A cold, damp ride, but today I heard my first cuckoo of the year – somewhere in the former military area between Luckenwalde and Ließen. The end of the cold war may have devastated a few local economies like Jüterbog, but it must have been a bonus for wildlife.
Today’s ride was mostly on skate routes, which means that not only is the tarmac silky smooth but also swept. The German government seems to have tried a number of imaginative ways to compensate the east for the loss of its unprofitable industries, and a network of skate routes within an easy train ride from Berlin is obviously one of them. The popularity of the routes – and there are scores of kilometres of them in Fläming – was perhaps expected to encourage private enterprise. In some cases it has: like “Essen bei Bodo”, where at weekends cartoon-like Bodo turns his garden into a barbecued-sausage-and-cake magnet for hungry skaters and cyclists. In Dahme however – perhaps deterred by the cobbles – there is no café worth the name.
Anyway, back to the ride. It intersects with other routes we have followed – hence the déjà vu bei Bodo, which rescued us last year on a very hot day on the Berlin-Leipzig route. It also led into the Fläming highlands, which topped out at an impressive 140m.
As I pedalled, I wondered about Universal Basic Income. It’s the kind of idea that calls out both the conservative and iconoclast in me. On the one hand, it’s foolhardy to introduce something when you really can’t be sure what the cumulative effects will be on a national scale (and, if it is to function fairly, it has to be national). How can it possibly work in an individualistic liberal democracy: how can you prevent prices and rents rising to gobble up the extra income, thereby nullifying it? Is there a real risk that so many people will prefer not to work and to keep their living costs low, so that both income and purchase taxes fall unsustainably? Will it just lead to greater inequality, with some preferring an “urban peasant” existence while others earn as much as they can? Can one make generalised predictions about a heterogeneous society? On the other hand, the current system is deeply flawed, even though it continues to stagger on . . . so why not change it? Cycling in this part of Europe makes me wonder if the East German communist system was the closest we have got to a basic income scheme. People were provided with an income (for which they had to work, admittedly) and the problem of potential inflation was solved by having a restrictive political and economic system. Costs of essentials were kept low, basic housing was provided (even if it did mean living with your in-laws) and your needs (as defined by the state) were taken care of. Individualism and our notions of self-fulfilment – which we will not willingly give up, I’d say – were bulldozed aside.
But, back to today. Dahme has – it goes without saying – a left-behind, depopulated feel. This sense is magnified enormously this evening by being obliged to dine chez Lidl and staying in an hotel which is part of a care home complex. (Perhaps another initiative to keep easterners employed in their hometowns?) The rooms are designed for people with disabilities; in communal areas and outside there are people in wheelchairs, with strollers, others – young and old – with profound disabilities. At times it sounds as if the first Mrs Rochester is close by. The idea of normalisation and inclusiveness is admirable . . . but also disconcerting and uncanny. I wasn’t expecting to be in a Seniorenheim for at least another 20 years – or, preferably, never.
However, I try to keep myself amused and hence have noticed signposted wheelchair routes (a good idea, obvs) in Dahme:
Dahme also has a ruined Schloss, which looks shockingly naked stripped of its rendering:
Somewhere in the top right-hand corner of the façade there is a raptor’s nest . . . but, as usual, I was too slow with the binoculars.