June 1945 - from Falkenberg to Jüterbog

"In the evening, someone brings news of a train. The excitement gives us energy. Not long after, we stand on the bombed out platform. There are lots of refugees here. We wait for a long time. Finally, a train arrives. It is far too small for these masses! But our wanderings have made us tough. We are right at the front. All hell is let loose – I don’t know how else to describe it. I am just surprised to find myself, unharmed and with my two children, in a compartment. The pram rests between two benches. We have to sit with our legs pulled up. Two men make sure that no one else gets into our compartment. It is unbelievably full, and yet my heart sings as the train pulls off. […]"

We get up later than planned, and it is hot. The hotel guy gives us a bit of a look for getting in to breakfast later than we had said we would. The breakfast is amazing, lots of food, elaborately prepared.
18th July - Falkenberg to Jüterbog
"In the morning I write a few lines to my parents, and give them to the two soldiers. Perhaps they’ll manage to get through to Hamburg. In Jüterbog they actually manage to board another train to Berlin. People hang off the train, and sit on the roof, the bumpers, the steps.[…]"
"Jüterbog is refugee city – misery city. We are nearing midday. We still haven’t eaten, and crouch among thousands on the roofless station. It is terribly hot today. The sun burns poor weak Gerlinde’s head. I stand in front of the pram in an attempt to give her at least a little shade. I stand like this for hours, because a train could come at any moment. […]"
"As night comes, we all lie on the station floor. We don’t want to miss the train. And we are in luck. The train comes in the middle of the night. There is no light. What comes next is unbearable. People push, shove and batter each other. I hear Frau Bergner cry out for help. I can’t move from the spot – let the train leave without me. […] Then we hear that two more carriages are being attached to the train. This time we’re the first there. We get into second class carriages, and are finally allowed to sit in comfort. It gets full here too, but at least we’re in!"
"In the night we have to leave the train. But there’s already another one waiting. We get in, even though it won’t leave until morning. Again it gets very full. People curse our prams. Frau Neumann gives back as good as she gets. […] I’m sitting next to two young soldiers, Hamburgers. One has his arm in a cast, the other one has only recently has his arm amputated, and blood soaks through the bandages. They are both lovely to me. When one of the men is given a sausage sandwich, he gives it to Gerlinde. She can still eat. It’s gone in seconds. […]"

When we leave it is just after 9, and it is the first of three predicted very hot days, so we have been unsure how far to walk. We decided to walk on to the next train station, and then catch the train to our destination. The walk loops past the station of Falkenberg, which is where she would have come too. It is already far too hot to linger, so we take some photos and move on.
We have also decided to stop by a swimming lake on the way – a very good idea, as it turns out. We thoroughly enjoy our swim, and the resulting coolness.

The journey takes us through lots more forest, and we are so greatful for the shade.
When we finally, finally reach the train station, we meet some lovely people who are setting up a co-working project, as part of an initiative to re-invigorate, and perhaps re-populate these remote areas. They make us a coffee while we wait for our train and we chat. They are really the first people we have been fully able to connect with on this trip. They confirm that it is not unusual that the towns here are so empty, it has been this way for a long time, and it is a real problem.
We arrive later to Jüterbog, which at first appears also a bit grey and drab, but when we enter into the centre where our hotel is, we find it to be a stunningly beautiful old town, painted many beautiful shades of yellow.
We find an incredible war memorial here, dedicated to the fallen of both wars, but also standing as a reminder to all that follow not to repeat the terrors of the past. It's sombre but draws us in, and we both really like the atmosphere emanating from it.
It is not the first day now that we have experienced how different places can have vastly different feelings to them – without anyone saying a thing, a place can make you feel – as Steph says - welcome, or rejected – and today we have felt both in equal measure.
Tracks leading into Falkenberg station
Falkenberg station itself
Our first sign of approaching a village is always always the church steeple
When we emerge, it is mainly on to road. We pass by terribly smelling factory-like buildings, which signs tell us are actually housing pigs. No windows, and row on row of buildings. Terrible places – this town announces itself to us with a darkness.

The atmosphere is dark and it feels dangerous around here, like we might be pulled into its’ web. We move through as quickly as we possibly can, and on to the connecting village. Here, an eerie silence meets us, we don’t meet a single person or dog – which until now have greeted us in every village, and nearly every shutter is up.

Outside the houses are masked straw figures, dressed up holding beers and playing out macabre every day scenes. Because of the darkness we have felt all the way through this place, we make haste to rapidly exit this place, and get to a place that is populated.