The U-Bahn, Berlin’s underground transportation system, has the same distinct smell as Toronto’s subway.

That sour, bitter smell. The smell of sweat and body odour mixed with burnt rubber and a factory shut down for the day. When I descend the steps to the U-Bahn in Berlin, I close my eyes and am instantly in Toronto — at St George Station, or on the platform of Osgoode-under-Queen, or anywhere on the network really. The smell is transportative. It is powerful. It’s a cliche to talk about the sense of smell as one of the most important but least appreciated in Western culture, what with our reliance on vision, but I’m going to do it anyway.

The experience of smelling the stale stench of Berlin’s U-bahn is a moment when I realize that the senses are my gateway to reality, and that reality is not linear. That I can be in Toronto and Berlin, simultaneously. That the sense of smell is the king of scents — reigns subtle but supreme. Scent does not play games like vision, tricking the eye with constant illusion. When I smell Toronto in the Berlin U-Bahn, I am smelling Toronto; I am in Berlin.

That sweet-stale-subway-scent — it has gotten me every time.

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