Home > Uncategorized > Bikes and Dikes and Woods of Pine

Bikes and Dikes and Woods of Pine

Written 18.6.2010

Breakfast was promptly at 8am, in the small kitchen off the hallway to my room on the second floor of the pension. I was favorably impressed with the meal that had been laid out for me and hit the road at 9, satisfied, and thankfully, not too sore from yesterday’s ride. I pedaled out of the quiet streets of Blekede, cutting through forests near the Elbe on the way to the ferry at Neu Darchau. I crossed the river there, with several other cyclists and a few cars. Then, I took the road on the dike, passing an old watchtower on the way to Domitz. The road changed very little, and I enjoyed the occasional slopes from the dike down to the river, and back up. At one point, my path was completely blocked by a huge, stubborn herd of sheep. I rang my bell and charged ahead, they bleated and skipped out of my way. Of course, this was a lot of fun. All the while, I had a fantastic view-the skies were filled with moody gray and blue clouds, which hugged the Elbe Mountains, across the river.

I had wanted to spend time in Rüterberg, a village of 150 that had been split in half during the Cold War. The day before the fall of the Berlin Wall, the residents had had enough, and voted to create The Village Republic of Rüterberg, asserting their autonomy, and vowing that “they would not let themselves be silenced” (German-German Border Trail 52).

Unfortunately, the restaurant was closed, and with little else in sight, I left for Domitz on a bumpy forest path. Before I left the village, however, I noticed an old watchtower which had been repurposed as a house. I was at first shocked by this sight. Who would want to live in the very symbol of repression that had dominated the community for so long? As I considered this again, it struck me that this might be a unique way of reclaiming space. Perhaps the act of turning this building into a home is an important part of reconciliation for the owners, and the village. From a certain point of view, this could be even more powerful than tearing down the tower, as repurposing the edifice both acknowledges its existence, and completely overcomes it. It draws attention to its history, but also says very clearly, “that’s over now.”

I continued on through a dense forest and marveled at how pine needles give off the same comforting scent here as they do at home. I soon crossed a bridge over the Elbe to what was West Germany. This was the first time I’d crossed a border river in such a direct way. This bridge was built after the “velvet revolution” in 1992, and a little further down the river, I passed the railroad bridge, which had been destroyed by German soldiers near the end of World War II, and not rebuilt. This bridge was a symbol of Germany’s division, and remains an icon of the Elbe region.

I set off again, hoping to overnight in Gorleben, home of Germany’s nuclear waste. However, I arrived very early (around 1pm) and chose to continue to Schnackenburg. I burned through 17 lonely kilometers, bringing my total for the day close to 100k. Around 3, I arrived in the village and found a gasthaus, and was even early enough to tour the local border museum, where I had a nice chat with the man who worked there. When I asked him about the border, he was quick to explain that it was still there, in peoples’ heads. I asked him to elaborate, and he cited economic problems that still existed as a result of reunification, and differences in mentalities. I told him that I had noticed differences even as I had been biking these few days, and he nodded sadly and looked off toward the dike. He told me that he wished his English was better, and I told him I wished my German was better. I thanked him and headed off.

I looped the entire village on foot in about ten minutes, had a snack, and worked on photos until it was time for dinner. Spaghetti Bolognese and Witternburg Premium don’t go together very well, but I didn’t care and thoroughly enjoyed both before settling in for a quiet night. I am now on my third day with no internet access, which has been frustrating. Tomorrow, finding accommodation with internet, or at least an internet cafe, will be a priority, especially since I have to figure out where I can stay on Sunday night in advance.

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Anna
    June 20, 2010 at 3:47 am

    I LOVE the photo with the bike and the sheep on the road. It’s so aesthetically narrative. 😀

  2. June 21, 2010 at 6:34 pm

    Kate,

    Fantastic pictures and perspective. Thanks for sharing it all! I don’t know what your expectations were but it seems to me you are covering ground pretty quickly. Looking forward to future posts!

  3. June 23, 2010 at 8:59 am

    Hi Kate, your trip looks amazing. It is fun to travel along with you on your great blog. Bon voyage, Nikki

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