Berliners who feel like getting away for a day might want to visit Brandenburg town in the province of the same name. They will find beauty, quietude and good food.
Berlin, April 7th, 2020. Update: February 23rd, 2021 (The Berlin Spectator) — Getting to Brandenburg town is easy, at least from Berlin. Just hit Federal Road road no. 1 (Bundesstraße 1). It will take you there within an hour, in case you leave very early on a Sunday morning, while others are still treating their hangovers. Those who want to make their V8 engines work might want to choose the Autobahn instead.
In Brandenburg (see video at top of page), just park that box on wheels on the first parking lot you see and start walking. You just arrived in Brandenburg, a beautiful town of some 72,000 people which of course used to be part of the GDR. The communist regime neglected most towns. But in the past 30 years, a whole lot has happened. Buildings, including important and historic ones, were refurbished very well.
Brandenburg, the town, offers it all, including countless nice-looking churches, towers which used to be part of medieval city walls, the Havel river, big lakes and little channels. Beautiful old houses and other buildings in Old Town just need to be admired and photographed.
This town was founded more than a thousand years ago and went through a lot. In recent history, the Nazis used a local jail as a concentration camp, starting in the early 1930s. At another jail, they executed hundreds of resistance fighters. During the Night of Broken Glass in November of 1938, Brandenburg’s big synagogue was destroyed. The GDR later put up a commemoration sign at its former location. At the end of WWII, Brandenburg was bombed and many factories were leveled to the ground.
Photos at the Bridge
During communist rule, the number of inhabitants rose because the GDR built or refurbished several big factories, which had been plundered by the Soviets right after the war. After Germany’s reunification, the number of residents decreased substantially. In the past years, it slightly increased again.
From the parking lot of your choice, just follow the paths and streets. You will be on a circuit towards the town center pretty much automatically. Also you will be crossing several bridges across the Näthewinde, the Domstreng and of course the Havel.
In case you are looking for a nice spot to rest while munching those ham sandwiches you brought along, sit down behind the Jahrtausendbrücke (Millennium Bridge) and do some boat watching. This is a very nice spot you will end up photographing from all angles.
Bicycling Tours in Spring
This is exactly what a bunch of bicyclists from Berlin did in early spring of last year. They came to Brandenburg by train. From there, they intended to take an 80-kilometer ride (50 miles), before hopping on another train back to Berlin. The members of that group were the early birds. Taking bicycle tours in Brandenburg is something people usually do once the spring really kicks in, or in summer.
On Sundays, one of the two tram lines Brandenburg has is out of service. On the other line, trams appear every 30 minutes. More trams are not needed down here. Tourists like walking or cycling anyway. And the Brandenburgers need to relax.
The only locals active at 8:30 a.m. are joggers who do their laps wearing headphones, a few dog owners and two youngsters. They seem to be walking home from a party.
Excellent restaurants offer awesome food (yes, this was the case before Corona and hopefully will afterwards). The prices are low, compared to Berlin, and the view could not be better. This applies to the restaurant right next to City Hall and the Roland statue, and those spots located at rivers and lakes.
At Café am Pfaffekai they offer excellent snacks such as Schnitzel on bread with an egg, sunny side up, on top. This place, hidden behind some kind of an industrial yard, seems to be a family endeavor. The delicious cherry crumble cake with cream will not be brought to the table until the owners are done eating their own lunch.
But they are very nice people. And the view from the terrace is perfect. While eating, visitors can watch landing swans as well as the cathedral and nice looking houses across the lake.
Pug Dog Statues
From April to October, house boats can be rented in Brandenburg. Those accommodate families of four. They have all amenities and are perfect for exploring the lakes and rivers in the area. Of course renting house boats does cost money and the minimum rental period is three days. Special licenses are not required since these boats were not designed to race.
Locals in Brandenburg drive their cars a lot, even through streets with “no cars” signs. Banning cars from Old Town might be a good idea. But tourists always think they know better, right? Anyway: The quietude at the lake and elsewhere in the city is unbelievable, at least to Berliners.
Tourists who reach Brandenburg town might wonder what these little statues of a pug dog with antlers on his head are about. When Vicco von Bühlow died, a German satirist also known as ‘Loriot’ who was born right here in Brandenburg an der Havel, the city decided to honor him this way. He was the inventor of this little doggy figure.
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