Friday, July 21, 2017

Prussian doves







Dancing forest on the Curonian Spit




[Image source: https://in.rbth.com/arts/travel/2013/08/23/curonian_spit_tiny_national_park_on_the_baltic_coast_28783
. Photo by Anton Agarkov / strana.ru]




This post jumps off from a poem in Alistair Noon's collection The Kerosene Singing (Nine Arches Press, 2015). The poem begins:






Oblast


The wagtail's plumage a woodcut,
the sandbank a log
traffic balances along
between lagoon and Baltic
and into Lithuanian mists.






"Oblast" means province or region and is an administrative unit used in Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Georgia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, but the topography leaves no doubt which oblast we are talking about in this case. This is Kaliningrad, the Russian semi-exclave between Poland and Lithuania. The sandbank is the Curonian Spit, and the lagoon is the Curonian Lagoon.




*


Here's the second stanza of Noon's poem:




The bricks cohere to a Kirche,
squat and ziggurat-roofed.
The Word seconded to Slavic:
nave hung with fresh icons
now the interregnum
as a barn has passed.




The stanza alludes to the forcible dispersion of the German-speaking population at the end of WWII, and their replacement by Russian-speakers . The "interregnum" is the era of Soviet atheism before the church came back into use.


The church in question is in Rybachy, the largest settlement in the Russian part of the Spit. Wikipedia notes:  "The red brick former Lutheran church was built in 1873 when the village was still part of Germany. It is one of the oldest remaining buildings in Rybachy. After the Second World War it was used for wheat storage. Only in 1992 was the church handed to the Russian Orthodox Church to be renovated. It is named after St Sergey of Radonezh and is in use once more as a church, now catering to the Orthodox community." (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rybachy,_Kaliningrad_Oblast)


Describing the church as "ziggurat-roofed" is a bit impressionistic, but I  do see what he means:




Church of St Sergey, Rybachy


[Image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rybachy,_Kaliningrad_Oblast]




Reconstructed facade of the great Ziggurat of Ur, Iraq


[Image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ziggurat]


With scrupulous sequence, the final stanza of the poem moves SW down the spit to the National Park exit near Zelenogradsk. Here the spit is at its narrowest. (The National Park is Kurshskaya Kosa, the smallest in Russia.)




They sow the alders
to halt the dance of the dunes,
the lagoon smooth as a salt plain.
Cattle gaze from the tarmac,
and a pig is loose in the village.
The coach will take us
under the turnpike
and out of the National Park.






{The village with the pig might be Lesnoy.]




The poem opens up progressively to the emptiness and space in the landscape. By the time of that deadpan last sentence, it's hard to say what was ideal, what real; what kind of threshold had been crossed here, and as the poem ends is it now un-crossed?










Sandbank: Curonian Spit


[Image source: https://in.rbth.com/arts/travel/2013/08/23/curonian_spit_tiny_national_park_on_the_baltic_coast_28783
. Photo by Anton Agarkov / strana.ru]




Found anecdote:


“I love fishing here. We used to come here for flounders when I was just a kid,” says Vitya, a young red-nosed fisherman. “Back then we didn't just catch fish, we used to bake crows! Nah, honestly! We'd lay our fishing net out on the ground and bait it with fish. We could catch more than a hundred crows a day.


Then we'd pluck them, chop the heads and legs off and sell them at the market. Of course, the buyers didn't know they were buying crows! We even made up a special name for them — we called them ‘Prussian Doves!’”


(from an article by Daria Gonzalez here: https://in.rbth.com/arts/travel/2013/08/23/curonian_spit_tiny_national_park_on_the_baltic_coast_28783]









Curonian Spit - Dancing Forest


[Image source: http://east-wing-transport.ru/excursions_to_the_curonian_spit]


The strange forms of the mysterious Dancing Forest - a pine forest that grew up  on a former Nazi air-strip - are naturally associated by many with the dancing sand dunes among which the forest grows. A less romantic but still unproven theory is that the unusual bases of these pine trees reflect contortions of the young shoots due to infestation by caterpillars of the Pine Shoot Moth Rhyacionia buoliana . Or the fungus Melampsora pinitorqua . Or maybe there was human interference at an early stage, perhaps with the intention of growing timber with a natural curve (though pine is not a suitable timber for boat-building).




A similar mystery surrounds the Crooked Forest at Nowe Czarnowo, a village near Gryfino, West Pomerania, Poland. This is another pine plantation, thought to have been planted around 1930.


http://www.abc.es/tecnologia/redes/20140717/abci-misteriosos-pinos-gryfino-201407170931.html










The Crooked Forest at Nowe Czarowo




[Image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crooked_Forest]

















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