There are almost three years since my last trip to Buckow, in the heart of the idyllic Märkische Schweiz and things didn't change too much here. While I am walking the narrow cobblestone streets with no street lights, I recognize almost every single corner. However, this time I am here for a long relaxing stay that covers almost one month. Would I get tired and bored to death of this 1,700-inhabitant place? After all, I said to myself, Berlin is one hour and a bit by car and we can come back every time when things are getting too bland for my spicy tastes.
But days passed and weeks passed and we hardly leaved Buckow - except a couple of small trips I will detail in a next post. And when our time to return arrived, I hardly missed the busy city life. It was my first house away from home in Germany and what a great non-eventful time we had!
Buckow started to grow up in the 19th century, when most of the 1-storey houses were built. It wasn't a rich place, but resourceful people from Berlin ended up buying properties here and using this place surrounded by green hills as summer residencies.
The comparison between this area and Switzerland was taken seriously and more than once I felt like I really am in one of those picturesque villages near Montreux that I used to love so much as a teenager. And it is not only about the materials and architecture of the houses, but about that self-imposed isolation from the outside buzz. You have your own chalet with the red flowers on the window-sills and the whilte fassade that you show to the world, but on the other side of the doors or yard gate it is you and your quiet life. It took me nearly a decade to appreciate this high sense of privacy.
Every single house has its personality and after Berlin was invaded by so many standard constructions - I am not talking about the Plattenbau now -, all looking the same, seeing all those different shapes and colours creating particular home identities was a good diversion for the eyes.
The most famous house so far was the property of the famous post-war intellectuals Helene Weigel and Bertold Brecht. Formerly a property of Weigel, the house is nowadays a memorial house dedicated to the literary memory of Brecht - with a special space dedicated to the famous play Mutter Courage - and the theatre achievements of Weigel. Often compared to the French - also ideologically left - intellectual couple Simone de Beauvoir-J.P.Sartre, Weigel and Brecht gave the tone often to the cultural directions in the former communist Germany (when the communist ideology allowed).
Although I was a bit disappointed by the way in which the information was displayed - practically you need to find out by yourself or to buy some available documents if you want to know more about the history of the place and everything is critically-free, and the focus on Mutter Courage is a bit too much - as Brecht wrote way many other literary works, equally relevant. The garden though, is impressive, and the right place where a writer will choose for boosting the inspiration. The views over the esmerald lake are heartbreaking, and here is where I spent most of my time during the museum visit.
What can you actually do while in Buckow? I kept asking myself over and over again before landing there and didn't have too many answers. I was sure that my time here will be used for non-stop reading and sleeping and maybe some hiking (more about that in a next post). Which I actually did, plus some serious eating which I already wrote about. But actually, there is some cultural side of Buckow which deserves some attention too. For instance, there is a local theatre with modern plays in German which can be an interesting way to spend at least one evening.
For such a small city, there are a couple of great places for lovers of arts. Like, for instance, the blacksmith shop on Königstraße.
Or the Keramik Rote Haus workshop where you can see the artist at work too.
The best way to get in touch with the locals - if you didn't already start knowing everyone after a couple of days of intensive walking the streets - is by being part of different communal events, such as the White Night - Lange Nacht - that this year took place on the 7th of July.
Life concerts of small bands - from Berlin - filled the decorated streets with joy and happiness, streets turned into enormous playground where the local kids enjoyed at its fullest. Interior yards turned into art galleries, and even the serious lady from the antiquity bookstore - displaying first thing first works by Brecht - was smiling.
There is also an everyday charm of the ways in which people take care of their houses and their yards and those small special pieces of decoration - let's keep the limits and don't call 'ART' everything which is colourful and handmade - added to shape a special home individuality.
Although, more than once, I took some street appearances as complex street art installations. Otherwise, a regular art gallery displaying local artists and also hosting various cultural events is Zum alten Warmbad, in the building of the Tourist Information Office.
Art may be a relative concept nowadays, and it could include also the 'art of living'. This small butchery - Fleischerei Bruno Elsholz - on Hauptstraße 22, is a museum of local life and traditions.
It collects and displays samples of everyday life in Buckow. Especially if you don't have any idea about what material life in the former DDR meant, here is a good beginning, although this place encompasses more than that.
I have no idea how Buckow looks in the winter, maybe the snow helps to cover the emptiness of a place whose colourful attire was ripped off. In summer, everything is about the many colours and the life the flowers bring to any single piece of ugly concrete.
For such a small place, it is impressive how many flowers shops there are, although many people do own their own gardens with flowers. The usual buyers are not the tourists and such small business strive well as it seems people living here love to give and decorate the interior of their houses with flowers.
If you visit or stay for more than one night in Buckow as a family, there are a couple of small things to do to keep the little ones entertained. For instance, the Mini-golf place, where you can also rent a bike. As a perfect beginner, you may have the chance of a coach that will teach you the basics of this interesting sport.
Or, you can visit the Kleinbahn - mini-train - Museum at the train station, where you can arrive from Münchelberg riding one of the small trains still in use for touristic use mostly.
My favorite so far was the one-hour trip in carriage around Buckow and its beautiful natural secrets.
How else would I have known about the out-of-this world moors which make some of the forests look like fragments of a fantasy novel?
Chilling out for one hour on the board of a ship touring the beautiful Scharmützelsee is a great way to relax breathing the calming nature.
A couple of steps away, you can bring your children to the beach, the place to be during a hot summer day, which is often crowded with people coming all over the region, including from Berlin.
There is also another reason why many people are coming to Buckow, especially for medical/rather alternative medicine reasons: it follows the philosophy of the South-German priest Sebastian Kneipp, that developped a line of thought based on healing through water and natural plants.
With the river Stöbber crossing the town, activities in its waters - such as walking through the water - are recommended. I personally found relaxing to do such an exercise without a medical reasons behind it, which I am not fully considering it, given my scientific training which makes me cautious towards such issues.
In the huge Schlosspark you can find also a place where you can walk barefoot, which gives a good feeling to your feet, anyway. This huge park, which hosts regularly on Sunday outdoor classical concerts, is a great walking, biking and dog walking destination where you can easily spend hours just wandering or on a bench in the good company of a book. A huge playground helps the little one to use their energies at a maximum.
Some people may consider wine - and honey - as a good medicine - especially when you are perfectly healthy. For those believers, there is a special machine delivering wine honey and honey. We and my friend too, we tried at least once to get one bottle but apparently we were way too healthy for such a therapy and the machine refused to work...
History is not obviously present in Buckow, but if you have a bit of knowledge about Germany and its recent history, you may wonder how comes that the city - compared to the neighbouring Müncheberg - remained mostly untouched by the war. First, as one local told me, the inhabitants surrended instantly when the Soviets - a monument to the soldiers killed in mission is a reminder of those times - arrived in the city. Also, Buckow was far from any main road connection and a tank couldn't anyway enter the narrow streets. And life went on, in its out-of-time pace.
People get born, marry and die here too. Especially get married. During my three weeks I witnessed at least one wedding, and the city hall has a great location for hosting such happy alliances, surrounded by apples trees and with a wooden kiosk where vows can be exchanged.
Nature is, in fact, what may keep calling me back again and again to Buckow. The luxury of starting your day with a hike around lakes and going through forests is a great gift for a holiday which ends up a stressful and exhausting work and life period of time.
You only need to breath deep, close your eyes for a second and enjoy the silence. Everything can wait. World can stop for a little while. All the news are waiting for you anyway - you can buy your daily New York Times copy from the newspapers kiosk if you really want it.