Yesterday, the sun was shining and the temperature was in the upper 40s. It was practically spring. So we hopped in the car and headed to the Aachener Stadtforst, a bit of forest and paths that wind around next to the border with Belgium:
There were still bits of snow hiding in the piles of logs here and there along the edge of the paths. Even so, it felt like the most beautiful day I have ever seen. (My memory near the end of winter is maybe not so good.) And judging by the couples and families and runners and cyclists we encountered, plenty of Aacheners felt the same way.
We spent an hour or so walking the paths, people-watching, gazing at the sky. We even made it to the border:
The cluster of stones in between the trees in the photo is a reminder of the former barrier between the countries. The border along here is now marked mainly by a row of wooden posts and a small stone with a B on one side and a D on the other. Of course, there are some other leftovers along the border:
On each side of the path, there are large stones called dragon’s teeth. These stones only go for a few meters off the path, but in some places they stretch quite some distance. Dragon’s teeth were used during the war to slow down tanks so they could be more easily attacked and destroyed. (If I’m not mistaken, these teeth were part of the Westwall or Siegfried Line.)
I read that they used to place land mines and barbed wire between the individual teeth in these defensive lines. I’m sure they removed them at some point, but my paranoid self won’t be wandering among those teeth any time soon. There is something creepily gravestone-like about them. A somber reminder that this part of the world still remembers what it’s like to fight a war on their own land.
P.S. The title was inspired by our weekend movie: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. I am a die-hard fan of JRR Tolkien, and I’m pretty sad at the decision to turn The Hobbit into a trilogy. The movie was good in a I-love-seeing-Middle-Earth-come-to-life sort of way, but disappointing in a holy-crap-when-will-things-start-happening sort of way. Still … I’ll probably see the rest of the movies when they come out.