Time to start heading back towards Hanover, so the Altmarkrundkurs has been abandoned in favour of a more direct route east. The wonderful thing about cycling in Germany is that when you need to get from Tangermünde to Wolfsburg, you can be confident that – with the right maps (hail, Bikeline, son of Esterbauer) – it can easily be done. So, using everything from cycle paths beside Bundesstraßen to unsurfaced agricultural roads, I return to Gardelegen with none of the stressful dicing with death that I would expect at some point in Britain.
At Uchtspringe there was a terse memorial close to the railway line: no further details were given, but it appears that this is where 66 dead concentration camp inmates, identities removed, were taken off from a train in 1945. Treated like spoiled cargo.
What is it like to have around you so many memorials of horrors committed only a couple of generations ago by your country? Or do you put some distance between yourself and the deaths by referring to it by an international term like “Faschismus”? We escape this in Britain: most of our atrocities – slave trade, imperial pillaging, Boer concentration camps – were committed offshore.
But, back in Gardelegen – like Tangermünde once a fortified Hanseatic town. It’s not as picturesque so is correspondingly quieter, but nonetheless attractive. As with so many places in east Germany, you wonder where everybody is and how cafés and hotels can keep going . . . I really can’t understand the economics of it all, unless such places are run solely by flexible families who don’t expect to pay themselves the minimum wage. It’s not like Greece, where family businesses may have few overheads and can keep things simple: have you seen the size of a traditional German hostelry or measured the acreage of carpets and curtains to be kept at the expected level of cleanliness?
Anyway, about Gardelegen: it has a lovely circular lime avenue all the way round the town on the site of the old fortifications.