which means less narrative, more fragmented observations.
all my days off until now (it's pouring) have involved long bike rides through the countryside.
the first one was about 25K through the villages to the west of weimar. little clusters of house/barn complexes, mostly half-timber (stone bases, brick or rubble between beams above, some more plastered than others), with tall wooden gates into the courtyards. each with a thickwalled church topped with a black bulb-and-spike spire (kinda like scaled-down, protestant, versions of the monastery churches in bukovina).
pretty, and remarkably the same as one another. the homogeneity is striking, village to village but also within them: in places the same size in vermont, say, or tennessee, there'd be five different churches - here's there's one. the solar panels on the roofs are also striking - far more of them than in rural places at home.
and then there's the decidedly odd experience of walking through a small churchyard cemetery and seeing the same WWI and WWII memorial plaques as i would at home, bolted to basically the same spot on the church wall. but for the wehrmacht. in a landscape that holds what's left of buchenwald, but also the routes of the death march of april 1945, when the camp was emptied by the SS. which, of course, i found out about by stumbling across a memorial on a random corner by a shopping strip in the weimar banlieu as i rode back into town.
the memorial culture(s) here are kinda amazing, though. and that's one thing that's fascinating about the overlaid experiences of being in germany, but also in the DDR. more about that later, but for now memorials. there's a lovely wall with inscription + statue + flower urns monument to ernst thaelmann, the red leader between the wars (who the german-speaking column in the international brigades in spain was named for), two blocks from our workspace. it's not exciting, but solid and appealing. there's an unconvincing post-reunification thank-you-for-our-freedom memorial to the u.s. liberators of 1945 on my usual bike route home - a low wall and some plantings, looking like a bad compromise between the thaelmann memorial and a jumbled description of the viet nam war memorial in washington. and there are streets named for karl liebknecht (though not rosa, that i've seen) and an array of progressive (and claimed-as-progressive) figures, from neruda to washington. and there are occasional 'stumbling stone' markers for sites related to the nazi attempted genocide - at the house that was the weimar ghetto, for instance. yes, one house; all the jews in town apparently fit. (did i say yet that this is a town that has no significant jewish history, mostly because no jews were allowed to live here for most of its history?)
more on the DDR, and on biking through thuringia, soon. gotta go watch a dance show.