Because the weather was quite decent today, we took a trip upstream the river Weser into the Solling and Weserbergland regions approximately 200 kilometers south of Bremen to admire the autumn leaves. Initially, I had debated whether to go along, because I wasn’t feeling too well and spending several hours inside a car isn’t exactly a great idea when you’ve already got a backache. But since the trip had been planned for almost a week now, I went along anyway.
Our autumns aren’t as spectacularly colourful as the Indian summer in New England and Canada. Partly this is due to climatic factors and partly due to the fact that the make-up of the woodlands is different. But we still saw some lovely leaf coloration, as attested by the photos behind the cut:
The Weser Uplands are of interest to anybody who loves fairy tales. The Brothers Grimm spent much of their lives in Kassel and were professors at the University of Göttingen, both of which are nearby. Hence, many of the classic fairy tales collected by the Brothers Grimm are linked to actual places in the area, e.g. Sleeping Beauty and Rapunzel supposedly took place in actual castles in the area (the Sleeping Beauty castle Sababurg is a hotel these days and I actually spent a night there in the 1980s) and the towns of Hameln (of Pied Piper fame) and Bodenwerder (birthplace of the lying Baron Münchhausen) are all located along the Weser. Of course, most of it is bunk invented by the tourist industry, but it’s still fun. Indeed, there is a tourist trail known as the German Fairy Tale Route connecting the various fairy tale locations in the area. It actually goes all the way up to Bremen, since we are the location of The Bremen Town Musicians. Here’s an account by an American traveling along the fairy tale route from the New York Times.
Now I did not take any photos of Hameln or Bodenwerder nor did we visit the fairy tale castles this time around (and neither did we visit the porcelain manufacture at Fürstenberg or the sluice at Minden), mostly because we’d seen it all a dozen times before, since the Weserbergland region is a popular destination for school trips. But I took some photos with a little bit of fairy tale flavour anyway.
At noon we stopped for lunch in the village of Lippoldsberg at this restaurant. I had a whole trout again, this time cooked in a broth with vegetables and spices. The fish was tender, succulent and utterly delicious. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a photo, so you’ll have to take my word for it.
Unlike most rivers, the Weser does not have a spring. Instead, it is created by the rivers Werra and Fulda flowing together at the town of Hannoversch-Münden. The village of Lippoldsberg is located approx. twenty-five kilometers downstream of Hannoversch-Münden. Nonetheless, there is a monument at Lippoldsberg dedicated to the River Weser being born from the union of Werra and Fulda.
This monument is just plain odd. For starters, Werra and Fulda don’t unite here to form the River Weser but in Hannoversch-Münden approx. twenty-five kilometers upstream. And while there is a poem about Werra and Fulda uniting to become the Weser, a poem pretty much everybody in Bremen and surroundings has learned at school, I had never heard the song or poem quoted on this monument before. And referring the anything as “urdeutsch” (originally German) is a red flag for potentially problematic nationalist sentiment. Some googling revealed that my suspicions were justified and that the song Urdeutsche Weser dates from the Third Reich. Indeed, there is a crumbling Nazi parade ground once used for big propaganda events between Bückeburg and Grohnde downstream.
So why did some lines from a song dating from the Third Reich show up on a lovingly maintained monument at Lippoldsberg. The date might give a clue. For the monument was dedicated on August 11, 1963, almost to the date two years after the building of the Berlin Wall. And the former border between East and West Germany isn’t all that far away from this location, maybe another hundred kilometers to the East. And indeed, in the 1980s the River Weser suffered badly from pollution due to residues from the Potash mining in East Germany carried into the Weser from the river Werra. So it’s not all that surprising that people living not far from the East-West German border would search for a metaphor for unity in August 1963 and it’s not inconceivable that they might hit upon a song dating from the Nazi era that praises the union of the rivers Werra and Fulda (one of which actually has its spring in East Germany) as a metaphor for German unity in general.
However, what stuns me is that the monument remains so lovingly maintained.