Ghosts on the Shore by Paul Scraton
Ghosts on the Shore: Travel’s Along Germany’s Baltic Coast
It’s heartening to observe Hitler’s belated retreat from Dublin bookstores, allowing readers explore German history before and after the 147 months of the so-called thousand-year Reich. Paul Scraton’s travelogue is a light summer jaunt along Germany’s Baltic coast, just 220km as the crow flies eastwards from Lübeck to the Polish border, but a 2,000km journey when you factor in the twists and turns of German history and geography. Playing a Baltic beachcomber is a clever idea and Scraton, a British travel writer living in Berlin, writes fluidly for anyone unfamiliar with this part of the world. Considering his travel efforts, and extensive reading, there is a striking lack of original research. He visits many places in winter, speaks to or seeks out no one, and leaves again with lots of questions and suppositions, but few answers. At a Rostock tower block, he tries to understand the 1992 anti-immigrant riots but finds neither perpetrator nor victims. In Peenmünde, site of Nazi V2 rocket tests, he notices skinheads drinking beer in the carpark, but admits he was too cowardly to approach them. That restraint, or shyness, combined with a focus on pre- and post-war history, leaves Ghosts on the Shore haunted by what might have been. As all beachcombers will tell you: knowing there’s treasure buried is one thing, finding it is something else.