We took the S-Bahn south to the edge of the city, not far from Schönefeld and the mythological new airport that we hope our grandchildren will have the pleasure to use. We did not really know what to expect… the last time any of us had been to Grünau, this green and leafy corner of what was once East Berlin was almost twenty years ago and it was hard to imagine the changes that must have taken place since then. From the station we followed a path through the trees in the direction of the water, until we reached a small park with a jetty, and some friendly chaps enjoying the sunshine with a scowl as their fishing rods rested on the rusty railings.
At the end of the crumbling pier it felt as if we were on top of the water, and could see down the Langer See to where a large scoreboard flickered in the shadows of a grandstand. On the water itself we could see the first rowers of the day warming up for the regatta, that was about to take place. As we walked down the street towards the grandstand it suddenly began to get very busy. Broad-shouldered men and women jogged up and down, the name of their rowing clubs stitched into the back of their tracksuit tops – Tegel, Wannsee, Königs Wusterhausen, Pirna…
Family members unpacked coolboxes and picnic blankets from the back of their cars, and made their way through the gates beside the grandstand where the sausage grill was already doing a roaring trade and the first beers of the (early) afternoon were being sipped from plastic cups. We grabbed beers and sausages and found a spot where we could look out over the water and take in some of the action.
Of course, none of us were experts – we could see, obviously, who had won each race as they passed us by but not much more – and the massive scoreboard was not much use:
R317 Jung 4 x +13u A2 1000m
Post-trip research tells me that the team in Lane 5 won this particular race (Ruder-Club Tegel 1886 e.V.) in a time of four minutes exactly, just over four seconds ahead of their closest rivals…
If you have been reading this, or any other blog that has a relationship to Berlin you will know that this winter – even by local standards – has been long, too long. So it was not difficult to imagine the enthusiasm these rowers must have been feeling to be back on the water again, racing the one or two kilometres from the start line down by the bathing beach to the finish line in the shadow of the regatta complex. The vast majority of the people milling around appeared to be rowers or their families, and in the grandstand a handful of people lounged beneath the roof where, in 1936, nine thousand spectators cheered on the rowers and canoeists during the infamous Olympic Games. The last international competition was held here in 1993, but on Sunday afternoon the spirit of competition – local as it was – appeared to be alive and well.
Words & Pictures: Paul Scraton