His books were a siren song for the youth of the '60s and '70s, written with a voice at once cynical, melancholy and darkly humorous. On the ninth anniversary of his death this week, fresh interest is building in the bitingly comic author - followers have launched a drive to fund a new library and a top screenwriter is working to bring "Cat's Cradle" to television.
I hadn't heard much about the city prior to my visit so was amazed on arrival in the old historic centre, built in the 1800s from stone after a huge fire destroyed the city. It was later further damaged during World War 2 and I was intrigued to see the mix of old and new throughout, with many additions and repairs made in the 70s.
Thousands of people were waiting for us at the airport, a sea of black-red-golden flags fluttering in the cold December wind in between an almost forgotten white-green flag of the Saxon State. Once the plane had taxied to a standstill, I climbed down the escalator and saw Hans Modrow, who was awaiting me about 10 meters away from the steps with a blank expression on his face. I then turned around to tell the Minister of the Chancellery Rudolf Seiters: "It's done."
Despite the cold, with the thermometer often sinking below freezing, mothers in thick coats pushing baby carriages swaddled in blankets were as common as bakers with their loaves. And all around me, the world's languages and their owners drifted past, evidence that Christmas markets attract international visitors. Russian couples here, Turkish there, a moment of Italian lyric vowels and a French family outfitting their kids with wool mittens.