Magdeburg’s come back

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

 

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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

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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?

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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.

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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…

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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”.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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And by some gracious elegant horses too…

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

 

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

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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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/

Strawberry jam and shopping in Elstal

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For someone used to intensively travel at least 4 times the month, this spring went surprisingly quiet. After spending some good and travel-rich months in Israel, the return to Berlin and especially its short dark days did not make me feel too good. But once the first raw of lights lightened the grey sky, I gathered all my strength and went back on the road again. In the beginning, not too far away, only around two hours away from the city, at Elstal. With my ABC ticket, I went first by bus – till the Tegeler Weg and from there by train till Elstal stop. The serious shoppers can find a better and comfier way, by booking directly the shuttle bus that goes directly from Ku’damm on the Outlet website. The offer is available on Fridays and Saturdays. If not so many people heading to the bus station leading to the shopping paradise, I would have think that I arrived in an abandoned place, as the train station was looking grey and not very welcoming.

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More action and colours – and a huge parking place – were waiting on the other side of the Brandenburg-styled massive entrance. The outlet store is closed on most Sundays (it may sound unusual for anyone used with the intensive shopping programs, but Germans cherish their Sunday free day very much) and on Bank holidays, and open from Monday to Thursday from 10 am to 7 pm and Friday to Saturday from 10 am to 8 pm.

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Because Elstal is mostly known as the best provider of strawberries for Berlin and Brandenburg, invitations to visit the famous farm cannot miss from this mini-shopping paradise. I plan to go there later in the day anyway but for now, let’s look for some glamour.

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The outlet village as such looks like a small white-clean villate in Brandenburg. It is Friday afternoon, but the streets are not roaming with shopper as I encountered during my short stop to the Bicester Village two years ago. The discount season is not yet open, but there are some important offers, the most tempted for me being the one offered by Home&Cook. Overall, expect to find a moderate offer of brands – adidas, NOA NOA, Samsonite, Libeskind Berlin, Fossil, Desigual, True Religion, WMF, Escada. The visitors are relatively quiet and do shop modestly. Nike Factory seems to be a main destination for many tourists, at the moment, the busiest spot in the outlet, with customers chatting fast in Turkish, Russian or various Nordic languages.

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The foodie offer is limited, but in process of expanding, with a big Marche Superstore. There is a big Asian flavoured buffet – elegantly designed – and a Nordsee restaurant, and many kiosks offering pancakes, traditional bretzel and beers. There is also a babysitting station, and little kids cars can be rented for 2 Euro the hour. The musical background echoing the entire village makes the visit special. DSC09082

As for me, I rather prefer the company of the San Franscisco Coffee Company and its clean bio flavours. A bit surprising to find this genuine slice of America here, but I am satisfied with the offer of various muffins and flap jacks, plus the coffee flavours.

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Time is running fast, as usual, and I am decided to see the strawberry farm too. I am taking the regular bus back to the train station, waiting for my next connection in the opposite direction. With some free time to wait, I adventure into a short spring walk into the forest around trying not to bother the many bikers enjoying the beginning of the summer on two rows.

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Near the farm, quiet little poney are having their outdoor lunch.

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The Elstal Strawberry farm shows a busier side than the outlet. Parents with many kids and visitors from Berlin are coming here for some entertainment or fresh shopping. The strawberry season is not open yet, but there are enough attractions that may compensate this absence. It was created in 1921, and it part of a larger network that includes locations in Rügen too.

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The good news is that the previous harvest was pretty good, as kilos of strawberries are waiting to be smashed into jam in huge bath tubes fixed on a red and white mosaique.

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But although red and strawberry inspired products – from alcoholic drinks to various sweets and vinegar – there are also other interesting things to see around, such as the wooden shelves with cup teas and tea pots elegantly displayed till the end of the ceiling.

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Special porcelain specific for the Brandenburg area brings my mind back to reality, out of the pinky reddish bubble created by the intensive smell of strawberry marmalade in the making.

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Outside the darkish shopping entrance, there is more action and freedom. Everything seems to be tailored to make the children happy, from the truck carts, the little safari and the easy lessons teaching the kids how to make bread on stone (a skill that seems to be learned to German kids from an early age it seems).DSC09129

In another part of the small village, you can also start having your own taste of adventure and if you grew up without enjoying spectacular descents from the top of a hill, it is never too late to try it now.DSC09134

There are also small exhibitions, explaining how to make honey or labyrinths to put on trial your orientation skills. Most places are open for children birthdays celebrations and in most cases – if you ignore the intensive smell of cowshed – educational lessons about the life at the countryside are offered in a creative, non-intrusive way.

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As many of the kids will discover themselves, living in the middle of the nature, surrounded by various animals is not that easy, especially when stubborn goats seem to ask you something you don’t understand. But, you can at least try to alternate between city parks and countryside adventures. Living in Berlin offers often such opportunities that I promise to consider more seriously in the next months.

For more pictures from Elstal, check the dedicated Pinterest board: https://www.pinterest.com/ilanaontheroad/elstal/

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