Letter from Europe

Walking with friends

Issue no. 2016/20

Picture above: The former monastery at Chorin in Brandenburg is a fine example of Brick Gothic architecture, made all the better by its serene setting (photo © hidden europe).

Summary

Summer is slipping into autumn and the leaves in forests around Berlin are already falling. We walked through mixed woodland pondering the sounds and smells of beech, oak, hazel and pine. Before long, we came to Chorin where the remarkable red-brick ruins of a 13th-century monastery are a reminder that there is more than just nature in this sparsely populated region of rural Brandenburg.

Dear fellow travellers

The four of us walked slowly through the forest. We all agreed that nothing quite matches the crackle and crunch of crisp, dry leaves underfoot.

Summer is slipping into autumn and the leaves in forests around Berlin are already falling. We walked through mixed woodland pondering the sounds and smells of beech, oak, hazel and pine. We cut past carrs where beavers, otter and fire-bellied toads make their homes. We saw a sedge of cranes, but not a glimpse of the eagles that we've seen on previous visits to the area.

Before long, we came to Chorin where the remarkable red-brick ruins of a 13th-century monastery are a reminder that there is more than just nature in this sparsely populated region of rural Brandenburg. The Cistercian monastery at Chorin recalls a period when German settlers were moving east to colonise Slavic lands. The Cistercian foundation at Lehnin (well west of Berlin) was founded in the closing years of the 12th century. In 1260, a portion of the thriving Lehnin community left their church and moved 100 kilometres north-east, settling eventually at Chorin. So it's no surprise that the architecture at Chorin recalls the Brick Gothic style of the mother church at Lehnin, but Chorin benefits particularly from its graceful setting in undulating terrain with lakes and forests aplenty.

There is something special about walking with friends, particularly when they have a sense of landscape and history.

There is something special about walking with friends, particularly when they have a sense of landscape and history. On Sunday, we all walked, talking about love and life, about families and places we have been and places we might like to go. Yet there are occasions when the beauty of the moment eclipses all conversation. And that's what happened on Sunday, for the country around Chorin is really special at this time of year.

There are those who argue that walking is essentially a solitary activity. The essayist and critic William Hazlitt favoured walking alone because he wanted the ideas generated by a walk to "float like the down of the thistle" rather than seeing them entangled in conversation. And Hazlitt wasn't at all keen at being asked to interpret "the book of nature" for the benefit of fellow walkers. But we beg to differ from Hazlitt. A walk may not be the place for the thorns and briars of intense debate, but it does produce its own special brand of conviviality. And sometimes that conviviality finds its fullest expression in a silence broken only by the crackle of leaves.

Chorin was beautiful. It is less than an hour from Berlin by train, and lies just west of the border with Poland. Our thanks to the friends who accompanied us to Chorin on Sunday.

Nicky Gardner and Susanne Kries
(editors, hidden europe magazine)

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