Last week I drove out of Berlin with my family to go for a walk in Brandenburg’s endless pine forests. On our way back we stopped in at a restaurant in a small village to feast on the kind of classic Prussian dishes that are impossible to come by in cosmopolitan Berlin: fried blood sausage (Grützwurst), gelatin and pork (Sülze), sauerkraut and boiled potatoes.
The landlady was a kindly Russian woman who’d come to the area in the 1980s when she worked at the local Soviet military hospital.
Along with the only other guest in the establishment, an elderly man with a thick Brandenburg accent, she told us how good life was before the end of the Cold War. Back then the restaurant boomed as an unofficial marketplace for money-less trade in goods.
“After reunification everything died around here,” the old man said.
Before they started talking to us, they had been discussing how much of what appeared in the German media about the war in Ukraine was in fact a fake. The old man insisted that pictures of Russians driving through Chernobyl had really been filmed during the nuclear meltdown in the 1980s.
The landlady meanwhile said she’d seen on Russian television that the Russian army had discovered underground laboratories in Ukraine where secret research was being done by pharmaceutical companies like BionTech and Pfizer. Putin would soon show the world the proof - Schwarz auf Weiß.
Meanwhile, in the south of Ukraine they’d discovered luxury properties that belonged to President Zelensky and the Ukrainian oligarchs.
Was this encounter typical of opinion in rural east Germany? I’m not sure. But it’s unlikely that we just happened to walk into the only bar in Brandenburg where the locals believe Kremlin propaganda over what they’re shown by their own media.