Thursday, 16 July 2009

Return to the Spreewald

Today we went back to Lübbenau in the Spreewald South-East of Berlin to explore further.

The old part of Lübbenau always makes me think of a small, sleepy Welsh market town in the Brecon Beacons, and like the Brecon Beacons region (Y Bannau Brycheiniog) they have a different language, in this case Sorbian. Here's the main street on a busy Thursday in July (click for bigger):

Hmm, perhaps Brecon has a bit more traffic. And more sheep. What Lübbenau does have around it are a network of canals rather than roads, which means that the best mode of transport (aside from on foot or by bike) is by canoe.

And rather than sheep, the main livestock farmed here is fish, as commemorated by this charming statue:

These tin statues are all over Lübbenau by the way. I don't know if the Council got a job lot of scrap metal and a bored artist looking for a commission or what, but the bizzarist collection of them is the Sagenhafte Brunnen (= 'fabulous/fantastic/fabled fountain') in front of the church. This supposedly depicts characters from the Mythenwelt of the Spreewald. Illustrated here on the right for example is the Baumkönig (= 'tree king'):

Lübbenau also has an impressive Schloss, now with a conference centre, restaurant, and 'wellness' area.

The last count of Lübbenau to live at the Schloss was Wilhelm Friedrich, who was executed by the Nazis in 1944 due to his involvement in the failed attempt to assassinate Hitler on July 20th 1944, and the family fled into exile. After Germany’s reunification a part of the former belongings was given back the family in 1992, and the family returned to Lübbenau. I don't believe they are counts of the area anymore though.

Behind the Schloss is a gorgeous pond with a duck house and lily pads and a bridge which Monet would have loved to have painted:

Beyond the heady urbanism of the town and castle, the land is very rural, and the water-meadows are dominated by haystacks that seem to be distinctive to the Spreewald (my Beloved, bless her, thinks that when you aren't looking they stand up and walk around!):

As you might expect, the region abounds in wildlife, including white storks such as this one nesting on top of the fire station in the nearby village of Lehde:

Lehde itself is a picture postcard kind of place which must survive almost entirely on tourism, especially through punted tours around the canals:

Ah yes, the punt boats. Probably the most relaxing way to see the Spreewald area. Or most boring depending on your point of view. Though they do usually carry a plentiful supply of schnapps and beer if you tire of the peaceful scenery.

For us though, we were happy enough just to wander on foot along the footpaths beside the canals, without a soul in sight, listening to the bird song and watching the play of light between lucious leaves and sparkling water.

One word of warning though: if you do go to the Spreewald in Summer, be sure to take some jungle-strength bug repellent. We did, but we still managed to be bitten and came up with red wheals on our arms and legs which lasted a week!

(There, I've done a whole blog about Spreewald without mentioning gherkins once. Oh damn!)

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