Monday, November 21, 2005

Protesting the German way

This weekend I was lucky enough to fullfill two things on my wishlist: see the sun on Sunday and go to a protest in Germany. I was even up before midday on Saturday too, so I have had my weekly dose of vitamin D and don't feel utterly depressed at the prospect of a week of work (well, four days really but who's counting). Even though it was freezing cold the sky was blue and the landscape in rural Schleswig-Holstein is so pretty that it almost seemed sensible to be outside.

The protest was against the train carrying nuclear waste which is produced by Germany's many nuclear power plants and sent to France to be processed. It is then shipped back to Germany and buried in an abandoned salt mine near a small town near Luneburg, which is about an hour from Hamburg. It's supposed to be a temporary solution but they've been doing it for about twelve years and every year people protest against it and often try to block the train. Last year a French protestor died because he was chained to the tracks and the train couldn't stop in time. Horrible.

The train itself isn't there yet- it's due Monday night- but these was a big protest match scheduled for Saturday so we hopped in the car with Anne's friend Lars and drove down there. As we got closer we passed about fifty police vans and I started to get a bit nervous. Then twenty more. then twenty more. Apparently there were ten thousand police stationed on or near the railway line, which is this innocuous looking rural railway next to medieval farm houses and green field full of frost-coated, lettuce-like stuff. When we finally walked past the track there were all of these special forces standing on it just looking at us- it was like looking over the trenches at the enemy. Hundreds of men and women in black or green riot gear, with trunchens sticking out of their vests and huge bulges where their guns were, helmuts hanging from their wrists and big green shin-guards onm their legs, standing on a railway line in the middle of green fields with the sun going down behind them and the air all frosty and shimmering in the dusk. Utterly bizarre.

The people at the demo were a great mix of young punk, alternative types and families who live in the area, heaps of kids and older people. I even saw a guy who was proudly wearing his lederhosen, who must have been from Baveria. There were probably about four thousand people there, in this tiny town with one main street. It was amazing.

The other amazing thing was that after it was all over we walked past a free soup stand provided by the Red Cross, which apparently is connected to an organisation called the People's Kitchen. Why don't they give out free food as our rallies? There was, of course, also bread and cheese and in true hippie protestor fashion a vegan cheese substitute made from chickpeas.

If anyone is interested there is more info at:

After the protest we went to a party in L├╝beck which I discovered to my horror is much prettier than Kiel because nothing was destroyed in the war. A couple of Anne's friends were Djing at a Leaving Las Vegas party at a punk venue which turned out to be a lot of fun. You could even "get married" at a chapel and for four Euro you got a ring, a contract and a polaroid of you and your beloved wearing a veil and a tie. Anne got married to a friend of hers and I couldn't convince her and Matt to marry me as one person. I can't imagine why.

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