My last two posts were about the former DDR and all the many changes that Hans and I experienced over a period of about nine years. I hadn't planned to write more on those years, other than a little about the food. As the Schorfheide, however, is an historic area and is comprised of more than just small peaceful villages, lakes and the ruins from Communist days, I decided to complete the journey by showing you a few of the sites we visited and sights we saw during our trips to that memorable region. Perhaps one or two more small stories as well to remind you of what it was like in those early days after the wall.
Hans standing beside a carved stone that marks the entrance to a forest area of the Schorfheide.
The two pictures below show a quiet street in Hans' home town of Joachimstal (note the town pump to the right of the tree; the other is a picture taken on a quiet pathway at the edge of the town. (Hans, as a boy during the war, took their goat to the pasture every day and then home again at night for it to be milked.)
One day in 1991 we drove into a quiet village off the beaten path. We were driving our red 1990 Corvette, which we had decided to take up to the Werbellinsee that year. A big mistake! That car was certainly not meant to drive over uneven cobblestones and pot-holed roads. It was a disaster! After parking at the side of the empty street, we saw liquid leaking from beneath the car. (We had hit a huge bump.) What to do? No cell phones or Handies (Germany's name for cell phones) at that time and no phone booths anywhere; no large garages in the vicinity as yet either for repair work.
The small village of Chorin lies just down the road. Quiet cobblestone streets and simple houses surround a small church. Stopping there briefly, we felt moon years from civilization even though Berlin was just half an hour's drive south.
The Schiffshebewerk (ship hoist)
Not far from Chorin, at Niederfinow, stands the gigantic Schiffshebewerk on the Oder-Havel Canal, a magnificent ship hoist and an engineering feat. Built between 1927 and 1934, it is 60 meters high and 94 meters long. Within minutes it can lift a ship--weighing up to 4,300 tonnes--36 meters high. Even after 80 years, it remains a technological marvel.
Several dozen times a day a ship is drawn into the trough by steel cables. The gate closes, the ship displaces water, the bell sounds, and the lift begins moving upwards. After five minutes, the ride is over. The gate opens and the ship moves out into the canal under its own steam. Despite the cost of 27.5 million Reichsmark, an enormous sum at the time, it was an economical solution to negotiating the 36 meters of elevation. One can climb the stairs and walk along the top of this unbelievable construction and watch it in action. From the platform one can see the surrounding countryside, including Poland, which lies just 10 kilometers east.
We haven't been back since then but hope that some of the original style has been replaced. The grounds surrounding it are magnificent with many species of trees and bushes that flourish in a beautifully landscaped terrain, with paths leading into the encroaching forest. A huge bronze Hirsch (large red stag) stands near the building.
Below, the entrance gates to Göring's Carinhall on a fall day.
This picture on the right was taken in a different area on a different occasion; however, it does show some of the "angel grass" or "buffalo grass" beyond Hans and his son, Heiko, the blueberry pickers.
Kaiser Bahnhof (Kaiser Train Station)
The Kaiser Bahnhof was rundown when we first saw it in 1983. Later, it was restored on the outside (as shown on the left). It hadn't been used as a train station for many years. (It now has families living in it.) In the Kaiser's time--in the early 20th century--he would arrive on the train from Berlin and from the Bahnhof travel along the road past Hans' house to Hubertusstock, his country residence. The regular train station is almost beside it and was in use in the 1990s. We don't know whether it still is today. Both are situated about two kilometers from Hans' house.
We don't know how long the Russian sign with a forest fire warning was located there at the side of a road, but note that it was not in German, only in Russian and English.
We came across the following when walking one day with our friends, Brenda and Mike, one of whom took the picture. Hans now has to live with the world and me seeing that statement and never letting him forget it! It says, for those who don't read German, "Janet, I love you." I do wonder sometimes who that other Janet was!
The Schorfheide was tranquil and beautiful with little traffic on the roads during those years that we visited it. I'm sure it is still much the same, though no doubt the traffic has increased and modernization has been ongoing. Werner and Gisela said,"Having our freedom is important for us all but particularly for our children. We know that for ourselves it won't be that easy, as we are too old to benefit a great deal from the changes that are ongoing," (Many lost their jobs as did they). But they said, "We can read the books we wish and we can travel to the west. For our children, it is a blessing. They will reap the benefits as they are still young."