After the terrorist attack in Istanbul, German tourists are heading home, while others are on their way to Turkey. Charlotte Potts talked to some of those arriving and leaving from Tegel airport in Berlin.
The airport chaplain is anxiously waiting around gate A1 at Tegel airport in Berlin. She has been on duty since the early morning hour, awaiting each arrival from Istanbul to offer care and help, especially in case the tour group arrives . "Those who survived or witnessed the attack could be on any of the incoming flights", she says. The arriving flight from Sabiha Gokcen does not carry those who were directly affected. Instead, dozens of other Turkish and German passengers are making their way through the exit gate.
Among them is Etif Schäfer. Originally from Turkey, Schäfer has been living in Berlin for the last five years. Asked about the attack in the heart of Istanbul she bursts into tears. "I am truly sad and shocked. This attack hit both my worlds – Turkey and Germany." Sultanahment, the square next to the Blue Mosque where ten Germans were killed on Tuesday, used to be Schäfer's favorite spot in Istanbul. She always goes there when she is back to visit her homeland, like last Sunday. "I was there just a couple of days ago. I'm shocked, they were just innocent tourists."
A few minutes later Robert Krog exits the arrivals gate. "To me, it doesn't really matter that the attack happened in Istanbul. It is awful no matter where it happens. At the moment, you count on something terrible to happen somewhere, may it will be in Istanbul, Paris, or here in Germany." Krog gets interrupted by the voice on the airport speaker: "Due to increased security measure…" followed by "Don't leave your baggage unattended." The atmosphere at Tegel is tense these days. Security personnel are patroling the hallways. Police are carrying heavy weapons. One can't help to feel a bit uncomfortable, despite of those measures.
Business as usual at Turkish Airlines
The Turkish Airlines counter is business as usual. An airline representative says, cancelations haven't been extraordinary today, after the Paris attacks it had been worse. For the tourism industry in Turkey, that might be good news. At 5.5 million, Germans were the largest tourist group to visit Turkey in 2015. Yesterday's attack in Istanbul's main tourism area could seriously affect those numbers this year.
At Tegel, around a hundred passengers are checking in for the 2 o'clock flight to Istanbul. Some look tense, not because of their final destination, but rather due to the tiring check in procedures and the long wait in line. Most passengers say, they are not afraid to fly to Istanbul today, but they will follow the advice of the German foreign ministry to keep away from large groups in public places and tourist attractions. "I was planning to visit a lot of the famous tourism sites and wanted to go shopping. That is not going to happen anymore," says Nüls Svadina. She was surprised to hear about the attacks, since the Turkish-German expected the next attack to happen in Berlin. "I always tell my kids to stay away from large crowds. I worry a lot about them these days."
Right behind her, Dennis and Luisa are waiting to check-in. The couple is traveling with two friends for a few days to Istanbul. They had tried to cancel their reservations last night after they heard about the attacks, but since they had purchased a discount, a cancelation was no longer possible. "I really didn't sleep very well last night", says Luisa, "My boyfriend is more relaxed in that regard, but honestly, I am a bit scared. The attack yesterday showed again that it really can happen to anybody." "And anywhere," adds Andreas, who is traveling back to Istanbul for work. Since he has been living in Turkey, there have been several attacks, he says – including one at the airport in Istanbul last Christmas, where a suicide bomber killed a cleaning lady.
Another arrival from Istanbul; more relatives waiting anxiously. Mustafa Kaadem is waiting with a dozen roses for his wife, who had a lay-over in Istanbul on her way back from Iraq where she took care of her sick mother. The couple has lived in Berlin since the 1970s. "I hate what is done in the name of my religion these past decades," he says. "All these young boys blowing themselves up. That is certainly not what Islam is about." Also at the gate is the airport chaplain. She is planning to wait for each arrival from Istanbul today – just in case somebody will need her care and help.