Near Rostock we took an hour to visit the beach. The beaches in Germany face north toward Scandinavia. The water was clear and beautiful but too cold for swimming. A few people walked along the sand or sat in rented beach chairs, called strandkolb, with sheltered backs toward the water, facing south to catch the sun.
Klaus Steigmeier, our German booking agent (left in the photo), has been acting as our driver, road manager and tour guide. He has pointed out and explained many things we never would otherwise have recognized, such as the barren stretch of land, formerly a minefield, that divided Germany between East and West. There is no sign to mark the place, but it is something that every German knows.
At the beach Klaus said, “After the Reunification you could buy property here cheap, because it was not used and was all run down. Now, like beaches everywhere, this is all very expensive.”I said, “Are you saying that in the Communist times no one came to the beach?”
“A hotel like this one you see across the street would have been for party officials only,” Klaus said. “Oh, they had it all very organized.”
Everywhere in the East we see buildings in a Soviet style called plattenbau, made of prefabricated concrete modules stacked, as Klaus put it, “like chicken cages.”
The morning after our gig in Berlin we drove through the city center, marveling at the famous streets and buildings. “Here you see where our 10% annual Reunification tax has gone,” Klaus said. “In 1989 this was in ruins. Everything was gray and dirty and not working. Inside, where the people were, it was still nice. But outside it was the Communists’ responsibility, which meant it was no one’s responsibility. The Communists didn’t care about people. All they cared about was plattenbau.”
The next night at our show in Erfurt (also in the East) a fellow told me on the break, “There are many older people here tonight who followed American music long before 1989, back when it was an act of defiance to do so. They are very shy and don’t speak English well, so they will never tell you this. But it is like Christmas for them now to be able to drive 50 or 100 kilometers and see a band like Delta Moon.”
During the second set I looked and found them in the audience, white beards and bald heads bobbing to the music, big smiles on their faces. It was a humbling experience.