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Jaczo and how Berlin came to become the capital of Germany

In a café in central Aachen a few years ago, I found on the bookshelf a two-century-old tome, the name of which I forget, which was a (British, I might add) guide to the countries of the world. In the section on Germany, where for other countries the capital was listed, the author hedged a bit before settling on Vienna. (The story of whether Austria was or should be part of Germany between the advent of Napoleon and the mid-twentieth century is a fascinating one, which I might reserve for another blog post if anyone is interested.)

Which raised the question of how Berlin came to be the capital, if it was Vienna then. (One might also add that Aachen was itself the capital in the time of Charlemagne.) The answer turns out to be that because a unified Germany was driven by Prussia (and in particular the Prussian Prime Minister Bismarck), the capital of Prussia became the capital of Germany.

But this only pushes the question one level further back: how did Prussia come to dominate Germany? I'm not going to go here into how Prussia grew and ate up smaller German states during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; I'll skip back to its origin in the seventeenth century in the personal union (through marriage) of the Margraviate of Brandenburg, of which Berlin was the capital, with the Duchy of Prussia, which until that point was confined to the Baltic region and outside the Holy Roman Empire.

So now our question about Berlin shifts to the origin of Brandenburg, at which point I abandon Wikipedia and take you with me on a couple of bike rides. Whilst looking for interesting places to cycle to last September, I noticed a Jaczo Tower on the map. Having already cycled along a Jaczostraße nearby, my interest was piqued, and I turned to Wikipedia, where I read that Jaczo (a.k.a Iakša or Jaxa, meaning James) of Kopnik (today Köpenick, part of Berlin) was a Polish prince who in 1157 fought a German leader called Albrecht the Bear for possession of Brenna (today Brandenburg). Jaczo was defeated, and escaped by fleeing down a gorge to the river Havel. Wikipedia says the capture of Brenna is generally regarded as the beginning of the Margraviate of Brandenburg. The tower is located at the head of the gorge Jaczo fled down.

I was intrigued to have a look at it, and here it is, pointed out by an admirer of Albrecht the Bear:

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On further investigation, however, it transpired the tower, which marks the route Jaczo used to escape to the Havel, only dates from the start of the twentieth century and was built by an industrialist called Beringer, whose family claimed descent from Albrecht the Bear. I found this interesting, because -ing meaning "people of" or "descendants of" is something you get a lot in English placenames (e.g. Birmingham, Washington) but I haven't otherwise seen in Germany.

Nine months after this bike ride of mine, I discovered while making another one that the story continues further. Jaczo had shaken his followers off by plunging into the river, but the Hafel is 750m wide at that point, and his horse didn't have the strength to get across. When Jaczo's cry for help to the Slavic god Triglav ("the Three-Headed") found no answer, he promised in his distress loyalty to the God of his enemies, if He would let him reach the eastern bank safe and sound.

Then, says the legend, it seemed to him as though a hand took hold of his raised shield, and held him above water until the prince and his horse finally reached a tongue of land on the far side. There Jaczo, in gratitude, hung his shield on an oak and recognised the Christian God.

I've been cycling along Schildhornweg for almost a year now, but never until now realised why it was so called (partly because I didn't realise that „Horn“ in this context means "monument") until I reached this monument (dating from 1845) on the peninsula where Jaczo reached the shore:

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(In case it wasn't obvious, that's a shield hanging halfway up the monument on the far side; but the only clear line of sight from the other side involved photographing into the sun, so I stuck with this shot.)

—Originally posted on Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comments. Please comment there using OpenID or a DreamWidth account (which you no longer need an invite code to create). Though I am leaving comments enabled on LiveJournal for a bit, please don't comment here if you can do so there instead.
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East German map of the area I lived in from 2016 to 2020

It's gone very quiet here; in particular, athgarvan and miss_whiplash, can you reassure me you survived the first wave of the pandemic?

Anyhow, operating under the assumption that I'm not just talking to myself here, here's an East German map of the area I used to live in until a year ago (only you won't see my old street, because it didn't exist yet):

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In case it wasn't obvious, the area on the west side of the Berlin Wall was just as built up as that on the east side. I wonder if there was an underground black market of old maps showing the entire city...

—Originally posted on Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comments. Please comment there using OpenID or a DreamWidth account (which you no longer need an invite code to create). Though I am leaving comments enabled on LiveJournal for a bit, please don't comment here if you can do so there instead.
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Wüste Mark

Why is there a field here, surrounded on all sides by the Parforceheide forest a bit under a mile outside of the Berlin city boundary?

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Answer: This is Wüste Mark (Waste March), which name apparently indicates it is the site of an abandoned village. There was a village called Gerhardsdorf here (or possibly somewhere else nearby with a similar name) in the Middle Ages; possibly it was wiped out by the Black Death.

In the 1910s, an organisation called the Zweckverband Groß-Berlin bought up large amounts of forests and open space around Berlin so that the growing city should have green spaces available in perpetuity to its inhabitants; for reasons I do not understand, Wüste Mark was included in this, even though the surrounding land was not. When in 1920 the city borders were greatly expanded, Wüste Mark became an exclave of the city.

You can probably guess where this is going, now: When the city was divided, this ended up as an exclave of West Berlin surrounded by East Berlin. There were quite a few of these; I already posted about the village of Steinstücken, for which a road corridor was created in a deal between East and West Berlin; Wüste Mark is the closest uninhabited one to me.

In 1959 a West Berlin farmer called Hans Wendt rented the land, and got special permission to drive his tractor through the Checkpoint Bravo border control on the motorway to farm the land.

In 1988 another land deal was done, which transferred Wüste Mark and two other exclaves to East Berlin. Astonishingly, Wendt was not informed of this, but he died shortly afterwards anyway.

The irony is that though no miniature Berlin Wall was erected around the field (because it was uninhabited), when I went to have a look on Monday I found it surrounded by an electric fence (presumably to stop people trampling on the crops).

—Originally posted on Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comments. Please comment there using OpenID or a DreamWidth account (which you no longer need an invite code to create). Though I am leaving comments enabled on LiveJournal for a bit, please don't comment here if you can do so there instead.
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German vocab progress

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...which, put together, means that my effective vocab size—the words I can draw on without needing to look them up—is about five thousand.

(A further indicator of my German progress is that I now see now fewer than two mistakes in the icon for this post *cringe*, though the chances that I'll correct them are not very high. Why did no one ever point at least the more noticeable of them out to me?)

—Originally posted on Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comments. Please comment there using OpenID or a DreamWidth account (which you no longer need an invite code to create). Though I am leaving comments enabled on LiveJournal for a bit, please don't comment here if you can do so there instead.
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Completing cycling the Berlin Wall Trail

In retrospect, it's a little puzzling that in my first few years in Berlin, I hardly ever cycled out of the city to explore the countryside, given how much I'd enjoyed doing precisely that in Newcastle and Edinburgh (and the one time I went on a bike ride in Cambridge). It must have been the legacy of fifteen years in London, where by the time I'd reached the countryside, I'd had enough and just wanted to turn around and go home again.

Berlin is a third the size of London, but it took the pandemic to teach me that. Meaning: When my work sent us all home from the office, I wanted to do as much cycling each week as I would have done commuting, to keep myself fit. After a few weeks exploring the city, I reached the countryside and rediscovered that it was really nice (duh).

Shortly afterwards, I discovered that the sections of the Berlin Wall Trail on the city edge (including my favourite bike ride in Berlin*) nicely combine cycling through pleasant countryside (on, generally, at least one side) with well-maintained cycle paths.

* The route takes you through fields, past a small lake then through a pine forest, with sandy areas, then along a raised boardwalk over a marsh, with signs along the way showing the wildlife in the marsh.

After I'd been cycling thus for a little while, I decided to mark out the Berlin Wall Trail on the map where I'd been tracking my cycling progress:

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The result inspired me to cycle the rest, and today I closed the last gaps in my coverage (almost entirely in chunks of no more than two hours, that I could squeeze into the time I would, pre-pandemic, have been commuting by bike, plus my lunchbreak) of the 100 mile (160 km) course of the Wall:

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Key:
Dashed line = where the Berlin Wall Trail departs from the route of the Wall.
Dotted line = route of the Wall, but not of the Berlin Wall Trail.
Light blue = remaining sections of pipe-onna-wall outer wall. (Other sections of wall remain but are not so obvious.)

And here's how I did the cycling:

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—Originally posted on Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comments. Please comment there using OpenID or a DreamWidth account (which you no longer need an invite code to create). Though I am leaving comments enabled on LiveJournal for a bit, please don't comment here if you can do so there instead.
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Berlin Wall exhibition in Hohen Neuendorf

On Whit Monday, I took advantage of the public holiday and the presence of my in-laws (to look after Rafi) to go on a bike ride to the northernmost section of the Berlin Wall Trail (which turned out to be a 43 mile ride in total).

On the edge of Hohen Neuendorf (or, technically, just across the state line and former border in Frohnau), there was a substantial exhibition on the Wall, located outside of one of the few remaining watchtowers.

I found this exhibition interesting not least because it featured an infoboard about the East German border guards who portrayed the Wall. Rather than being psychopaths who volunteered for the chance to fire upon their fellow citizens, many of them were soldiers who had to serve involuntarily on the Wall, and feared being put into the position of having to open fire on people trying to escape to the West:

One day in October 1989 Holger Westphal found himself with fifteen soldiers and a Kalashnikov in his lorry in the Berlin hinterland, to protect this area. On the day in question demonstrations were announced, therefore the security level was somewhat raised.

Shortly before leaving the lorry, the officer gave the order to shoot in the case of an attempted border crossing. Later this order was, however, disclaimed. The fifteen soldiers, who had to take up positions every fifty metres, decided in advance though not to shoot, which would have been punished as high treason.

(Translation by myself.) Westphal goes on to say the fall of the Wall was his happiest day as a soldier.

From another infoboard, after mentioning that the Wall stood 2-3m inside East German territory:

Feared by me were the inspection rounds on the other side of the Wall. As a soldier I had to proceed with a machine pistol, behind me an officer equipped with a pistol.

Sometimes it happened that French soldiers waved (this being alongside the French occupation zone of West Berlin); I could just run away and make off. Then I heard a quiet click. The officer behind me had released the safety on his pistol. And it was fully clear that he would not fire upon the French. Just don't stumble now, I thought in a panic.

Another infoboard related the life of those living in houses in Hohen Neuendorf in the border zone, whom people had to get permission to visit, which was almost never granted to non-relatives. Guests were not allowed inside their houses, which meant that to receive guests they had to carry tables and chairs onto the street; and their children were never able to host birthday parties.

Another showed how at Bernauer Straße in central Berlin, the border area was progressively widened: At first, a wall was only constructed across street mouths, and the windows of houses facing into West Berlin were walled up. Later, a border strip was created and the houses were demolished, except for their façade, which continued to serve as part of the Wall; later still that was replaced with the well-known concrete wall with a pipe on top (to make it difficult to purchase handholds for anyone trying to climb over).

As part of this, part of a cemetery adjoining Bernauer Straße was turned into the killing field in front of the wall, and the graves were moved. I couldn't help but find myself wondering, though, whether this was because the authoritarian communist regime viewed having soldiers patrolling through the cemetery as a descration, or whether they were worried about the dead defecting to the West...

—Originally posted on Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comments. Please comment there using OpenID or a DreamWidth account (which you no longer need an invite code to create). Though I am leaving comments enabled on LiveJournal for a bit, please don't comment here if you can do so there instead.
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Border shenanigans at Steinstücken

My bike ride on 9 March took me to a place called Steinstücken, which is a settlement of only a few streets:

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Property transactions in the eighteenth century followed by the incorporation of surrounding areas into Berlin resulted in this becoming an exclave of Berlin surrounded entirely by Brandenburg. When the city was divided after the War and at the start of the Cold War, Steinstücken was left cut off, with the inhabitants having to pass through two checkpoints to get into the rest of Berlin.

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Map from Wikipedia, made available under the Creative Commons licence

(The roads crossing the state line today obviously did not exist during the divided Berlin territory. Where I took my photo above from, where Bernhard-Beyer-Straße meets Steinstraße on the map above, was at the time the route of a mini-Berlin Wall, complete with a killing field outside it.)

Eventually, in 1972, a deal was done in which a corridor of West Berlin territory was created to connect it to the rest of Berlin, in exchange for West Germany ceding six uninhabited other exclaves to East Germany, and paying four million marks.

This is the approach road that this deal resulted in becoming usable. The road itself is in Berlin (what was West Berlin), but everything immediately to both the right and the left is Brandenburg (what was East Germany).

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(There's no signs indicating this on the road itself, which I found a little disappointing, though there is a sign in Steinstücken.)

At the southern end of the road, the geography gets even more fractal, as the road is in Berlin, the railway line to the right in Brandenburg, and then the area to the right of the railway line Berlin again.

This sign amused me:

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No, there was not a T-junction in the Berlin Wall here, but the Berlin Wall Trail has a three-way split: the original route ignored the shenanigans around Albrecht's Tar Kiln and left the route of the wall for a spell, but there's a new route under construction following it more accurately. Here's where the old route and the new route converge.

—Originally posted on Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comments. Please comment there using OpenID or a DreamWidth account (which you no longer need an invite code to create). Though I am leaving comments enabled on LiveJournal for a bit, please don't comment here if you can do so there instead.
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Abandoned motorway

I got to cycle legally on a motorway!

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It's where the Berlin-Brandenburg border for some reason loops back on itself for a short stretch, at a place called Albrecht's Tar Kiln. The East German authorities moved a stretch of the motorway half a mile to the east, as otherwise it crossed into West Berlin then back into East Germany, then back into West Berlin again, which made for a confusion of checkpoints. There's nothing left of it now bar a broad path through the forest (and a marker giving information about someone who was killed trying to cross the Berlin Wall there), but the bridge remains. (The lane markings indicate that the left-hand lane is for cars, the right-hand for buses and HGVs (I think) at the border checkpoint.)

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Incidentally, the balls of vegetation you can see in a couple of my photos on the otherwise leafless trees (I took these photos on 1 March) are mistletoe; it's really very common here. First, here's what the former motorway looks like away from the bridge:

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The course of the Wall ignored most of the back-and-forth convolutions of the border. To the east of this was the killing strip, where the East Germans cut down all the trees to make it impossible for anyone to approach the wall without being seen. This is what it looks like there today:

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As you can see, the forest is beginning to reestablish itself there, but obviously there are no trees under thirty-one years of age.

A relic of the border post:

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The route of the wall is dotted with memorials to those who died trying to cross the Wall—or not, as in the example from this location:
In the summer of 1962, the 42-year-old West Berlin resident Hermann Döbler was shot dead near the old border crossing when his sports boat entered East German border waters in the Teltow Canal. His female companion was badly wounded and permanently disabled. Although the boat had already turned back, the East German border guards deliberately fired aimed shots at its occupants.
—Originally posted on Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comments. Please comment there using OpenID or a DreamWidth account (which you no longer need an invite code to create). Though I am leaving comments enabled on LiveJournal for a bit, please don't comment here if you can do so there instead.
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The Extremely Short Wall of Berlin

You've heard of the Great Wall of China? Well, here's the Extremely Short Wall of Berlin.

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(All right, I've made that joke before, but this is a more extreme example.)

Actually what's interesting here is that the final iteration of the Berlin Wall, erected in 1970, immediately identifiable by the pipe on top making it difficult for anyone climbing over to get a handgrip on the top, took a shortcut here, cutting off about a hundred square metres of marshland at the top of the Groß Glienicke lake; as a result the corresponding section of original 1961/2 Berlin Wall wasn't demolished, leading it it being one of the few remaining pieces existing today. You can see it in the background, behind a metal fence which was another part of the border fencing, and which dates to the late sixties. It was originally topped with Y-shaped wire deflectors.

(Sorry there's no better picture of the 1961/2 wall; this was a long ride and I was in a hurry to get back to work, and shot photos rapidly and only fully read the infoboard afterwards.)

The house in the background is actually only half a house. The wall went through the middle, and the half in the East German border area got demolished.

Unrelated linguistic/historical note: There are multiple places around Berlin with the name Glienicke; I looked it up, and it comes from a Slavic word meaning "lime". The Germans fled west, from invading peoples like the Huns and Alans, from this area into the Roman Empire in the fourth or so century, and the Slavs subsequently occupied it. During the Middle Ages the River Elbe, which flows diagonally across Germany into the North Sea, was the limit of German settlement, and to this day placenames to the east of that river tend to reflect a Slavic origin, rather than a German.

—Originally posted on Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comments. Please comment there using OpenID or a DreamWidth account (which you no longer need an invite code to create). Though I am leaving comments enabled on LiveJournal for a bit, please don't comment here if you can do so there instead.
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Otto Lilienthal's Fliegeberg

Most people probably think of the Wright brothers as the first to successfully pull off powered heavier-than-air flight, but the reality is more that they were the first to reach the finishing line, so to speak, without succumbing to an aviation disaster along the way.

Amongst those who were ahead of the Wright brothers in the field was the British aviation pioneer Percy Pilcher, who was planning a trial flight with a motor-driven aeroplane in 1899 when a strut broke on his hang-glider and he plunged to his death. (Some of you might have, along with me, seen a fascinating Horizon about him in 2003.)

But Pilcher in turn had his researches influenced (as did the Wright brothers) by German aviation pioneer Otto Lilienthal, who was the first to fly a heavier-than-air aircraft, after studying (and publishing a book on) the avian wing as the basis for artificial flight. Lilienthal developed eighteen different glider types, and carried out more than two thousand flights, but died when he was unable to recover his hang-glider from a stall in 1896.

Lilienthal used the rubble from a brickworks near where he lived in Lichterfelde, near (now in) Berlin, to construct a 15m high hill from which to conduct his flights, and I went for a look at it as part of a bike ride the other day.

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The area was converted to a park in 1900, and the brickworks' quarry turned into a carp pond.

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A monument to Lilienthal was erected in 1932 atop the hill; the bronze globe is a replacement of the original, which was melted down during the War.

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Here's the view from the top.

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Leicht ist es wahrlich uns Menschen nicht gemacht, frei wie der Vogel das Luftreich zu durchmessen. Aber die Sehnsucht danach lässt uns keine Ruhe; ein einziger großer Vogel, welcher über unserm Haupte seine Kreise zieht, erweckt in uns den Wunch, gleich ihm am Firmament dahinzuschweben. It is truly not made easy for us humans to sweep, free as a bird, through the airy realm. But the desire for it leaves us no rest; a single large bird describing its circles above our heads awakes in us the wish to float along in the firmament like it.

—Otto Lilienthal, „Weshalb ist es so schwierig das Fliegen zu erfinden“, in Prometheus Nr. 261, Berlin, 1895

—Originally posted on Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comments. Please comment there using OpenID or a DreamWidth account (which you no longer need an invite code to create). Though I am leaving comments enabled on LiveJournal for a bit, please don't comment here if you can do so there instead.