Buckow, the little German Switzerland

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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/

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Neverending summer feeling in Kladow

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The local bus took me from the Spandau train station in Berlin leading for 30 minutes through forests and shadows of the leaves in the Brandenburg area. Not very far away from Potsdam, but on a relatively discrete road, there is a small place call Kladow, just another summer destination of my one-day journeys from Berlin.

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In 1992, Kladow celebrated 725 years, and the old streets and houses are reminding a certain nostalgia. At the first sight there are not too many visitors around, and I enjoy taking notes of different buildings and mentions of anniversary both for the use of the local and of the foreigner.

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The historian in me cannot ignore the old age of the settlement, the over 100 of years of the Firebrigade, or the 20,000 years of the big stone brought from the Scandinavian mountains. Near the lake, an old solar watch catches my attention as I am trying to guess different time settings.

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Close to the historical area, a metal statue of the local sculptor Volkmann Haase is aimed to represent the values of friendship. Me and travel, we are friends for ever and more, of course.

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There is no sign of life behind the windows of the old tradesmen houses. Is just another one of those unusually hot days in August and the streets are, as usual, empty.

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It seems that the entire life is concentrated near the lake, in the many restaurants and small icecream parlors. The sounds of the boat engines ready to go far away are like winter cat snores. Although most part of the boats from the sea parking are privately owned, renting your own is also possible, at affordable prices, like everything around Berlin.

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I change the perspective trying to follow the sound of the rhythmic paddling. Some just chose to enjoy this day by hard work…

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All the way from Potsdam, there is a big group of party boats coming my way. Accompanied by the unmistakable bottles of fresh beers, young groups descend noisily into corners of land. Everyone is having today!

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Expansive villas in the middle of green trees and flowers are interrupting the rustic reveries. As in the case of many other places around Berlin, Kladow is also becoming an attractive real estate destination.

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On the Masha Kaleko road I turn on the left and get lost in the field. I am not alone as many children and families are taking their walks or lunches on the grass. Lying on the grass I am watching a horse being walked around.

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The old big trees are creating natural labyrinths that I wish I am bold enough to follow. Or at least less lazy.

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Slowly, slowly, I am returning to the lake area, ready for another little detour around the waters. Families on bike, with or without dogs running hard to catch up warn me to watch my steps.

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As usual in the last weeks, I make some steps, I stop for a while, took a picture, take my breath and keep walking.

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The lake is very crowded with different types of boats, big white spots on the clear blue bordered by summer green. A German riviera, simple and discrete.

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Wish I am right now on one of those lazy boats, going nowhere, doing nothing, maybe just taking a little sunbath.

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Long walks require some good meal and after wandering for more than 5 hours, I need a long tasty stop. Out of many choices, I decide – how unusual for me – for a Chinese restaurant, Regent, offering the most diverse menu although not with a view over the sea as I would have imagined the happy ending of my trip here. My sweet champignons, with summer sprouts and other typical vegetables are brought on a hot plate, accompanied by a complimentary plum wine that I should politely refuse. The meal is just fine, with too much drops of oil poured on the vegetables.

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I throw one more view over the lake, hoping that there is still time to make just one more such a simple trip around Berlin and I start the long way back to the bus station. Swallowed feet and heavy breath, I offer myself another treat, this time some berries and pamplemousse icecream at the parlour on Sakrower Kirchweg. Fruity sprinkling cold taste that keeps me energized till the next bus chair from where I say good bye to the secret Kladow paradise.

For more inspiration, check the dedicated Pinterest board

Green summer day in Briesetal

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This summer, my travel plans and dreams were strictly limited for a good reason. Which does not mean that I was easily convince to spend quiet weekends at home. Rather the opposite: I just use the opportunity to discover interesting things to do around Berlin. And I was rewarded with a lot of worth to share discoveries. Briesetal, for instance, is just 40 minutes away from Berlin. You take the train till Fronau and from there a couple of stations more a local bus till the city hall. From there, you just need to follow some of the arrows and start walking. DSC01204

We just started the travel day by following the yellow circle sign, leading us from small forests to small lakes with empty boats and white water lilies. Short arched bridges were guiding our steps till the next polite concrete paved path in the middle of the quiet trees. We met many other short time travellers, but we just passed by without not even looking to each other.

DSC01213For a little treat on a hot day, we made a stop at the Boddensee restaurant, a small wooden hotel surrounded by water. Waiters in uniforms welcomed us with a menu whose prices were worth at least a half shining of a Michelin star. Disappointed by the scarcity of our demands, they brought us the cold cokes and smiled when we left.DSC01218

But not for food experiences we were in Briesetal, but for more walking and deep breathing. Just took another 0.6 km tour around the lake Monchsee.DSC01225

There is a little bit more in Briesetal to see. For instance,some spectacular street art decorating the walls of a youth center.

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Or the interesting architecture of the main street, combining old high wooden balconies with modern cubic architecture.

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The shopping opportunities are minimal: the usual food supermarkets and some small local clothes or gardening businesses.DSC01237Without consumerist temptations, I keep documeting the green oasis, tooking just another concrete paved way. You don’t even need special shoes or previous special hiking training. DSC01252The next and last stop was in a small birch forest inspirely located on the Birkenwaldstrasse (birken means birch). The locals cleaning their cars or fixing their yard noticed us with a shy smile, enough to fell us less intruders.DSC01264

The forest continues through a short walk through a newly harvested wheat field. A large area with plain golden roots. On the sides, bushes of wild plants, aparently inspiring enough some street art artist.

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The rest of the trip we slowly walked the streets near Hohen Neundorf. Nothing especially to notice except the big houses with curious eyes not used apparently with expats talking a bit too loudly for this time of the afternoon. The discovery of a gladiola field, at Blumenfelde (flowers’ field) interrupted the monotony. You just need to leave some money in a box and make your own bouquet. I did never appreciate this type of flowers and chose to leave the flowers for someone really in need for some special decorations. In the middle of the overwhelming green, the richness of the colours reminded me how easy is to be happy with your lot, your travel lot,of course.

For more images from Briesetal, check the dedicated Pinterest board

Spring Western adventures in Templin

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One year ago, I celebrated the beginnging of a beautiful spring day in Templin, and 12 months after I was back in the small Brandenburg city which is the hometown of Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel for exploring the other part of the city.

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Shortly arrived in the train station, I headed direction Westernstadt, an adventure park that promises a lot of Western-like experiences. Although there is a bus that connects the city to this area, it works only during the week and thus, I had to walk a couple of kilometers. Luckily, the weather was nice and the road was quite sure. Close to a wood deposit, a train platform was presented as a possible attraction for visitors, but there were no one to give more information about tickets and schedule. Maybe later in the year…

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After another half an hour of walk, I stumbled upon a small antiquities shop near the road, stuffed with everything, from old family pictures to metal garden tools and furniture.

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Nothing compares though with the view of beautiful horses enjoying too the coming of the spring. In the quietness of the place, they offered a silently moving fragment of life and beauty.

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But what is this noise? The serenity of the previous scenery was suddenly interrupted by the broken sound of repeated shootings. Hopefully, it was no war or frozen conflict getting heated nearby, I was just approachign the destination of my travel day: Westernstadt.

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With most part of the activities taking place open air, the Western City is usually open from April to November, between 10am and 6pm. It has a huge parking place, as the car is the easiest transportation during the weekend, when the bus is on break. I arrived shortly before closing -something went wrong with my time management the whole day – but not late enough for not seizing the local ambiance.

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There are different experiences offered to the big and small visitors, from photo boots where you can picture yourself and your family in the specific ambiance to live shows.

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Beautiful horses are patrolling the sandy streets of the city, friendly enough for being approached by children.

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Once in a while, one can also learn some country dancing steps. You are in El Dorado, after all…

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Everything I go, I was more and more getting into the local feeling. Some colourful totems at a crossroad encouraged me to explore more the place instead of going down near the lake to see admire a quiet slice of nature.

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If I would have been a child visiting Western city, it would be hard to resist the temptation to hide in one of these tents hidden beneath bushes. DSC09585

There is also a little animal farm and an adventurous playground.DSC09591Don’t forget about the golden washing places as being in El Dorado always involved the search for some precious gold. DSC09595

Just in case, if you need to defend your treasure, you can get some special shooting training for being ready to react against your enemies, just in case…DSC09598In the saloon, the dark corners gives you intimacy and the time to think where can be the best undiscovered source of gold. As the closing time was getting closer, groups of parents and their children were heading to the exit and doors were locked behind. The silence was taking control of everything and sooner, the lack of movement will wrap perfectly the entire place.DSC09618Remnants of some communist youth activities on a wall near the Westernstadt were reminding that Templin used to be part of the red part of Germany. But right now, there is the Western spirit who won and with the new constructions being built ahead, those times will be soon only history books memories. DSC09627For me, it is about time to take the road back home, walking my portion of kilometers on the way to the train station. At mid-distance, I made a stop near a beautiful lake, that confirms the fame of Templin as the ‘pearl’ of the natural area of Uckermark. DSC09634

The huge storks hosted on the top of houses kept me company most part of the hiking. Maybe I did not spend a full day in Western style, but at least I was back in time to check how the winter finally surrended to the sunny spring. See you in one year, Templin?

Disclaimer: I was offered a free entrance to Westernstadt, but the opinions are, as usual, my own.

For more pictures from Templin, check the dedicated Pinterest board: https://www.pinterest.com/ilanaontheroad/templin-stadt/

A day at the dairy farm Gläserne Molkerei Münchehofe

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As I child, I visited a lot of factories – including chocolate and icecream factories -, dairy farms and even vineyards – without tasting, of course, and as a curious person, I enjoy understanding what I wear, eat or drink. I found always interesting the small details of the preparations and now, as a grown-up adult, I love to see with my own eyes the mysteries revealed. As a frequent visitor of the Bioladen – bio/ecological shops – in Germany, I noticed various advertisements for tours of Gläserne Molkerei Münchehofe, and after a while, I decided that I should pay a visit myself to this dairy farm, not that far away from Berlin, in the green Spreewald area of Brandenburg.

Dreaming is one thing, making it real might take a bit longer. Used so much with the precision and failure-free transportation connections in Germany, I disregarded a highly important aspect, well known by the local, but not too much disclosed to the wide public: from Königs Wusterhausen, S-Bahn station, there is a bus that connects Münchehofe, maybe once or twice the day. From Halbe, where I stop following the recommendation of some Deutsche Bahn employee, there are around 12 kilometres that without any proper wheel-propelled transportation, must be made by foot. With a lot of optimism and a good weather as trustworthy company, I started my walking journey.

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At 9 o’clock in the morning, everything looked fresh, with some last traces of the fading summer stubborn enough to still kept being around. Fresh air, flowers and colourful mushrooms diminished my lack of mental preparation for such a sudden early long walk.

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Accompanied by the silence of the woods, I made it relatively fast till the Märkisch Buchholz, near the Dahm river. With not too many people on the streets, except the one who brought me the bad news that there is no bus connection till the dairy farm and eventually I should keep walking and walking, I suddenly started to worry. With my appointment at the farm for a guided tour starting in less than 30 minutes, I was not able to be in time, unless will find some unconventional transportation way: hitch-hiking that I haven’t done since my final high-school years, when I went through Bulgaria for one week with only 100 USD in my pocket.

I think more than twice, pondering all my blogging priorities, especially the need to keep my word and be in due time at the appointed schedule. I set myself on a place near the main road, from where I can eventually grasp instantly the reliability of the driver. After a couple of minutes, a nice local old man stops, and in less than 10 minutes I’m there. Was simple, although my heart went as small as a sparrow.

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As I arrived a bit earlier – a deep sigh of relief after so many worries within less than 2 hours – I am using my time for getting to know the neighbourhood. Quiet, populated mostly by cars coming a going, the traditional Brandenburg country life.

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When it is about time to go, I go through the green alleys, bordered by happy relaxed wooden cows – it is a bio dairy farm, after all – and I’m ready to join the other members of the guided tour. The visit can be done only as part of such a tour, and dedicated tours for children of various age categories are also available by request.

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The dairy farm is hosted in a very modern looking building, that replaced the former communist Germany construction. A similar farm was created in Dechow, in the Mecklenburg Pommern.

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In the lobby, old wooden instruments, from the old times are only used as didactic material. Everything is mechanized now. The downside of a visit in a normal day of work can be that some of the machines must be under revision at certain times of the day, so during the tour, we did not see too much from the real processes that lead to the creation of the delicious dairy products – cheese and milk, especially.

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However, we are lucky enough to have a good guide – in German – that explains in the smallest detail everything related to the quality of the milk used – bought from producers, after a careful verification of accomplishing the standards requested by the bio production. Mostly, the animals should live free and not be treated with antibiotics. There are three main types of milk produced here: the pasteurized one (the green package) – which has a sour-cream like taste but the normal milk consistence, the usual milk – from the light blue packages – and the one meant to last longer – from the dark blue packages. After the presentation, I can test all of them, but it’s a bit difficult to make one and final choice, as all of them taste fresh and ask you for one more glass, and one more glass. And this comes from someone not so keen to drink too many glasses of milk per day. Wish my mother is still around to read this!

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The most spectacular view is in the front of the windows leading to the cheese production section. Almost 6,000 liter of milk are used, in order to produce around 600 kg. of cheese. The big bathtube-like made of copper, produced by a Swiss company offers the guarantee against microorganisms and also keep the composition warm as long as needed before the final production.

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Besides the impressive number of cheese produced daily, there is also a significant production of curd, with different fat concentrations. Our guide explains in detail about the salts used, and their qualities in creating various tastes. Except for the production of butter, which needs more human involvement, everything is mostly done automatically by the machines. The 1o0,000 liter of milk produced daily, for instance, is packed by the robots. The local laboratory keeps an eye on the daily quality of the mixtures, which the level of humidity is checked twice the day, in order to be sure that no additional micro-organisms are produced.

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At the end of the tour, after resisting heroically and some even taking notes in an ambiance calling for lunch, brunch and dinner, we are invited to spend some extra time testing and tasting the various types of cheese we’ve been explained about. Except the classical bio stores, the milk from this dairy farm can be found also at the classical German supermarkets. A stamp on the right side of the upper side of the package indicated when and where the milk was produced. With the cheese as a common topic of conversation, I am improving my language skills talking with the tour companions about the different qualities of different pieces of cheese and milk. Everything is delicious.

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Outside, some lazy cows are enjoying their day out. During the production process, mostly milk from Germany – Mecklenburg Pommers and the Southern part – is used. Also, certified milk from Denmark, Poland or the Czech Republic can be employed for covering an over-increasing need. Outside the farm, I walk a bit across the small garden, with some veggies and colourful flowers.

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Outside, on the streets, the same quietness and emptiness, except a postlady, with a minivan, who is running from a house to another to deliver the mail. Now, that my journalistic mission was accomplished, it is about time to think how to make my way back to Berlin.

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This time, I’m luckier, as I am around for one of the 1-2 regular bus rides. A classical car, maybe from the old times of the DDR. My adventures on the road put aside, I had a very useful experience, learning about cheese and milk. Now, that I’ve seen with my own eyes and heard with my own ears how everything is produced, I might be tempted to increase the consumption of milk in the house. The knowledge I got through my travels can lead me in the most unexpected places…

Disclaimer: I was offered a free tour of the Gläserne Molkerei Münchehofe, but the opinions are, as usual, my own.

For more pictures and impressions from the dairy farm, check the dedicated Pinterest board