Wednesday, 7 July 2010

The Other End of Prenzlauer Allee

The main street through Basdorf is called Prenzlauer Straße. This is a continuation of the road that once began at the Prenzlau Gate in the old city walls of Berlin, and heads North by North East through Brandenburg to the mediaeval city named - have a wild guess! - Prenzlau.

We are familiar with the Berlin end of the road, where it is called Prenzlauer Allee and lent its name to the yuppie-intensive Prenzlauer Berg district, but we had never been to wherever it goes. Today we were to find out!

It would be nice to say we cycled along the full length of Prenzlauer Allee/Promenade/Straße/Chaussee (it keeps changing its name, but more prosaically it is called the B109), but we know our limits. So instead we got a Brandenburg ticket on a red RE train from Gesundbrunnen to Templin (changing at Löwenberg), and set out cycling from the Pearl of the Uckermark.

We made a diversion for a picnic stop at the fairytale castle Schloss Boitzenburg, a frothy white fantasy confection of Gothic towers and Baroque façades.

I particularly liked the attention to iron-work detail:

Of course, it's all mad and artificial in an imagination-bending way, but very German! (it also cost the tax-payers of Brandenburg tens of millions of Euro to restore with not a small amount of scandal and allegations of fraudulent claims e.g. see here headline translates as "Investigator [reports]: Economic Subsidy Fraud at Schloss Boitzenburg")

Suitably refreshed, we rejoined the B109 and pedalled on to Prenzlau.

After an hour or so cycling up and down hills and beside lakes created during the last ice-age, it was clear we had arrived at Prenzlau when the impressive Mitteltor, with the massive, looming Marienkirche beyond, hove into view.

The Marienkirche (St Mary's church) is an overwhelming brick-built Gothic construction that gives hints at the past prosperity of Prenzlau, which at one-time was capital of the Uckermark and traded with the Hanseatic League. Prenzlau was also another of those cities (like Berlin) that grew in population and innovation in the 17th C. by opening its gates to French Huguenots fleeing persecution in their homeland. From 1806-1812 Prenzlau had another invasion of French which was less welcome: it was occupied by Napoleon's army.

Here's another view of the Marienkirche:

It certainly impresses with its bulk but, I don't know, it seems so out of place. All the buildings around it are DDR-era Plattenbau and the church just looks like it has dropped out of the sky. There's a reason of course, and at the risk of sounding like a broken record (see elsewhere here about Magdeburg for example), it's because the area was raized during WWII, and the needs of the East German government to house millions of desperate homeless survivors of the war took precedence over piles of brick representing a religious ideology out-dated by Marxist concepts. Between 25th and 27th April 1945 around 85% of Prenzlau was destroyed by aerial bombardments. The Marienkirche was burned to a shell, and only rebuilt in the 1970's.

The nearby main shopping street has a similar feel of attempts to try and recapture some kind of history; low-rise Plattenbau shops exuding 'budget buy' faced with dull glazed brown tiles, and yet looked over by a Roland statue created in 2000 to replace the one granted to market towns such as Prenzlau in 1495.

Just as incongruous amongst the 'everything for a Euro' shops is a slightly pornographic fountain recalling the rape of Leda by Zeus in the form of a swan. What is it doing here, except maybe for the DDR authorities to keep a sculptor with classical illusions in work? Socialist Realism it is not!

Out by the city walls, the anachronisms start making a bit more sense.

A city wall 2,600 metres long and 8-9 m high was built around Prenzlau in 1287. Almost half of that length of wall has survived (or more likely, rebuilt), including a number of towers.

This is the Stettiner Turm , or the tower by the Stettin (now Szczecin - Poland is just 50km away) Gate. I love those blind wooden doorways half-way up:

A walk along the city walls is very pleasant. As is the promenade beside the Unteruckersee, which makes you feel almost as if you are at a seaside resort. Here's another picture of the walls, approaching the Pulverturm (where they used to store gunpowder):

We didn't cycle back home (!), but instead took the RE train. It was an interesting journey to sate our curiosity about just what was at the end of Prenzlauer Allee, with a fantasy wedding-cake castle thrown in!


  1. Andie, That was a lovely post and the pictures were very interesting, we will have to come back to Berlin at some point and explore more of the surroundings.

  2. Very interesting fun reading and great pics ,many thanks for the hard work :)


I would be delighted if you wish to leave a comment!
Comments are moderated so there might be a delay before they appear on my blog.