A Visit to the Golden Meadow

by Florian Hein

Today I went on an outing to the Golden Meadow. The ‘Goldene Aue’, as it is called in German, is a long valley in the East of Germany, the former GDR, which runs from Nordhausen to Sangerhausen, bounded on either side by ridges of hills. In the middle of the valley is a reservoir which on a fine day reflects the sky. The higher range of hills is called the Kyffhäuser. A stone tower stands there as a reminder of the legend of the Golden Meadow. King Barbarossa, a banished and forgotten German emperor, is said to be hidden away in a cave in the Kyffhäuser. He has been there for centuries, so long that his beard has grown into the stones. But when he wakes and comes storming out, he will fight the last battle between good and evil, and Germany will once again shine in its old might and glory.

Those on the political right interpret this legend as a tale of heroism offering hope of redemption. It was with this hope in mind that I made the trip here. I wanted to look for clues and signs, to visit one of the caves in the hills. And so I get off the train below the Kyffhäuser monument, at Berga-Kelbra Station. You can see the station on the photo.

This is the former station entrance. On the sheets of wood that board it up someone has written, ‘Berga is still [illegible word] brown.’ In Germany’s political colour spectrum, brown has long been the colour of nationalist parties—a reference (or so I learnt in school) to the brown shirts worn by the Nazi stormtroopers.

What strike me most in the Golden Meadow are the evocations of the past. The station is empty and deserted, its boarded-up doors scrawled with political slogans from the twentieth century, and the local attraction is a stone tower built in honour of a nationalist hero.

Nobody comes to remove the graffiti. The building doesn’t belong to anyone; it doesn’t even belong to a concern. It’s simply there, and there it will remain until it’s worth someone’s while to do something with it. But when will that be?

What is the future of this countryside? In the GDR, workers took trains to the local factories and agricultural holdings, but these, of course, were scaled back following reunification. Unemployment went up and up; the population grew older.

I am not surprised to find alt-right slogans on the buildings here—and walking around the back of the station, I do also find Antifa slogans; I’m not saying that all inhabitants of the Golden Meadow are fascists. What upsets me, though, is that this particular slogan should remain, on the main door. And what upsets me even more is that the station, once a hub of the community and a place of transit, should be left to go to rack and ruin. First Socialism bowed out and then the concerns. All that’s left are the people and the remains of a building that no longer serves a function—and they have a kind of mutual effect on each other.

I stuff my anger into my rucksack and drive back to the big city, where I can forget all this. But one thing has really upset me—that the Golden Meadow is the way it is and I can’t do anything about it.

Translation: Imogen Taylor


Florian Hein is a stage director, choir director, and writer. From 2012 to 2017, he studied directing at the Ernst Busch Academy of Dramatic Arts. He has staged productions at venues such as the bat-Studiotheater in Berlin, the WUK Theater Quartier in Halle, the Mecklenburgisches Staatstheater in Schwerin, the Schauspiel Hannover, and in 2020 he is staging a production at the Volksbühne Berlin for the very first time. One of the main focal points of his productions is his work with choral speaking, which operates at the interface between speaking and singing. For his play “Nichts tun—Florian Hein. Es gehr nur um mich” (Doing Nothing—Florian Hein. It’s All About Me), he founded a speaking choir in Berlin in 2016. In 2019, he launched the “Chor des Ostens” at the WUK Theater Quartier in Halle, and in spring 2020 he founded the “Konsensklub” at the Schauspiel Hannover. Florian Hein is also a dramatist and performer. He is taking part in the festival POSTWEST \\ guess where with his film Hammer&Spiegel(Mirror). A film from the theatre.

“Das Verborgene aufspüren – Politik im Alltag begegnen“
A forum for exploring topical social issues from a literary perspective: LCB diplomatiquethe Literary Colloquium Berlin’s alternative news portal is a platform where authors chronicle the political dimensions of their everyday lives. Every Monday there is a new article with images and text in its original language, as well as in German and English. Since its launch in 2019, thirty-five correspondents have reported from a wide variety of countries.

As part of POSTWEST \\ guess where, invited artists Jeton Neziraj (June 15, Kosovo) and Florian Hein (June 22, Germany) will share their views on social conditions in their countries. In addition to being published on LCB diplomatique, these articles will also be available to read on the POSTWEST website.

A cooperation between LCB diplomatiquethe Literary Colloquium Berlin’s alternative news portal and the Volksbühne Berlin