Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Beltane Biking in Brandenburg

It's May Day at last! The sun is out and the skies are blue, the lark's on the wing, and we're on our bikes.

This beautiful Beltane morn we took a Regional Express North West out of Berlin to Paulinenaue, with the plan of cycling to Rathenow and catching the train back again. Most of the cycling was done on the Havelland Radweg; it was created on the former route of a light railway, so mostly straight and flat.

One of our stops was the picturesque village of Ribbeck, famous for the minor gentry von Ribbeck family who were squires of hereabouts and lived in the Schloss at the heart of the village.

Schloss Ribbeck
l-r the flags of Germany, Brandenburg, and Havelland
Built in 1893 in neo-Baroque style to replace a one-storey cottage, this was the Herrenhaus of the von Ribbeck family until 1943 when it was occupied by the Luftwaffe (there is still an airfield nearby at Bienenfarm). So began the persecution of the Ribbeck family, whose head Hans von Ribbeck was an outspoken critic of the Nazis and ended his life murdered at Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp.

Schloss Ribbeck
During the DDR times the Schloss was knocked around a lot, and was used as a nursing home from 1956 to 2004. It is now in the ownership of the district of Nauen and houses a museum to the life and works of Theodor Fontane as well as having a fine restaurant.

Entrance to the Schloss Restaurant and Museum
( I say fine restaurant, and for sure adults can choose dishes such as 'gebratene Kalbsleber Ribbecker art mit sautierten Birnen - fried calf's liver Ribbeck style, with sauteed pears (€13,80) or Lammcarree an Prinzessbohnen mit Salbei-gnocchi und schwarze Johannesbeer-jus - rack of lamb on green beans with sage gnocchi and blackcurrent sauce (€16,20). But on the Kinderkarte the children get to choose from such things as Hänchennuggets mit Pommes Frittes und Tomatenketchup - chicken nuggets with chips and tomato ketchup (€6,50) - and Kartoffelpuffer mit Birnenmus - fried potato patties with puréed pear (€4,80). There is, needless to say, no vegetarian menu.)

Sculptures at Schloss Ribbeck
The Schloss has a number of pear trees planted around it (you can see the white-painted trunks in the photo above), which are gifts from each of the Federal States of Germany. Also some peculiar reclining nude statues.

Sculptures representing the River Havell
These apparently represent the River Havell - sort of like the Rhine Maidens of Wagner's 'Der Ring des Nibelungen' I suppose. There are plaques embedded in the brick river naming major towns along the way.

Adjacent to Schloss Ribbeck is a memorial to the fallen of the First World War, quite nicely executed for a change, and without the almost obligatory eagle. I don't know why but I always look to see if there are any Gilmours recorded - funnily enough, I've never seen one yet.
(I don't really. The chances of a Scottish Gilmour turning up in early Twentieth Century Brandenburg are very very slim).

First World War Memorial
Also on the village green is the Alte Schule cafe:

View towards the Alte Schule
This was built by the squire of Ribbeck in 1841, the Old School now serves home-made cooking below the old linden (lime) trees.

Alte Schule - Unter den Linden
Like your yellow trousers there mate. Not.
No village green is complete without an old church, and Ribbeck has a pretty salmon-pink one. A church was first built here in the 14th Century, but what you see is an extensive renovation from 2002.

die Alte Dorfkirche
That church again
Next to the church is the old Wash-house (laundry). In the 1920's it was converted into a garage to house the new-fangled cars for the von Ribbeck family, and later several families lived here. Since 2008 it has housed a craft shop and small cafe, where you can buy pear tarts (Birnentorten) and drink coffee surrounded by bloomers drying on the washing line.

Kaffee und Hofladen im alten Waschhaus
Old Laundry. The pears on the tree to the right there are tied onto the branches with string!
Behind the wash-house is the former Gutshof - estate farm is the translation I guess - a large open square with a small stand of chestnut trees in the centre. Here there is an impressive cow shed and grain barn, and signs for a Barfußpfad, a path along which you can experience the senses through your bare feet. As our feet were sensing the cobble stones of theGuthof through our shoes well enough thank you, we gave it a miss. It was delightful standing there in the sun watching house martins soar in and out of those ventilation holes in the wattle and daub walls of the giant barn.

Old Barn and Bare-Foot-Path
It was all very idyllic, and conjured up a care-free time when Germans lived off the land in small communities like this, a huddle of estate farms attached to a Schloss and watched over by a benevolent squire. It is a rose-tinted glasses view of the past of course, but comforting to the spirit on a peaceful May Day.

Ribbech Guthof
The only sign of the encroachment of the Industrial Revolution on this village is the Alte Brennerai, built in 1850. At one time it produced 114,000 litres per year of distilled potato alcohol. Now, freshly renovated, it produces pear vinegar and pear liquor. I hope they let the storks finish nesting on top of that chimney before they start the distilling, otherwise the storks will be overcome with hot, boozy fumes!

Alte Brennerei, Ribbeck
It is clear that the village has had a lot of money pumped into it since re-unification. A lot of this has come from the surviving members of the von Ribbeck family, who whilst not being lords of the manor any more, have returned to the village and built a home in 1998 in the former coach house and stables. Actually, the money has come partly from a settlement with the State over a reparations claim for having their property seized by the Nazis.

A memory of the von Ribbecks is kept alive by a small family cemetery south of the Schloss. It was created with the death of three children aged four, five and eleven years in 1893. Their three small crosses bear witness to the effects of diphtheria which took the lives of Werner, Margaret and Ernestine. They were children of Hans Georg von Ribbeck Henning and his wife, whose grave stone is in the center of the cemetery. They were also brothers and sisters of the last Lord of Ribbeck, Hans Georg Karl Anton von Ribbeck.

Der Familienfriedhof
There is a granite stone memorial to Hans Georg Karl Anton von Ribbeck, who was murdered at Sachsenhausen by the Nazis:

Memorial to the last Squire of Ribbeck
Gravestone of Marie-Agnes von Ribbeck
Also the last resting place of Hans?
Anyway. Does somebody keep mentioning pears around here? And why is there a museum to the life and works of Theodor Fontane in the Schloss? The answer is because there is a famous poem called 'Herr von Ribbeck auf Ribbeck im Havelland' by the 19th Century German poet and novelist Fontane. He was himself very famous for his picturesque travelogue ' Wanderungen durch die Mark Brandenburg Wanderungen durch die Mark Brandenburg', and you can't move in Brandenburg without bumping into references to him (even the weekly Brandenburg TV news-magazine programme is called Theodor).

The poem 'Herr von Ribbeck auf Ribbeck im Havelland' tells the tale of a gentle and generous Squire von Ribbeck from Ribbeck who often gave away pears from his pear trees to passing young boys and girls (clean your thoughts at the back there!). He knows his son and heir to be a bit of a Scrooge though, so when he feels his time has come, the squire asks that a pear be put in his grave. This occurs, and from the seeds in the pear a pear-tree quickly grows, and continues providing free pears to children.

You can read the poem in translation here.

And in the church-yard you can see ...

Not Herr von Ribbeck's pear tree.
Well no, that isn't the actual pear tree sprouting from the grave of Herr von Ribbeck; that tree was sadly destroyed by a storm on 20 February 1911. This pear-tree was planted in its place in 2000.

Nice story though, and with it we continued on our 45km route to Rathenow.

And how far approximately were we from Berlin on our journey? Oh, about 60km according to this milestone! (That's my new bike from Christmas by the way. We bought each other one for presents, and because of the rotten weather we haven't rid them very far yet!)

60 km bis Berlin

1 comment:

  1. Very thorough and interesting account of your visit there! I'm learning German and my today's lesson was about the Fontane's poem and the legend behind it, and yours was the perfect site to know the place. Thank you!


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