Bikes, castles and the longing for the sea at Senftenberg

DSC00367

The first time when I wanted to visit Senftenberg was following some short notice read in a newspaper regarding the castle there. As I feel that I neglected this noble side of travel, felt compelled to have this trip in mind for the next one day trip. But time passed and more than 10 days after this first acknowledgement only I was on the road with my Berlin Brandenburg Ticket in my pocket. After too many stops, I arrived at the train station, enoying the sunny Sunday.

DSC00371

Right from the train station, arrows are heading the tourists to the historical area. As usual, I like to go off the beaten path and thus after I made a short turn from Bahnhofstrasse I ended up in the front of the Theater Neue Bühne, a local cultural institution sharing the building with a local high school, a Bauhaus style construction originally erected in the 1930s. Besides hosting the most important cultural events in the city, it also has a cadrillon (Glockenspiel) donated by the local Greek-German businessman Sokrate Giapapas.DSC00374As a reminder that Senftenberg used to be part of the former communist Germany, recently painted and renovated Plattenbau are surrounding the area.  DSC00376

I return on the main road, heading back to the historical area. Metal billboards presenting in medaillons old images from the city are creating a bridge between the modern present and the industrial past. DSC00381The locals are right now busy in the main square in the front of the historical city hall with an open air celebrations that involves, naturally, beer, a lot of music on the stages organized around and many shopping, including of local products. DSC00388But I do have my own travel agenda and this time I am decided to follow up the plan which has as top priority the visit at the castle. The first encounter is with the art gallery – Gallerie am Schloß – which is closed this time. DSC00392In order to arrive to the castle, I go through some long dark paths bordered by stone arches. Outside, one explore the fortification systems and the Bastion built in the second half of the 18th century. Wonder where a princess can hide here…DSC00398

Back to the light, right in the front of the entrance, there is not a white horse waiting, but an original bike model between two citizens. No prince today,  it seems.DSC00407

Let’s enjoy life then. The castle is hosting a temporary exhibition presenting various models of bikes from the beginning of their history till the communist Germany and beyond. Even not passionate about technique, you still can enjoy the cultural histories told by the bicycles. DSC00406The prototypes, some of them very interesting, especially if we think about the different models produced separately for men and women, are scattered among pieces of local history, many presenting local colourful costumes and interios of the interesting Sorb minority still living in the area. After the war, having a bike was the equivalent of having a horse in the time of the princes and princesses, hence the saying: If you have a bicycle, you are king. (Hast du ein Fahrrad, bist du ein König).DSC00408In a way, this two voices dialogue of various historical times makes sense. Senftenberg was part of the industrial area near Cottbus, providing energy for various industry. A mini-mine, another local activity, can be visited at the museum too. Nowadays, there is not too much of this past left, following the fall of communism and the resettling of the economic priorities. DSC00418The castle, displaying a simple and strict elegance that I encountered in many such residences in the North and Central part of Germany, also hosts an art collection of artists originally from the area.  DSC00422Outside, the gardens are more inviting and the preferred transit areas for the many biking routes across the city and the region.  DSC00430I am heading closer to the sea this time, with a short stop at the Tierpark, which was recommended as a local travel attraction. It can also be visited by bike, otherwise, it has a couple of funny residents, many of them welcoming their guests out of their little residences. If you are patient enough, you can even cross paths with some hurried peacock going fast who knows where.DSC00443With more than half of my to-do-list for the day covered, I am finally free to enjoy the quiet view of the lakes and the shaking boats.  DSC00446The best standpoint is the busy Pier Eins terrace, where I find a nice place near the water and get ready for at least two hours of doing nothing, except having a meal and probably an icecream too. My zen mood is troubled though by a waitress who just refused to take my two orders: a pasta, plus a special home made icecream. ‘Pasta is enough’, she kept saying and I feel like a disgusting hungry animal. After unsuccessful negotiation and the promise that I will pay here everything, she only bring me the pasta at the end, which are not as a huge portion as I might excepted: not too much oil, well boiled, with some interesting spices and the refreshing leaves of ruccola. I order also some fruity icecream after all, from another waitress, which does not have a spectacular taste, but keps me around the shore for the next half an hour.DSC00449For the siesta, I keep my eyes on the boats and walk around the shores. Besides bikes, also Segways can be rented and I promise to myself that one day I will be back in a good shape trying various healthy transportations during my trips too – not only cars, trains and airplanes. DSC00455There is so much nature around in Senftenberg, that I forget sometimes that some ugly former communist buildings are just around the corner.  DSC00460But not everyone is ready to take an aggressive distance to the communist (recent) past. Back in the historical area, the celebrations continue but people are more busy to check the good deals. Among the offers, former books and other popular objects from the time of the DDR, presented on a table decorated with the flag of the former communist Germany. DSC00465

My obligations of travel writer are bringing me to a different part of the city, where I can go only by walking around 20 minutes. No sea or nice sky at sight, only gas stations and some dusty buildings till I am in the garden city from the Brieske area.DSC00467It is a settlement built at the beginning of the 20th century for the workers involved in various industrial sectors in the area. Protected buildings from the end of the 1980s, the complex is considered an example of industrial architecture. DSC00471The quarter was provided, besides the buildings for the new industrial class, with a church, a shop, a school and kindergarden for children and big street whose cobblestones are kept in the original shape. DSC00475Nowadays a quiet residential area that was looking almost empty that Sunday afternoon, it has a strange architecture though, with very small windows attached to big walls and conic roofs that may look with the military metallic hats from the time of the Prussians.  DSC00483

There are regular guided tours introducing the area to the visitors, as well as a small museum that was closed at the late afternoon time of my visit. The anxious feeling of living in a big house with small windows can be balanced by the view of big yards connecting various buildings, a guarantee that some social life was in sight for the busy residents of the area.DSC00490

I keep developing my sociological consideration on the solitary way back to the center and after, on the way back to the central station waiting for my train back to Berlin. Maybe I did not find here a spectacular castle, worthy of a Disney movie, but at least I did enjoy the quietness of the waters and the sunny day and realized how much I am missing the sea. Plus, some party gang of international students dancing in the train. Life can offer funny things sometimes…

For more insights, photography and recommendations, check the dedicated Pinterest board: https://www.pinterest.com/ilanaontheroad/senftenberg/

Hot weekend at Müritz See

DSC00497

Although hardly any weekend passed without a heavy rain, especially in the middle of Sunday, a couple of weeks ago, Berlin recorded one of the highest temperatures in the last 10 years, with around 38 C. In warmer part of the world, this can be only the beginning of a hot summer, but here eveything is more dramatic. For running away of the short-term heat, I decided to take a Berlin-Brandenburg ticket for 31 EUR – available for 5 persons – and head to Müritz Lake, that wanted to visit for a long time. The trains – going direction Rostock  – were full of people, with some wagons lacking air condition. After crossing an area with picturesque lakes, we arrived at Waren in the very middle of the day. Colourful buildings and old streets were looking empty under the hot sun. DSC00500Slowly slowly, I followed the arrows leading to the old city center. The big highway with comics-like graffiti was extending his shades over half of the road, that was also that empty that I was able to hear my fast steps crashing against the sand.DSC00505

Before entering the proper historical area, a first stop at the former border Güstrower Tower, a former gate into the city at the end of the 19th century. Although, there is a big selection of hotels in the entire area, those interested to get a local taste, can chose many private appartment offered to rent. DSC00508Heading alongside streets with small shops and fish restaurants, we made a stop at the famous natural museum of Müritzeum, featuring the rich natural landscape of the area, considered the largest water-covered region in Germany.DSC00513Accompanied by the deep screams of seagulls, we use the time before our boat trip to see more about the city. The waterfront bars are ready to welcome the guests, with chairs on sand, local fish dishes and many German beers. DSC00514Everything looks pretty and clean, with glamorous boats put on sale and tourists enjoying their outdoor lunches protected by the big umbrellas of the terraces. During the communist times, Waren used to be a favourite summer location of the Communist elites and the city always benefited of the financial attention of the authorities. Years later, it looks like a quiet Riviera place, where you chose to go because you just need to rest, eat and eventually take a big tour of the lakes.  DSC00526If curious enough, you can find mysterious places, with colourful flowers at the entrance, and upper level with a view over the sea.  DSC00530The historical center has many old buildings, including half-timbered houses. Historical city walkings are taking the visitors slowly around the most important buildings and their histories. DSC00533More history is ready to be discovered at the Waren Museum, with its lively coloured stained glass or at the historical Löwer Apotheke, where between 1 March and 3 October, guided tours are available between 11 and 13 o’clock.  DSC00542Instead of taking any of the tours, I prefer to face the hotness and walk the Lange Straße where everything is full of life and tasty foodie choices. And not forget about the many icecream options.  DSC00549When I was about to consider myself a victim of the heat, it is about time to take my seat on the former steam boat Europa. It is the last shift of the day, and for the next one hour, I am taking sunbaths and having cold drinks on the deck.  DSC00603The view is charming and the sea is busy with boats of different styles and for different budgets. Boat renting in the port is also possible.DSC00575The real sport heroes are doing it the hard way, by kayak. DSC00592The lazy travelers are taking pictures and thinking poetically about the meaning of the wild nature. As there are not too many people on the boat, the silence is overwhelming enough to hear the splash of the water against the wood.  DSC00606When I am back on the ground, ready for the trip back to Berlin, I only blame my late morning start for missing the chance to spend more time around the lakes. With still some good weeks left till the end of the season and the hope of more sunny weekends, I am carefully planning already my next trip to Müritz. And I know very well what my secret destination will be this next time.

For more pictures from Waren (Müritz), have a look at the dedicated Pinterest board.

On the road with FlixBus-MeinFernbus

DSC09834

In the last months, my travels within Germany were very limited, and especially lately I mostly used trains or car. However, once in a while, I remember that still did not test all the bus opportunities that are, by far, the cheapest options to travel across Germany. Especially now, during the few hot days of the summer, most buses to have functional air condition system, an offer that is not always included in the very expensive price packages of the train services.

The buses developed tremendously in the last years, with complex networks and unbeatable prices. The dynamic of the market also included several new business deals that I was not too much aware lately. One of them was the marriage between Mein Fernbus and Flixbus, rebranded since the beginning of this year under the motto: Flixbus-Der Fernbus von Flixbus.

The result: besides the prices that remain cheap and very cheap (Hamburg Berlin keeps being 8 EURO one way) the transportation network covered developed dramatically, with a permanent expansion outside the borders. Noticeable, the routes: Hamburg-Prag, Köln-Brussels, Nürnberg-Amsterdam. Den Haag and my beloved Antwerp are also part of the new itineraries, as well as France, Sweden, Denmark and Italy – including Venice and Verona.  Right now, just thinking about the many good prices associated with numerous destinations I only feel sorry for my very limited travel possibilities in the coming months…According to the official data provided by the company, the happy meeting between MeinFernbus and Flixbus created a coverage of 300 cities and 10,000 connections.

As for the practical travel conditions as such, many of the amenities noticed during my latest trips with MeinFernbus are still there: the drivers are polite and talkative, the level of cleanliness is decent – everything depends on the awareness of the passangers after all – decently clean – at the limit – toilet. The delays are announced in time and the journey went smooth. As in the case of the previous MeinFernbus trips, the WLAN connection is intermittend and this can create problems if you plan to accomplish too much while on the road.

The conclusion: the green company – the choice of colour is not accidental, as denotes the environmental concerns and policies – still remains on the top choices of transportation for my trips. Let’s only hope that the good times of non-stop travel will be back soon!

Disclaimer: I was offered a free two-way ticket for my trip to Bad Oeynhausen by FlixBus-Fernbus, but the opinions are, as usual, my own. 

Spa life in Bad Oeynhausen

DSC09841I always surprise my experienced German friends with questions about destinations they never heard about. My first encounter with Bad Oeynhausen took place the last year when I intensively visited Bielefeld and I spotted some directions to this relatively unknown place to the Berliners or Southerners residents. Due to time restrictions, I was not able to make it then, but kept this destination in mind for further planning. Almost one year later, I was there, at the end of a too long delayed ride that included some police controls in Hannover and crowded roads. Dizzy upon arrival, the first 30 minutes did not impress me at all: many weight-related advertising, too much pollution from the trucks and a shopping center in the middle of a neglected area. It was one of those moments that may happen once in 10 trips when I am going in the wrong direction. Luckily, I am turning in the right direction and soon my camera is getting busy capturing travel postcards. There are even comfy chaise-longues if I may feel tired, but I resist the temptation this time.

DSC09842

After too many unfavorable first impressions, I feel travelling through Wonderland, except there is no Alice to run after the funny rabbit. DSC09847Close to the Ost Korso area, the architecture of the houses is changing and I am admiring the prodigies of the beginning of 20th century design works. DSC09848

In some places, one can notice the superposition of various styles and influences, in a very harmonious way. From a street number to another, my impression about this place is changing dramatically.  DSC09849

Although it seems that Bad Oeynhausen does not seem too have too many big cultural attractions such as museums and exhibitions, walking the central area can offer pleasant views. As a visitor for a couple of hours, I just feel good to visit this place. DSC09854When I arrived in the Kurort area, the huge Spa Park covering various facilities in the middle of a Lenne designed garden, I almost forgot my first impressions about this locality.  DSC09855The classical or more elaborated Renaissance style buildings are hosting rehabitionation centers and even a Bali Spa, offering various high-end services to the residents, including a weekly spa day only for women. As I am walking the alleys, I can see some of the patients doing their program of exercises outdoors. On a bench, a couple of youngsters are playing guitar and singing. DSC09858The imposing silhouette of the Kur Palast is dominating the entire area and although out of time, I cannot resist the temptation to step in for a while.  DSC09863

For now, the building with red velvet curtains and colourful stained glass windows is hosting a Variete Theatre, GOP offering entertainment to the locals as well as too people coming here for treatment.

DSC09874

The entire area of the Kurort Complex is surrounded by many hotels for different budgets and tastes. There is even a small design shop and a cafe within the park, offering a relaxing view over the carefully manicured gardens. DSC09884

With only less than 3 hours left, I am randomly checking streets and directions, always surprised by the serious architectural lines of the buildings that look as everything is ready for an official opening.DSC09891At Karlchen’s Backstube, I can admire the local variety of local breads, but also some interesting pastries that maybe one day will be curious to discover how to prepare myself. DSC09897

For this trip, I resume my foodie experience at the offers of Eiscafe Piccoli, a gluten free icecream parlour in the central area. I sit outside, where I can observe the local people – at this time of the day predominantly retired persons – and taste the delicious treats. The icecream arrived very fast and combined fruity flavours of strawberries, a serious chocolate touch and pistacchio. Let’s hope that my entire sweet season of the summer will taste like that! The nearby Cafe Ellinghaus is even more tempting, but discovered too late, with marzipan truffles and freshly made cakes. DSC09902

I prefer to spend more time in the parks for now, walking the Sielpark. Around this area, every Saturday there is an open market selling various fresh products to the locals.DSC09907

As every spa and thermal locality – not only in Germany – Bad Oeynhausen is also associated a legend. In this case, the story says that the pig farmer Colin Sültenmeyer discovered a strange crust on the back of his animals. Proved as salt, it contributed to the further discovery of the salt resources and further on, to the well being of the community. A statuary complex, situated in the shopping area of Klosterstrasse telling this story is one of the most popular meeting point in town.DSC09909

From Klosterstrasse you can find a lot of shopping deals, from classical handmade hats to various hobby shops, libraries and modern clothing. A typical British phone boot shares the love from Wear Valley District Council, a proof of the friendly relations between the two city councils.

DSC09911

When it is about time to go, I am just happy that despite the unpleasant first impression, I did find so many things to do, see and taste. Maybe there will be a next time and will be brave enough to rent a bike from the train station and discover even more surprinsing sides of Bad Oeynhausen.

For more impressions from Bad Oeynhausen, check the dedicated Pinterest board: https://www.pinterest.com/ilanaontheroad/bad-oeynhausen/

Trip facilitated by Flixbus.de