To get a glimpse of the past, we stand atop the dyke. To our left, the Oder river. To our right, the fields of the Oderbruch. This was once a marshy land where the river split and wandered, flooding every year. In the 18th century Frederick the Great ordered the drainage of the Oderbruch to create new agricultural land, and dykes such as this one were built to hold the water back. New villages sprung up and the colonists erected statues and named their inns for the King that had pulled this new land from the swamp: Alte Fritz.
Güstebieser Loose stands at the eastern edge of the Oderbruch. In the summer a ferry links the village with Poland on the opposite shore, but out of season we have the place to ourselves. The road breaches the dyke on its way to the banks of the river, passing through a hundred metres or so of marshland before it ends at the water’s edge, and it is this sliver of land that allows us to imagine the landscape as it was before the Oderbruch was tamed by Fritz’s plan.
Photo: Katrin Schönig