INSP has been asking vendors from across the street paper network to write letters to their 25-year-old self to mark the end of INSP’s 25th anniversary year. 69-year-old Kupfermuckn vendor Bertl sells the street paper at a weekly market in Linz. He writes about his life at sea, where he got to travel the world, as well as his struggles with alcoholism, and how 22-years-ago he came to be a part of Kupfermuckn.
In 1975, I was 25 years old and the whole world was my oyster. I am a trained baker and went to Hamburg after my training. My father was a captain in the navy already and I also wanted to get to know the world.
On the MS Europa, I went to sea as a confectioner for over five years. The Europa was the famous dream ship of the German television series. So, I went to Rio de Janeiro, Hong Kong and Oslo. I remember Liverpool especially because I am a big Beatles fan. I earned a good amount back then and didn’t even expect to live on the streets at all.
When the shipping company went bankrupt, I lost my job. I started a family in Linz and have four children. I couldn’t find a good professional connection anymore and I have had problems with alcohol since my time at sea. After my heart attack, I could no longer work. The family broke up and I ended up homeless.
22 years ago, I came to the street newspaper Kupfermuckn, which I have been selling ever since. I am also working in the editorial office as part of a team made up of people who have been affected by the problems they write about. I have been a guide for the social city tour ‘Gratwanderung durch das obdachlose Linz’ (‘A tightrope walk through the homeless city of Linz’) for 17 years now. I have accompanied politicians, journalists, social workers and many school groups. During the guided tour, I talk about my life and show the places and social facilities where homeless people stay or find help. In two years’ time, Kupfermuckn will also be celebrating its 25th anniversary. I hope that I will be there for many more years to come.
Translated from German by Daniel McLeod.
Check back in every day over the festive period for more #VendorLetters.
INSP members can download the #VendorLetters feature on the INSP News Service.