Two things, both independent of each other, and often working in cahoots, make you get out and about more in your own neighbourhood; visitors and good weather. April and May gave us the former in abundance and the latter in just enough quantity to be of assurance the sun does indeed exist and it can, when it feels like it, smile upon northern Germany. Ergo, the last couple of weeks – while we’ve waited on internet technicians and key locksmiths and hassled incompetent moving companies – we have been getting out and about to sightsee with Kiel first timers, and to check out more of what surrounds us. Checking out what surrounds us, it must be admitted, found a logical extension in adding scenic, pram-friendly routes to the ‘stroll list’ for when we are no longer two, but three.
My cousin was with us for last week and he was, as many are when they journey to Germany, keen to see some historical war sites. Kiel has several of its own memorials and sites of interest tucked away, but its main association with WW2 still exists today; Kiel’s port was a major naval base and where the war ships and submarines were built. Consequently, it was bombed heavily and largely rebuilt after the war. A walk to the water today will take you to the once-more significant naval base and ship and submarine building yards which remain central to the sailing city’s industry and economy.
Unsure of what else to show my cousin beyond Laboe, where the Naval Memorial and UBoot-995 lies, I asked SG’S Mum about some other historical war sites we could visit. She suggested the British Commonwealth War Cemetery, the final resting place of nearly one thousand WW2 soldiers from Great Britian, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Poland. Turns out the cemetery, which is part of the Nordfriedhof (Kiel has two beautiful cemeteries, one in the north and one in the south) is about a 900m walk from our place. So on a suitably grey and grizzly day, my cousin and I set out to find it, via my favourite cafe for a warming drink.
I love cemeteries and this one is beautiful. Huge trees crane over the headstones, and drip onto the wide paths. Everything is green and quiet.
With no one about and quite unsure if we were allowed to do so (one can never be sure) we went off the muddy path and pushed through the little gate into the British Commonwealth Cemetery.
Row and row of headstones, with names and ages rarely over 29. Some headstones had no names, some bore a sentence of two of Godly sacrifice and gratitude, some families had been able to engrave a few words. We wound our way quietly through the rows.