The train was somewhere near Wittenburge. It was Thursday evening and I was on my way to Streckenthin by Pritzwalk in the far north-west corner of Brandenburg, bike accompanying me and sun setting between trees and farmland far ahead. I was thinking about the land, how ordinary it is, flat, featureless, sandy, gently sloping seawards across hundreds of kilometres to the Ostsee, rebounding slowly over millennia now the irresistible weight of glaciers responsible for such smoothness have retreated, fields of rich, warm wheat split by timber forests edged with grassland rude in high summer exuberance. This land, absent of mountains or even hills, far from oceans, has nothing remarkable about it, just an unbroken endless plain of north-european farmland.
A forested stretch drew close to the tracks. I wondered, in a different turn of thought, if perhaps for some people this land stirred them as mountains and oceans do me, that after travelling through and living in such geological magnificence, seeing the last flattening of low hills reveal the horizon smooth and unbounded, they felt that magical thing, ah yes, home.
The train from Wittenburge was cancelled; the replacement bus didn’t come, and my phone turned itself off. Some forty kilometres north-east in Streckenthin, Dasniya and Florian were wondering if my last desperate message meant I might arrive in an hour or so or not at all, and be forced to retrace my steps Wedding-wards. A bus-van arrived. My bike squeezed beside me to Perleberg, the next town along the branch line where I stood and waited as the sun guttered. Aboard once more somewhere around Groß Pankow the trees gave way to fields ablaze with the last of the day’s light, the sun a fat, squashed orb wreathed in a family of clouds from cumulus to cirrus all layered upon each other and stained, radiant, blinding with that light. I just stared till my eyes saw spots and thought, wow, you could really get to like this place.
Pritzwalk. One of those many beautiful towns of Brandenburg slowly depleting itself of its inhabitants. Dasniya and Florian met me on the platform and we decamped to a Biergarten beside the central church for a meat platter, the German equivalent of a mixed grill, and of course, beer. It was fully dark by the time we embarked on bikes along narrowing roads and into dark forest, only one weak bike light between us, skirting fields and crossing a stream before emerging, rounding a corner and arriving at a proper mansion of a place, Streckenthin Gutshaus.
Some time in the ’90s, a theatre director who Florian knows picked up the house (though not the substantial estates) for Not Very Much At All. Brandenburg and the former East Germany states are full of such places, manor houses, castles, country estates, towns, villages, factories, all gradually earthwards falling as the populace flees towards the big cities and wealthier states. In a slightly different time, perhaps only years or a couple of decades away, these towns could well be rich with tourists, hobby farmers and city-escapees. In the meantime, artists like us get to stomp around several hundred square metres of multiple-doored real estate, that being the entrance floor areage, with cellar and first floor to match, and somewhere above an attic.
Dasniya and Florian have been having a semi-holiday-slash-rehearsal week, making sojourns around the house’s two small lakes, and further afield, where I joined them yesterday for some filming. Before that though was a lazy late-evening, a long sleep, breakfast on the terrace where a family of House Martins built a nest in the corner and were busy catching breakfast on the wing for the chicks, a long, book-induced snooze, coffee, general 24-hour holiday behaviour, then off to filming.
A field with a large central drainage depression, left forested around the basin and ten minutes distant was our aim. Some mud remained from the recent deluges, freshly turned by wild boars. Perhaps Dasniya will eventually blog our goings-on. I was on camera while Florian dressed in grass and ropes and Dasniya wearing the pants. We’d planned a further shoot, but this one went on for much of the afternoon, so returning for a late lunch, more sitting on the terrace above the lake and finally accompanied by Dasniya for a return ride to Pritzwalk and directly wheeling myself onto the train.
A lot for twenty-four hours, and a good reminder I need to see more of Brandenburg and out of Berlin. And so, photos.