This piece was inspired by a walk in Brandenburg with Nicky and Greg Gardner. Nicky is the co-editor of Hidden Europe, and you can read her own impressions of the walk by following the link below.
Many writers would argue that if you want to walk for inspiration you need to walk alone. I have some sympathy for this view, and often find that a solitary walk gives me the time and space to get things clear in my head, finding solutions on the pavement or the parkland track to problems that seemed insurmountable sitting in the accusing glare of the anglepoise lamp on my desk. It is for this reason that I rarely leave the house without a small notebook in my pocket, using park benches, stone walls and tram-stops as temporary office space along the way.
But sometimes it is company and conversation that can make a walk inspiring, and so it proved on a wet Friday afternoon at the beginning of October, as I walked with friends around the lake at Buckow, fifty-odd kilometres east of Berlin. “Normally I am known for taking copious amounts of notes when I walk,” Nicky said to me, about halfway around, but her notebook, like mine, stayed firmly in the pocket. Instead, we talked.
We talked about recent travels and memories of more distant adventures, of upcoming plans and hopes for the future. We talked about the trees and the environmental legacy of the GDR, of my daughter’s school and Nicky’s new car… and all the while we walked with the lake to our right, the rain falling in occasional bursts. The path flirted with the water’s edge, leading down to the shore for a quick look out across the water before turning into the forest once more. At various points we came across houses, sometimes grand villas in various states of repair, at others cabins and summertime structures, small and cosy and obviously built with love.
Those lovely dachas were mostly shuttered and locked up for the winter, but the piles of logs outside other houses suggested the locals were well prepared for the change of the seasons. As we came around the north end of the lake we arrived back in Buckow, where the tourist season was something of a memory. The noticeboard advertised plays that have already been staged, the changing rooms and beach chairs locked until next spring, and there was no passing trade for the GDR-era kiosk now (semi-)employed as a souvenir stall. It too was closed, and we had to peer through its windows to catch a glimpse of its delights.
Our walk was almost at an end, and so we sat down at a table in a deserted hotel and ordered beers and a snack for fortify us for the final stretch. I looked out of the window, a view not dissimilar to that of Brecht’s summer house just a little way down the shore, where he wrote elegies and reflected on the events of the 1953 uprising back in East Berlin. Was I too inspired by this scene and by our walk around the lake? Yes, but less so by the surroundings than by the conversation and companionship that I had along the way.
Read Nicky Gardner’s piece on the walk as part of the Letters from Europe series at Hidden Europe
Words & Pictures: Paul Scraton