Daisy, now into old E Germany, makes friends with German Railways

Very slow internet in Stralsund, so here’s a very brief update with a phew photos (or should it be few fotos – German is so much more consistent) of two days riding north from Lubeck then east, seriously into the Baltic and old Germany.

Yes, taking advantage of our new Deutschlandtickets on DB German railways, travel as much as you like (just not on fast trains, which don’t take tandems anyway) for 49 Euros each for a whole month.

No restrictions for rush hour or weekends, so we’ve used them to bring Daisy from Schwerin to Stralsund, ready for the island of Rügen and then eastwards again, discovering to our relief that we can man- and womanhandle our gear in and out of trains and lifts and stairs with relative ease and efficiency.

It’s been COLD!

So no further camping, greatly to Jutta’s relief, but some very lovely small hotels, especially the Schwedenhaus in Wismar (now well into old East Germany), possibly the best place I’ve ever stayed.

With an automatic Nutella and butter dispenser. And breakfast to feed an army, well.

After visiting some very old former East German friends now living just north of Travemünde, not seen for well over 40 years and none of us of course looking a day older, we made it on Ascension Day to Schwerin with its over-the-top, beautifully restored palace/castle – the Neuschwanstein of Germany’s north.

There’s a German tradition on this holi-holy day of young men taking to the parks in loud, boorish but generous-spirited groups pursued by crates of beer and boom box atop modern versions of the handcarts with which millions of German refugees fled West at the end of world war two.

For those aware of these things, history is everywhere on this journey.

Just out of Travemünde, east of the old East-West German border, there’s a memorial to more than 7000 refugees, mainly from concentration camps, who died when their ships, the Cap Arcona and the Thielbek, were sunk by the Allies (not aware who was aboard) on May 3 1945, just days before the war ended.

One of the worst maritime disasters ever…

And further along the coast (first map below showing our Wednesday route), tourist signs remind how heavily fortified this beautiful, rolling landscape was during East German days, to prevent escapes to the West.

The young formerly East German historian Katja Hoyer has just written an excellent book on the GDR, focusing on the ordinary, normal lives that most folk of course lived at the time, as Jutta and I remember well from living and working there in the late 70s and early 80s.

But travelling back along the coast, and just being here again all these years later, reminds us of what a nasty little state East Germany was – its people warm and kind in the private sphere, but a system that in the excecution of power and control was as vacuous as it was vicious.

Duncan Slator, son of an old English school friend from the 60s, now lives in Schwerin and suggested we visit a forest site just outside town of a former East German nuclear bunker, now stripped of its equipment.

A reminder of the absurdities of the Cold War, and, whatever the complexities, of the well-deserved failure of the Soviet-imposed political order in Eastern Europe.

On which I could write loads, but won’t. Blogging is ime-consuming, and when the internet is slow not a little frustrating.

So with the unnecessary apologies I never let my therapy clients articulate – or firmly catch them when they do – this will be the last post for a few days as we focus again on cycling and just enjoying ourselves.

Long awaited, and the pix should speak for themselves.

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