The route out of Bielefeld this morning offered a completely different view from the dreary Bundesstraße that was yesterday’s entrance: cycling gently up through southern suburbs, I could see the green ridge of the Teutoburger Wald to the north east.
Today’s route took a long time to shake off greater Bielefeld and reach countryside. It also took a great deal of map-reading: the fast, straight riding of the first day beside the Weser is definitely over. There was a bit of wood around Schloss Holte-Stukenbrock:
and a former POW camp (Stalag 326) near Senne. Most prisoners were from the Soviet Union, and so dreadful were the conditions that the death toll is unknown. Ten thousand bodies were identified in the mass grave (such a task doesn’t bear thinking about) and Soviet estimates put the number of dead at around 65,000. For a while after the war it was used to house refugees from the German east, and now it appears to be – judging from the bus stop sign outside – a school for police officers.
The Soviet cemetery is a sombre place, completely unlike the regimented Soviet cemeteries in the old east. Instead of red stars and monuments, this cemetery uses metaphor. The entrance gates are weighty and piercing, and the tall trees link the interred to the heavens. At one end are tall slabs, each carries names and dates in very small lettering, and each is completely full.