Wednesday, 17 September 2014

colossus oder klaipėda

H and I had the chance years ago to explore the German Baltic coast (Ostsee) and camped in the shadow of the massive former sea-resort of Prora, constructed originally as an affordable and accessible destination for rest-and-recuperation for any German citizen by the Kraft durch Freude (Strength through Joy) programme. Kept off of the maps during the Cold War and being gradually remembered and re-discovered, East Germany employed the colossal structure as an army barracks, never recognising its past as a shell that represented Nazi ideals and coordinated equality with a summer-camp atmosphere, though capable of lodging some twenty-thousand adults with maybe a subtle (or less so) agenda that one can only speculate about.
The character of the installation was transformed during the regime, hosting elite schools of military specialties for paratroopers and a Warsaw-Pact version of the institutes of higher-learning for the armies of partner nations like Cuba, Sierra Leone and Jordan that were established in the Allgau of West Germany, in Garmisch-Partenkirchen and Oberammergau for NATO pedagogy, and then as housing for contentious-objectors who wanted no part of East German soldiering. As conscription was not something that one could easily test- or opt-out of, unwilling draftees were quartered in Prora and put to work on a neighbouring project that was East Germany's organically largest building projects, the train-ferry—I had no idea that such conveyances existed, that afforded East Germany a direct rail-link with the Soviet Union.
Undoubtedly, the region was strategically significant, with an ensemble that included the rocket facilities at Peenemünde, a naval submarine yard already and this harbour and gigantic boats that could accommodate several trains is an impressive site. The waterway formerly linked Saßnitz, a burrough known as Mukran, and itself a classic resort before becoming a garrison town and working its way back to courting tourism, much like Prora too, hosting a youth hostel, an eclectic museum and is seeing redevelopment as luxury apartments. This port that folded the separating sea away connected the railways with Klaipėda, today in Lithuania, and presently with the havens of the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad.