I do have my own travel blogger tradition to take a trip out of Berlin in the first days, if not the first day, of every new year. Sometimes in happens to be in far away lands like Thailand or closer in Europe, in Barcelona, but also making a one-day trip around Brandenburg also counts. Last year I've been to Rathenow, and for 2018, my choie was Zehdenick and Bergsdorf, a destination that I've had in mind for a couple of months already, for reasons I will explain later.
It doesn't happen every day to be welcomed by a huge stork nest on the top of a pole, unless you are in the tasty Alsace or...in Brandenburg.
In a bit more of one hour from Berlin with the local NEB (Niederbarminer Eisenbahn) train, the countryside is generously inviting us for wanderings. It is the first week of January, but all around it looks like spring and the sun embelishes the chill morning cold.
Zehdenick is famous in the area for its brick production, and the typical red-bricked buildings, the Brandenburg architectural staple, can be seen everywhere. However, local people were creative enough to bring more colour to the streets, with a massive wall painting at the beginning of Berlinerstraße. The details are so precise that you might want to go see the streets and visit the stores on the other side of the wall.
Near the Soviet Army cemetery - Zehdenick and the entire area used to be part of the Eastern part of Germany during the Cold War - we have a lonely walk on the tree bordered alleys of the Stadtpark. It was created at the beginning of the 20th century, in the honour of Crown Prince Friedrich who visited the place.
From there, we are slowly heading to the central area, passing near the discret decorations of the baroque building of the local court.
As I will show more later, Brandenburg has many cultural events, especially from the literary realm, well-known and highly attended by those active in this domain. In small places like the Kaffeemühle in Lychen interesting readings are connecting the big dots between the quiet countryside and the creative life. In the case of Zehdenick, the former local Cistercian monastery is the cultural center of this little town.
Zehdenick does not only his stable place on the map of the cultural encounters in this part of Germany. It is also a popular destination for bikers, coming and going to Copenhague, especially in the summer and late winter. However, right now, all is quiet and expect some lost visitors, like us, there are not too many people out on the streets.
The city is still decorated for the past winter holidays, but the central attraction in the old town area remains for me the pinky city hall dominating the Markstraße, the usual local market place.
As every single store and coffee house in town is closed, we keep discovering the other non-foodie places. A little walk alongside the river Havel is a pleasant occasion to embrace the beauty of nature. Perfect lanes, especially if you are into jogging and cycling.
We cross the 19th century metal bridge connecting two parts of the town, being welcomed by more still landscapes, with hardly anyone around. It is so quiet that you can hear the wind touching the water surface.
Nearby, there is a big Boats museum - Schiffermuseum - displaying fragments of local history and traditional professions.
If not the modern cars and the directions displayed on my smart phone, I would have thing that I am back in time. Many of the stores look like the merchandise haven't been updated for decades and old announcement painted on the town walls make you forget for a couple of seconds that you are in the age of AdWords.
And when we are about to leave for our next destination, the fields around the train station show obvious signs of spring, from the green grass around to the joyous sing along of the birds.
Ten minutes later, we are in an even smaller village: Bergsdorf.
All we have around us are the typical stone-made peasant's houses and empty narrow streets.
There are slightly over 400 people living here, but it seems that all of them are either at home resting or out of town for enjoying the temporary pleasure of highly populated places.
The flowers didn't wait for the official opening of the spring season, and their blossoms are a happy distraction from the local monotony.
Ten minutes away of walking from the train station, I am finally reaching the place I wanted to visit for months: Kurt Mühlenhaupt Museum. A former calf barn that the Kreuzberg-originally artist and his wife, Hannelore, turned into an art center and residence for artists of all kind, this is a place that in the summer bubbles with life and cultural activities, from poetry reading to exhibitions and special events dedicated to children, that often visit the place part of different trips organised by local schools.
I've read first about this place in a German book by a poet and wanderer, Anna Magdalena Bössen (Deutschland. Ein Wandermärchen. Unterwegs mit einem Koffer voller Gedichte) that explored for a couple of months cultural destinations in Germany, coach surfing and reading poetry. The place also has a printing shop and an animal farm, where the kids are invited to feed animals with funny names like Chanel.
The place is empty now, but the artist's widow Hannelore - his muse, frequently portrayed in his works - patiently welcomed us, sharing some pieces of home made cake and coffee and introducing us the place and its art collection, including the famous dwards that are spread all over the yard. The next day things will apparently change with a reading event scheduled and the stage is already prepared. Big names of the German literary world visited this place already, among them the Nobel-prize in Literature winner Herta Müller.
As our visit comes to a close, I am just happy to have been to this place, which shows the generous offer the countryside has in terms of cultural attractiveness, not as a counter to the big city offer, but as a gentle completion.
What can be more inspiring for an artist of any kind than the beautiful green landscape where you can be just find yourself and meditate about your next novel or painting.
City life can be overrated, especially nowadays, in an age when everything is so mobile and fast forward. With a car and a good Internet connection, you are never far away from the place where big things happen. Actually, big things can happen anywhere, everything depends on your perspective - on both things and life.
As we were preparing to board our train, the sky went animated by the rows and rows of birds coming back home. Maybe too early, but I am happy to be at the right moment to welcome them. It looks like a good sign for a year of meaningful trips, in Germany and abroad.