Saturday, 23 August 2014

Dr Who Scottish Shortbread

To celebrate the start of Series 8 of Dr Who with new twelfth doctor the Scottish Peter Capaldi, we baked some special Dr Who shortbread! In the form of Weeping Angels and TARDISes! Blink and they're gone!

Shortbread is so easy to bake, and is so moreish, that I am surprised that outside the British Isles it isn't more readily available in cafés or in packets on the supermarket shelves. In the popular mind it is indelibly associated with the Scottish Highlands, and doesn't feel like the genuine article unless it comes in packaging festooned with Royal Stuart tartan and thistles and a portrait of Bonnie Prince Charlie or a Highland bagpiper. But why not Dr Who shortbread though? I you ask me, the BBC are missing a trick, and they could sell them for putting in the official BBC 'Doctor Who TARDIS Lights and Sounds Cookie Jar'.

The basic recipe is easy to remember: one part white caster sugar, two parts butter or margarine, and three parts plain white flour. You might then play around with textures by making the sugar component half-and-half granulated and caster sugar, or by using rice flour for a gluten-free recipe, but that's basically it.

Here is our recipe, in English and Deutsch 

Ingredients / Zutaten:

150 grams plain flour / Weizenmehl (Type 405)
100 grams soft, slightly salted butter / Butter (weich, leicht gesalzen)
50 grams caster sugar / Streuzucker (fein)

Preparation / Zubereitung:

1. Pre-heat oven to 170° (150° fan) / Ofen vorheizen auf 170 Grad (150 Grad Umluft).
2. Cream together the butter and sugar in a bowl / Butter und Zucker in einer Schüssel schaumig schlagen.

3. Add secret ingredient! We often add lemon zest, or you could add a splash of rose-water or cherry pieces / Fügen Sie die geheime Zutat! wir fügen häufig Zitronenschale dazu, aber man konnte einen Spritzer Rosenwasser oder Stücke von Kirsche hinzufügen.

4. Sieve in the flour and blend together until smoothly combined / Das Mehl in die Schüssel sieben und vermischen, bis reibungslos zusammen.

5. Lightly flour your working surface, tip out the dough, and kneed it well / Die Arbeitsfläche mit Mehl bestäuben und den Teig darauf gut durchkneten.
6. Roll out the dough between two pieces of baking parchment to a thickness of about 1cm then lightly prick all over with a fork/ Den Teig ausrollen zwischen 2 Stück Backpapier zu einer Dicke von etwa 1 cm, und mit einer Gabel leicht einstechen.

7. Cut into triangles or fingers or use a biscuit cutter. We used TARDIS and angel cookie cutters from Lakeland / In Dreiecke geschnitten oder in den Fingern oder mit einem Ausstechform. Wir verwendeten TARDIS und Engel-Ausstechformen von 'Lakeland'.

8. Lay the shortbread onto a baking-tray and bake for about twenty minutes until golden-brown at the edges / Legen Sie das Shortbread auf einem Fach und im Ofen backen für etwa zwanzig Minuten, bis sie goldbraun an den Rändern.

9. Take the shortbread out of the oven, sprinkle with a little caster sugar, then let them cool on a wire-rack / Das Shortbread aus dem Ofen nehmen, mit Zucker bestreuen und auf einem Kuchengitter auskühlen lassen.

10. Eat with a cup of tea or a glass of Scotch whisky! / Essen zusammen mit einer Tasse Tee oder einem Glas Scotch Whisky!

Thursday, 21 August 2014

The F60 Abraumförderbrücke Revisited

Whilst cycling around Niederlausitz on the way to Finsterwalde, we called in at the Besucherwerk (visitor's mine) Lichterfeld to see again the awesomely gigantic Abraumförderbrücke (overburden conveyor bridge) F60.

I have blogged about this titanic brown-coal digging machine previously, but as we were passing, we thought we'd call in again. Entrance for just the visitor exhibition and cafe and a good view of the F60 (but not the guided tour) is 2€ by the way, plus they let us take our cycles into the area.

The F60 is a machine that excavates open-cast lignite or brown coal  (in German die Braunkohle) mines. There are two multi-bucket excavators on one end of the 'bridge' (see photo below), one cutting up, the other cutting down. They are removing layer by layer the earth that is covering up the seam of lignite underlying the land. The excavated waste or overburden (Abraum) is conveyed (Förder) on a bridge (Brücke) over the wide trench of earth already excavated, and deposited on the other side of the trench where the lignite has been extracted.

In the photo below, the bridge moves left to right shaving away at an earth-bank (imagine it), then inching forward (away from you) and shaving a bit more off. Though this 'shave' is the equivalent volume of a football pitch covered with soil to the depth of 7-8 metres per hour.

This beast of East German engineering is 502m long, 80m to the highest point, and 240m wide. It is named the F60 because it has a cutting height of 60m. The Eiffel Tower is 301m high, so even the F60's nickname of Der liegende Eiffelturm der Lausitz (the horizontal Eiffel Tower of Lusatia) does it a disservice.


The above photo shows the arms from which the soil is dumped, whilst the photo below shows the main conveyor belt which carries all the earth. If you go on the guided tour, you get to walk along there, which is great fun unless you don't have a head for heights like me.

The whole machine is moved along, parallel to the earth-face being cut out, on railtracks. The photo below shows the locomotive 'foot' that the 'earth sprayer' sits on. At the other end, where two multi-bucket diggers carve into the land, there are two railway tracks and multiple 'feet'. The machine edges forwards on the tracks at a breath-taking speed of 13 metres per minute. But as the machine weighs 13,600 tonnes that's not surprising.


Below is a snap-shot of a clump of birdsfoot trefoil (in German, Gewöhnlicher Hornklee in Latin, Lotus corniculatus) with the F60 in the background. This grows abundantly on the wasteland around here, suggesting that at one time the land was farmed before it was given over to mining. In fact, numerous villages have disappeared from the map as the inhabitants were moved out and the F60's moved in. It's nice to see that at least the flowers are reclaiming their land.


There are five F60's in the world, and the other four are still in operation. The F60's are said to be the largest movable technical industrial machines in the world. I think that they also work as stunning industrial sculptures, like they are representations of wire-frame dinosaurs or the framework for alien spacecraft.

There is a small visitor's centre, and a cafe of sorts, in the grey metal building where the miners used to change into their work gear and take their breaks. On the side of the building is written Glück Auf! which is the German miners' greeting, meaning something like 'good luck!'. It is a greeting that dates back to at least the 16th century, and is said to derive from the phrase 'Ich wünsche Dir Glück, tu einen neuen Gang auf!' (I wish you good luck in opening a new lode of ore).


An information board shows you how the F60 operates. Click the photo to see it at a readable size.

Key words are:

die Gleisanlage  - rail track
der Eimerkettenbagger - chain-and-bucket excavator
der Abraumbagger - overburden excavator
der Kohlebagger -  coal excavator
der Schaufelradbagger - bucket-wheel excavator
die Kippe - disposal area
die Abbaurichtung - direction of mining
der Tagebau - opencast pit or strip mine
der Hochschnitt - the cut above ground level
der Tiefschnitt - the cut below ground level
das Kohleflöz - coal seam
die Kohlebandanlage - coal conveyor belt
and of course die Abraumförderbrücke - the excavated mine waste conveyor bridge

If you memorise that list, I think you could come up with an interesting conversation for your GCSE German Oral Exam.


We came across the kind of devastation these machines cause at Tagebau Cottbus-Nord. This 'moonscape' was created with a type F34 Abraumförderbrücke, a mere baby beside the F60 with a cutting height of only 34m. Below is a photo I took of the opencast pit:

On the one hand, this is clearly environmentally catastrophic. You couldn't come up with a better illustration of mankind raping the Earth in the greedy pursuit of fossil fuels. Apart from the devastation to the plant and wildlife, you have to remember that villages and farms and their inhabitants have been forceably removed to make way for the opencast mines. This in an area with a high Sorbian residency, and the Sorb people have always had a bad deal from their German neighbours.

On the other hand, lignite (brown coal) accounts for around 25% of Germany's energy usage. Germany has a policy of phasing out nuclear power, and also gets most of its liquid gas from Russia, so until renewables can fill the energy gap, lignite is going to have to be mined to keep the lights on. Plus, after cycling around 'The Lusatian Lake District' (die Lausitzer Seenlandschaft) - an area that was once opencast mining pits, now transformed into an environmentally diverse and beautiful landscape - you can't but admire what a good job Germans have done at cleaning up the mess. In terms of the timescale of the land, the disruption caused by opencast mining is a mere blink of the eyelids.

I don't know where the balance lies, but I do know that the F60 machines sure are impressive; awesome, strangely scarey, able to make you feel small and insignificant, and a testament to humanity's technological power over Nature. Well worth the detour on our cycle around Niederlausitz.

Friday, 15 August 2014

German Whisky

Well, why not German whisky?

Germans of all nations have a long history of distilling tasty, and often-times fiery Schnaps from fruit and herbs. Plus they are masters of conjuring up delicious beers from various grains. So why not have a go at distilling a grain whisky? If even the Japanese can make a success of creating their own version of the uisge beatha, then we shouldn't instantly dismiss the notion that good whisky only comes from Scotland and Ireland (and Tennessee of course).

If there is anywhere in Germany you'd expect would have a go at making whisky, then the fruit-growing region around Werder an der Havel is a good bet. The area is famous for its Obstwein (fruit wine) and Obstbrand (fruit schnapps), both of which are drunk to profusion at the large Baumblütenfest (blossom festival) held annually in May at Werder.

So it wasn't a great surprise whilst cycling in the countryside around Werder when we came across a Hofladen (farm shop) that also distilled its own brand of whisky. I am not particularly endorsing their produce so I won't mention their details in google-searchable text, but the curious can gather all they need to know if I post a photo of their delivery van.

We had only stopped to see if the farm-house offered Kaffee und Kuchen, but were immediately pounced upon and invited to a whisky tasting by a very affable chap who turned out to be the father of the master distiller. I was offered a selection of two types of whisky, one matured in Spessart oak casks (I guess from the Spessart forest down in Hesse/Bavaria, famous for its ancient oak-trees), and one in Bordeaux casks. My Beloved doesn't like whisky, and I don't hold it against her as it is an acquired taste perhaps handed down in my Scottish genes, and she tried their gin instead.

The oak cask whisky I found rather light and a bit sweet. It smelt of whisky, but of the kind from Speyside, Scotland. The Bordeaux cask whisky was, as you'd expect, much richer and deeper in nose and taste, and had a darker colour. I don't know how long they were matured in the casks, but I would guess not long. Both whiskies were very smooth, and a respectable 43%. It was a good job we were cycling, as mein Host was quite generous in the measures.

Here they are in the farm shop:

I personally prefer a whisky from the Highlands and Islands; an Islay malt for example, like Laphroaig, or a Talisker from Skye. Something a bit more smoky and peaty. But, the German whisky was palatable enough - I was worried it was going to be like rocket fuel. I remember from bad experience spirits distilled by a farmer, when we stayed on a farm near the Lüneburg heath as a teenager. I think that was more what you'd call 'hooch' or 'moonshine' though.

This farmer's operation was certainly more professional, though on a small, farmhouse kitchen table scale. Indeed, they were labelling the bottles up at the kitchen table. Here are some photos of their still, which I am glad to note is copper:

Because it is small-scale, I am afraid the prices are a bit hefty. That's to be expected; just remember you are paying extra for the feeling that everything is done by hand and at the same farm, from corn growing and harvesting to the water coming from their own well. This is not the mass-market soul-less stainless-steel production that goes on at industrial estates along Speyside.

The farm not only produces whisky (and gin!), but also a range of fruit wines and spirits. Of course - this is Werder. All available at the attractive farm shop (I repeat: this is not an advert for them! Though if they would like to post me a bottle of the Bordeaux cask whisky ... ):

And did we get the Kaffee und Kuchen we visited them for? Oh yes! And very nice hausgemachte Pflaumenkuchen it was too, made all the more delicious because whilst we were eating it, we could see the plum trees the plums for it had come from!

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Caterpillars and Nettles

More caterpillars in the garden - hundreds of them! All over the nettles!

They are really cute though, and quite welcome to eat as many nettles (German: Brennnesseln literally burning nettles) as they want.

These are the caterpillars of the gorgeous peacock butterfly (Latin: Inachi io), and have managed to evolve a resistance to the nettle's cocktail of stinging chemicals and acids. Consequently, they are probably pretty distasteful to birds, and display vicious-looking black spikes and white eye-like shapes along their bodies warning that they are not to be eaten.

They look pretty advanced, and will very soon turn into chrysalises. Then, in about a fortnight, our garden will hopefully be full of peacock butterflies!

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Sunflowers and Honey Bees - Sonnenblumen und Honigbienen

Nothing says Summer to me more than bright, yellow and orange sunflowers, and honey bees and bumble bees buzzing around a cottage garden.

Here are a collection of photos of both. I took them today whilst on a cycle along the Panoramaweg Werderobst around Werder an der Havel, SW of Berlin in beautiful Brandenburg.

Sunflowers and Honey Bees - Sonnenblumen und Hongibienen

Sunflowers and Honey Bees - Sonnenblumen und Hongibienen

Sunflowers and Honey Bees - Sonnenblumen und Hongibienen

Sunflowers and Honey Bees - Sonnenblumen und Hongibienen

Sunflowers and Honey Bees - Sonnenblumen und Hongibienen

Sunflowers and Honey Bees - Sonnenblumen und Hongibienen

Sunflowers and Honey Bees - Sonnenblumen und Hongibienen

Sunflowers and Honey Bees - Sonnenblumen und Hongibienen

Sunflowers and Honey Bees - Sonnenblumen und Hongibienen

Friday, 8 August 2014

An Elephant in the Garden

Well, not a real elephant, but the caterpillar of the elephant hawk-moth Deilephila elpenor (in German: Mittlere Weinschwärmer).

I could see it wriggling across the lawn from our terrace, it is so large! I put a 1 Euro coin in its path so you can get an idea of its size. A Euro has a diameter of 2.325 cm, so just under an inch in old money.

I hope I get to see an adult moth one day (or night more likely); looking on t'internet they are quite astounding.

More information about the elephant hawk-moth on wikipedia.

I wonder how it got its German name though? Weinschwärmer means something like 'wine enthusiast'!

Saturday, 2 August 2014

How to Read Deutsche Bahn On-Board Journey Screens

DB Regional trains all have screens in their carriages detailing which train you are on, where it is going, and where it is now. But how to read them if you've never seen one before, and don't speak German?

It is actually quite simple, but all too often I have been asked by panicked passengers if this train is going to so-and-so-berg.

The top-left of the screen says which numbered train you are on, in this case the RB (Regionalbahnlinie) 19. Underneath it explains for those of us who haven't memorised the Deutschebahn Liniennetz that this is the line from Berlin Gesundbrunnen to Senftenberg. The regional lines begin either RB (Regionalbahn), or RE (Regional-Express). The RE trains are larger (usually double-decker) and faster than RB trains. They also usually have a service/refreshment carriage, though this is usually just a couple of coin-operated drink and snack dispensers. RB trains are slower, because they call at all the villages in the middle of nowehere, but they are generally quieter, except on busy weekends when they will be full of bikes and ramblers.

Here is a link to a handy PDF map of all the RE and RB trainlines in Berlin and Brandenburg.We are off to Senftenberg, so the RB19 is the one for us. We could have got the RE2 and changed at Cottbus, but we are in no hurry.

Top right is the current time, which is always spot-on in our experience. By the way, all times are 24-hour clock.

Below that it tells us that the next station stop (Nächste Station) is Groß Köris, and we are scheduled to arrive there at 10:34. Then it gives us an estimated actual time to arrival, which will be in ten minutes (noch 10 Minuten). Oh no! Current time plus ten minutes is 10:37 - we're running five minutes late!

After that are further station stops (Weitere Stationen). Unfortunately, with RB trains there are often so many that you have to wait until your final destination (Senftenberg for us) starts appearing on the screen.

When the trains arrives at a station, the display will tell you which side of the train to get out on (ausstieg), either on the left (links) or right (rechts), relative to the direction the train is travelling in (Fahrtrichtung). There will also be an announcement over the loudspeaker system. So, if you hear 'Ausstieg in Fahrtrichtung links' you know that if when you are facing the front of the train, you have to leave the train by the door on the left. That's useful to know if you are man-handling a bike in a crowded carriage and need to make a quick connection (especially if the train is running late).

At station stops the screen will also show the departure time (abfahrt), which on RB trains is pretty much the same as the arrival time, though sometimes the train will wait for up to fifteen minutes or more to make a connection with another train (the Schönefeld airport station is bad for this - make sure that the RB train standing at platform 4 (Gleis vier) is going any sooner than the RE train standing on platform 3 (Gleis drei)).

Also shown just before, and when stopped at the station, are further connections at that station (if any).This would be handy if you are rushing to make a connection and want to know the platform (Gleis) the connecting train is going from. Unfortunately, the platform is often not actually shown. Grrr! If you listen up, there is usually an announcement by the train guard/ticket inspector (Kontrolle) over the loudspeaker of connections; listen out for your destination and "auf Gleis eins" (on platform 1) "auf Gleis zwo" (on platform 2) "auf Gleis drei" and so on. Good luck! And luck is especially needed if you are making a connection at Berlin Hauptbahnhof, when the announcement goes on for a good minute.

By the way, you might notice when RE trains arrive at major stations that a catchy little tune is played. After a long journey this will soon get on your nerves, though you might notice that the tune changes if you cross over into a different Bundesland.

That's pretty much it. The photo is of a screen by the exit doors; there are screens in the carriages too, that only differ in that they also show a loop of adverts and exciting things like the top five titles in the paperback (Taschenbücher) charts. Instead of a red and white DB train, you might find yourself on a franchise operator train, like the green, yellow and white ODEG (Ostdeutsche Eisenbahn GmbH) trains, but they have similar information screens.

Gute Reise!

Friday, 1 August 2014

Senftenberg - From Castle to Colliery to Lake Resort

Senftenberg is a delightful town SE of Berlin right on the Brandenburg - Saxony border in the heart of the Sorbian region.


The Lusatian (German: Lausitzer) town of Senftenberg probably gets its name from a combination of 'sanft' (gently / smoothly / rolling / undulating ) and 'berg' (hill). The hills in the vicinity are indeed very gently rolling, and so perfect for cycling around and over, as we did one Friday on the first day of August (Lughnasadh!).

We had returned to the Lusatian Lake District (Lausitzer Seenland) after partially exploring it on bike the week before. We wanted to get to know Senftenberg more, so we began the day there.

First off, we started at the recently rebuilt and renovated market square (Markt). This large trapezoidal area has been the site of a market since the founding of Senftenberg in the 13th Century. A weekly market is still held here, though obviously not on Fridays (For your information, I think they are held on Tuesday's on Saturdays).

Like most former East Germany town centres, the market square looks picturesque and spotlessly clean, but is noticeable by the lack of people:


There is an impressive Saxony post-milestone (Kursächsische Postmeilensäule) standing on the marketplace, which tells you that this town was once in the possession of the Electorate of Saxony. A look in the guide-book tells us that Senftenberg was sold to Duke Frederick II (Friedrich der Sanftmütige - the meek / gentle), Elector of Saxony, in 1437. So began almost 400 years when it was owned by Saxony (Sachsen). It was given to Prussia by the 1815 Congress of Vienna (which was trying to restore Europe to peace after the Napoleonic Wars). A post milestone originally stood here from 1731 until 1847, when it was removed by the new Prussian owners. What you see today is not that milestone; apparently you can view the remains of the original in the local museum. The one standing today is a copy made in the year 2000. Still, it looks pretty good, and after spending so much time in Germany you start not caring what is authentic and what is a reproduction.


The most impressive building on the market square is the Adler-Apotheke (we'll pass over the Rathaus, completed in 1998, even though it won an award for architecture from Land Brandenburg). There has been an Apotheke (pharmacy) here since at least 1680, but this magnificent facade dates back to 1902 and the time of Kaiser Wilhelm II (Die wilhelminische Zeit). The five-story building is decorated with realistic looking eagles, skulls, and an apothecary's cup and snake.


The oldest surviving building on the market square stands on the North side, and looks a bit uncared for. Above the arched doorway (with seats for coachmen to wait under shelter) is a plaque dated 1675 and Psalm 33:22 "Deine Güte, Herr, sei über uns, wie wir auf Dich hoffen." ("Let thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us, according as we have hoped in thee.").


Someone thought that cartoon cut-outs were needed to cheer it up a bit. I think it needs a bit more. Exterior plaster rendering for a start.


A small alley-way next to the oldest house leads very shortly to die Peter-und-Paul-Kirche (Church of Sts Peter and Paul).

The church was probably first built in the second half of the 13th Century, when Senftenberg was established by Eastward-mgfrating Germans. The church was badly damaged and gutted by fire during the fighting of 20th and 21st of April, 1945, when the Red Army took the town, pretty much without a fight. The church was rebuilt between 1951 to 1958, but it wasn't until 1986 before the tower got a roof.


Behind the church is Senftenberg's Wendish church (Wendische Kirche).

'Wend' is the name the Germans historically called various Slavic people who lived within the Holy Roman Empire. These Slavic people had expanded West into the area between the rivers Elbe and Oder between about 500AD to 1000AD. Unfortunately they were then over-run by German people expanding East (die Ostsiedlung) for the first half of the second millennium, pushing the borders of the Holy Roman Empire before them. The Sorbs were one such Wendish people who have managed to keep their language and identity in Lusatian Germany. This despite Hitler's efforts to 'Germanify' them or exterminate them.

Anyway, there has been a Wendish (or more accurately, Sorbian) church on this site since 1682. The provisionally last service conducted in Sorbian was performed in 1881. However, on 15th August 2010, Sorbian was used in a service again after 129 years.

On the Eastern side of the Wendish church is a cool bit of sgraffito by Senftenberg artist Günter Wendt. It was created in 1934, and is poignantly added to by a splattering of gunshot holes from the Second World War.


Senftenberg grew up around Schloss Senftenberg, which was built to defend the settlement of German migrants into the Slavic wild-lands. Here's what it looks like today, now the home of the Kreismuseum, where if you remember the remains of the post-milestone from the Markplatz ended up.


The castle's first occupants, recorded in 1290, were Johann and Konrad of Senftenberg (Johnny and Connie to their friends. Maybe). The settlement was part of March Brandenburg for a short while, until it came under the control of the Kingdom of Bohemia (as did a lot of the Holy Roman Empire at the time) in 1368. Then from the beginning of the 15th century, Schloss Senftenberg became the raiding base for a couple of robber barons, von Penzig and von Gorenz.

A noble called Hans von Polenz was appointed Bailiff of Lower Lusatia, and he smashed the robbers and took over Senftenberg. Later, Hans negotiated a peace treaty with the Hussite armies terrorizing the Eastern fringes of the Holy Roman Empire, and saved Senftenberg from plundering and looting. He was quite a guy. After his death, his relative (and guardian of his son), Nickel von Polenz sold the town, castle, and Lower Lusatia to the Elector of Saxony, in 1437. He was quite a schmuck. But a rich one.

The new administration from Saxony expanded the old castle to make it more defensive, and employed an Italian military architect Graf Rochus zu Lynar to give it a modern, Italian, Renaissance design. Graf Rochus zu Lynar later went on to design the Citadel at Spandau as well as have a hand in other large-scale fortress-building projects. The noble Lynar family settled in the region, and made their principle residence at Schloss Lübbenau in the nearby Spreewald. Which is why there is a bust of a very Italian looking Graf Rochus zu Lynar in front of the gates at the entrance to Schloss Lübbenau - something I've wondered about why its there. The Lynar line is still going, and they returned to Schloss Lübbenau in 1992 (they had had their land seized by th Soviet and fled East Germany after the War).


In the seventeenth century (during which the Thirty Years War devastated much of Central Europe) diamond-shaped earth and stone fortifications with bastions were erected around the Schloss. These have been restored, and you enter the castle enclosure through a renovated postern tunnel. At the time of the new fortifications, an artificial pond was built surrounding the castle. The pond is no longer there, and has been filled in and turned into the Schlosspark. The so-called Kommandantenhaus (commanding officer's house) stands beside the castle. It is now a restaurant.


In 1764 the military use of Schloss Senftenberg came to an end. The castle has since been used for various government purposes, including at one time the town courts and prison. Now it is the county museum.

The land surrounding the fortress was turned into the peaceful Schlosspark from 1912 under the tenure of Bürgermeister (Mayor) Kieback. And a lovely job his town-planners and landscape gardeners did. An idyll of trees, ornamental lakes, perfumed flowers, and abundant wildlife.



Just the place you might want to have your wedding photos taken in fact!


Unexpectedly there is a memorial to Friedrich Ludwig Jahn, erected in 1911 by the Turnverein (gymnastic movement) 'Germania'. Jahn is a controversial figure; a nationalist liberal aiming for a united Germany with a democratic constitutional monarchy headed by the Prussian Hohenzollerns. All brought about by gymnasts fit in mind and body through exercise at the parallel bars, and meeting together in gym clubs structured like secret organizations. Sort of like the Italian Carbonari, but in leotards. Despite his philosophy being integrated into Nazi ideology (he was an anti-semite for a instance) he seems to have been exonerated in recent years and is held up as Turnvater Jahn (father of gymastics).


Just to round things off, there is a small Tierpark (zoo) here too. Currently there is a 'Welt der Spinnen' (World of Spiders) special exhibition, though after my brush with a biting spider earlier this year, I wasn't keen.


At the time the Schlosspark was being created and nationalists were vaulting over pommel horses, Senftenberg had grown from a market town for farmers and artisans to a major centre of industrial output. The reason for this development was the discovery of lignite (Braunkohl or brown coal) in the area around 1860. The town grew rapidly alongside coal-extraction, with a Bahnhof being built in 1869 to connect Senftenberg with the nacent Prussian rail network and take the lignite away to feed furnaces and steam-trains in Berlin. A vast influx of foreign workers displaced the native Sorbs and changed the cultural landscape of Senftenberg.

In 1898 the Verein der Niederlausitzer Braunkohlewerke (the Association of Lower Lusatia Lignite Plants) was founded by thirteen brown-coal mining companies.As business boomed, more space was needed for the association, and in May 1924 the newly built neo-baroque stucco Kreishaus (roundhouse) was opened. It stands on Dubinaweg on the banks of the Schwarze Elster and is now the district Landratsamt, but back in the twenties it was the HQ for brown-coal mining in the area, with a lignite museum, pre-schooling in the profession of mining, and the offices of the newspaper for anyone to do with mining, Der Niederlausitzer Braunkohlebergmann.

After the war, the building was expropriated by the Soviet administration and became 'property of the people', to be used from 1952 by local government. The 'roundhouse' is now newly renovated, and as a wedding-registry is conveniently (for wedding photographers) just across from the Schlosspark and picturesque beside the river:


The Verein der Niederlausitzer Braunkohlewerke came under collective state-ownership, but of course lignite mining continued in the region around Senftenberg. Even more so: the newly-founded steel-works built at places like Eisenhüttenstadt under Stalinist five-year plans for economic development were greedy for fuel. In the following decades the Lusatian region became an environmentalist's nightmare of numerous giant strip-mines devastating the landscape, and Senftenberg became the centre of DDR fuel-production.

Lignite-mining still goes on in the region, but Senftenberg no longer lies next to one of them. Instead it stands beside the large and lovely Senftenberger See (Lake Senftenberg), a popular destination for holiday-makers, day-trippers, and water-sport enthusiasts. Where did the strip-mine go? It became Lake Senftenberg!

The lake was created between November 1967 and November 1972 by diverting the Schwarze Elster river to completely flood the strip-mine Tagebau Niemtsch.


The lake now has an area of 13 square kilometres (by comparison, Lake Windermere is a bit larger at 14.73 km squared) and of its 18 km of coastline, 7 km are classified as beach.


Last year (23 rd April 2013) the city marina was opened with over a hundred boat moorings.



As usual, you've got to wonder, where is everyone though?


Ah well, there were some delish ice-creams on offer at the marina, and we got our yummy calories down before cycling off around the other artificial lakes in the area.

Senftenberg is a lovely, interesting town, and amazing what changes it has seen. We will return!