As an introduction to this latest ‘Girls Of The Golden East’ post let me take the reader back to my very first experience of the former Eastern Bloc on a blisteringly hot day (8th July 1995) on one of those ultra-cheap ‘Schönes Wochenende’ (‘Beautiful Weekend’) Deutsche Bahn tickets, giving one unlimited travel on the rail network, provided that one used only regional and local stopping services. I was on the EU’s COMETT programme, learning archaeological surveying, drawing and documentation techniques on an archaeological dig with the Kulturgeschichtliches Museum Osnabrück and very often I would take off during the weekend on a ‘Schönes Wochenende’ ticket to explore the country. At the students’ residence where I was lodging each ‘Flur’ (corridor) shared a communal living area/kitchen and I happened to be living on the same ‘Flur’ as a young lady from Sachsen-Anhalt (Kakerbeck, near Salzwedel), one of the new Bundesländer in the former German Democratic Republic. She was quite a quiet person away from the two friends on the ‘Flur’ – one of Turkish descent from Hamburg and the other from Warendorf, near Osnabrück – with whom she made up a sort of ‘Big Three’ of the ‘Flur’, but I did manage to crack into that reticence on one Sunday afternoon, in the course of which conversation she alluded to the strange ideas that people from what had been West Germany evidently had had about former East Germans when she once got to meet them and talk to them after the Berlin Wall came crashing. My remarkable ‘Girls Of The Golden East’ discoveries have probably been a case-in-point suppporting what she said. How wrong Westerners indeed were about the former Eastern Bloc!
Knowing that Magdeburg was her Landeshauptstadt I long wanted to impress her by actually visiting the city, so on the aforementioned day, as – back home in the UK – Germany’s Steffi Graf was beating Spain’s Arantxa Sánchez Vicario in the Ladies’ Final, I shared a packed-to-the-gunnels train with revellers bound for a ‘Love Parade’ in Berlin – my portable battery fan being very welcome! – on the way from Hannover to Magdeburg for my first taste of the East.
All I really felt like doing on that stifling day was just mooching aimlessly along the banks of the River Elbe – or, given my Czech discoveries of late, maybe I should call it the ‘Labe’! – and into the city centre, stopping for a much-needed glass of refreshing lemon tea at a café. Given the slowness of the train journeys I only managed a couple of hours or so in the city but I had had my first encounter with the ‘panelové’ buildings (as the Czechs would call them) and (talking of things Czech) Tatra trams of the former Eastern Bloc. This seemed a very different world from my native Belper!
Here are the photos I took of Magdeburg on that never-to-be-forgotten occasion.
It just so happens that one of my latest ‘Girls Of The Golden East’ discoveries, Gabriele Kluge, is a native of Magdeburg – born there in 1949, on a date which I unfortunately cannot specify – and I have to say that her ‘Barfuß im weißen Sand’ (‘Barefoot In The White Sand’), from the year in which she would have turned twenty, is yet another one of those cases of the former Eastern Bloc coming up with a superb very Northern Soul-like offering. Well, I’ve been ‘back-dropping’ to it at any rate! As well as my not being able to specify her birth date, I cannot seem to be able to pin down the recording credits either, which is a greay pity.
So, get your dancing shoes on to this!
To see Gabriele in action on film here is her ‘Der Sommerwind’ (‘The Summer Wind’)…accompanied by – after my East German friend’s remarks about stereotypes – perhaps one of those ‘typical Eastern Bloc staples’…combine harvesters!
Since Magdeburg was my original entry point east of the former Iron Curtain maybe Gabriele could, symbolically, become my ‘First Love’ on the East German scene!