Sunday, October 9, 2016

Why to take a trip in Spreewald

I have visited intensively Spreewald area a couple of years ago, when I spent a lot of time discovering short destinations from Berlin but attracted by so many other beautiful natural and cultural destination didn't return since. This year, while searching for easy travels where the baby can enjoy the nature and the fresh air, this region made it back on my priority list. The last week, I decided to come back, and a blue cloud with cotton candy clouds welcomed us. My train stop was Lübben, where I was ready to see some new attractions or see the old ones with completely new eyes.
Near the train station, a dam construction is exhibited, announcing what you can experience if you try to get to know Lübben better.
In a way, nothing changed since I was the last time, and the more I was advancing into my trip, my memory of directions returned, being able to make it through without too much difficulties. For the first time traveler, there are many arrows and directions, that lead your path behind the train station. You may find that there is even a Western style saloon! In order to arrive to the central area, you have to cross a big park, with water channels, bridges and statues commemorating WWI heroes. 
The vegetation is quite wild and less than 10 minutes upon arrival, you feel like entering a small forest with all its secret wonders - minus wild animals, as far as I know. Expect to meet many bikers, as the area is a favourite destination for 2-wheel travelers, especially from Berlin. Friends acquainted with the biking here told me that it is a relatively easy ride of around 30 km., in the middle of a beautiful natural environment. One more reason to start from here my biking adventures in the near future. 
This yellow house hosting a photography studio was a memory from my first trip too, and was glad to see it unchanged. It seems that people here still trust the good guidance of a family photographer for recording their memories, instead of using the nowadays smart tools.
While I was crossing the park, was thinking that a trip here can be a nice Romantic encounter, and this statue confirmed my feelings.
Lübben and Spreewald area in general is famous for its vegetables, especially cucumbers, and autumn brings the harvest season and some opportunities to celebrate. The first of October, for instance, during the evening, a night of pumpkins lights was held and all over the city, pumpkins carved in different postures were lying at the entrance to houses. 
Am Markt is where you can find bakeries - some open also during the usual days of rest and holidays - such as Dreißig open since 1911, where you can find some fresh snacks and sandwiches and coffee, exactly as you need for continuing your biking. The architecture of the square has some special traits, and you can see less of the usual communist standard constructions - that are otherwise everywhere.
Lübben, as well as many localities in Spreewald area until Cottbus, are also famous for being the home of the West Slavic ethnic minority of the Sorbs, whose language is the only officially recognized minority language. Nowadays counting around 150,000 people, they have specific traditions and their own religious identity, as well as beautiful costumes, particularly for women, with white embroideries and generous lace layers. The names of localities are written in Sorbian language, like Lubin, for Lübben, for instance.
Despite the communist efforts towards uniformity - the Soviet troops were a daily presence here after the end of WWII -, buildings from different times were preserved. For instance, the Estate, on Gerichstrasse. Between 1717 and 1722, it used to be the meeting place of the Assembly of the Estates - the aristocracy members - of Lower Lusetia - the administrative region Lübben was part of at the time. 
This ivy-covered house, close to the castle island is another example of aristocracy mansion. It used to be a gardner house, a summer residence, and nowadays it hosts a cozy restaurant serving, as many others in the area, mostly fish meals matched with potatoes and pickles. 
The next destination for the day is the park around the castle, with its channels and gardens with stairs leading to the boats parked in the front. 
The main stop, the pickles' counter, where you can taste the various local productions before buying at least one small plastic bucket as a tasty memory. I am not a big fan of such snacks, but I know that if you are a meat lover, you can match them very well with different kinds of schnitzel or sauces. The most sought are prepared with different spices, or garlic or honey mustard. 
The food is a temptation, but I rather think to spend my time in a more sporty way. For the courageous and swimmers, you can rent a canoe for exploring Spreewald in a completely different way, as much as you want and by choosing your own itinerary.
Otherwise, you can take your seat in a gondola and take a 2-hour tour which includes some tasting of special liquors made of different fruits and herbs, also a specialty in the region, bundles in a hand made basket on a hand made white crocked tablecloth. The tour costs 12 EUR for adult, and 6 for children under 6. 
We have a gondoliere, which leads the boat through the channels, stop at the many dams, maintained by locals trying to get some extra money - small pickles plastic buckets are attached for tips. The gondola is full, many of the visitors being locals. The gondoliere is giving some technical explanations once in a while, but I prefer to focus more on the natural beauty this time. The vegetation is covering the view beyond the shores and you feel like swimming out of time. A time capsule leading you through the quiet waters. 
Half-way, we make a long stop for some pickles tasting and food shopping. Besides the gondola tours, there are also local fish tours where you can discover the local fishing history. With the fish season open between 1st of October and 11th of November, you can also try your hand to fish your own dinner.
The advantage of the gondola tour is that you can spend a good amount of time breathing deep the fresh air of the Spreewald. The shores are generously adorned by vegetation and big trees and sometimes is so quiet that you can only hear the ducks making their way through the waters. 
Once the gondola tour is over, I continue with a walk in the park surrounding the castle, another massive area of green where it is up to you how you want to explore: either by foot or by bike, laying your picnic basket and resting to finish your weekend book. As long as the sun is shining, you can enjoy the good nature feeling in many possible ways.
The park has a big area dedicated to children, where they can experience walking barefoot in the mud or the sound of different materials and instruments. It look like a huge open air experimental laboratory where you can enjoy discovering the world around even if you are beyond the average age of the participants. 
The last sight of the trip is the newly renovated castle, built in 1150 and that changed many hands through centuries, among which the House of Hapsburg. Nowadays it hosts a restaurant with nice outdoors view over the water channels, small bridges and the park.
Although I am not sure I am curious to check Lübben in the winter season, as long as you can stay outside and explore the nature, it is worth a visit, by bike or just using your two feet. A full day of nature exploration is a good opportunity to clear your mind and think about your next steps in life.

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