Neubrandenburg isn't actually in Brandenburg; it is in the next State up, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. It is easy enough to get to though, and is a lovely walled town on the shores of the large lake Tollensesee. If you are into Backsteingotik (and who isn't?!) then this is the place to visit. Or at least one of the places (it is on the European Backsteingotik Route).
Here are a few impressions of the sleepy town and lake. And get a load of that brickwork!
Sunday, 26 May 2013
Saturday, 25 May 2013
I sit working at my computer in a bay window looking out onto the garden. Often I am distracted by birds coming to the feeder in the trees just outside, but today I was excited to have a visit from a red squirrel (Eichhörnchen).
Cassie was excited too!
Cassie was excited too!
Saturday, 11 May 2013
Here are some gorgeous speedwell flowers for a gorgeous Spring Day!
The small flowers are delightful, but a posy of speedwell blossoms very quickly wilt. This has given speedwell ( Veronica chamaedrys ) its ironic name of Männertrau in German - men's faithfullness!
These beauties were snapped by me near Bad Belzig.
Friday, 10 May 2013
From Burg Eisenhardt
For centuries before the coming of the Flemish, these hills formed the border between the Slavs and the Germans, and then between Saxony and Brandenburg. In 1815 it was incorporated into Prussia after the defeat of the French and their Saxon ally armies. Whatever its turbulent and conflicted past, the area is a gorgeous place to visit on a Spring day, and provides a welcome bit of height in the otherwise fairly flat landscape. We used the town of Bad Belzig (which, as its name suggests, is a popular place to take 'die Kur' in its thermal baths) as a starting point for a Kunstwanderweg (art trail) to Wiesenburg to the West.
At the cross-roads in the centre of the village, there is an interesting Postmeilensäule, or milestone/column.
|Kursachsiche Postmeilensäule of 1725|
|View down the street to the Postmeilensäule.|
In order to establish distances, the State had to create a standard measurement of length because local usage varied so much; a foot (or Fuß) in Dresden was 260mm in modern money, whilst in nearby Leipzig it was 282mm. So, on 17 March 1722 the Saxon Postal Mile was introduced, whereby 1 mile = 2 leagues = 2,000 Dresden rods = 9.062 kilometres.
As an aside, this explains why in Wandlitzsee there is an old milestone saying it is IV miles to Berlin; no way! Berlin is much further away than that, given that nowadays 1mile is about 1.6km. But these are Prussian miles, which just to confuse matters are 7.532km, so 30km would be about right (especially as point-zero for measuring the distance to Berlin was to the Milestone standing what was then just outside the City Walls in Spittalmarkt). By the way, if we got to Bad Belzig on a Brandenburg train ticket, how come it has a Saxony milestone in it? Look back up near the top, where I said that Bad Belzig was ceded to Prussia as part of the province of Brandenburg in 1815. That was at the Congress of Vienna which tidied up Europe after the defeat of Napoleon, who ironically had introduced the metric system across Germany in order that they didn't need all these Dresden Rods and Prussian miles any more.
So, if you look closely at the Bad Belzig Postmeilensäule it will show the distance to other town in the new Saxony Postal miles? No! It shows it in St. - Stunden - or hours.
|Distance measurements on the Bad Belzig Postmeilensäule.|
But we didn't just spend our time in Bad Belzig staring at the Postmeilensäule - there is also a large and interesting Schloß at the top of the village - Burg Eisenhardt.
|Entrance to Burg Eisenhardt|
|Tower at Burg Eisenhardt|
But, the village is pretty enough now, and was awarded the official title of a health resort (Kurort) in 1995 leading the name change from plain Belzig to Bad Belzig in 2010.
I said that Bad Belzig was the starting point for our walk along the Kunstwanderweg. And so it was, but as I got diverted into waffling on about Postmeilensäulen I shall leave that for another Fläming blog post!
Those are impressive fortifications for a hotel!
Thursday, 9 May 2013
|Alexandrowka Haus1 : Russisches Restaurant und Teestube|
But these weren't the first Russians to live here. On 29th October 1685 Friedrich Wilhelm, Elector of Brandenburg, proclaimed the Edict of Potsdam in which he offered to give asylum to protestant Huguenots fleeing for their lives from France after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes by King Louis XIV. Not just asylum, but a plot of land, a business start-up grant, a tax-break, and the assurance that they could set up their own schooling system.
Friedrich Wilhelm was a canny bloke, and invited the immigrants in the hope that they would kick-start the Brandenburg economy after the disaster of the Thirty Years War had flat-lined the population and agriculture of Brandenburg. Potsdam became the place to be in Europe if you wanted a degree of religious freedom, and as well as the persecuted protestants of France, Holland and Bohemia, Russians also flocked here.
But the most lasting impression of Mother Russia in Potsdam (if you discount the Soviet occupation after the war) is the totally charming Russische Kolonie Alexandrowka. Its origins go back to 1812; Prussia had been conquered by Napoleon, and a forced alliance was uneasily forged between France and Prussia against Russia. More than a thousand Russian prisoners of War were brought back to Potsdam, but if you know the background to Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture you will know that Napolen's Russian campaign ended in disaster, and the badly damaged Grand Armée was forced to withdraw.
Sixty Two of the Russian prisoners of War remained in Potsdam, and from these a choir was formed for the amusement of the King (Friedrich Wilhelm III) and the Prussian First Foot Regiment. Prussia and Russia then allied against France in Spring 1813, and Tsar Alexander I allowed the remaining Russian prisoners to be incorporated into the Prussian Foot Regiment. The choir was allowed to keep on going as entertainment, and to make up for the loss to the regiment, the Tsar supplied Russian Grenadiers to make up the shortfall.
On the death of Tsar Alexander I in 1825, only twelve of the Russian choir remained in Potsdam. In memory of the deep bonds of friendship that Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia had made with the dead Tsar, FWIII resolved to create a colony in Potsdam for the Russian choir and their families to live in. Twelve farms were built to the north of Potsdam, in an area shaped like a horse racetrack, intersected with two roads forming a saltire of St Andrew (apart from Scotland, St Andrew is also national saint of Russia (and Greece)). At the intersection of the cross, a Sergeant's House was built.
Each farm was furnished with a purpose-built wooden block-house after the Russian style, and a large orchard garden, and a cow. The farms were legally bound not to be sold, leased or sublet, and to be passed down the male line of each family.
|Orchards at Alexandrowka|
|More orchards at Alexandrowka.
It's just like something by Chekov!
A Russian Orthodox church dedicated to St Alexander Nevsky (Tsar Alexander's patron saint) was built on a hill nearby.
In 1861 the last singer in the choir died. In 1927, a hundred years after the founding of the colony, only four of the original families were still living there, and by then the colony was the private property of the House of Hohenzollern (i.e. the Kaiser). At the time of the Soviet land reform (die Bodenreform of September 1945, when all private property over 100 hectares were taken by the state and redistributed as publicly owned estates or Volkseigene Güter - VEG), there were only two families who were direct descendents of the original singers.
Nowadays, only the family Grigorieff lives in Alexandrowka, the rest of the houses being in private ownership.
The colony has been much restored and should be on the itinerary of any trip to Potsdam. Especially recommended is the Russian restaurant and Teestube at Haus 1 where you can eat Russian snacks or meals, washed down with Russian beer, vodka, or a samovar of tea.
|In the tea / beer garden at Alexandrowka Haus1|
|Russian tea, beer, and assorted biscuits!|