Sunday, 28 August 2016

Neustrelitz: Baroque Lakeside Gem

Neustrelitz is a serene town about 100 km north of Berlin in the Land of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, which most people (even Berliners) have never heard about. But if you want a restful place to stroll around, or eat a meal beside a crystal clear lake, then I can thoroughly recommend Neustrelitz. If on the other hand you seek thrills or high-street shopping chains, then you might find it a bit empty.

Neustrelitz is called 'neu' (new) because the original town, first mentioned in 1278 and growing to be the seat of the duchy of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, burnt down in 1712. The new town was built nearby in the baroque style fashionable at the time, which is why Neustrelitz has a consistency in its architecture unlike, say, the mish-mash of Berlin.

Neustrelitz is also 'neu' in that it has obviously had a lot of post-unification renovation money poured into it. We briefly visited Neustrelitz about five years ago, and a lot of the roads then were building sites. Now all the streets are cobbled, the pavements clean and freshly laid, and many of the buildings repaired and repainted. This does give the town the feel that it's newly out of its box or a film-set constructed just last week.

There also seems to be a distinct lack of people; you would think that a delightful town like this with peaceful gardens and elegant buildings and statues, set beside a picturesque lake and with a modern marina, would be packed with tourists on a sunny Saturday in late August. Not a bit of it. Good if you want to get away from the madding crowd, not so good if your idea of holiday relaxation is an ice-cream on a sun-lounger whilst the kids splash around on a pedalo, then a bit of retail therapy on the high-street, before heading to a Biergarten for evening entertainment. There's none of that. Well, not much, and if you go to a cafe for Kaffee und Kuchen then you may well be the only ones in the place.

Maybe it's a case of the town firming up its infrastructure and rebuilding the war-damaged and DDR-neglected buildings first. Then the tourist industry will develop, and pretty soon H&M and DM will come to the high-street, and a house in Neustrelitz will be changing hands for a million or so. In the meantime, a recommendation for chillaxing and enjoying the rolling landscape of Meck-Pomm. Not being big crowd-lovers, this is the way we roll so we fell in love with the place.

By the way, we got to Neustrelitz by catching the Stralsund train (the Rostock trains will also do) out of Berlin Hauptbahnhof or Gesundbrunnen which run every hour and take about 1hr 15mins to get to Neustrelitz. You can do the whole journey with up to five people for the same price with a Berlin Brandenburg ticket - even though Neustrelitz isn't actually in Brandenburg. Achtung! This train can get very busy in Summer with people taking it to get to Warnemünde and the coast.

Here are some photos I took of Neustelitz to give you an idea of the town:

Fisher on the Zierkersee

A handsome heron (der Reiher) spotted at the Hafen of Neustrelitz on the Zierkersee in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.