Essays from Central Europe , Part 3

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ADRIAN WERUM

awerum

6/2/20224 min read

Silesia

After passing through Prague, the landscape quickly becomes wider. A lovely wide country with idyllic small towns. Here, at the latest, the crowdedness of West Germany is far behind you in terms of buildings and way of life. Certainly, the history, the way of building, even the food, still make you realize that you are still in Central Europe. But it no longer has that bustle and hustle. Despite the occasional invasion of West German discounters, each town has its small grocery store in the center and an inn for gathering. At lunchtime it still smells like dumplings and roast meat and not like that unspeakable mixture of kebap and pizza.

Climbing up to the Krkonoše Mountains, nature has even more space despite some tourist places. The magic of the area in its wild primitiveness is preserved.

Again without border controls into today's Silesian Poland to Bad Warmbrunn.

The small town near Hirschberg has a long history as a health resort and shines with a wonderful spacious park, which is enclosed by a castle, gastronomy and theater. On the tourist boards in the village one can trace the changing way of dealing with the past. The older signs from the communist period try to negate the German history and try to create a Polish continuity, which was not there.

It fits that after the Second World War the Polish government founded a ministry for the resettlement of the western Polish territories, which was supposed to legitimize the expulsion of the German population.

The newer panels are thankfully also a reference to the rich German history of the area.

In the inn I offer my reference to the Silesian cuisine of my youth: potato pancakes with porcini mushrooms, served with cabbage salad and dark beer as a concession to adulthood.

A wonderful cuisine !

The next day follows the decisive stage for me to Upper Silesia in the industrial region around Katowice, Gliwice and Zabrze / Hindenburg, the home of my mother's family.

Unfortunately, the house where my mother was born did not survive the surrounding Polish economic miracle. It still stands there like a 19th century tenement that has fallen out of time, half dilapidated, the staircase filthy, the dirt-smeared courtyard still with the barracks to the outhouses, in front of it half-scraped cars: not a pretty sight. Surrounding it are prefabricated buildings and a modernized coal-fired power plant.

But what stands out compared to the past: you can see the sky! Even in the 80s, after a half-hour car or train ride, the windows were full of soot and dirt. The hard coal drew in the breath with your acrid dust. The sun was never seen.

The neighborhood in Zarbze was by far the worst I got to see. Otherwise, it is everywhere tangible how great the progress of the last decades has been. Much of it financed by the EU. But all of this would have remained pointless if a strong economy had not been formed through the industriousness and diligence of the people.

After passing through the not necessarily beautiful , but vibrant Gliwice, I soon come to country roads lined with avenues and not far beyond the city limits the first village surprises with a somewhat neglected, but imposing castle. Now the signs become bilingual, the birch and pine forests again announce the vastness of the country. The meadows in their grace and tall grasses point to the nearby Oder River.

A few more small winding roadside villages, some surprising hills that are almost mountains, then you enter Lubowitz, the home of the romantic poet Joseph von Eichendorff.

The imposing church made of reddish bricks was consecrated in 1907 as a replacement for a wooden church that had become too small, as it is often found further on in the direction of the Beskids. Immediately at the adjoining rectory begin the signposts to Eichendorff's castle, which unfortunately is only preserved as a ruin. The poems of Eichendorff in German and Polish show the way. First to the cemetery, enchantingly idyllic, blessed with old trees full of character and the improvised old bells of the church.

Only imperceptibly larger than the other graves is the Eichendorff grave. If you look from his grave to the small enchanted gate, which opens between graves and trees slightly twisted and crooked to the outside world, you can already feel like a protagonist in one of his poems.

Even more so when one continues under the nearby oak tree to the castle. An oak that has been growing here for over 200 years and has calmly endured all the vicissitudes of time.

Whether the soccer field a few meters away already existed in Eichendorff's time, I dare to doubt.

Especially if you continue under the nearby oak tree to the castle. An oak that has been growing here for over 200 years and has calmly endured all the vicissitudes of time.

Whether the soccer field a few meters away already existed in Eichendorff's time, I dare to doubt. Also the quite socialistic looking garages rather tell of the hopeless endeavor to impose a collective farm atmosphere on this eternally enchanting place.

The castle park is so enchanted and overgrown that one imagines oneself near Sleeping Beauty's home. Little frogs in the undergrowth enjoy the fact that so few visitors make it here.

But those who make it are rewarded with the feeling of having found something eternally precious.

As Rüdiger Safranski so aptly described in an interview with the NZZ the wall of fire of National Socialism that separates the Germans from their past: here you have stepped through it or it simply no longer has any meaning. And something that was thought to be completely lost opens up again:

The people of poets and thinkers, beyond ideology and nationalism, beyond guilt and self-denial.

And so I end the day over cabbage rolls with the strange realization that an entire country with 80 million people like Germany is best found beyond its national borders.