October 6th, 2007

Dawn

Lantern's Path

I awoke at about 3am, grasping at reality like someone underwater struggles for the surface light. I was glad to be free of the dream, but then I realised my light was still on, it was late, and I was still in my clothes. I ended up lying there for an hour, trapped in one series of malicious thoughts after another, and chocolate biscuits and a marzipan cappuccino only slightly lessened these. Turning over didn't allow me to escape from the questions, from thoughts of a twisted world. Someone was stabbed and then set alight in their car about a mile from my home in Nottingham. How, why, could that be? Thoughts like that.

The problem, I think, was dehydration. I don't have any more juice, and making hot drinks is difficult when it's late and thirst demands instant satisfaction. I still need to get juice, but I forgot to bring the plastic bag to take it back in, so I'll have to carry it. The supermarket next to where I'm staying is closed again. I swear that place's opening hours are determined randomly. No wonder I do most of my shopping here in the town centre. Studenthood has made me used to carrying heavy bags of groceries for long distances. It's exercise, I suppose.

Yesterday, I was going to mention how I was going to miss my festival of light this year. As I mention every year, Autumn is a season with very definite themes within me. Clear blue. Meditative reds. Smoke and Fog. Light and Darkness. Especially that last one. Bonfires, Fireworks, a festival of light. It means a lot to me, and I was worried that without Bonfire Night this year, I'd lack it. Then, randomly, I came across one yesterday. See, I'd seen a poster for the 'Eutin Oktoberfest' to be held at an industrial park on the South Side of town, so after I signed offline yesterday, I headed over there. I managed to leave my town plan here, so I ended up wandering in the wrong direction, and only getting there almost an hour later, but when I did, I was confused. I'd expected beer tents, brass bands, and so on. Instead, in front of one of the several budget supermarkets there (sadly way too far from me to use for my groceries) was a small tent, a carousel, and a few stalls. And the fire brigade...and plenty of children carrying...lanterns?

And so it was that I stumbled across the annual Eutin Lantern Parade, sponsored by Sky Supermarkets. Technology failed me massively, with all of my devices running out of power at once, so I couldn't record any of the band's music (The Youth Bands of Haffkrug and Pansdorf) on my IRiver, nor call Holly for long on my mobile. I was able to get new batteries for my camera from the supermarket, though, so I followed the parade of torches (I was curiously aware that if I didn't watch where I was going, I'd set my hair on fire) and lanterns, taking photos. The parade lasted for almost an hour, and I spent most of that time figuring how surreal it was, and how strange a town Eutin is to have so many different things on so often.

When we returned to Sky, the supermarkets were mostly closed (aside from Sky, which benefitted from an onslaught of shoppers all at once). The Oktoberfest bit began then, with the brass bands contuining to play (they did Abba's 'Mamma Mia'!), and the stalls swinging into life. I had a reasonably-priced pea soup (a staple of Autumnal events) and a bretzel (like a pretzel, only bigger). I didn't have any beer, because I don't like it, but it was selling well. To my shame, I did buy 8 bags of Haribo, but they had a special offer on, meaning I essentially got 3 or 4 free bags in comparison to the shop price.

I then had to head back home, which was right on the opposite side of town. No wonder I was tired. The festival of light was a pleasant surprise, but when the parade was taking place, it wasn't yet truly dark, and ...well, there were no fireworks.

Blast, time goes so quickly when I'm here. I barely get to talk to you at all...
Flash

Kleine Nachtmusik

Night Music

Well, that wasn’t my best idea ever.

I figured I’d go for a walk around the Großer Eutiner See after I left the Stadt-Café. The See is the lake that I’ve posted so many photos of, although you can only see part of it from the Eutin waterfront, and the part near me is much smaller, being almost a small, separate lake apart from a small (bridged) gulf between it and the larger body of water. It’s not huge as far as lakes go, even for this region, but its circumference is supposed to be 12km.

I reckoned that, taking into account I’d be carrying my laptop, and stopping to take photos every so often, I would make it to the small village at the other end of the lake by 7pm, and get back to the Rosenhof for 8pm. I was bang on time, both at the village, and at the Rosenhof. What I hadn’t factored in, however, was how quickly it gets dark, when it gets dark, and the fact the entire Northern side of the lake is forested, as opposed to the more open Southern side.

So things started well enough. Through the Schloßgarten as before, past the holiday homes, and past the small gulf fenced off for military use by the small barracks at the Eastern edge of Eutin. From there, the path ran along three sides of the peninsula that makes the lake seem smaller than it is. On one side were low, rolling hills, and on the other, the lake. It was sunset already, which ought to have told me that darkness was near, but instead, my reaction was “Ooh, pretty” and I took lots of photographs of the sun setting over Eutin. I realised I’d have to keep moving though, and gradually made my way around the peninsula, and along the rest of the Southern bank, through a small wooded section (which I did realise was a little darker than I’d expected it to be) and along a long stretch between the lakeshore and the road from Eutin eastwards. After passing a jogger and a field full of horses, I reached the village, and straightaway checked my phone to realise it was two minutes to seven.

The village was odd. The opposite bank of the lake seemed very different from the lakeshores around Eutin, as the trees were coniferous and cast a much more dramatic outline against the sky, which was by now a deep shade of sapphire blue, fading gradually to peachy pink. The path was surrounded by small fences, and various holiday homes loomed on the hillside to my right. I then found a jetty for the ferry, the counterpart to the jetty at the Eutin waterfront, and the one outside the swimming pool which I pass heading to and from Eutin every day. I was, however, a good number of kilometres away from the more familiar members of the trio. In any case, I wandered along it, and looked westwards across the water to the distant outline of the far side. A small bump on the horizon made it clear how far it was: the bump was the water tower which looms over Eutin from the hill on which my school is situated. The sun had set, but the sky was still deep gold, and I took a lot more photographs, over which I was really happy.

I reached the far side of the lake at the other side of the village. The shore was so marshy that reeds hid the vista from my view, but the mist was also making everything dimly hazy. Then the path turned into the woods, and after a few minutes of heading along it, I realised it was altogether too dark to be comfortable, and my map, which I had thoughtfully taken from the tourist office before departing on my circumnavigation, told me that the path stayed forested all the way back to Eutin, and it wasn’t even directly by the water, as I’d hoped. When I reached a point where the lakeside path turned off to the left, into darkness and shadow, I decided to abandon the circumnavigation. Heading back the way I’d come was by this point very much the long way round, and there were dark wooded sections that way as well, so I figured my best option was to hightail it to the nearest road and head along that until I reached civilisation. I heard voices away to my left, from the lakeside woodlands, but despite that, I wasn’t going to trust the forest paths.

The road I was on was one used to reach small woodland parking places during the day, and was thus by now utterly deserted. I headed forward, trying not to focus on the shadow and silence, and I was glad whenever the canopy lightened enough to cast some dim light onto the ground in front of me. After a time that seemed like quarter of an hour, but was probably only half that, I came around a corner to make out a parking sign in the gloom and a lake shrouded in a thick layer of mist in a small valley to my right. I despaired, as my map showed a lake passing a parking place only a short distance from the lake to the nearest proper road, and I didn’t want to spend much more time on this lonely route. Checking my map in the brightest spot I could find, I realised that there was another, smaller, lake depicted a little further along, and sure enough, I saw headlights flash by a little further along.

Odd then, that it was when I reached that road that I felt the most afraid, the most cold, the most regretful for this endeavour. The road wasn’t much of a road, being the same dirt surface as the one I’d been on before, and it wasn’t heavily used, despite having several cars pass me as I stumbled on through the gloom. I had my senses at full alert, so I could hear the cars coming, and their headlights told me when to step off the road into the unknown verge to avoid being hit. After all, I wasn’t wearing anything reflective, and it was pretty dark by now, even though it wasn’t much past seven. When the headlights and engine-noise faded away, it was quiet, and dark, and felt very isolated. Then I heard a gunshot, distant, but distinctive. A few minutes later, I heard another. I knew that I wasn’t anywhere near where the noises were coming from, but the darkness of the woodland around me, and the lack of cars on the road for a while made me feel especially vulnerable.

I saw headlights again, and stepped into the verge, only for the lights to turn sharply and disappear behind treetrunks. I had reached the point where the track I was following reached a proper, if still remote, road, and soon enough I had tarmac under my feet for the first time since Eutin, in what seemed like a different world. Headlights occasionally passed me by, although to no greater frequency than before, despite the change in road. The woodland was now only directly to my left, and every so often, a trail headed off into the trees, although from where I stood, it seemed to fall into an inky void of the chilling unknown rather than what my map cheerfully described as the Eutin Town Forest (Eutiner Stadtforst). On the other side, I could see over a hedge into a strange world. Fields of shadow fell away to a great white mass, a canopy of mist over the Sissdorfer See, a smaller lake, and then to distant darkened hills, over whose coniferous crests blinked six small red lights. Two signal masts, away on the Bungsberg, the highest point in all Schleswig-Holstein. At less than 400m, it’s nothing that impressive, but from where I was, a child sleepwalking through the veil between shadow and moonlight, it seemed like I was gazing to the magical lights of Everest.

Strange. Is that the moon? A headlight that isn’t moving? My confusion lifted. A street light. A small, white, street light, usually so insignificant, but now a welcoming beacon of hope and an end to the dark unknown. As I got closer, I saw another behind it. Then another. A village. At first, only a few houses, their security lights blinking suspiciously at the stranger from the wilderness, but then, more houses. The verge turned into a small path, and then, after a while, pavement. When I felt I was deep enough into the village to be safe, I consulted my map, legible again under the friendly streetlights. Sandfeld. The village of Sandfeld, nestling on the hill crest over the Sissdorfer See, and a fair way from the Northern bank of the tree-clad Eutiner See. No matter. I saw that Sandfeld turned into Fissau past a small bridge, and Fissau is a place I’ve been before. I now felt confident enough to relax my senses, and call Holly, and to enjoy the night, the stars, and the ethereal layer of mist that seemed to surround the village houses as if it had been chasing me and wanted me but could not stand the light of the metal guardians of civilisation, the ever-present streetlights. A bus timetable told me the last bus to Eutin was due about now, a little past half past seven (half an hour had never seemed so long!), but I didn’t see it. I didn’t need it. I just kept walking past the buildings, glimpses of sitting rooms behind gardens.

After a while, I came across familiar structures. The wooden tower in the centre of the old part of Fissau, which I had first come across when I wandered up here from Eutin when I tried circumnavigating the Fissauer Bucht part of the Eutiner See. I had now almost completed my circumnavigation, and more, but that wasn’t important anymore. A family had a bonfire going on the other side of the village pond, its flamelight reflected in the still, murky water. Five minutes later, I came across the path from Fissau through the fields, across the Schwentine, and to the Northern end of Eutin where the Rosenhof is, and I took the path, immersing myself once again in darkness and silence. I held my mobile phone in front of me, its feeble light not holding back the darkness, but lighting up the path in front of my feet, one step, after another. There were few trees around this path, but it was darker than ever. When I reached the T-Junction at the Schwentine, I heard footsteps coming towards me, and only when the pair of women passed me by did my eyes work out who the footsteps belonged to. I wished them a good evening, out of a mixture of relief, and joy that if they would walk this dark, chilly (the mist was all around now) route, then I had to little to fear from it. I was almost relaxed the rest of the way, across the bridge, and past the horse field, but I was still majorly relieved to reach the light of houses, the flashing headlights on the main road, and the lamplight sign for the Rosenhof.

I’d not really had much to be worried about. Crime levels here are much lower than I’ve been used to before, and there are so many rural woods around the area that the chance of people waiting in the darkness to jump at you is very low indeed, certainly less than in the woods around Nottingham. Still…I didn’t want to find myself stumbling through silent darkness, jerking at every sudden sound of birds through the leaves, half-tripping over unseen roots as I try and keep to a twisting path. I get scared easily, and I was scared. When I saw the lights of the Bungsberg, I felt that odd kind of contentedness that you get after eating really spicy food, and after it has stopped torturing your throat. A feeling of being through the worst.

I was still glad to get home. For what it was worth, I covered at least 14km, and ended up with some beautiful sunset photos, but nevertheless, I prefer my nights to have a little music.