Magdeburg’s come back

20150819_111317

Magdeburg was one of the first cities I visited when I moved to Berlin seven years ago and at the time, I did the usual tourist checking: the Hundertwasser complex, the central old city with the city hall and the famous golden horseman, Technical and Natural Science and History museums. This time, I was back for another one-day trip, but without any travel focus, just for some work assignment. This how I discovered a different face of the city, off the beaten path.

20150819_111324(0)After the reunification of Germany, Magdeburg was often quoted as an example of failure to bring the East at the same successful level with the West. The keywords often associated in the local media with this city were: unemployment – two digits till 2006, communist ugly Plattenbauten, neonazis and despair. Thanks to the smart subvention policy and the EU various fuding, the wisely used money was spent for infrastructure and education and from the Cinderella of the East, upgradet its status in 2012 as ‘Germany’s most dynamic city’.

20150819_112422Compared to Dresden and Leipzig, that are considered one of the most attractive destinations for both tourism and investments, where the prices for rents are slightly increasing, Magdeburg remains a good deal among the real estate investors. Especially the area near Neustädter See, close to the highway from Berlin, with many new apartments recently offered to rent. The precarious economic situation pushed many people to leave Magdeburg but in the last years, people from other part of the country and from abroad are moving here. Compared to many countries in the world, people in Germany prefer to rent instead of buying properties, with many people who never owned a real estate. Prices for rents are controlled by the state and in this particular part of Magdeburg, you easily find 2-room apartments for around 400 Euro. As for now.20150819_124204

The communist standard buildings were dramatically repainted and refurbished, and added impressive concierge services with cleaning services and other facilities included. But there are is another advantage that may bring people in this part of the city: the green area in one of the greenest cities from this part of Germany. The water sports facilities created around the lake, the new parks and restaurants as well as the advantages for families with children are also added to the list. Since 1993, the city also has its own university, the youngest in Germany, which brings in this area a lot of international students. Huge former industrial spaces were converted into business hubs for startups and engineering workshops.

20150819_124246

From the top of one of the highest Plattenbauten around, the buildings introduced to the real estate market as samples of the ‘1970s flair’ – I have enough communist memories to remember how flairless they used to be, boring buildings for grey people – are painted in happy colours, every block a buildings assigned a different colour. A young face to a city with history.

20150819_124259

The 1,200-year old city created by Charlemagne is changing his face and is getting back on its path to the future. Nothing stays the same and in a way, I am grateful that I had the chance to see this city besides the usual travel-touristic stereotypes.

Salty Middle Ages impressions in Lüneburg

DSC00888

My stepfather was only once in Germany and then he only visited Lüneburg. Back home, he was extremely impressed by the little picturesque houses, maintained in a good shape for centuries. As the city was left untouched by the WWII bombings, the city seemed to have its special histories to share. Taking the chance of some special Deutsche Bahn train offer this summer – less than 40 EUR two ways from Berlin for a weekend ride – I embarked on my trip direction North Germany.

DSC00890

Unlucky me, during my entire trip to Lüneburg I had as train company a huge group of soccer fans who were heading further to Hamburg. I am tolerant enough to accept people’s love for football, but everything stops shorter when it comes to the never ending bottles of beer consumed during a 3-hour trip many poured on the floor. Upon arrival in the city, I preferred to err for a couple of good minutes, enjoying some silence and fresh air, around the waters of Ilsenau. The view of the historical houses changed my mood. A nice lady engaged a conversation with me, explaining me the downfalls of living in such a house: sometimes it can be too cold and usually the doors and windows cannot be changed.

DSC00898

The watermill is another historical destination, built in 1407, where people can also rent a place to stay for a couple of days.DSC00900

The water seems to have played an important role in the development of this city. Nowadays, this role have been converted into cultural value. The water tower – the Wasserturm – for instance,  gathers various exhibition spaces and also offers hosting for special events, such as weddings.

DSC00904

From the 56-meter high 6th floor, one can have an overview of the entire city. Maybe there are not too many new buildings erected in this city that from above looks surprisingly green, but there are some work underway to give the city a new architectural face.DSC00909

On the way back from the top of the tower, a little stop to admire an exhibition about Japan, following the twinning between Lüneburg and Naruto city.

DSC00912

I am walking under the huge trees of Clamart Park, with a monument for the victims of the French German wars. The massive green seems to bring more friendliness in an area dominated by dark brutalist style architecture.

DSC00920

Sooner, I am entering a joyous area, at the intersection between Ritter and Rote Straße, full of tourists and small attractive shops. Many are selling sweets containing local salt or bonbons shaped as the historical buildings.

DSC00921

The reality size buildings are more tempting and interesting, although not on the plate. Different colours of stones were carefully built together creating pyramid-roofed houses that may look but are not always the same.

DSC00924

It may look like a museum, but real people are living here and always used to. Everything is so well maintained and renovated that it seems that the houses were finished only a couple of months ago.

DSC00926

I am a bit curious to know how the space of the houses is organised, but as no one invited me yet for an overview, I take a break and a Kopenhagener at the historical Hesse Bäckerei and try to read fast the spirit of the place. DSC00930

The more I get closer to the Am Markt, the more tourists I meet. Locals on bike are finding hard their way in the middle of the crowds.

DSC00944

But I am lucky enough to find some small streets, where the luxuriant vegetation brings a sweet touch to the cold serious red bricked buildings.

DSC00946

These small streets are hiding cute little coffee and tea places, where it is easy to find your peace of mind. Like the Oldest Tea a destination for the local hipsters.DSC00954Or the Chocolate Manufaktur from Berge 26, offering various local homemade cocoa based delights. Or the Kafferosterei Ratsch, a sweet presence in town since 1919.DSC00961

Some buildings display colourful decorations at the entrance, tempting the visitor to pay a longer visit in the stores. DSC00964When the special architecture does not help, some shops may chose to just took some of their products out of the street, like in the case of Wohnzutaten, introducing many vintage interior design pieces of decoration.DSC00973

The Teddy bears from Freken Dina, selling products trademarked by Danish interior design artists seem to ask me to bring them home, all of them. The same temptation at Korinna Weber jewelry shop.DSC00988The more I walk the more details to spot. Some of the coloured timbered houses remind me of the architecture in Celle or in some localities in the Harz mountains.DSC00994

All the historical houses are labelled as ‘trade’ houses but obviously some were more successful than the others in their business endeavours. As it always happens.

DSC00996

But nowadays you do not have to be successful to take a seat with a great view over the river at one of the restaurants. If you are lucky enough to find a free place, which was not my case.

DSC00999

Waiting for some luck, I spend my time at the Alte Krau, an old mill from the 19th century whose functioning is explained in detail part of a guided introduction.DSC01008History is always interesting for me, but there are even more things to admire around. For instance, a wine collection at the Einzartig Hotel, the art from Atelier 19 or the Persian dishes from Soraya restaurant. Lünerbug Bombon Manufaktur invites adults and children to taste some colourful sweets, some of them prepared in the front of them.DSC01024

I pass wooden bridges bordered by buildings with even more local products or hotels, like the Bergström, apparently one of the few top hotel destinations in the city.

DSC01023

Or with some art galleries, like the Gallerie Bertram displaying beautiful book illustrations, made on the spot by the artist herself.

DSC01031

The smell of the fresh bread ready from the ovens of the Backstube bring more flavour to my wandering.

DSC01042The same as the colourful fresh peasants products from the flea market in the front of the city hall take me to the rush and whispers of bargaining.DSC01044

There is so much commotion and things to care about on the ground that I was almost about to ignore the impressive City Hall building.

DSC01047

Guided tours of the city hall are possible at specific hours during the day, when the authorities are not happy to celebrate weddings or other happy moments. Meanwhile, what not go on a city tour in the carriage?

DSC01050

City hall administrative buildings are hosted in historical houses. Seeing these cute little red bricked presences it might be a really pleasant event to go to work every day. The Council Library is a former Franciscan Convent, where you can have a curious look if you really want.

DSC01066

But history can wait. As for now I want to check the foodie offer, hoping that there will be more than middle ages flavours available. My expectations are answered and it seems that I have to make a difficult choice. From a Thai restaurant – Buddha Thai – whose advantage is of being too far away from the main street, to some English high end options, including high tea, like Chandler’s Caffee, there is enough to calm my hunger. As I want to keep an eye on the street while enjoying the jazz rhythms of a street musician, I am set for the less sophisticated Cafe Central, where I order a quinoa veggie burger and French fries. Exactly what you can expect from such an order, and one more time, I am not convinced to include quinoa on my foodie preferences.

DSC01093With renewed energies, I keep exploring the interesting streets, the usual mixture of modern shops and small caffes hosted in building with a romantic, historical charm. As for now, I am checking Schröderstrasse, Grapengiesserstr. and Brumesterstr. More discoveries follow, such this quiet painting atelier on Auf der Altstadtstr. DSC01110

Another part of the Lüneburg history is revealed at the Salt Museum, a former mine where different stages of the salt mining, a historical tradition here. It outlines the European routes of salt, and introduce the history of this very simple, yet precious, product for our life and successful kitchen.

 

DSC01113

Some of the former tools used in the extraction process are exhibited outside. The mine, part of a tradition who intensified in the 16th century, following the introduction of the salt as part of different ingredients, from kitchen culture to medication, was closed in the 1980s, for economic reasons. In the old days, it used to produce around 10 tones per day.

DSC01116In a building nearby, old interiors from the 1960s on were reconstructed as recent history testimonies. For someone who did not leave here during these times, such reconstructions are very helping in understanding the mentalities.DSC01129

Slowly slowly I am back again near the central area, and chose to stop once more time to have a look over the city at the Brasil Coffee with an ice coffee as company. Well, I better call it just cold coffee, but was strong and not too sweet and the whipped cream brought some tenderness to the strong coffee element.DSC01145

It is late in the day and the vendors of vegetables from the front of the city hall are far away. A good opportunity to admire the art of the square and the architecture of the building. DSC01147

That was it for the day! A lot of interesting places and histories, everything in one place. With so many events hosted here, from classical concerts to music festivals having on the agenda Roisin Murphy, Calexico or Patti Smith, I may be tempted to come back one day, to discover other faces of the city.

For more insights from Lüneburg, have a look at the dedicated Pinterest board: https://de.pinterest.com/ilanaontheroad/l%C3%BCneburg/

Cold War Memories in Klein Machnow

DSC01752

I did not know too much about Klein Machnow until a couple of months ago when someone outlined the real estate potential of this place, as many local VIPs, of various calibers, do have villas here. The decision to spend a whole summer day here was more the result of my curiosity than determined by some economic purposes. Plus, I assumed that I know quite a bunch about Berlin and its neighborhoods. What happened that I missed this apparently famous place?

DSC01753

I arrived there with a local bus from Berlin. Then, I took the Karl Marx Street for around 20 minutes, not before a long stop at the local weekly vegetables market. Triangle-roofed houses hidden by the high vegetation were the first noticeable observations in my first hour of exploration in Klein Machnow.

DSC01758

If at the first sight there were not too many traces of the former communist legacy, those little details familiar to someone that grew up in this (crazy) world were easy to spot. Maybe the attitude of some local people towards foreigners, or some buildings or just the overall impression…

DSC01760

Many buildings were renovated in the last years and sold to successful entrepreneurs from Berlin. The situation of real estate in Klein Machnow was subject not only to economic considerations. During the Cold War, this locality was part of the communist part. Following the reunification, around 8,000 people lived their houses that were in fact occupied illegally from owners that went in the West. It seems that history repeats itself, but this particular dispute was assigned a name: “Klein Machnow Syndrome”.

DSC01765

A couple of streets before we were reading about what to do when meeting wild boars, a frequent presence around it seems, but now we are in the middle of the small central area and everything make you feel centuries distance from the above mentioned wilderness.DSC01768

The main shops and restaurants are concentrated in the area around Sehquartier. There is nothing exquisite, just everything you need to make your life bearable before the first ride to Berlin.

DSC01769

The same when it comes to food. The Salumeria is the most attractive place for food and I took a seat outside, a good observation point to notice the locals between the food bites. The bruschettas are edible, not too elaborated in terms of taste – was expected more spices and maybe a bit more olive oil.DSC01771

The pasta arabiatta are spicy as expected, but not too well cooked. The sauce compensates everything though, including the clumsy customer service.

DSC01772

With renewed forced, I continue my trip, convinced that there must be many hidden histories in these places. The street art is colourful, a testimony that there must be young people with ideas around.

DSC01773

The architects seem to try their hand here too, as the Bio Company shop is hosted in one of the most interesting buildings dedicated to this business, the repeated wood detail and the transparent entry being a good illustration of the messages of this company.

DSC01774

The only school in the locality bears the name of the Russian (Soviet) writer Maxim Gorki, a memory from the old communist times maintained in Germany without the similar shame from other communist countries – as the Karl Marx street that lead me to the city.

DSC01783

After a little bit of bus riding and more hiking, I arrive at one of the trademarks of this neighborhoods of Berlin. The Teltow Kanal, inaugurated in 1906, that played an important role in developing the trade network between Berlin and different locations in Germany or Poland.

DSC01787

Nowadays, here you can follow some short historical tours. The entire place is too peaceful to make you dream about the busy trade that used to be here just couple of decades ago.

DSC01791

Nearby, the old tram tells a different story. Now part of history, the 96 tram was took out of service following the establishment of the new borders of Berlin. As nothing went further the Checkpoint Bravo, this tram witnesses the isolation and alienation between the two parts of Berlin. The interior is decorated with black and white pictures from the old times and the custodian of the place is kind enough to answer my many questions around the topic: And how was is then?

DSC01798

As it happens often, intuitively my steps are taken to places with interesting histories. I am walking through the yards of the Hakeburg castle, a construction built in 1600, supposedly turned soon into a posh real estate destination. Old stained glass and statues covered by the rain, winds and snow, large interior yards and high walls. Used first as a castle, during the war as a private residence of the Reichpostminister, Wilhelm Ohnesorge. Destroyed by the bombings, it was opened again only in 1950, first as a school for party leaders, but also used as a private residence for various guests of the communist leadership. DSC01801

Such a small place, so many histories, many of them not yet revealed to me. As my long years of travel taught me, there is no single new place on Earth were you cannot learn something. You just need keep following your journey.

For more insights about what to do and see in Klein Machnow, check the dedicated Pinterest board

When the animal world disappoints you…

DSC01666

My arrival to Große Schönebeck station, with the OEG train that continued my trip from Karow, near Pankow area of Berlin, for another 30 minutes, did not announce anything but just another trip agenda. My aim was to visit the Schorfheide Natural Park, which on the maps and travel recommendations was indicated as 3.4 km. away from this station.

DSC01670

Before arriving to the real animals park, I take a tour of the hunting castle of the Hohenzollern – just another one of them, with an interesting garden of statues and coaches, an attractions for the kids of all ages.

DSC01681

Following different arrows and not always very clear signs, I optimistically start my journey to Schorfheide, near gardens and small houses with agriculture tools in their yards.

DSC01685

Less wild horses are treating me with curiosity but they leave me alone with my camera within seconds.

DSC01686

Some locals also treat me with curiosity, as it seems that pregnant women with a camera and a notebook walking in the village is not a very common view.

DSC01689

Maybe I am just the victim of the misunderstanding of an arrogant city girl. After working hard harvesting, local people just want to rest and treat the intruder with a distant politeness, just offering them the information they want with a minimal use of words.

DSC01692

Compared with my usual timing, this time the 3 and something kilometers look never ending. Hundreds of meters away from the park I stop at the Esel (Donkey) coffee, exactly when the rain starts and the outside chairs are collected. An icecream might be enough as an energizer for the rest of the trip.

DSC01697

According to my homeworks, this natural park, part of the wider Biosphere Schorfheide Chorin, has many animal breeds threatened by extinction. Built in 1996, it shows to the visitor the lynx, European elks, wild horses, red deer and wild boars among others. It seems my long hours of walking will be compensate with some great encounters…

DSC01701

Before entering the borders of the park, an adventure park made me feel a bit frustrated that at least for now I cannot put on trial my trees climbing abilities.

DSC01708

After a very short stop at the local restaurant for an overpriced poor cup of cappuccino, I am ready to meet the special animals, that for sure are waiting for me somewhere hidden in the bushes of this huge park. For now, I am greeted by some crazy playful goats.

DSC01704

And by some gracious elegant horses too…

DSC01712

The dirty curly Mangalitsa are too busy to say hello, having a great time in their natural muddy environment.

DSC01714

The herd of cows are not enjoying the intruders either. The German-English explanations are mentioning that this is one of the oldest domestic breed of cattle.

DSC01715

Still I am waiting for that big meeting with some unique creature. The big alleys of the natural park are bathed in the light and warm of the summer sun, making my ride more enjoyable. My sport shoes are making this long trip easy. Every couple of minutes I am crossing paths with families or groups of German travelers looking to photograph interesting animals, just like me, or exhausted after so many searches, just need a nice place for a picnic.

DSC01716

Far away in the middle of the fields, the Wisent (European bison) is having late lunch. Extincted in the German areal since the 16th century, it weights around 1,200 kg, being considered the heaviest land mammal in Europe.

DSC01726

For the rest of the trip, my luck just went away. The solitary wild boars keep staying in their kiosks, the European wolf is nowhere to be seen. Instead, I have another long encounter with horses, this time the Konik breed, a very primitive East European breed, considered very resistant to cold and generally undemanding.

DSC01731

The European otter made a lot of problems. First, I had to wait for a couple of minutes to spot it, till a very curious sound alerted me and another photographer lady nearby. It sounded like a gross animal laugh. It went into water instantly and appear only too late for my camera to catch it. Finally, although a bit unpolite, I had to take a picture of the otter in the middle of the animal act of devouring the fish, before running again very fast.And that was almost all for this visit. No European elk and no Lynx available to say hello to me, although I stayed for more than 20 minutes at the vantage point hoping desperately that I will spot anything.

DSC01738

On the way to the exit, the racoon initially hidden in his kiosk, made an afternoon tour, just in time for me to take a last picture of him.

DSC01744

Very tired and disappointed by my journalistic achievements, paid my last respects to Groß Schönebeck. Let’s say that this trip was a successful proof of physical resilience. I just hope one day will have the chance to return and meet more special animals.

For more inspiration, check the dedicated Pinterest board

 

Buckow, the little German Switzerland

DSC01320

It is amazing the fascination of Switzerland. There are so many places and corners compared to the country of cantons that it is very hard sometimes to make the difference between the copy and the original. As someone that spent some impressive amount of time in the real Switzerland, I am very cautious with the comparisons. A bit of curiosity, a bit of boredom and my limited options of travel this summer brought me to Buckow, just another destination less than 2 hours away from Berlin, situated in the so-called Märkische Schweiz. From Müncheberg train station, we embarked on a vintage train from the 1980s ride that for 3 Euro ticket (one way, two-way costs 5 Euro) will bring us to Buckow. The train is working only from May to October.DSC01321

The ride lasts for around 10 minutes, and I can even go on the top cockpit to follow the railway road through green forest and camping places or houses with tiled rooftops. In the forest might be many protected birds, as the entire area is considered a natural park, covering around 205 sqkm.

DSC01327

Those curious to discover more about the train history can visit the small museum situated in the station. DSC01328

From the one and only train station in town, we just followed the Berliner street, following only our travel intuition – as there were no arrows to direct the travelers through various destinations in the city.

DSC01331

The streets are empty, but I already got used with this first impression after visiting many other places around Berlin. It seems that during the summer either everyone is hiding  behind the stone houses or they just left the area during this unusually hot season.DSC01334From the concrete of the town we are heading smoothly through the forest. The air is much fresh and the temperature get balanced so I wish I can spend here the rest of my trip this time.DSC01336Some people not only wished they spend more time here, but are just having a great time for more than a couple of hours. Some early morning campers – some of them accompanied by their small children – are just getting out of their tents and having a breakfast with a view over the lake and the historical city. DSC01338And it seems that people are doing more than camping. Some may come here to study and meditate in the middle of a collection of stones from all over the North of Europe.DSC01344The famous literary couple Bertold Brecht-Helene Weigel chose this quiet place to spend some creative summer time. Their house is open now as a memorial museum.DSC01350

But you do not have to be excessively creative to decide living or spending a lot of time in Buckow. Many of the big houses have a view and even special access to the lake. Such a lake made me feel for a while to the many enjoyable boat rides around the lakes of Zurich or Geneve. Some of the big houses do have wooden decorations and paintings in the upper part, another reminder of the picturesque Switzerland.DSC01353Our efforts to get into a boat that is supposed to start a tour around the lake in less than 40 minutes failed. Especially after the captain of one of the boats kept making very uninspired jokes in presence of ladies. The time spent waiting for the boat to leave was enough to give us a view over the Schermützelsee. Wish we are one of those lucky owners of a personal boat to just go in the middle of the lake without depending on other doubtful options…DSC01360A good food can lift the spirits and from the balcony of the restaurant of Strand Hotel we keep observing the movement from the lake while tasting some seasonal local mushrooms – Pfefferlinge – meal accompanied by boiled potatoes adorned with fresh parsley and cooked with onions. A very simple meal without excessive oil.DSC01361The soup made from the same Pfefferlinge is creamy and salty.The brown bread with various seeds is a good taste companion. DSC01362When the weather is so hot, except the boat trip in the middle of the lake, sunbathing and swimming is an option not only for the locals but also from groups of youngsters arriving by car from Berlin. DSC01369

I may be tempted to hurry up to go back to Berlin, but I feel there is something else that can be seen here. For instance, the big castle park Bukow, with its special rehabilitation clinic park. Besides Nordic walking and simple hiking – on the Kaloerienpromenade – , it is also possible to try walking bare feet through the water. I take the last challenge, but my swollen feet were not exactly ready to cope with the many little stones.

DSC01386

A walk through the streets of the historical center was a more enjoyable experience. Many of the houses are available for summer renting which might be a good idea, as the area looks quiet, without too many temptations. There are some small exhibition spaces such as Közwolf bei Brecht presenting local German works, and even a Korean restaurant and a movie theater, enough things to do for offering a right balance between the secluded time for rest and a minimal social face.DSC01396

Not an artist and not on vacation, I prefer to take my regular test around the lake, looking envious from my wooden bench at the kids jumping bravely in the warm water.

DSC01399

Before taking the bus till the train station, a short visit at the colourful pottery shop bring more impressions about this visit. Maybe the comparison with Switzerland does not make too much sense, but at least it makes me feel I am very very far away of the busy city life. For now, I feel less guilty for my limited travel agenda and it is enough.

For more insights from Buckow, check  the dedicated Pinterest board: https://de.pinterest.com/ilanaontheroad/buckow-germany/

Remedies against the rain in Potsdam

DSC01509

Berlin and especially Brandenburg that I extensively explored in the last weeks offered me a gorgeous unexpected summer, but little by little, everything will become memories and eventually travel blog posts. The cold raining season is in full bloom and need to switch not only the wardrobe and shoes, but also the bags, big enough to welcome an umbrella. Regardless of how much I love to discover other places in Brandenburg, I have a big weakness for Potsdam that makes me want to come back every couple of weeks. This time I want to see a face I never explored it, which includes the cultural headquarters. I went out of the SBahn at Babelsberg station and from there, took the tram for a couple of stations till the port.

DSC01512As in many places in Berlin, this is a favourite area for bikers of all ages, unstoppable by the rain and any other bad weather signs. Following the arrows I am heading direction Schieffbauergasse and the artistic encounters on the way indicates that I am going in the right direction.  DSC01513In just a couple of minutes, I am in the middle of the cultural district of Potsdam, offering from concerts to dance shows and alternative theatre, plus some pubs and green eateries.DSC01515Everything is hosted in the Art Yard (Kunsthof) that because of the rain and the late afternoon hour it is relatively empty.DSC01516

The last visitors are busy to finish reading the information about the very interesting FLUXUS movement which has a dedicated museum in Potsdam. Encouraging happenings and spontaneity and oriented against the commercial art, the movement developped in the 1960s and had many similarities with the Dadaist and Suprarealist art streams.DSC01525

One of the buildings that I wanted to see and photograph for a long time is Hans Otto Theater, whose bold reddish silhouette I admired at different moments of the day during various boat trips I took in the last years. This time, I see it under a grey sky and from close it may look not only interesting, but also a bit threatening. Not it seems for the couples founding refuge from rain under the pagoda-like roofs. DSC01538

Armed with a pink umbrella I bought in Jerusalem, I ignore the insistent drops of rain and keep walking more around the lakes, trying to be careful not to stumble upon the very fast squirrels that started the harvest time for the winter. Welcome, autumn! DSC01539

Shortly, I am in another new place for me, at the New Garden, which I explored only partially a couple of years back when I was writing a travel guide about Potsdam. This time I stop in the part guarded by the so-called Gothic Library, a cold stone construction which also hosts couples refugiated against the rain. Potsdam seems to be a city of love, which I completely agree…DSC01542

Wish I can have time to have a short meditation with a view over the lake, but this time the view from the top of the stairs is enough to inspire me.  DSC01552

On way back to the central area, the architecture of some houses surprises me, a mixture of Dutch and reddish typical Brandenburg stones with blue windows frames. A couple of streets away, some new white apartment buildings, with high ceilings and small balconies, a sign that Potsdam is not only a place for students, teachers for oversea and history lovers, but also is turning into a posh place to live. DSC01553

The rain is about to calm down and I take my chance to get a bit lost on the long alleys of the 18th century New Garden, which is showing me another different side. The geometrically planned alleys reminding of the my favourite Brandenburg architect Schinkel are part since 1990 of the UNESCO World Heritage. DSC01558If you are looking for meeting artists and arts lovers in Potsdam, Cafe Matschke is one recommended places. The best is to go there during the summer and enjoy the artistic ambiance of the garden, but inside is also cosy and inspiring. DSC01560This time, I do not have time to stop to the 19th century Russian colony of Alexandrowka, but I still have pleasant memories about the pastry nuts filled with cream that reminded me so much of sweet childhood treats. DSC01562

I keep walking decided to both look for a place to stop before going back to Berlin, but also curious what new discoveries will have during this short Postdam trip. Hopefully there are so many things to discover that I don’t feel disappointed of too much walking.

DSC01565

The diversity of architectural styles and materials used is rewarding and I keep looking to the right and to the left, keen to do not miss anything important and with the camera always in action. DSC01566

I finally get closer to the central area through one of the 6 gates (Tören) of the city, Jägertor, the oldest one, built in 1733. Smaller than Brandenburg Gate a couple of minutes away and less touristic maybe but situated around streets with many local restaurants. DSC01572

The architecture of this area is predominanly following the programatic principles of Schinkel which may look too corect and less spontaneous at the first sight. But if you know how to correctly use your eyes, you may find some surprises. DSC01573

As I have a sweet tooth, I hope to find some waffles or pancakes – or both – in the Dutch quarter. Built in 1733 by Jan Bouman, it has 134 red brick buildings hosting various vintage shops and coffee places. Unfortunately for me, after two full days of a local street festival, all my potential surces of culinary delight are too tired to keep open till late afternoon. Time for a change of plans…

DSC01579

As usual, it is all for the good. For a long time I wanted to start the gourmet exploration of Potsdam and the French restaurant Jero was on the top. This time, the rain and the lack of options brought me here, and the expensive and high class bottles of wine covering the walls welcomed me into the intimate ambiance smelling of freshly cooked truffles. The SansSouci cold water was brought fast and most importantly with a smile, followed by a generous cappuccino and my sweet choice, a big cup of creme brulee, more expensive than the usual average sample you can find. Not an unforgettable taste, but nothing bad to say about it either – except that maybe for the 8 Euro you would have wait something a little bit special. However, I felt good enough to plan soon a new gourmet experience here, and maybe in other high class places in Potsdam tool.

All being said and planned, I can’t wait to be back!

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.