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Day of Rest

Written 27.6.2010

I slept in a bit today, and was looking forward to staying in one place for more than 24 hours for the first time in three weeks. After breakfast, Victor and I headed off to the Borderland Museum. But first, we drove to Asbach, a small village that had been part of East Germany, surrounded by a fence, its residents under strict curfew and various restrictions. We drove through the village, and then to a hillside vantage point where Victor pulled a picture out of the backseat that was taken when the border was still up. We compared the two scenes, and I took a photo. Between these two photos, a lot has changed, but its obvious that this is the same village, and perhaps some things have remained the same, too.

Then, I was dropped off at the museum, where I got to use an iGuide in English (iPod with an audio tour of the museum), which was wonderful and very helpful as I made my way through the exhibits, observing, taking photos, and trying to read German for over two hours. The museum was easily the most thorough I’d been to so far. There were tons of primary documents, videos, photos, newspaper clippings, not to mention the impressive display of ground vehicles, helicopters, two soviet helicopters- I even got to go inside one. I think I will need to learn German and come back for hours and read everything. In the meantime, I took pictures of everything I could, perhaps to translate later or refer to. There were a lot of people at the museum by the time I left; I was excited to see so much interest in the subject.

I chose to return to Allendorf by foot, and found a pleasant trail that wound down the hill, through pastures, and next to stomping horses and snorting ponies. I returned to my room, rested, watched part of the Germany-England game, and was thoroughly shocked by the massive uproar out my window after the match. I crossed the river to Bad Sooden for dinner, and returned to watch another of Victor’s videos.

This time, he showed me some footage he shot himself in January of 1989, when the fence was opened in Asbach. There were hundreds of excited people waiting on both sides of the fence to greet their neighbors. An Eastern couple waved enthusiastically to the camera, which would have been highly illegal before this time. Musicians from the west (uniformed) and the east (a ragtag group) played marching tunes. East and West border police mingled. At one point, Victor turned the camera to his left to film a DDR border policeman lighting a cigarette. At this point, Victor paused the VCR and rewound to emphasize a point. He said that this man had been a hard-liner before this day, and as a three-star officer, was potentially quite dangerous. Yet, here he caught him at a relaxed moment; the man did not shy away from the camera, and indeed, almost smiled.

Then, we watched a short documentary that covered the development of border fortifications through 1985. The impressive footage covered the development of fences, mines, and control towers. It also focused on the town of Modreleuth, a divided village with a tiny population, and fortifications to rival those of Berlin. To illustrate the many rapid developments, this section opened by showing footage of Eastern police allowing an old lady to crawl under the barbed wire fence and visit family in the east, and return to the west a few hours later by the same route. Twenty years later, this would have been impossible due to tighter security and terrifying technology of destruction. Victor also presented me with DVDs of both videos he’d shown me, a pamphlet on Germany’s border museums, and, to my great excitement, a pin from an East German hat. “There, you are a member of the People’s Police now,” he proclaimed. I was thrilled to be holding such a fascinating piece of the past, and I couldn’t help but wonder what this pin had seen, and who had worn it on their hat a mere 20 years ago.

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