Day 1: Teufelssee – Wolfsburg
laundry is done at the lake, then a swim — itinerary changed — past nightings under the open sky are recalled — I dip into the Havel and sprawl on the sand — arrival to Wolfsburg, the richest city in Germany oozes money from the ground — a fare dodger is discovered and tossed out
I woke up at seven. My dreams were army themed. Sunshine broke through the tree trunks and branches. I killed a little tick on my mattress; I first thought it was a spider, but it was six legged and looked like a tick. I later detached some off my skin. I did some vlogging, some fertilizing, and took a walk to the lake. At a discrete corner I washed the pissed Lidl bag and towel with lake water and bar soap, then continued to the lawn. There were more than a few people there already, tiny groups of elders, probably retired, and a few solitary youngsters, students or on vacation. I am amused that in Teufelssee it is the swimsuited bathers rather than the naked ones which strike me as ridiculous, as if they have something precious to hide or be ashamed of. I spread my towel to dry on the grass and went for a swim while my power bank recharged my phone.
When I had settled on Teufelssee as my first destination, I imagined I'd continue directly to Magdeburg. On location I changed my plans: I figured Grunewald was as good as Magdeburg's countryside, that it made little difference whether I hiked there or yonder, and accordingly decided to march towards Potsdam and take the train from there. Beside, I joked tastelessly with myself, it would be good to familiarize myself with the nature around Berlin in case one day the Nazis came to power again. Zeno's Achilles who has to go halfway and thus never reaches anywhere came to mind.
I started along Teltower Weg, the southern continuation of Alte Spandauer Poststraße. The dry resplendent path stretched forward, trees rose from either side, a minute had scarcely passed before I wondered why I was there and why I was doing it. I began imagining how it would have been had I been walking with the Argentinians; who strode next to me and what we talked about. I recalled a time I went hiking with my master program's classmates. For most of the hike I trailed far behind the group, indulging in the vistas that I felt the others were not appreciative of enough. Like Kierkegaard's ‘Do it or do not do it, you'll regret either.’
I let it tentatively be, let my thoughts roam. Not half an hour into my walk, at 10:17, I began audio logging, and my experience significantly changed. Why and how? From being meaningless my experience turned meaningful, because now I communicated, even if with an absent, even if with a completely imaginary and indistinct other? Words have meaning, so articulating them is meaningful?
The night at Teufelssee was not the first whereat I slept thus in nature, but it was the first time that it was done on purpose, that is willingly and with preparation. I had had my experience of tent overnighting in the army, done unwillingly; none of the locations felt exactly “nature,” but it was nature enough to adopt the trick of stretching socks to block creatures from entering shoes by morning. And there was another time where I slept in the forest somewhat willingly but without preparation. In October 2015 I was with a friend, Norann, in Prague. She suggested a day trip: we take the train to Karlštejn and walk through the forest to the next station. We arrived around 14:00, crossed the road bridge to Karlštejn castle, looked around its inner court. She was not as fascinated by it. She wanted to start the trail, but first to go to the toilet. I don't remember our exact exchange, only the impression I was left with: that she would start the trail and that I would catch up with her once I was done with the castle. Or did I just suggest that we would meet at the castle's gate? I waited for her a while there. Maybe it was so: since she hadn't appeared long after I expected her to have been done with the bathroom, I assumed she had started the trail, so I started after her. I expected to overtake her soon enough, as for some days she had been lame. But taking a turn and another one and failing to see her, or anybody else for that matter, I grew surprised that she could move so fast with her troubled knee and somewhat angry that instead of enjoying the landscape I was in a hurry to overtake her. So I decided to slow down, enjoy what I stumbled upon, certain that I'd catch up eventually, or, perhaps, now thinking that she's the one who might be behind, she would catch up with me, staring at a pond, some little houses, taking photos of abandoned oddities along the way with an actual digital camera. Telecommunication between us was out. I'm not sure what was the issue: perhaps there was bad reception. Or my battery was running low. This was before the law which united the entire EU as a more or less single tariff zone was passed, hers was probably a US number, and as I used a prepaid card my capacity for texts and calls was limited so at least at first I hesitated to use the phone. I did try calling her and sent her an SMS. That I had a shitty phone didn't help. My beloved Sony Erickson had been “upgraded” while I was in scholastic absentia in the US, by my parents, when they switched our phone provider, to a piece of garbage in the uncanny valley between old school phones and smart ones. It had a touch screen that could drive one mad, and though it deserved the treatment I had once unjustly given to the Erickson, it wouldn't have survived it.
I can't help but being reminded by the above of an attitude of a friend of mine. The speed at which I now found what I sought, googling ‘contemporary stories phones,’ suggests he was not the only person who had felt this way. I quote from the first search hit, titled “How Do Writers Deal With Phones In Fiction?”:
Phones have not been good for fiction. Phones counteract every storytelling guideline.
Throw your character into peril, we’re told.
Endanger their very lives, we’re told.
But if this character has a phone, or should have a phone, the audience asks, “Why don’t they just…?” and that is about the last thing you want your audience to ask.
As others have said, the phone shouldn’t solve the problem. In this way phones are like magic. Even before mobile phones existed writers knew that magic shouldn’t solve the problem.
To put it most kindly, this is a misguided attitude, one that leads its subscribers to write generic works, art imitating art instead of life. Of course, had Romeo and Juliet had phones they could have avoided taking their respective poisons, avoided suicide, death. But it's far from being the case that all of humanity's problems have been solved with mobile phones, people not answering calls or texts notwithstanding. Of course ‘the phone shouldn’t solve the problem,’ but what it means is not that phones should be got ridden of, but that one should write about problems that cannot be solved by phones, or access to WiFi for that matter.
After a while I surely knew that Norann was not ahead of me, but every time I considered walking back —by then a considerable distance— doubt struck me, suggesting that she might indeed be just a ridge away. The ambulatory equivalent of that ever broken nocturnal promise that the next scroll would be the last. What happened next, from the long perspective of time, is inexplicable. I was aware that the day was not endless. The sun would set around 18:00. I found myself at an already visited place, I had walked a circle. I couldn't make headway on the trail. This, at least, could be attributed to my dismal sense of geographical orientation. But at some point, too, I think, I was trying to walk all the way back to the original train station and to the next one, not at the same time, but interchangeably, committed to neither. I speculate that this was not just incidental, but a characteristic of mine. So, too, with my writing, the so called creative writing which is addressed to nobody in particular: whenever I approach my destination, instead of rushing forward, I veer along another dimension, keeping myself wandering, never reaching and thus never finishing.
I'll make a confession: two years earlier I heard from a flatmate about a gal who used to lie to her parents, telling them that she was going to sleep over at her friends when really she went over to camp in the woods by herself. This short account made a strong impression, made me want to do that too, but I knew I'd never gather the nerve, as it were, to really do it.
The possibility that I might not get out of the forest before sunset crossed my mind. Indeed, I had entertained it. To all external, or self-reflective, appearances, I was trying to find my way out, but I think I was, secretly, hoping to get struck.
It doesn't matter whether I had thought it was a good idea or not. The now recognized pattern of behaviour where I continue mulling over matters after I have essentially decided on a course of action, wasting time for nothing, led me to decide, with questionable success, to act before I reach a sense of full confidence. There were many times in which I had spent so much time thinking over things that I missed the opportunity to act. At the forest around Karlštejn the opposite was true. Darkness fell upon the world in a sudden manner that is observed by city dwellers as myself only on occasions of a picnic and the like, making the decision for me. It caught me on a densely wooded slope. I sat down and decided, here I sleep.
I didn't fall asleep, not there. I continued to look for a more suitable place to lay down on. Two hours into the darkness I supped on the grass. I had two slices of bread and a tin of herring in sauce, purchased at a branch of the beloved German supermarket chain Lidl, with a Czech peculiarity in the form of signs that admonished that ‘theft doesn't pay.’ I had no water with me, only a bottle of plum wine, purchased jointly with Norann at a store whose gimmick was selling their liquors by the volume, one had to bring one's own vessels or buy off the offered glassware. This then was like in old grog days, before the West had developed a water boiling tea drinking culture, when one had to drink alcohol if he wasn't keen on dysentery or cholera. When I turned on the torch to get sight of my supper, I discovered a slug at the top of the bottle, reaching yet higher. Curious animals. I weighted whether drinking would be to my benefit or not, thinking that alcohol had a dehydrating effect, and drank.
It was a restless night. Beside not having any camping equipment, I was scarcely dressed for sleeping on the ground. If we are to believe the historical almanacs, it was a steady 10° throughout the night. I was wearing but a little over-sized but soft sweater, from Goodwill or Salvation Army or some other American thrift store, over a shirt I had inherited from my father who had bought it on a then rare outing abroad, on a visit to Czechoslovakia. I tried various locations and positions. The phone was off to save its last battery; in lieu of a clock I took photos, black, to get their time-stamp. Exasperated at forcing sleep upon me, I began reading Stoner, which I had with me just in case (and here was a case), under the torch's light. I didn't think I was in any real danger, but thoughts about death came to me. I strode around to pass the time, or to get warm, my vision having adjusted to the darkness, thinking about how I should be better towards my parents, wondering if my mom was not lonely, having moved to a foreign speaking country at the age of 39, my parents' Russian rather rich social circle having fallen apart and vanished after some drama, speaking Hebrew well enough to get by but perhaps not enough to make Israeli friends, or due to lack of opportunity, working full time and housewiving, not holding a driving license, and so on.
I was on the move, passing through bushery, when color returned to the world at an instant. The thick vegetation ended and opened to an expanse of grass. I espied a couple of large antlered stags. I started towards a few houses lining a road in the distance. I took a selfie, as it was not yet called those days, to gauge how haggard I looked before I interacted with anybody. Looking at it now I think I did not look so bad. My hair was loose, for some reason. Perhaps I took the hair band off before sleep and lost it in the dark. The left curl of my moustache was frayed. At the far end of a large fenced yard, perhaps a farm though I don't remember what it enclosed, was a man. He came towards me. I wondered in what language to address him. Russian was closer to his native tongue than English but perhaps had a touch of foreign occupation to it. I tried both, though he talked to me back in English. I don't know what I asked for, if at all. I told him my story as briefly as I could. He took me into the house. He and his wife set me at the round kitchen table, served me breakfast, tea and some spread slices. He himself had to drive to work. I don't remember what happened with the wife, but I remember being left alone, surprised at the trust they put in a stranger that had walked out of the woods.
I was given directions towards a larger road where I started hitching a hike. The canopies were beautiful in their sun shining green. The first passing car picked me up. The driver, a young and cheerful man, was alone. His final destination was, luckily but not oddly, Prague. But he had a matter to take care of first. A goat of his since recently girlfriend had flown the coop, not for the first nor second time. He was on the way to her village to help retrieve it. He stopped at a white dusty street. I used the bathroom, large but sparse, where some decoration made me smile. Perhaps it was one of those toilets with a colorful seat or lid, or a wooden plate hanging on the wall with a drawing of a flower and a feel good message in English. I waited outside the car, had an interaction with a man on the street. The guy returned, still cheerful and talkative, and we drove on. He spoke English perfectly, and on the way I told him of my life, he told me of his. We spoke about the Eastern Block and the Soviet Union. We didn't lack for discussion.
When I entered the large underroof dormitory room of the hostel we stayed in Norann was sitting on her bed folding clothes. I told her of what I had gone through. She told me she had planned to be angry at me, but now forgave me. I omitted the part about half wanting to be stuck overnight in the woods. Sorry Norann. That was not cool at all.
I broke off the Weg south-westwards until Vier Eichen, yet another dirt path. The air was pregnant with the smell of hot, dry grass. I reneged on my plan to go directly to Potsdam, attracted instead by the idea of water and swimming, and went westwards along Vier Eichen until the Havel, where I immediately came upon a sandy beach. As the section was small and I had passed a misleading(?) sign that declared the area private, I was made to feel —undoubtedly it was not the case— that everyone there knew each other and that I was an intruder. I came into the beach on the one end, strode awkwardly through the sand to the other, and continued along the Havelchaussee, southwards along the coast. This was a nicely asphalted road with a sidewalk interspersed regularly with sheltered bus stops. On my right little trees mostly obstructed the view of the water, on the left greenery rose abruptly on a slope at the road's edge. I'm looking now at the road on Google Street View, the photos have been taken this July, and am struck by their discrepancy with my recollections. Is this the most regular kind of forgetting, or have my reminiscences warped them? For as I walked there, my view brought to mind others. First, imagery of Japan, where I have never been, perhaps drawn from movies, of roads through mountainous areas, a wooded forest rising on the side, where stony stairs ascended, perhaps to a shrine. Second, living memory of a road between Maryland and DC, on a trip to a political conference at the capital with a J Street delegation of schoolmates during my bachelor's study: a road that passed between seemingly endless trees, vibrant green in the sun.
On the way, audio logging, I mused over an idea of asynchronous travelling: two persons, or more, who each travel alone, at different times, would make audio recordings for each other. The second person listens to the first's recording on their own trip and records their answer & new impressions. And so back and forth. So was the loneliness of my venture. I was mildly alarmed that I was down to one water bottle and comforted myself with the thought that I had cherry tomatoes ‘with moisture in them’ with me.
I was navigating with GPS and an Open Street Maps app, which beside relying on downloaded rather than real-time fetched maps by default, and beside various privacy concerning advantages over the Google equivalent, provided better details of non-urban areas. An hour and a half after Teufelssee, I reached the promised dun colored strip of Große Steinlanke beach (which, all being said, is not named on Open Street Maps). A rather vast expanse of shabby grass ended in a thicket, a short gap gave access to the water before which a man read supine and a woman sat, both in swimwear and on the same blanket. I approached, a little disappointed. Around the spot were the charcoaly remains of a bonfire, the water seemed less than limpid too. I asked them if they knew if one could swim there. They said yes. I shortly compromised with the world, did as much as put down my backpack, but referred to the map.
I picked up my backpack, wished them a good day, and returned to the grey gravel path. Just around a bend of the thicket a long stretch of a populated beach revealed itself. I continued, either guided by the intuitive sense of proper human dispersal in a space, the demostatic equivalent of Boyle's Law, or seeking a place off the sand to sit down on. The shotgun seat rider inside a natural reserves services van nodded in gratitude after I sidestepped to let them pass. I settled down on a thick tree trunk. Before me Estonia's flag, a variation with two shades of blue: the sky; little adults and children pinned on the navy blue, standing on the long shallow water; a woman, speaking on her phone, sat on the pale sand before me. I undressed and walked to the water. The border of the water accumulated scum, thin enough to step over. It was smelly by the shore.
After my short dip I returned to the beach with The Crying of, lying down between the woman and the water, a little diagonally to avoid being on the nose. Earlier I had planned to pass over the sand with as little involvement as I could manage, but the pressure of my feet against sand, a touch I had not felt since many years, was nothing less than amazing. I sprawled down with my whole body over the sand, hot on top and cool just beneath. As if appropriately, I was in the book at that beachy scene on Lake Inverarity. Something provoked a bit of an unusual excitement and I flipped to a prone position. The woman's young and unfamiliarly long haired dachshund ran over to eat my book and lick my face, unheeding his mistress's admonishing. I indulged in the contact, kissed the dog back, asked the woman if it was indeed a dachshund. I told her how we had had a dachshund when I was born, that she had given birth just at the same time, that she was as protective of me as one of her own, that there were photos of me, a baby, among the puppies. It received no response. I thought maybe I had mangled my German, or that I related the story such that it lacked a punch, that she didn't see the point of it, an unfinished story. Perhaps she just didn't feel like chatting.
My next goal was to catch the train from S Wannsee to Magdeburg, which left regularly but at long intervals, once or twice an hour. I preferred walking over taking the bus, and being the irreparable arrant optimizer I calculated when I should be leaving to catch the train — though, being a bit older and wiser, I padded it with what I thought was a generous twenty minutes margin. After my reading I went for another dip to wash the sand, tried to exit the water with as little sand on my feet and flipflops, dressed, got back into my shoes. Needless to say, it happened behind schedule, and as soon as I began striding again a panic passed through me that I had forgotten what my plan was, I thought there was a bus involved after all. As it was, I walked to the S Nikolassee station, where I took the train to the next station. I arrived to S Wannsee late but, despite the Germans' reputation, my train was even later, not for the last time on this trip, God bless.
∗ ❦ ∗
In college was a German girl in my year who had caught my eye already on the first week. I befriended her, if I'm not mistaken, through my then girlfriend. We started calling her, sooner or later, Schatzi. She made my girlfriend a plush doll squid. I expressed jealousy one way or another, and she kindly made me a red plush frog whom I named Humbertus Frosch. She hadn't stayed with us throughout college. On our first year she developed appendicitis. She wished to fly immediately to be operated in Germany, but the doctors insistently discouraged her so she let herself be operated in the US of A. In my memory the bill was six figured, but that can't be right, can it? But certainly at least five. She mentioned other reasons for quitting Bard, referring to the social environment, but I've always imagined, whether she had mentioned it or not, that the bill was devastating enough to make her want to leave the country, despite the financial help our school eventually offered her. We stayed in contact, after my graduation she and a friend of hers stayed over with me at my parents' place during their trip in Israel, and once, the first and last time I saw her after moving into Berlin, I had dinner at her place. Her girlfriend, now long an ex, with which she had had a tumultuous relationship, was from Magdeburg, to which I arrived at 15:00, and that was all that this place had brought to my mind for many years, the home of Schatzi's girlfriend. And even that was not quite true, since her girlfriend was from Marburg and not Magdeburg, and so it was to my surprise, as I discovered just before the trip, that it was not some small town, but the capital of Saxony-Anhalt, one state over to the West from the Berlin-surrounding state of Brandenburg. Not a huge capital, merely over 200 thousand residents, but still.
The pedestrian zone before the Magdeburg central station was expansive, quiet and empty. Two trams came in through from both directions, halting at the stop. Looking back I doubt these have anything to do with thirty years ago, but at that moment they struck me as having a touch of the GDR; their bottom and a strip on a roof was colored Volkspolizei —the East German police force— green, and they had a different design, narrower than the Berlin trams as if their rails conferred to a different standard, though indeed the trams in Berlin also existed only in the east, now slowly expanding westwards. Wide, sunny urban open spaces around the station, segmented by hard shadows, brought the paintings of de Chirico to mind. Saxon policemen and –women passed through, their uniform different from the Berlin police's. My foreimage of the central station block as a busy commercial hub was disillusioned, and so my wish for a bottle of Club-Mate became my first quest. A fleeting concern that Club-Mate was a Berlin thing was followed by the worry that Magdeburg might not have Spätis, these Berlin late-night kiosks, though, of course, it was arvo.
Walking east in the direction of the old city/ downtown, the Maritim Hotel greeted me. At its front was a row of flags: from left to right these were of the Maritim Hotel, blue Hershey kisses and lettering on a white background; the EU flag, a ring of golden stars against blue; the paleolithic tricolor of the German flag; the yellow|black flag of Saxony-Anhalt, with the coat of arms showing a bear crossing the Iron Curtain to the free world; and the red|green flag of Magdeburg, with a coat of arms showing Magda —I missaw it as a monk— waving the bear goodbye, her eyes moist; and, finally, the Maritim flag again, to underscore its importance in the current world order.
I quickly realized that more than hiking I liked flaneuring: walking idly through manmade landscapes. Whereas walking alone in Grunewald felt pointless, streets offered constant intrigue. Magdeburg, being originally my planned first destination, was the only location along my journey for which I had made investigations beforehand for sights, and without intending it I came upon a frequently mentioned building, Hundertwasser's Green Citadel. I remembered nothing of the name and can attest now that that its name is not a deceit like Greenland's can be seen on areal photos which show its rooftop gardens; the building itself is pink, and it overall appealed to my philistine taste in aesthetics. I wish I had the mind to enter. Instead, I went to a little kiosk across the sidewalk, the size of 12 elevators, manned by an old East Asian lady, and obtained my Club-Mate.
I reached a sculpture garden, a little park next to a white minster with metal statues standing and sitting around. At the middle of the park were ruins, the base outline of walls only, on which I first rested before moving against one of the trees that grew around it, and had my brekker of nuts, some dried figs and cheese. A group of not-ladybugs huddled inside a cleft in the bark, perhaps escaping the heat; insects are cold-blooded, so to speak, after all. I got glances from the few people hanging around the park, making me feel like a homeless vagabond. A sign at the roof corner of a building announced the offices of “CDU /// die Sachsen-Anhalt Partei.” On the map I see that the street is called "Gouvernementsberg", an odd sort of name. The French word for government + German mountain. Apparently there had been the Magdeburg governmental buildings, destroyed during WWII. As if the mountain was the remaining pile of bricks. An AfD, Alternative für Deutschland —a right-wing populist party— van passed through the winding road, the slogan Unsere Heimat, ‘our homeland,’ on it. Outside news stories and in the form of pre-elections placards mounted on street poles high up beyond anybody's even effortful reach, I had never before encountered any agency of AfD.
The adjacent art museum was closed. A plate with a golden postal bugle on it at the museum's corner made me think of The Crying Of I was reading. At a distance I saw some kind of water attraction; on the map it was marked as the square of the Magdeburg Cathedral. I went there.
Lined on the square floor were fixtures that jetted water, each creating an arc and together a tunnel, turning on and off at various patterns. A hilarity of children ran under through. I wanted to do so as well, but couldn't summon the shamelessness; it was hot, perhaps I was thirsty. It took me a while to resolve to go into the cathedral. Perhaps also being Jew-ish, I found it somewhat inappropriate to enter a house of worship just to look around. I bought time by reading a board at the square which described the excavation work of the multiple layers of catacombs constructed over the centuries; awkwardly, since the board stood above a bench occupied by two women.
The woman at the cathedral's desk suggested I left my backpack there. Her apologetic explanation made me feel like her motivation stemmed from a German sense of order than from a wish to assist, yet I appreciated the relief nonetheless. The interior reminded me of the Parisian Sacré-Coeur, perhaps because many cathedrals share their basic design and I hadn't seen enough to tell stylistic differences. Purportedly the artistic highlight was the sculptures of the “Ten Virgins.” These had been invited to a wedding; the five wise ones came ready, the foolish five had to first obtain oil for their lamps, arrived late and were not admitted. Though not the only lulzy part of the description in Wikipedia, I bring you merely this: ‘The unknown artist masterfully expresses the emotions in the faces and the body languages of the girls, showing a much more realistic expression than what was common in art around that time.’ On location, uneducated, I understood the moral of the sculptures the other way around: the crying “foolish” virgins showed meek piety, while the rest stood haughtily tall with smirks full of malice pasted on their stony faces. I was much more impressed by the wooden high relief like Ernst Barlach's sculpture, the 1929 Magdeburger Ehrenmal. Expressing the anguish of WWI, the sculpture, commissioned by the Free State of Prussia, criticized by the parishioners at its inauguration, supposedly because it failed to show German heroism, was impounded in the Berlin National Gallery between 1934 and 1955, after which it was returned to the cathedral. A man staring at the art pieces, walked around and talked out loud to himself. I looked but avoided catching his eye. Along the wall by the reception desk were information posters with various donation boxes such as to finance the recasting of the belfry bells (much of the cathedral was destroyed during the war).
Before entering the cathedral I had looked up Magdeburg attractions. At least the Jahrtausendturm seemed worth a visit, but was a little out of my way. I wandered in search for water, eventually directing myself towards a branch, a familiar German supermarket chain, on the map. On the way was a park, a grass lawn sloping down from a row of apartment buildings. There's a Hebrew slur Ars, derived from the Arabic Arts meaning shepherd, and then figuratively(?) pimp, a villain. The Hebrew ars evokes young Mizrahi men of a delinquent character with a proclivity towards verbal and physical violence, poor education. There's a stereotypical picture in my mind of a bunch of them sitting on the metal railing at the edge of a sidewalk,
popping sunflower seeds, catcalling and accosting passersby. Along the corner of the park was a concrete ramp on whose railing a group of young women sat chatting, bringing that picture to mind.
In Rewe I bought a milked coffee drink in a bottle, three large bottles of water and butter. The dyed red hair and medusa pierced cashier was cheerful. I settled on the grass, refilled my hiking bottles, and had lunch after a nap: nuts again and, to alienate my readers, butter, straight from the foil. I recall a picture a friend of mine posted a decade ago of chocolate tablet pieces next to a brick of butter with the caption “the perfect croissant.” I carved 150g with my Swiss knife and ate it sheepishly, hoping it looked like a more common dairy food from a distance. An East Asian woman with a wide hat and a big side bag came to collect bottles. Two of mine were empty. Lack of spontaneity —I had planned to return to Rewe to deposit them— and atavistic thrifty habits nurtured for three decades made me refuse. I later felt ashamed of my miserliness, observed her as she approached a group yonder, three of which youngsters, Russian speaking and dressed up “cool,” had passed me earlier. I observed her as she made a round around the park, projecting disappointment, hoping she would pass me by again. I thought of getting up to her, but didn't. Perhaps I thought it would disclose my rejection had stemmed merely from my poor character.
On the concrete pedestal of a tree were big doodles, thick marker graffiti made with the marked hand of a child, hungry Pacman in a turning tunnel lined with pellets, Pacman ghost or jellyfish with eyes, a dolphin, a submarine/ ship, flower cabbage and much abstract forms, which brightened my spirits. Three metal chairs, passing for a bench, occupied by young women, two in what looked like cheerleader uniform, red sleeveless and bellyless shirt and red shorts or skirt, sat before a basinless fountain, palmlike faggot of metal tubes, under whose shower two Sub-Saharan toddlers ran in and out. Magdeburg seemed to love fountains. I deposited the bottles, got another coffee and made my way towards the train station. Seeing groups sitting on benches, on parks' grass, I noted that there was a strong homogeneity within and distinction between them. It made me think of high-school, or of some conceptual idea of it: the freaks, the geeks, the whatever-heads, were each hanging within their own. And everyone ate ice-cream. I couldn't say, perhaps it was also the case in Berlin and I had simply not noticed it all these years, but I had the feeling that in Berlin there was more variety within the groups and less between them, or perhaps it was that people wore less blatantly stereotypical attire.
My train to Wolfsburg was at the platform when I arrived around 19:00, but there was still time until its departue. ‘Why Wolfsburg?’ you are asking. Well, originally I had planned to travel next to Braunschweig, for no other reason than that its name sounded familiar —though that might at all be due to the Canadian and the New Jersian Brunswicks— and that it was on my way westward. Looking up I saw no regional trains to Braunschweig but I did see one to Wolfsburg, and I gladly changed my itinerary after reading about it. This was the town with the highest GDP per capita in Germany, and I was curious to take a look at the town with the highest GDP per capita in Germany coming from a capital that uniquely lowered its country's per capita GDP and which received the comment of a Korean subletting flatmate who had lived some years in Munich that it ‘felt a little ghetto;’ as well as the more famous comment, made by its then mayor Klaus Wowereit, Arm, aber Sexy — ‘poor, but sexy.’
The platform was outdoors. I took a leak at the bushery behind a depot container. The benches were occupied so I went across, hopeful, towards the parallel platform, into which a train to Leipzig, the electronic board announced, was coming, though there were no takers. The metal seats were empty, but as the sun was already angling down, the shadow of the cantilevered roof was cast wholly off, hiding a lawn between the platforms ––and, of course, a fountain in its midst–– from that great mighty star, upon which two arriving and friendly looking young men settled, inspiring what had not yet occurred to me. As a Berliner I was more often than not glad to profit from sunlight, but not that summer. Lying down on the grass, gazing at the sky, watching a swallow, a bird I had never noticed in Berlin, I continued recording my audio log, until a fourth guy, civilian but in camouflagy clothing, settled at a distance that defied all rules of proper dispersion from me, making me feel less comfortable talking into my phone. He began smoking a joint, perhaps he had hoped for an interaction.
Far cry from a completionist’s wandering
On the train I stood at the bike area, nested my phone on a clothing hook and charged it and my power banks. I had already realized that the GPS, which was turned on to trace my movement on the map more than to find my way, was the major source of the battery drainage, but I insisted on carrying through with that perhaps little gimmick to go with my accounts.
It was not crowded in the train, but a little tight; my big bagpack leaned against a pole, I was standing next to three layers of parallelly parked bicycles, behind which were the outlets, at foot level, I used for charging. I passed the cables behind the railing, keeping them as close as possible to the wall, aware of the precariousness of the arrangement: when I had ordered from China my 66W chargers, I went regrettably for the cheaper deal of American plugs + American>European adapters, out of which the former ever slipped out, instead of chargers with European plugs.
The most persistent copresence within my car was a group of two male adults and a boy, at least the former two dressed in a way that showed they were serious about their bike riding, that they didn't bike in order to get somewhere but got somewhere in order to bike. During a stop I found myself at the eye of a storm. One of the chargers did slip and fall on the ground now when a man was liberating his bike before his stop. The boy came to hold onto one of the other bikes —which belonged neither to him nor to any of his company, as I would understand later— first seemingly to assist the man, then to take care of the bike. The boy made a comment about how expensive that bike, which he was holding, was, as if to suggest the man had been uncareful in his handling. Some sort of row developed, sharp words were used, the most agitated person was the one getting off. A security woman got into the car at the stop, perhaps coincidentally; I can't remember if it was before or after the guy had left. When he was outside, however, whiling at the platform where another man met him, he shouted words back through the door. Security people came to him. The train stayed at the station for a few minutes; I suppose it was scheduled but at that moment it felt like it had been retained due to this incident, promoting the feeling of a thing unsettled. Inside the train women talked about it with the security woman, the boy and the fatherly looking figures talked about it within themselves. Calmly. Curious, the train still standing, I turned to a third party for an explanation. I either misunderstood or I understood but the thing seemed such a trifle that it didn't stick with me. Crappy story. Much ado about nothing. Ado, and yet tranquility persisted, kept by German cool public detachment and the dreamlike beautiful twilit landscapes of the fare. The little dramas of life.
∗ ❦ ∗
I arrived to Wolfsburg, Lower Saxony at 20:45, behind my own schedule. The sun was dipping into the horizon, casting a golden light upon the brutalist station walls, the ground already in shadow. Passing through the empty station I saw fenced polygonally arranged rack frames from which Mercedes and Volkswagen hubcaps hung, seeming like an odd exhibition. Looking now at the photo I took, I notice on another rack two rows of hanging cowbells, on another a metal sheet. I suppose it was used for a repercussion performance.
On the other side of the station, my Jewish nose caught whiff of a bunch of coins on the ground, as many as I had ever found on one time, and almost as much in value as I had just given as alms to a beggar in Magdeburg, two and two scores cents. Someone unloading weight, I supposed. That's the highest GDP per capita in the country for you. At a short beyond stood a factory, ideally shaped like the emoji, with a huge Volkswagen logo on it.
Wolfsburg was a planned city, established in 1938 as the residency of the factory's workers, today the biggest car plant in the world and the major source of the high delta wealth of the population. There had been since at least the 13th century a castle there, the Schloss Wolfsburg, which answered my wonder that a 20th century established city would receive such a name, “Wolves City,” deriving really from the von Bartensleben's coat of arms's charge, a wolf leaping over two sheaves (so much for a dare).
After I had returned from my summer trip I went to a birthday party where the laureate's boyfriend, who happened to be working for Volkswagen as a software developer, told me he had found the city to be very ugly. He mentioned things I had missed as I read about it in Magdeburg: that it was built by the Nazis and used to manufacture military equipment, that the Arbeitsdorf forced labor concentration camp operated there. Indeed, until the end of the war the city was called Stadt des KdF-Wagens bei Fallersleben, “The KdF-cars City by Fallersleben” where KdF stands for Kraft durch Freude, “Strength through Joy,” an association subordinate to the DAF, the German Labour Front. Bequeaths the name "Wolfsburg" a malicious tone. To me the city looked both indeed rich and planned: modernist, spacious, the streets were clean — I immediately understood the ghetto comment. A wide pedestrian avenue cut through the city, lined with shops, all then closed. It was a Wednesday, and rather late, but the emptiness seemed extreme in comparison to Berlin, like it belonged to a city of responsible persons who sat with their families at home, early to bed and early to rise. Many of the few encountered pedestrians spoke some sort of Arabic, and it gave me the impression, based on the languages spoken on the street, that Magdeburg received Ukrainian refugees, Wolfsburg ones from the Middle East. Wars everywhere, just not here.
I made my way south on the avenue, Porschestraße. A man slept outside the doors of a Deutsche Bank. A shop dedicated to gummy bears. Two cleared large chessboards on the pavement, on the one side white benches, one occupied by an old man behind his wheeled walker, a hotel-luggage-like wheeled-rack loaded with toddler-sized pieces between them; on the other side a hedgerow and two trees in a pool of flower beds. A building-high poster over the facade of the art Museum for the “Empowerment” exhibition, a black woman with a nose ring (I would later see many men in Wolfsburg with the same piercing), her hair shaped, antler-like, into the contours of strong muscle flexing arms. I went beyond the end of the avenue. Lawns on the flanks, stridden by crows that were not gray like in Berlin but black. When I passed the globe of the planetarium the sky still had some brightness to it, the lit street lights looked dim, but when I reached the woods beyond the theaters behind it, night. On a bench by the entry sat a man and a woman, I wondered what they wondered seeing me there, walking enthusiastically into the darkness with a large backpack.
I walked towards the center of the darker green on my Open Streets map, designated “Klieverhagen” though as far as I can tell it's but the name of a nearby street; from that point off the path as far as what seemed —or rather intuited, for there was little light to see by— to be far enough, but not too far that it neared a path on the other side. I felt assured that nobody would come anywhere near anymore, but imagined that the rich maintained a healthy life style and jogged early in the morning.
I recalled one professor Paul Freedman, citing the historian Christopher Wickham and his —referring to the period of the Roman Empire's fall— somewhat euphemistic ‘radical material simplification.’ My own simplification was progress rather than decline and did not usher in a reduction in living standards. I took advantage of the knowledge acquired the previous night that the mantle of my mosquito net was indeed more of a cloak than a mitre, meaning that its side was cleft into two flaps for lateral entry. I clipped off the bigger branches of a bough that hovered relatively low above flat ground and dressed the net thereover —instead of hanging it vertically down the hook— such that the bough was inside my “tent,” a girder of nature, giving it a laundry iron shape. It took me a little less than half an hour to set up, even in the dark, an improvement over the previous night. I dined off my bento box: cherry tomatoes, feta cheese and stuffed olives salad, with pieces of kashkaval and cambozola (whose former occupancy in the bag would still smell even after two washes) on the side. Fortunately, the spring onions were stored within a flat closed off section of the bento box. These, like all the spring onions I purchase, had been kept with water inside an open jar at my garden in Moabit, where they grew at to me surprising speed. It had happened already a couple of times at home that as I cut the spring onions a centipede escaped out of one of the green straws. I recall a joke: -‘what's worse than a worm in an apple?’ ‘Half a worm in an apple!’ I don't know what it is about spring onions, nor can begin to fathom how they manage to get there. Even if I suppose that the moat is breached, as it were, when one of the onion greens leans against the side of the jar over which the centipedes could crawl up (on smooth glass!) and into the truncated and thus open stalk, the jar itself stood on the railing at the top of a short flight of metal stairs, quite a distance from the earth considering the centipedes' size. Even if they fancied onions, I can't imagine they could see nor smell them such that they would set themselves to ascend the coveted spire. Nor did they have anything to do around there otherwise, these individuals that lack the reconnaissance of the ants.
I recall the ancient theory —lasting up to the 1665 Redi experiment— of spontaneous generation which took maggots to emerge, ex nihilo like on the week of the world's creation, out of rotting meat. Perhaps while I assumed, naive to the cycle of life, that the centipedes crawled into my onions, in reality their respective eggs had always been there, ever since the supermarket, the fields? But this can't be true, can it? Unless centipedes inject their eggs through the tissue of the onions.
I doff my blue bucket hat and bow my head in humility. The jumping Portia spiders that observe and spin —metaphorically— elaborate hunting schemes, the Jewel Wasps that take brain control over cockroaches they then use to gestate their offspring in, the honey bees that communicate nectar deposits' direction and distance through a dance — the astounding amazingness of life shows itself at the tiniest scale our eyes can see, and neither starts nor ends there. That last centipede, shaken and out of breath, was already out the green when I uncovered the bento box's onion compartment. Perhaps seasick from the bumpy ride, his flight had been no recourse as the entire ocean was inside an impossible bottle, raging and inescapable. Go on, little fellow, my poor invertebrate Truman; I don't know what kind of resourcefulness or industry you are hiding behind your vicious visage, but I admit it is beyond me. I delivered it beyond the tent. As for the onions, while I was not deterred by a notion that the presence of that little predator tainted them, despite the saying that a lightning didn't strike twice I apprehended there might be some girlfriend still between the sheets. Nor did I shriek from the idea of eating invertebrates, a rather nice solution, as an aside, for growing protein with little so called carbon footprint, but I wanted to do so on my own terms. Good bye, spring onions. From dust to dust.
I watched an episode of Hora de Aventura on my phone and turned to sleep.
∗ ❦ ∗
☜ Previous Chapter
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for whatever reason, at the edge of the sidewalk in front of school gates in Israel is always a railing. I saw these also in Paris, inconsisently in Berin. What are they for? To stop pupils from rushing to the road?
The popular math program developed by John Saxon will remain available, and will not be discontinued. Many customers have asked us about the future of Saxon Math. We have good news to share with you.Is Saxon Math good for struggling students? ›
Saxon's mixed review does an outstanding job of building solid math skills over time. If your child struggles with a concept – no problem! It will be reviewed again, again, and again. The review also helps parents see what things the child is struggling with – as opposed to that memory loss falling through the cracks.What grade level is Saxon Math 7 6? ›
Saxon Math 7/6 is designed for students in Grade 6, or Grade 7 students who are struggling with math. Saxon Math teaches math with a spiral approach, which emphasizes incremental development of new material and continuous review of previously taught concepts.How long should Saxon Math take? ›
How Long Does Saxon Math Take Per Day? Per year? Per Day: Much of this answer depends on your kid, your household, and how you want to approach it. Saxon lessons can take anywhere from 45 minutes (in the elementary grades) to upwards of an hour and a half as the student moves forward.What are the hardest math curriculums? ›
What is the Hardest Math Class in High School? In most cases, you'll find that AP Calculus BC or IB Math HL is the most difficult math course your school offers. Note that AP Calculus BC covers the material in AP Calculus AB but also continues the curriculum, addressing more challenging and advanced concepts.Is Saxon Math below grade level? ›
Saxon Math Placement Guide
Saxon books are skill-level books, not grade-level books. It is essential that each student be placed in the text that meets his or her skill level.
Is Saxon Math advanced? Saxon Math covers the complete K-12 curriculum. It is not necessarily more advanced, particularly with Common Core aligned editions, but does teach with more rigor and with a greater emphasis on drill and practice than many other math programs out there.Is Saxon Math considered advanced? ›
Saxon Math is graded K, 1, 2, and 3 for kindergarten through third-grade students. After third grade, the textbooks switch to skill level instead of grade level.What is comparable to Saxon Math? ›
Saxon Math and Abeka Math are well-recognized and respected math programs that can develop very strong math skills in their students. Because their approach to teaching math can seem so similar, it can often be hard for parents to pick between the two.Is Saxon 8 7 the same as algebra 1 2? ›
The main difference between Algebra 1/2 and 8/7 is that the 8/7 has more foundational math like fractions, decimals, and percents. Algebra 1/2 has more pre-algebra concepts. Typically, students do not struggle with the algebra. It is usually fractions, decimals, and percents that trip them up.
Dr. Shormann does not generally recommend skipping Saxon 7/6. However, if the student is in 7th grade or higher or is a gifted math student, you can give the student the Middle School Placement Test.Is Saxon Math too hard? ›
This curriculum uses a spiraling approach that emphasizes practice and memorization over conceptual understanding, so there are potential drawbacks to this approach. The first potential drawback of Saxon Math is that its spiral approach can be overwhelming to students who are already struggling with math concepts.Is Saxon Math honors level? ›
There are three Saxon Math classes that meet the general criteria for an “Honors Course.” The first text is Saxon Algebra 2, 2nd or 3rd Editions only. The older 1st Edition as well as the non–Saxon 4th Edition does not meet the rigorous algebra and geometry criteria found in either the 2nd or 3rd Editions.What level of Saxon Math is pre algebra? ›
Grade Range: 7
Saxon Math 8/7 with Pre-Algebra is an integrated mathematics program that consists of 12 daily lessons and 12 activity-based Investigations.
The Robinson Curriculum is specially designed to prepare students for the SAT – a standardized nationwide test administered by the College Board (not to be mistaken with the SAT Achievement test which does not give you any credit). The Saxon Math and the RC Vocabulary section do an excellent job for SAT prep.What is the hardest math to exist? ›
- Separatrix Separation. A pendulum in motion can either swing from side to side or turn in a continuous circle. ...
- Navier–Stokes. ...
- Exponents and dimensions. ...
- Impossibility theorems. ...
- Spin glass.
Today's mathematicians would probably agree that the Riemann Hypothesis is the most significant open problem in all of math. It's one of the seven Millennium Prize Problems, with $1 million reward for its solution.What is the hardest math class ever? ›
Math 55 is a two-semester long freshman undergraduate mathematics course at Harvard University founded by Lynn Loomis and Shlomo Sternberg. The official titles of the course are Studies in Algebra and Group Theory (Math 55a) and Studies in Real and Complex Analysis (Math 55b).What grade is Saxon 2 for? ›
|Grade level||2 and up|
|Item Weight||3.75 pounds|
|Dimensions||8.3 x 1.6 x 11 inches|
|Best Sellers Rank||#104,760 in Books (See Top 100 in Books) #77 in Elementary Education #219 in Math Teaching Materials #1,090 in Education Workbooks (Books)|
Saxon's Math 2 program is carefully planned and packaged in a homeschool kit to make your teaching experience easier.
|Publisher||Saxon Publishers; 1st edition (June 1, 2006)|
|Reading age||12 - 13 years|
|Grade level||7 and up|
|Item Weight||4.3 pounds|
Saxon Math's approach to math instruction ensures that students not only gain but also retain essential math skills.” The program transitions students from manipulatives and worksheets to a textbook approach as the students progress to middle school.What is the best elementary math curriculum? ›
- Math-U-See. Grades: K-12 (equivalent in levels) Benefits: Aligned with Common Core standards. ...
- Saxon Math.
- Horizons Math.
- Life of Fred.
- Singapore Math.
- Rightstart Math. Grades: K-12. Benefits: Aligned with Common Core standards. ...
- Khan Academy.
- VideoText Math.
- Video Text Interactive Math Algebra.
- Abeka Algebra.
- Dive Into Math Algebra.
- CTC Math Algebra. BJU Press Algebra.
Saxon Math is aligned with the Common Core State Standards.Does Saxon Math have Calculus? ›
Saxon Calculus covers calculus, trigonometry, and analytic geometry, with emphasis on application to physics, chemistry, engineering, and business.What grade level is Saxon Math 8 7? ›
Saxon Math 8/7 is designed for students in Grade 7, or Grade 8 students who are struggling with math.Is Saxon Math good for homeschool? ›
Saxon Math has been delivering proven results for students in Grades K-12 for over 30 years. Students using Saxon Math consistently earn high scores on standardized tests resulting in Saxon Math being one of the most well-known and widely used homeschool math programs and it's used in many public schools.Does Saxon have pre calculus? ›
Saxon Pre-Calculus fully integrates topics from algebra, geometry, trigonometry, discrete mathematics, and mathematical analysis. Word problems are developed throughout the problem sets and become progressively more elaborate.Is teaching textbooks rigorous enough? ›
As a self-study program, Teaching Textbooks guides students through their lessons fairly well and does a good job at teaching them math concepts and skills. As a result, it can be a great solution for parents who have never taught math before or whose own math skills and knowledge are a bit rusty.
If your student began with Saxon Math in kindergarten, they will be in Algebra 2 for ninth grade.What grade level is Algebra 1? ›
Historically speaking, Algebra 1 has been reserved for ninth or tenth grade, and research indicates the majority of students still wait until high school for this course. About a quarter of the nation's eighth graders took Algebra 1 in the 2015-2016 school year, according to the U.S. Department of Education.Is Saxon Math 1 for first grade? ›
Saxon Math Grade 1 | Homeschool Math Curriculum 1st Grade.What grade level is Saxon Math Course 1? ›
|Grade Level||Saxon Title|
Saxon Math 7/6 is on-grade level for 6th grade and for a 7th grader who may need to take it at a slower pace. Saxon Math 8/7 is on-grade level for 7th grade and for an 8th grader who may need to take it at a slower pace. Algebra 1/2 is often taken by 8th graders.What grade level is Saxon Math 5 4? ›
Saxon Math 5/4 is designed for students in Grade 4, or Grade 5 students who are struggling with math.What comes after Saxon 8 7? ›
After Math 8/7, students transition to a hardcover textbook. These books take the same approach to learning math as the previous books but with more advanced topics, beginning with a mix of algebra and geometry and finishing with calculus.What grade is Saxon advanced math? ›
|Format||Hardcover Text, Softcover Tests and Answer Key|
|Publisher||SAXON PUBLISHERS; Second Edition, Student Edition (April 1, 1999)|
|Grade level||7 and up|
|Publisher||Steck-Vaughn Company; 2nd edition (June 1, 2001)|
|Reading age||9 - 12 years|
|Grade level||4 - 6|
Featuring the same incremental approach that's the hallmark of the Saxon program, the 4th Edition Algebra textbooks feature more algebra and precalculus content and fewer geometry lessons than their 3rd Edition counterparts.What grade do most kids take Pre-Algebra? ›
Pre-algebra is a common name for a course in middle school mathematics in the United States, usually taught in the 7th grade or 8th grade. The objective of it is to prepare students for the study of algebra.Is Pre-Algebra advanced for 7th grade? ›
It is also the course for the Advanced 7th grade students, placed into the course by district criteria.Is Grade 8 Pre-Algebra? ›
Pre-Algebra is a math class typically taken before Algebra I to prepare your student for success in Algebra I. It is normally taken in 8th grade. Pre Algebra is a math class typically taken before Algebra I to prepare your student for success in higher level math classes.What level is Saxon Math Intermediate 4? ›
|Publisher||Saxon / Harcourt Achieve; 1st edition (March 1, 2007)|
|Reading age||9 - 10 years|
|Grade level||4 and up|
|Item Weight||4.35 pounds|
|Dimensions||9 x 1.5 x 11.25 inches|
Saxon Math 6/5 is designed for students in Grade 5, or Grade 6 students who are struggling with math.Does Saxon Math have an online version? ›
website for Saxon Math. Video lessons, online grading, math facts practice, college test prep, and all the data you need to manage your students' math. Starts at only $4.99/month.What curriculum is similar to Saxon Math? ›
Spiral. Both Saxon Math and Abeka Math are spiral curricula that make incremental learning and consistent review strong components of their learning. Simply put, both programs break math concepts down into much smaller topics, or chunks.Is IB Further Mathematics discontinued? ›
The last offering of IB “Further Mathematics (Higher Level)” ended in spring 2020. The replacement courses “Mathematics: Analysis and Approaches (Higher Level)” and “Mathematics: Applications and Interpretations (Higher Level)” were offered for the first time with a completion date of spring 2021.Is Saxon Math considered honors? ›
There are three Saxon Math classes that meet the general criteria for an “Honors Course.” The first text is Saxon Algebra 2, 2nd or 3rd Editions only.
- Math-U-See. Grades: K-12 (equivalent in levels) Benefits: Aligned with Common Core standards. ...
- Saxon Math.
- Horizons Math.
- Life of Fred.
- Singapore Math.
- Rightstart Math. Grades: K-12. Benefits: Aligned with Common Core standards. ...
- Khan Academy.
- VideoText Math.
Grade Range: 7
Saxon Math 8/7 with Pre-Algebra is an integrated mathematics program that consists of 12 daily lessons and 12 activity-based Investigations.
- IB Maths Analysis & Approaches.
- IB Chemistry.
- IB History.
- IB English Literature.
- IB Computer Science.
- IB Maths Applications & Interpretations.
- IB Biology.
- IB Arabic B.
IB Further Math HL is considered to be the toughest subject based on how rarely it is opted by students. It covers all the optional topics of IB Math HL, which by the way is considered tough in itself. IB History HL is also considered to be tough since it has the lowest percentage of students getting 7's.Which IB math is the easiest? ›
The level of difficulty for the four math courses offered by the International Baccalaureate (IB) Program ranges from the most challenging to the least challenging as follows: AAHL, AIHL, AASL, and AISL.