Sunday, 23 March 2014

Jüterbog

The Dammtor, Jüterbog
Jüterbog is a historic town dating back to at least 1007, which still retains some of its mediaeval town walls and three town gates. It is situated about 65km/40 miles SE of Berlin in the Teltow-Fläming region of Brandenburg. It is only 45 minutes away from Berlin by Regional Express, and is worth a visit both for itself and as a starting point for getting onto the extensive (175km long) Fläming-Skate bike and inline skating track.

We have visited here twice now, both as part of a biking tour, and most recently last Friday when we cycled along the Fläming-Skate to Baruth (about 60km in all). Which is why avid readers will notice that my last few blog posts have been about the Jüterbog region; that and because this weekend has been wet and grey and we are now stuck in the house with our computers and a load of photos!

When I see its name written down, my brain immediately scans it as 'Jitterbug', and I end up getting the awful Wham! song as an earworm. Damn you George Michael for that! Actually it is pronounced more like 'Yooter-bok'. There are quite a few guesses at where the name derives from, the most fanciful being that a woman named Jutta was the first to enter through the Neumarkttor (New Market Gate) with her billy goat - Ziegenbock in German. Hence Jutta - bock. Whatever the truth in that (very little I suspect) it has resulted in the official coat of arms of Jüterbog becoming a rampant black goat with golden horns and hooves. Also now there is a wooden statue of the legendary Jutta with her goat beside the Neumarkttor:

Neumarkttor, Jüterbog
With woman and goat.
If you think that story deserves a pinch of salt, then check out the nearby Eierturm or 'egg tower':
Eirturm
Eierturm
This is so-named because the plan was to fight off bandits trying to get into the town by chucking eggs at them from here over the town wall.

Neumarkttor is the Eastern gate into the Altstadt. There are two others; the northerly one being the Zinnaer Tor, and so called because it leads to Kloster Zinna (worth a bike out to in itself).

Zinnaer Tor
Zinnaer Tor
From the inside the Altstadt

Zinnaer Tor
Zinnaer Tor
From outside the town walls
You can just make out a 'Jüterbog cudgel' left of the arch.
More impressive is the Western Gate into Jüterbog, the Dammtor (formerly the Frauentor, which is why the road leading up to it from the North is called am Frauentor):

Dammtor, showing the inner courtyard
Inside the Dammtor looking out

Dammtor
Outside the Dammtor (and the Altstadt) looking in
The Dammtor has an inner and outer gate (as did the other two gates at one time). The idea was you drove your cart through the first fortified gate into the inner courtyard. Here town guards would inspect your goods for taxation purposes. You would then pay the taxes on the produce you are probably bringing in to sell at market, and only then would you be let through the second gate and into the town itself. Or, the crenelated walls on either side would suddenly bristle with soldiers pointing arrows at you whilst Robin Hood escaped from under the tarpaulin on your cart and jumped with one bound over the town walls. I might be getting fact and fiction mixed up here.

Just inside the Dammtor is the Dammtorturm (on the left. I can't work out what the one on the right is called):

Dammtorturm, looking towards Jüterbog town centre
Dammtorturm
Close-up of the Dammtorturm
Dammtorturm, looking towards the Dammtor itself.
That looks like a nice Fachwerkhaus (half-timbered house) on the left there ...


Oh yes, very good. It is actually called das Knoblauchhaus (garlic house) and is a restaurant and cafe. Like every other interesting place to eat on this day (a Friday in April), it was closed. It stands on a square that was once the site of the Heilig-Geist-Kapelle (Holy Ghost Chapel), which is something you often find: a church-run hospital to look after pilgrims and the sick just inside the town walls by the main entrance. There is nothing there now of it though, but an information board shows a mediaeval skeleton that was excavated in the square, probably a pilgrim who didn't make it.

What is in the Heilig-Geist-Platz is a Luthereiche - or Luther oak - planted in 1883 to commemorate the 400th birthday of the great protestant reformer Martin Luther.

Luthereiche
Luther Oak
From here you can get a view into the town centre with the strangely bridged twin towers of the Kirche St. Nikolai (St Nicholas' Church). Looks like it is green-bin day today too.

Jüterbog Pferdstraße
Can't see many horses though.
Before we move off into the heart of town, just to mention that outside the town walls here you come across the Liebfrauenkirche (church of Our Lady) and a graveyard to soldiers of the Soviet Red Army who liberated Jüterbog in April 1940. More photos of them on my earlier blog post.

Die Liebfrauenkirche
With some fine forsythia in bloom

Part of the Soviet cemetary
The town centre is dominated by a large town square and an imposing backsteingotik Rathaus:

Rathaus
West-side of the Rathaus


Roland Statue on the Marketplace
There are always Roland statues on German free-town marketplaces.
There is quite a bit of this backsteingotik style of architecture, where bricks are used to imitate the Gothic style more usually constructed out of stone, here in Jüterbog (I won't kid you and say it is anything like, say Lübeck for example):


For sake of completeness, I should add that just North of the Marktplatz is the former Franciscan monastery church or Mönchenkirche, but this building has seen a lot of damage and from 1970 worship was stopped and it was used as a warehouse instead. It was rebuilt (almost from scratch it looks like) in the 1980's, and since 1985 it has been a library and events centre.

Monastery
die Mönchenkirche
 A much more interesting church is the Nikolaikirche. It has been around since maybe 1221 in one form or another, and is notable for its peculiar twin tower complex with bridge between, and the painted ceiling buttresses and magnificent pipe-organ of the interior.

Here I shall leave you with some photos of it:

Nikolaikirche
Western entrance
Nikolaikirche
Detail of statue of St Nicholas over the Western entrance
Nikolaikirche
Looking up above the Western entrance
Nikolaikirche
Exterior wall plaque
Decorated interior buttresses
Nikolaikirche
Looking up to the organ
Nikolaikirche
Mediaeval side-chapel
Detail of side-chapel ceiling.
The Four Apostels,
Nikolaikirche
Organ viewed from first-storey balcony
Nikolaikirche
That lovely pipe-organ again.
Nikolaikirche viewed from the South
Memorial to the victims of the First World War

Nikolaikirche
First World War memorial
The massive eastern transcept
Close-up of those crazy towers and bridge
Summary time: Jüterbog is certainly an interesting place to visit, and as it is so close to Berlin there can be no excuses not to. Mind you, Jüterbog does feel like it is still clawing its way back out of East German Soviet occupation. Its army base was greatly enlarged during the Nazi era, when three surrounding villages were razed to make way for barracks and training areas. The Red Army took them over and it remained an important garrison town, with up to 40,000 Soviet soldiers garrisoned here (four times larger than the civilian population at the time). Though relations between the Jüter-burghers and the army could become strained (sometimes shells from the nearby firing ranges would hail down on the town), you can't help but feel that the locals are still thinking ruefully back to the day in 1991 when the Soviet army returned to Russia. But there are definite signs of renovation and development, particularly with new shops and restaurants around the Rathaus and Marktplatz. And if looking at mediaeval remains is not your thing, don't forget it has easy access to the Fläming-Skate long-distance routes, so get your skates on and go!

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