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Close Encounter-Border Museum

Written 16.6.2010

Today, I was determined to have things go more or less my way. I left Ratzeburg and accidentally-on-purpose took a shortcut through Wietingsbek to arrive at the Border Museum in Schlagsdorf by noon. The museum and border installation was absolutely fascinating. Unfortunately, most of the writing was in German, but I took several pictures of the text, to translate later.

Then, I walked out to the instillation, which, to my knowledge, was set up exactly where the border was. There was a watchtower, fences, walls, a real control strip, a sturdy-looking hut, and of course, the striped posts and marker stones. I walked around for quite a while, got to go inside the hut, and put one foot on either side of the border stone. I was in two places at once, sort of.

As I was leaving, I met two women also traveling by bike. They spoke a little English and we chatted for a while. They were from Ratzeburg, and impressed that I was traveling alone. We talked about the installation and I asked them what things had been like in Ratzeburg when the border was up. The younger woman said that “things were very hard for people in the DDR, and they both seemed a bit upset to think about it. We parted ways with “tschüs!” and I walked back to the museum.

There, I feasted on pommes und würst before hitting the road again, just before two. I had a few options for overnighting in or near Zarrentin, and I rode hard to get there early. I took another sort-of-accidental shortcut, unfortunately missing the opportunity to bike on an old patrol road. Although when I saw the path later, I realized it was in bad repair and probably would have been slow going. If I’m not mistaken, I will definitely have the chance later in the trip as well. I biked through the villages of Dutzow, Sandfeld, and Kneese, all of which were small and quiet. Three young boys played soccer in a yard in Dutzow, and horses whinnied when I passed, but perhaps unsurprisingly, these border villages are sparsely populated. I saw very few cars on the road.

By 4, I was looking for a place to settle and found it in Lassahn, a bit north of Zarrentin. I had a glorious dinner of spaghetti, cheese, tomatoes, and olives at an outdoor restaurant overlooking Lassahner See. The woman who brought my food was kind, but spoke to me only in German. Several couples sat around me, eating and chatting quietly. The sun still hung high in the sky, refusing to be pulled to the horizon; it doesn’t get completely dark until after midnight this time of year. After dinner, I took a short digestion walk before it started to get noticeably colder, and I returned to my room. Tomorrow, I hope to get an early start and be in Bleckede mid-afternoon. Physically, I got close to the former border today. I touched the marker stones, and examined the gritty surfaces of the striped columns. I also felt the anxiety of the women from Ratzeburg, provoked by the memory of the Iron Curtain. I hope I can keep getting closer to an understanding of the experience of the border, and what I am coming to see as a rather dark history.

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