26 April 2009

From Frankfurt to Leipzig

Today I travelled from Frankfurt to Leipzig. In chronological, sequential time, it is a journey of about three-and-a-half hours, but in qualitative time, it represented a journey of two decades - backwards. Twenty years ago, I would have been going from one country to another, across one of the most highly militarised borders in the world, moving from one societal system to another, from the Federal Republic of Germany to the German Democratic Republic. Now I am making the same journey again, but in time, not in space. The border is no more, it's difficult even to work out where it once was - the train no longer stops for half an hour or more in a forsaken station apparently in the middle of nowhere, to allow the border guards to check the passengers and their wares. To make the trip twenty years ago would have required a personal invitation authorised by the GDR embassy or vouchers for one of the hotels open to western tourists - now all it requires is a train ticket. I'm going to that foreign country called the past in the year that marks the 20th anniversary of the "peaceful revolution" that led to communism being overthrown and the unification of Germany. The train journey is like a rolling reminder of German history. Eisenach, the birthplace of Bach, and Leipzig where he was the organist at the Thomaskirche; Weimar, home not only to Bach, but also home to such other luminaries as Goethe, Schiller and Herder (but also the home of the Buchenwald concentration camp); and Naumburg, where Nietzsche died - but also Erfurt, where Martin Luther trained as an Augustinian monk, and the Wartburg, where he translated the Bible, but also Gotha, the location for the 1875 unity conference of German socialists whose programme was heavily criticised by Karl Marx. Luther the Reformer and Marx the Revolutionary. Yet in 1989, it was the followers of the Reformer Luther who led the (peaceful) revolution, and the followers of Marx who were overthrown. This blog is to remember the events of 1989 and how they are being remembered ... Posted by Dr B


janetlees said...

We took a jounrey in to the past of a different kind this week remembering the bible on Holy Island, entitled 'In my end is my beginning'. It seemed to me as I read your piece that there was a connection there too. Looking forward to our visit to former GDR in August. Much love

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