donkey. How did Erik Kormann come to his passion? “When I was ten or twelve, I liked to read travel books. At my parents’ house I came across a book: Robert Louis Stevenson, ‘Journey through the Cevennes with the Donkey’. At that moment I was totally disappointed because it is about a slow journey, it was not really exciting. But I thought it was a good thing there was someone with a donkey. That made an impression. Although that was difficult for a GDR child like me: walking through the GDR with a donkey.” Erik Kormann’s mother is Bulgarian, his father German. But even with the relatives in the Balkans there was no possibility. They had a house in the mountains and an old woman in the village even had two donkeys. “But no, my cousins would have laughed their heads off if I had gone with them. No, the donkey ride had to wait.” And quite long.
As his 50th birthday approached, he looked around the internet. And lo and behold: “The journey that Stevenson walked on the donkey at the time is now known as the European Cultural Walking Route.” And that’s not all, you can book hikes with luggage transport. 250 kilometers through the province in ten days. Although Kormann does not speak a word of French, he drove there. And that’s how he got to know Narcisse.
“The first day of hiking with him was hell. I thought about giving it up,” he says. You have to show the animal that it has to go on. But it also has to go its own way. “The second day was so good and so harmonious that everything was cleaned up again. It got better every day.” And in the end it got really good, even if there were always surprises – for example, because the donkey in a small town emptied all the available flower pots on the way.
Every animal is unmistakable, Erik Kormann soon learned that. “The landlady Marie has a donkey lady who limps when the pressure gets too much for her. When he’s gone, she’ll be back to normal.”
“Can we go on now?”
Kormann wrote a blog about his walk. Friends advised him to turn it into a book manuscript and offer it to publishers. “Suddenly the phone rang, an editor from Gräfe und Unzer was on the line.” The result was the first book: “De ezelstaat”, published by the publishing house Vakanties. “It sold so well that they said to the publisher: now we’re going to make a second book.”
The first edition of the new work “Swap Everyday Life for Alpaca” was published last year by Polyglott. For this book Kormann was not alone with Narcisse in the Uckermark. You can also read about what it’s like to go on tour with llamas, alpacas, huskies and other dogs. And it’s (of course) about driving the bus in Berlin. “Of the animals, the llama was the biggest surprise. So uncomplicated. And sometimes I had the feeling that Susi wanted to say to me: can we move on?”
Take a break, gain new energy, distance yourself: you don’t have to go to Greece or the Seychelles for that, says Erik Kormann. He is already looking forward to his Brandenburg walk with Narcisse. “The achievable is the beautiful.” You can put it like this.