A Postcard from Steilküste Schwedeneck
There is a place up here where the trees have caught the wind, trapped it in their trunks. It isn’t easy to catch the wind and hold it – it’s like photographing a ghost. But these bendy beech trees stand on a cliff, facing the Baltic Sea – if they can’t catch the wind, nothing can. Not our hair, not the goosebumps on our skin.
The wind is a part of the northern German landscape. It rushes in off the North Sea, blows cold off the Baltic, sends the wind turbines spinning their massive spokes. It’s there in summer, rustling through the cornfields, it’s there in winter, icy and cruel. It’s there in the in-between seasons, blowing down the chestnut leaves, threatening the early Pfingstrosen. To live here is to notice stillness because it so very rarely is.
We went to the Steilküste Schwedeneck during the Corona Lockdown, after things had loosened somewhat, and visiting parks was allowed. It was May, so the full green of summer hadn’t yet arrived. The flat Baltic, with its petrol blues and grey greens, was visible through the trees as we picked our way along a short walk (small legs were present, the full 16km was out of the question on that day) that followed the cliff’s edge.
Schleswig-Holstein has around 153km of Steilküste (cliffs) that rise up above the Baltic Sea. Some are forested in with those bendy beeches, some are crops, an ocean of fluttering wheat that seems to drop into the sea below.
I feel most at home up here because I am never too far from the land’s edge. I never realised that meant anything until I lived five and a half hours away from the nearest coastline: five hours too far.
I don’t actually like the wind. It drives me crazy when it whistles for days, goes through my jackets, snaps my plants. But it’s part of the landscape up here, like the big skies and the grey-white sand and the trees that photograph ghosts.
We usually stay home for the summer holidays anyway, saving our days and money for an annual trip to Australia. This year we’re even more pointedly ‘holidaying at home’ what with Corona and all it has brought with it. In an effort to write during a time of my life I have even less time to do so than usual (kids at home more, working at home during an unusual semester) and in an effort to show you a little more of my adopted homeland, I thought I’d write postcards from our adventures this summer.