Berlin: The tour of seven lakes

In 2021, I visited my mother town Berlin four times. I very much enjoyed the tour of seven lakes starting at the Wannsee peer. It reawakened memories of sixty years ago. 

At the Wannsee peer we buy tickets from Reederei Werner Triebler. 

The captain will give us detailed information, while gliding along the lakes and channels. He asks for a tip in the “Quassel-Kasse” (palavering cash box).

Do not take the disinfectant bottle with you! Well, times are very special now, with Covid. 

With us travels this lovely butterfly – perhaps not the whole tour. 

This is the route of the “7 Seenrundfahrt” starting at the Grosser Wannsee, continuing to Jungfernsee, Glienicker Lake, Griebnitzsee, Stölpchensee, Pohlesee, kleiner Wannsee and at the end returning to the Grosser Wannsee.  

Source: Google maps and my additions

We start on the Grosser Wannsee, …

… looking back at the famous Strandbad (lido) Wannsee. In my heart I hear the 1951 song of Conny Froboess: “Pack die Badehose ein, nimm Dein kleines Schwesterlein und dann nüscht wie raus nach Wannsee” (pack your bathing trunk, take your little sister and after that it is time to go to the Wannsee).

Now, in September, the Wannsee beach is empty.

The villa of the Wannsee Conference “glides” by. 

Sailing boats in the sun. The Grunewald Tower, another bombastic oeuvre of Emperor William II, appears above the trees in the background. 

We pass by the Pfaueninsel with its small castle.

After that we see the protestant Heilandskirche (Church of the Redeemer) of Sacrow, built in Neo-Romanesque-Lombardian style in 1844.

Until 1989, Sacrow was part of the GDR; with my mother, I looked at Sacrow from the Pfaueninsel in 1966 and I remember the barbwire in the water that prevented us from getting there. My mother wrote in her 1966 diary: “(Across from the Pfaueninsel) is Sacrow on  the western shore (of the Havel) in the East Zone. I have often been at Sacrow.” The barbwires were a nightmare that, today, I cannot believe was once reality. 

The memories of the nightmare continue at the Glienickerbrücke (Glienicke bridge). The border between Brandenburg (formerly GDR) and Berlin (formerly West-Berlin) is in the middle of this bridge. Until 1989, the “west” ended east of this bridge. Still today, the Berlin part of the bridge is darker than the Brandenburg part. Across this bridge, agents were exchanged between the GDR and the BRD. 

In 1966, my grand uncle Ferdinand drove my mother and me to the Glienickebrücke, then closed and separating the GDR and West-Berlin.

My mother wrote in her diary: “Now I stand in front of this bridge that I had crossed so often. On this side of the Havel river, there is a policeman of West Berlin. He is allowed to go up to the middle of the bridge. On the other side of the Havel is the (eastern) Volkspolizei (member of the People’s Police). It is most distressing to look at the barricades on the other (eastern) waterfront of the Havel. Barbwire spirals reach into the water and cover the whole bank, up to the level of the bridgehead. In the water, there are buoys that mark the “border”. On the other (eastern) side, we cannot see one single person. All seems “icily calm”. On this (western) side of the Bridge of Unity (as they called it in the GDR), …, there is a considerable amount of people, even on this early afternoon of a weekday, that look at this scenery without understanding. Below the bridge West Berlin ends and here is the last station of the Stern- und Kreissschiffahrt: Glienickerbrücke…”

Today, we do not stop at Glienickebrücke. The impassable border has disappeared. Our boat passes under the bridge and into the former GDR waters; the gloomy scenery of 1966 seems unthinkable.

The Babelsberg palace appears on the right hand side. Babelsberg is now the centre of the German film industry.

We continue to the Griebnitzsee and turn north, where the Teltow channel starts . This channel was opened in 1906, is about 40 km long, borders Kleinmachnow and ends south of Köpenick.  

In the Griebnitzsee we watch these rowers move synchronously – beautiful.

In 1966, I was also here with my mother. We had taken a boat going south from the Wannsee to the Griebnitzsee, as far as West Berlin reached. My mother wrote in her diary that it was here, where for the first time, we saw the barbwire “mess” (“Gewirr”) at the southern bank of the Griebnitzsee, as half of this lake belonged to the GDR . 

We reach the Griebnitzkanal that connects the Griebnitzsee with the Stölpchensee. 

Now we have entered the Stölpchensee with the settlement Stolpe. 

The protestant church “am Stölpchensee” is from 1859, built in Neo-Romanesque style, whereby the tower has been adorned with four Neo-Gothic turrets which is a somewhat awkward decoration. 

“Stölpchen” is related to slawic “столб” or “stolb” which means pole. Perhaps it describes the shape of the small lake. 

The Alsenbrücke (Alsen bridge) with the Jugendstil handrail of 1906 crosses the Prinz Friedrich Leopold Kanal between Stölpchensee and Pohlesee. 

We enter the Kleiner Wannsee. On the eastern side, not far from this villa is the tomb of Kleist (Kleistgrab).  It was here that Kleist committed suicide in 1811, with his friend Henriette Vogel. It is only a short walk away from the S-Bahn station Wannsee. This is another place to visit, the next time that I will be in Berlin.

Still in the Kleiner Wannsee, we admire the former GDR state yacht Albin Köbis, in use until 1971, acquired and renovated in 2009 by a private person. 

This villa in the lush garden is hiding behind a weeping willow.

Our boat enters the Grosser Wannsee and soon thereafter, we leave it at the Wannsee peer. Thank you, Captain, it was a wonderful tour. You do deserve a tip for your “Quasselkasse”. 

Sources:

  • Diary of my mother, Dr. Marion Peters-Radzyk, Berlin, 1966
  • Various Websites linked in about the former GDR yacht, the Kleistgrab, the church am Stölpchensee and the Reederei Werner Triebler

Berlin: Liebermann Villa and House of Wannsee Conference

In 2021, I was in Berlin – four times. Once we visited the Villa Liebermann and the House of the Wannsee Conference in the Berlin area Heckesdorn bordering the Wannsee.

 

The Max Liebermann Villa – charming country house in a lush garden

Max Liebermann was a painter. He lived from 1847-1935. He belonged to the secessionists of Berlin taking their lead in 1898.

On the border of the Wannsee, in the settlement Alsen, Liebermann acquired land in 1909 to build his cosy villa as a summer residence. Here he spent his summers painting the garden and his family. 

The villa in the lush garden is open to the public. It is a museum that presents some of Lieberman’s paintings as a well as changing special exhibitions.

Behind the house, vegetables are cultivated. It is now a mid-September garden.

Bordering the Wannsee, there is a meadow with shady trees. It invites to have a rest. A flower garden behind the hedge allows for small promenades. 

Chairs in the meadow indicate that the visitors have accepted the invitation to have a rest. 

The weeping willow near the landing stage waves in the wind. 

The willow and the birch trees take up the shape of the empty sailboat masts.

This is how Liebermann painted his birch trees facing the Wannsee in his garden.

We return to the villa to visit the museum inside.

This is the scene in an open-air restaurant on the shore of the Havel presented in the permanent exhibition.  

The current special exhibition is devoted to portrait photos that Gerty Simon took from known personalities. One example is Käthe Kollwitz.

I am touched by the fate of Gerty Simon: From Germany, she emigrated to Great Britain, was arrested in the Second World War for being German and acquired the British citizenship after the Second World War.  

 

The Wannsee Conference of 1942 – impressive presentation of the extremely gloomy breakfast  

At the request of Göbbels, Heydrich invited various governmental leaders to the former Villa Marlier for a work meeting with breakfast. Their task was to coordinate the efforts between various governmental institutions to organize transferring the Jews to the east, primarily to Poland. The invitation letter makes me shiver: It reflects, how diligently the second layer of the ministers obeys the orders of their superiors, even such horrible orders. And how carelessly they combine this disaster with having breakfast together. 

What happened to the conference participants after 1942? Five members died before 1945 (whereby one of them disappeared; perhaps he escaped). Four members were sentenced or died before 1948.  They were prosecuted due to their entire role in the destruction process, not just due to the participation in the conference. Four more members were arrested and released later. Together with other proponents, they lived a “normal” life after that. 

Eichmann wrote the minutes. His case was spectacular. He escaped to Argentina, was found by the Mossad, transferred to Israel and sentenced here in 1962. 

On Thursday 20th of January, I find an article about the Wannsee Conference in “my” NZZ (Neue Zürcher Zeitung), as the conference had occurred exactly 80 years ago. Frank Bajohr, a German historian specializing in the Holocaust, describes the – also in my opinion – dystopic setup: Representatives of the government discuss how to kill millions of people and they do so in the relaxed atmosphere of a breakfast. However, Bajohr says, this conference was not a key event for the Holocaust; the second level ministers at this conference did not make decisions nor were they the primary drivers. But the minutes written by Eichmann are a major key document illustrating what was going on then. The House of the Wannsee Conference has a similar iconic quality, says Bajohr, as Auschwitz.

After our visit, I watch a group of young students discussing their impressions with the teacher; their faces  express grief. I hope and I do wish that all this grief prevents such horribleness in future. 

 

The Lion of Flensburg – the manifestation of victories and defeats in the 19th century

It is evening now. We have a drink at Bolle near the boat harbour – my brother-in-law checks, at what prices boats can be hired here.

The copy of the Lion of Flensburg watches over this Wannsee boat harbour. It tells the history of victories and defeats.

The Danes created the Lion of Flensburg, after having vanquished Schleswig-Holstein in 1850. In 1864, the German Federation vanquished the Danes and confiscated their lion. In 1865, a copy of the Lion was produced for the then new settlement Alsen, today part of the Wannsee district. Since 1938, the copy of the Lion of Flensburg has stood here watching over the Wannsee boat harbour. After 1945, the original Lion of Flensburg was returned to the Danes by the Americans.  

Good-bye, severe lion, may be one of us will return soon to rent a boat in “your” harbour. 

Sources:

Berlin: Excursion to Köpenick and the Müggelsee

In 2021, I was in Berlin four times. I love to return to my mother town to discover new corners and to rediscover known corners.

With a friend, I visited Köpenick. We parked conveniently at the Kirchstrasse 5-6 parking, just opposite of the famous townhall of Köpenick.

The townhall is famous for the Captain of Köpenick. He stands next to the main entrance.

 

The Captain of Köpenick – the imposter that arrested the mayor and confiscated the town coffer

We enter the town hall of Köpenick. The atmosphere inside must have an intimidating effect on their citizens. 

The townhall was inaugurated in October 1905 and enlarged in 1949. 

Dogs have to remain outside.

It was one year after the inauguration, that, in 1906, the cobbler Wilhelm Voigt made his coup as the “Captain of Köpenick”.

The life of Walter Voigt, born at Tilsit in Prussia, already went off rails during his apprenticeship as a cobbler in 1863. Between 1863 and 1891, he was sentenced seven times, in 1867 even for twelve years of jail. In 1906, he was expelled from Wismar and later from Rixdorf. He was jobless then.   

In 1906, he bought the uniform of a captain from a second-hand-dealer, investigated several town halls in Berlin and selected Köpenick, one reason being the good train connections. He collected a group of soldiers and with them, he took the suburban train to Köpenick. He performed his role as a captain with determination and was successful, because order and obedience were engrained in the German society at the times of Emperor Wilhelm II. The imposter Captain arrested the mayor and confiscated the money of the city. He even signed for having received the money. He escaped, was arrested ten days later and sentenced to four years of jail. However, Emperor William II amnestied him in 1908. 

After 1908, he earned money by telling about his imposter coup. He registered his voice on a disk and received 200 Mark for that. He made speeches, not only in Berlin, but in all Germany; the advertisements appeared in the newspapers of that time, as the exhibition panel explains. However, the outbreak of the First World War ended this “business” opportunity. Wilhelm Voigt died as a poor and ill man in Luxembourg in 1922.

Various films present the story of the Captain of Köpenick, one of them with Heinz Rühmann as the protagonist in 1956.

In addition, his imposter adventure entered literature; Carl Zuckmayer wrote the play “der Hauptmann von Köpenick” in 1930, and in 1931, it was performed for the first time in the German Theatre of Berlin.

 

Strolling through Köpenick

It is raining. There is a small market on the Schlossplatz. Geflügelotto presents his pieces of grilled chicken.

Even the Berliner Sparkasse, a bank, offers their services, making it all clear that this mobile bank branch office does not carry any money. It just provides advice.

Also Köpenick is getting ready for the German and Berlin September elections. The LKR are liberal conservative reformers that dislike the extensive gender equality used in the German language by adding “*innen” to include the female gender. They want it to be removed from schools and governmental activities. “Quatsch” means “nonsense”, and “Quatsch” includes the female gender here. 

 

The baroque castle of Köpenick with the exhibition of furniture and dishes

From the rain, we escape to the castle of Köpenick, located on the Schlossinsel or castle island surrounded by the river Dahme. 

A panel explains that the castle island has been inhabited since almost 5000 years. In 850, the Slavs built a fortification here. The baroque castle that we see today is from the end of the 17th century. The castle is now part of the Berlin State Museums. 

We are amazed by the beauty of the modern porcelain and ceramic works presented. This is the plate named “Unkraut” (weeds) by Grita Götze.

From Sonngard Marcks, I have selected three works, first the “Faltschale” (folded bowl),…

… second the “Scherbengericht” (this correctly translates to “ostracism”, but this translation loses the allusion to  “Scherben” = “broken pieces” and “Gericht” which means either “court” or “dish”)… 

… and third the Deckeldose Zori (Deckeldose = container with lid).

In addition, original porcelain is presented such as this rococo dinnerware made by KPM for Frederic the Great in 1767.

Furthermore, there is a permanent exhibition of furniture (Raumkunst) from renaissance, baroque and rococo. I select three highlights.

I am surprised to find this noble baroque buffet of the Basel guild of zaffron (Safranzunft), crafted by the carpenter Johann Heinrich Keller in 1666. The panel does not describe, how this buffet came to Berlin. 

This commode is from Würzburg, 1750. 

From the panel, I learn that commodes are called “commodes”, because they are “commode” (French for convenient, practical) with the drawers providing easy access to the content (I guess, as opposed to coffers in use until now; commodes were an innovation of the 18th century). 

This “Pultschreibeschrank” (desk and cupboard) is made from poplar and decorated with oil paintings showing mythological scenes (1730, probably from Rome).  

 

 

Köpenick – walking around the Kiez

The rain has stopped. We walk around the so called Kiez, which is the old village of Köpenick.

The houses have been renovated… 

… and decorated with care.

 

Müggelsee with lookout

My friend would feel like getting an overview of the area. We find it above the Müggelsee, where we climb the lookout that has been constructed in 1961.

The tower has the charm of a socialist building. The view is superb. Here we see the skyline of Berlin far behind the forest.

Now we have turned south and look at the river Dahme that joins the Spree at Köpenick. 

 

Müggelsee – boat harbour Rübezahl

We have a drink near the boat harbour “Rübezahl”. The name alludes to the giant that lives in the Riesengebirge (Giants mountains or Karkonosze) in Silesia, now part of Poland. 

The reeds are a protected biotope.

We walk along the lake. In the background we can see the outskirts of Köpenick. 

My mother had always told me, how much she loved to be here, when she was young. 

My friend wanted to take a boat ride – but now it is almost six p.m.

We leave Köpenick and accomplish the day with an excellent dinner in the Italian restaurant Il Giardino at Hackerstrasse. 

 

Sources:

Berlin – excursion to Lübbenau and the Spreewald

In 2021, I was in Berlin four times. Once, we made an excursion to Lübbenau with the beautiful Renaissance castle of the noble family Lynar, now a noble hotel. 

We find a boat that offers a comfortable two hour tour along the channels of the Spreewald to Lehde. 

We pass under the bridges that I remember as obstacles for bikers, when biking in the Spreewald in 2019. 

We fly along houses and are served refreshments on the way.

Paddling in your own canoe is common here.

The trees reflect in the water.

More wooden bridges on the way.

We arrive at Lehde.

Restaurants offer refreshments and meals.

We are not the only guests here.

Even dogs like to sit in the canoes…

… or in the comfortable passenger boats.

We leave Lehde,…

continue our way along lush gardens…

and channels…

back to Lübbenau. 

We take our car back to Berlin. I am happy to have given my brother-in-law an impression of the romantic Spreewald about 100km south east of Berlin. 

Berlin: Observations with the twinkling of an eye

In 2021, I visited my mother town Berlin four times, discovering new places, rediscovering known places and making observations with the twinkling of an eye. Let us look at some of my observations and twinkle with our eyes.

Once upon a time, this was perhaps a kiosk, where people could buy newspapers. Now two guys are hiding behind their newspapers reading them avidly.

 

In case of Radlosigkeit find your Radhaus

The “Radhaus” sells “Räder” which are bicycles in Germany. Not far from this “RaDhaus” is the “RaThaus” (city hall) of Steglitz that the RaDhaus alludes to. 

The owner of this RaDhaus being close to the RaThaus must be a genius in marketing.

Wir helfen bei “RaTlosigkeit”? In German, this translates to “we help you, in case of lack of advice”. Playing with “RaTlosigkeit”, the plate on the bicycle says: Wir helfen bei “RaDlosigkeit”? Meaning “We help in case of lack of a bicycle (“Rad”=bicycle)!” 

Just hire me and you are no longer “raDlos” nor “ratlos” translated to “without bike” nor “without advice”.

 

Does “a-petit” allude to Frederick and Voltaire or just to Asian Petit Tapas?

This restaurant at Prenzlauer Berg has an interesting Website: a-petit.de.  

It sounds like “appetite” and reminds me of the correspondence of Frederick the Great (nicknamed “der Alte Fritz”, 1712-1786) with Voltaire (1684-1778).

Frederick sent Voltaire the following rebus invitation:

   P
venez – which translates to “venez souPer” (à Sanssouci)

Voltaire answered with another rebus:

J a – or more in detail: “J grand a petit” which translates to “j’ai grand appétit”

In English, the invitation soberly translates to “come for dinner” which Voltaire accepts with the answer “I have a big appetite”. 

When looking at the Website “a-petit.de”, I am no longer sure, whether the owner alludes to the rebus exchange between Frederick and Voltaire. The restaurant at Prenzlauer Berg is called “Asian Petit Tapas” shortened to a-petit. I would have to visit the restaurant to find out. 

 

Elections inspire the phantasy of those who want to be elected

September 2021 was the time for elections in Germany and Berlin.

Those who want to be elected, mix English and German without hesitation. Is this the “new modern” of the younger generation?

The “old” lobby (as old as fossiles) – should disappear and give way to the young generation that will fight for a FAIRer redistribution of resources or for UmFAIRteilung (UmVERteilung = redistribution does not suffice). I frown at the “fossiles”, they must be younger than I am… And I wish luck to the younger generation.

Even the Berlinese dialect (ick) comes mixed up with English (future): “Ick will Future”.  (“Ick” is Berlinese for the German word “ich” or “I” in English).

Ick verstehe det jut… I understand that well. It seems Cordelia Koch made it to the town hall of Pankow and I wish that her future materializes. 

 

Interesting traffic signs

Near the Wannsee, I found this gate. “Einfahrt freihalten – Tag und Nacht” (“Please keep the entry free – day and night”), the sign says. The consequences are clear, your car will be carried away, when you park it here.

Looking at the rusty gate and the weeds and bushes behind it, I wonder, how long ago it was that a vehicle tried to enter or leave this wilderness. 

Also this gate, not far from here, seems not to have been in use for quite a while. 

But also here – you have to keep the entry free.

In Switzerland, we say “Schritt-Tempo fahren” or “drive at the speed of walking”. In Germany, this order can be shortened to “Schritt fahren”, which sounds like “drive walking” to me.

Cyclists seem to have a lot of phantasy to find places, where they can attach their bicycles, but beware, here, it is not allowed to do so!

The Covid pandemic forces us to keep distance. Does Queen Elizabeth know that Berlin uses her corgis to illustrate the distance of 1.5m required – it is equivalent to 3 of her dogs. 

I do not believe that hippos walk in front of this garage, as the sign on the gate suggests. I just liked the illustration.

 

Two vehicles that made me smile

This is the “Räumschiff”. “Räumen” means “to clear” and a “Raumschiff” is a space shuttle. Hence the “Räumschiff” cleans the streets (literally “clearing boat”) alluding to a space shuttle. A play of words that only works in German.

Furthermore – I have never seen such a tiny caravan before, and above that, it has been painted in such a friendly green colour. 

There is even a devil wearing red pants on the side.

 

A wonderful city for happy dogs

Though Berlin is a wonderful city for happy dogs, not everything is allowed to them. However, what is prohibited, is prohibited gently: “All dogs (even the cute small ones) unfortunately have to remain outside”. This is, what this plate says that I found in Köpenick.

The city does a lot for their dogs. Not far from busy Schloss-Strasse, you have the option to drop your dog at the “Hundekita” (dog day school) of Mr. Perro. 

Perhaps your dog will learn to bark in Spanish (perro is Spanish for dog). Or the dog will bark in English, because Jack Perro seems to have Anglo-Saxon roots, too.

Not far from here, dogs find coaching at the DogCoach Institute.

This “happiness” van takes dogs to the Grunewald, where, in the dog walking areas (“Hundeauslaufgebiete”), they are allowed to walk without leash.

At the pretty Renaissance hunting castle “Grunewaldschloss”,…

… the dogs can have a rest and enjoy some ice cream (“Hunde-Eis”)… 

… with flavours delicious for dogs such as “liver sausage – apple”… 

… offered in this deep freezer barrel. The dog ice cream has been handmade in Berlin, is assuredly fresh and tastes “awfully good”. You prove love for your dog, when buying ice cream for him.

In addition, the dog sitters and other citizens have the option to eat healthy “Bio” curry sausages. 

Never before have I thought of the curry sausage being healthy, but perhaps I should try this Bio alternative. May be, even a dog would like this healthy Bio sausage. 

Fortunately, the Renaissance castle of Grunewald did not only have ice cream for dogs, but also this Pinot Noir “Preussen Premium” from Potsdam. 

I shared it with a friend of mine after having walked through the Grunewald, and the wine was excellent. Yes, Brandenburg is also a wine region, and some of the wines are quite good.

 

 

A Swiss butterfly – from Wroclaw to Berlin

End of August 2021, I am on the road to Berlin, via Slovakia and Poland. 

My route begins in Slovakia: Bratislava – Trnava – Nitra – Žilina – Strečno and Terchová – Dolny KubinPodbiel and Tvrdošín. It continues in Poland: Wilkowisko – Kraków – Szklarska PorębaWroclaw, and now I am driving to Berlin, via Cottbus and Luckau. 

 

From Wroclaw to Cottbus

The highway E65 from Wroclaw through Poland to Dresden is very busy; even on a Saturday it is full of trucks. I leave this busy highway to catch the E36 to Cottbus. The E36 is under construction. One track has been completed and provides two-way traffic. I reach Cottbus shortly before lunch time. I am in Germany now. No one takes notice of me at the border; I hardly notice crossing it.

Source: Google maps

 

Lunch at Luckau

From Luckau, I keep wonderful  memories. I had lunch at the Ratskeller in 2018. Now I take the detour to enjoy an excellent lunch again: Potatoes with curd cheese and linseed oil and, as a dessert, the sweet pancakes called “Plinsen”, both typical local dishes.  

The restaurant keeper is still the same as in 2018; he has worked in Zurich and enjoys remembering his years in Switzerland. 

The market square has undergone a thorough renovation to be a cosy place for pedestrians; …

… the red and white barriers are about to disappear. 

The restaurant owner is happy that the works will soon be accomplished. 

I continue my way to Berlin, my mother town. I arrive, feel at home and have another excellent dish, now at my favourite Vietnamese restaurant Viet Koch BBQ at the Breitenbachplatz. 

 

I will stay in Berlin for about ten days.

 

Remembering Luckau in 2018

In summer 2018, I visited Luckau with a friend of mine. Standing in front of the Ratskeller, we debated, whether we should eat here – it was lunch time. The owner heard us speak Swiss German and asked us in. He had worked in Switzerland for some years and he loved to hear our dialect.

We entered – what a good choice!

I had “Lausitzer Leibgerichte” (Lausitzer favourites): Fried trout filet, regional curd with horse radish and linseed oil, aspic of pickled pork knuckle,  pickled gherkins, corniness (or schmalz) with apple and onion. It was delicious.

With our dishes we had a glass of local wine, Marbachs Wolfshügel. I had a mouthful – not more, as I was driving; we took the rest of the bottle with us.

After lunch, we strolled through the small town. 

Just next to the Ratskeller is the Georgenkapelle (Chapel of Saint George, also called Hausmannsturm), built around 1200 in late Romanic style. Until the reformation in the 16th century, it was a chapel . In 1679 the tower was enhanced to 47m; it was now the seat of the city guard. Since 1969 the tower has been used as a festival hall. (Source: Information plate).  

Building the church of Saint Nicolas (Nikolai Kirche) started in the early 13th century. After a fire, the church was rebuilt around 1400, in gothic style now. After another fire in 1644, the interior was renovated in baroque style (a rarity in protestant Brandenburg; source: Information plate).  

The moat and the town fortification have been well preserved and provide a nice stroll around the city. 

Luckau has an 800 year long tradition of growing wine that halted in 1926. It has now been reactivated. This is castle hill vineyard that was renewed in the year 2000. 

Jürgen Rietze owns a vineyard west of Luckau. We met him working here. After the fall of the iron curtain, he learnt the wine business in the Stuttgart region. In 2005, he returned and started his own vineyard  in Luckau. In 2012, he was included in the wine guide of Berlin. He is proud of his vineyard – he points out that it is facing south. We frown. He laughs. Well, you, being Swiss, might have steeper slopes, here we are in Brandenburg, he adds. Yes, looking at the vineyard carefully, I can see, it is slightly slanting. I would love to try his wine, but he has no bottle for us right now.

Now, three years later, in 2021, I have returned to the welcoming little town Luckau, and I hope to return soon again with my long-year friend from Berlin.

 

Sources:

 

Traveling around Berlin in Brandenburg – this is also a wine region, yes!

Brandenburg – wine region – are you serious? Yes I am.

Brandenburg is surrounding Berlin, and is located pretty far north in Germany. Too far north for wine, I always thought. But then I came across the book “Weinland Brandenburg” by Tom Wolf (be.bra Verlag Berlin 2016). Tom Wolf describes 31 vineyards in Brandenburg. Very interesting. I decided to explore some of them, when traveling in Brandenburg, the hinterland of my mother town Berlin.

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Why are there wines in Brandenburg – so far north?

In early medieval times, Europe was christianized. As a consequence, monasteries were founded – also in Brandenburg. The monasteries needed wine for their cult and hence started to grow grapes for that, but perhaps the monks also enjoyed some of their wine from time to time.

It was Frederick the Great who stopped the wine production in Brandenburg in the early 18th century. He was of the opinion that potatoes are more useful – and he made his people cultivate potatoes instead of wine.  In addition there were more frequent frosts at that time that discouraged cultivating wine.

Shortly before the iron curtain fell and even more after the reunification of Germany, the tradition of cultivating wine took off again on some of the sunny hills that the monks had already selected earlier. Hills in Brandenburg are not high, but there are slopes that allow to produce wine, especially now with global warming. It may not be a Bordeaux or a Burgundy wine, but I found well made wine from biological production. Oh yes, some people say that wines from Brandenburg are sour – but I found them to be good companions for tasty local meals.

Let me tell you more about the monasteries and about the vineyards that we visited. Check out the book of Tom Wolf to find out more about 31 vineyards in Brandenburg.

 

Source: LBV Raumbeobachtung 2011

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Potsdam: Frederick the Great had his own vineyard – nevertheless

Frederick the Great or, as we call him, der Alte Fritz, may have told his subjects to cultivate potatoes instead of wine, but… he had his own vineyard in Sanssouci – a patchwork of small greenhouses with stone walls and glass windows climbing up the hill to his intimate palace “Sanssouci”.

I had always thought that this wine garden in Potsdam is somewhat excentric… and now I know, cultivating wine here is not excentric, but it is an old tradition

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Uckermark: Prenzlau – the monastery of the Dominicans  and the vineyard hanging on the town wall

Prenzlau (north of Berlin) is located on the northern shore of the Uckermark lake. The Dominicans founded a monastery here. In the former refectory some frescos have been renovated.

This beautifully carved altar shows the pastor with his sheep just arriving at the stable where Christ was born.

The monks needed wine for their cult and selected the town wall to capture the heat and light of the sun reflecting in the Uckermark lake. This southward looking slope is very warm, indeed. I could feel that even on a chilly day.

In 2013 the vineyard has been reinstalled for the LAGA which is a German garden exhibition (Landesgartenschau). The grapes planted are Regent (red) and Solaris (white). The wine is pressed in Pleisweiler in the Pfalz and can be bought in the tea- and wine house Gotzmann. (Tom Wolf, p. 207). Gotzmann was closed, when we were in Prenzlau, because it was a Sunday.

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Lausitz/Spree: Welzow with a vineyard in the open cast mine and Dr. Martin Krause’s vineyard in Drebkau

We spent a few days in the Spreewald with its woods along ramifications of the Spree, where cucumbers become “Spreewaldgurken” in vinegar.

All of a sudden the forest opens and we see the open cast mine of Vattenfall near Welzow. A huge, huge desert. Villages had to  be sacrificed, one of them being Wolkenberg with a former tradition of wine growing. Vattenfall started to plant their deserted hole and local specialists are cultivating the wine called “Wolkenberg” that can now be tasted in local restaurants (Tom Wolf, p. 145). Well, Vattenfall undertakes a small effort to repair what they have destroyed. I just stopped to breathe, when I saw this naked landscape.

We selected the lookout point of Welzow, but from here, we could not see the vineyard.

Instead we found Dr. Martin Krause’s vineyard in Drebkau/Klein Ossnig.

Dr. Martin Krause has done research and found that about 50 winegrowers were active around Cottbus in the 16th century  There was a vineyard in Klein Ossnig that delivered wine to the monastery of Cottbus – look for the monks! (Tom Wolf, p. 163).

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Fläming: Baruth and the Glashütte with the very special wine shop

In the southwest part of Brandenburg called “Fläming”, we visit the open air museum “Glashütte”. Beyond learning about how they made glass here, I buy three bottles of wine in the Weinsalon Glashütte:  Brandenburger Landwein from Zesch (Pinot white) and two bottles of Goldstaub with white wine made from the grapes Solaris and Helios that are common in this area. By the way, the wine saloon also offers wines from Moldovo and organizes events. A very inviting place.

Tom Wolf talks about the Weinberg Zesch that benefits from the lake of Zesch, not far from Baruth (p. 83). He also mentions the Mühlenberg in Baruth that produces the wine called “Goldstaub” – yes, there is a mill-wheel (Mühlrad) on the label (p. 89).

I have never tasted Solaris and Helios before and I am curious.

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The monastery Lehnin and the vineyards in Werder one of them being the Wachtelberg

The monastery of Lehnin and the adjacent hospital are now run by deaconesses. By the way, this romanic monastery is called Le-H-nin (with an “h”).

The monastery owned various vineyards in Werder which is a quiet town spreading out widely on the shores of the Havel near Potsdam. The Wachtelberg was one of the vineyards and today it is a vineyard again. We found it amidst the houses of Werder. There is a wine bar (Weintiene) on top of the hill that is open in the afternoon.

Dr. Linicke started to grow wine in the late 80’s in the former GDR, but after the fall of the iron curtain, nobody was willing to buy wine from the “east”. In 1994 the wine production was restored, again involving Dr. Linicke (Tom Wolf, p. 33). Now he has installed the “Erlebniswanderweg Wachtelberg”: Each line of grapes is described in detail, like this line of Ruländer or Pinot Gris.

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Wolanski and his Klosterhof Töplitz

Lara Wolanski does horse dressage and her father, Klaus Wolanski, started in 2007 to grow wine in Töplitz (Tom Wolf, p. 19). When we arrive at the Klosterhof, we find a message at the door: “Call me, I am happy to come”. Very soon a roaring noise announces the arrival of Klaus Wolanski. He comes on his small tractor and welcomes us with his black-white dog. He tells us that his wine production is based on biological principles. Here – so far north – the  grapes are not delicate, they do not need those strong pesticides, he says. There is grass in the vineyards that the sheep “cut”. The sheep also eat the leaves such that the grapes get more sun. They do not like the grapes, as long as they are sour, but – they would love them, once they are sweet. Hence these “helpers” have to stay outside now, in autumn.

We walk around in the area. There is a picnic place on top of the Töplitz hill. People used to flat land might be happy to recover from the steep ascent. And it must be a great place to celebrate.

We buy some wines – Riesling, Pinot Gris (both white) and Regent (red) – one bottle of Regent has matured in the barrel.

Annerös takes one bottle of Regent home. She drinks it with her husband, and they like it. Well made, they said. Soon after arriving at home, I shared the Grauburgunder or Pinot Gris with my neighbours. The wine was clean and freshly fruity – a  real “Ruländer”.

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Not only wine, but also stronger stuff for the monks: The KlosterBruder

In the monastery of Zinna – also a Cistercian monastery founded in 1170 – they produce the “Zinnaer KlosterBruder” or “Zinna Monastery Brother”.  Right in the building under the clock.

It is a herb liquor that is supposed to be healthy (monks called their herb liquors “aqua vitae” (water of life) and used them as a medicine. The technique of distilling liquor has been known at least since the 12th century, perhaps even earlier.

There is a legend related to the “KlosterBruder”: A cavalier from the area was in love with a lady that was too noble for him. As he could not marry her, he went to the monastery, where he produced holy paintings with the face of his beloved noble lady. The abbot recognized the face and made him destroy his paintings. The monk obeyed and started to collect herbs. He invented the herb liquor “KlosterBruder” named after him and discovered that this drink made him feel cheerful and happy.

Herb liquors are not really my favourite drinks… To my opinion they taste like medicine.

But I like wine – and the wine culture in Brandenburg was a surprise for me. The wines make nice – though a bit unexpected – souvenirs from Brandenburg! And there are more vineyards to explore, when going back – at least 31 of them.

In addition, there is much more to see in Brandenburg – the early Slavic immigrants (Sorbs and Wends) and the ramifications of the rivers (Spreewald, Havelseen or Oderbruch). We found numerous castles (Wiesenburg, Eisenhardt, Lübbenau, the Fürst Pückler park with the duke’s castle or charming Sanssouci in Potsdam) and nice bigger and smaller cities (Bad Freienwalde, Jüterbog, Bad Belzig, Lübbenau or Brandenburg) with timbered houses and gothic churches and townhalls made out of brick (we call that German Backsteingotik – sometimes even Backsteinromanik). I will go there again. Perhaps for a bicycle tour.

Again in Berlin – catching up with the history of Prussia and enjoying Sans Souci

Another day of ours starts at the Gendarmenmarkt

From our hotel near Theodor Heuss Platz, the metro U2 takes us directly to Stadtmitte and to the Gendarmenmarkt – the French dome looks at us through the yellow leaves of late autumn.

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“You do not know Fassbender&Rausch at the Gendarmenmarkt?” My friend asks me, “then come and have a look at their magic shop.” We enter and I am overwhelmed – the shop is full of so many shelves filled with chocolate delicacies. And out of chocolate they have built the Reichstag, the Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtnis Kirche, the Brandenburgertor and a huge Santa Claus.

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I almost feel bad: Is it not a waste to take tons of chocolate to cast buildings and santa clauses? Food is made for eating…

From Gendarmenmarkt it is just a few steps to the German Museum.

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How did Berlin become the capital of Germany? How did it happen that the Hohenzollern from Prussia overtook the Habsburgians from Vienna?

Today I want to learn more about the rise of Prussia, the foundation of nowadays Germany and how Austria and the Habsburgians lost their dominant position visavis Prussia and the house of Hohenzollern in the 19th century. The German Museum (Deutsches Museum) is the right place to study that. Here we focus on the 18th and 19th century. I am writing down what I took with me from the excellent curation of the museum –  though not being a historian by profession.

The Holy German Empire had ceased to exist with Napoleon. After the Congress of Vienna (1815), a loose federation of German speaking principalities was founded. In this federation there was competition between the Hohenzollern (Prussia) and the Habsburgians (Austria). In 1866 Prussia won the battle of Königgrätz (today in Poland). The Prussian army used their strategy of independent commanding officers that were given their own targets to fight and bind Austrian forces at various front lines. In addition the Prussian king Wilhelm and his minister Bismarck were present in the battle motivating their army. The Austrian officers were not fully loyal to their general and emperor Franz-Josef I of Austria lost this battle. Without Austria, the Prussians founded the German Empire (Deutsches Reich) and Wilhelm II of Hohenzollern became emperor of this (reduced) Germany. The Habsburgians had been emperors of the (former) Holy German Empire for about 400 years and Franz-Josef now remained emperor of his multination empire Austria and king of Hungary (k&k monarchy).

BUT Prussia was a relative newcomer in the power play of German principalities: In the 17th century it had gained importance, thanks to the Great Elector Friedrich Wilhelm who prepared the ground for Prussia to become a kingdom in the Holy German Empire in 1701. Friedrich I, Friedrich Wilhelm I and Friedrich II the Great (nick named “Alter Fritz”) were the first kings of Prussia. Prussia formed a strong army to expand their territory and they lived religious tolerance which attracted Huguenots that were excellent craftmen and trademen. When Friedrich II conquered Silesia (Schlesien) in 1763, Prussia rose to the rank of one of the high power principalities alongside with Austria and Bavaria. The center of Germany (without Austria) moved to Berlin in the late 19th century after the victory of the Prussians over the Austrians in 1866. The new mighty city of Berlin needed representative buildings. Ostentatious Baroque buildings (such as the castle or Stadtschloss) and Neoclassic complexes (such as the Museumsinsel – island of museums – and the Dome of Berlin) were built during the rise of Prussia and for Berlin as a young capital. Modern Art houses on wide alleys were constructed and surrounding villages became part of Berlin. They needed to be connected which gave rise to the metro and S-Bahn network – planned with a broad mind and equipped with Modern Art stations. And after the Second World War and the fall of the Iron Curtain, modern architecture was added to rebuild Berlin (such as the Potsdamer Platz).

Now I understand: Prussia is a very successful newcomer in the power play of German principalities – this may be the reason, why I feel that the Prussian language is not always welcomed in the rest of Germany. Now I know, why I have learnt to be careful not to use my second language to aggressively.

In the evening we attend a concert in the Dome of Berlin – this manifestation of power. It is Mozart’s Requiem in f-Moll given by the Choir of the Johanneskirche Schlachtensee near Berlin. The acustics is great.  I particularly like the Alt voice of Franziska Markowitsch.

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Visiting Potsdam and Friedrich II’s castle and park of Sans Souci

Early in the morning we take the S-Bahn (or Rapid Railway) to Potsdam. We enter the station at Heerstrasse. I enjoy the Modern Art construction of the 1920’s…

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… and the humor of Berlin. When caught without ticket you do not pay a “penalty” of 60 Euros. No, what you pay is “erhöhtes Beförderungsgeld” or “an enhanced price for transportation”.

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At Potdsdam Friedrich II the Great has built his charming small castle Sans Souci, …

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… with the wine garden climbing up to his castle.

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For his guests Friedrich II had the New Palais built (Neues Palais).  It is under permanent renovation and every time more of the luxury rooms are open. We attend a guided tour. This is the floor of the “cave” room…

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… and this is a small piece of the Kibo summit, given to emperor William II by Hans Meyer who was the first to climb the Kilimanjaro in 1889 (he then named the highest point on the crater rim after Kaiser Wilhelm).

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The bathroom of empress Augusta Victoria (the wife of emperor William II) was integrated in a wardrobe.

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After having spent an hour in the chilly New Palais, we warm up by strolling through the park of Sanssouci with its teahouse…

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… and its colorful November  atmosphere.

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Friedrich II wanted to tear down this mill, because it was in his way. But the owner warned him that he would appeal to the court. The king was impressed and changed the plans for his park. The mill has been here until today.

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Good-bye Berlin and see you next year

On Monday many, many Christmas markets opened in Berlin. One of them is at the Gendarmenmarkt where restaurants are inviting to eat.

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We have dinner at the small Italian restaurant Adelino near our hotel and then I say good-bye to Berlin. I am pretty sure that I will return to my mother town next year.

 

 

 

Again – in Berlin, my mother town – welcome and Prenzlauerberg

It is mid November 2016.  Again I am in Berlin, my mother town, just for a few days. I  say hello to some of my favorite places, want to discover some new places and meet friends.

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Berlin is welcoming me

As always I am welcomed by Berlin in the modern Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche called “powder box”. I love the solemn atmosphere produced by the blue stain windows. The floating Christ figure looks to me as if he would bless the church and its visitors.

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Next stop is in the traditional shop Kadewe, where I have my Büsümer Krabbensüppchen (shrimps soup from Büsüm on Sylt) – as always delicious.

I move on to Dussmann in Friedrichstrasse and find the book: “Weinland Brandenburg” by Tom Wolf, 2016. “Wine in Brandenburg? Is this not the land where there is nothing but sand?” Tom Wolf asks and then describes 31 wine growers. Perhaps I should plan to go for a bike tour around Berlin? Who would like to join me? This is the map taken from the book.

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Prenzlauerberg – charming mix of small shops, restaurants, markets and culture

I have a dinner appointment in Prenzlauerberg. Metro number 2 takes me there and I dive into the charming mix of small shops, restaurants, markets and culture. The “Kleine Eiszeit” sells ice cream, but is closed during winter. They are looking forward to March 2017, when the “small Ice Age” will start again.

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This shop is open – and he announces it in Berlinese – “is uff” or “ist offen” (meaning “is open”).

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The shop’s layout shows a good taste for colors.

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The shop next door seems to have a more international clientèle.

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This restaurant recommends to have a chat with one another.

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And not far from here I am tempted to buy loads of children’s books in the small bookshop that attracts clients with this fairy tale quote.

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“Who drinks from me, will be a deer. Who drinks from me, will be a deer.” Do you know the fairy tale? – It is “Brüderchen und Schwesterchen” or “Little Brother and Little Sister” by the Brothers Grimm.

The Old Brewery (which is now a cultural center with restaurants) is busy setting up its Christmas market.

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At Kollwitz square I find a busy market. First I try Kwas over a chat with Russians. And then I exchange memories with a Mongolian lady and try her milk drink and some Mongolian ravioli – delicious – bairlla or thank you.

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With a Vietnamese meal in noisy Umami at Knackstrasse and a quiet apero in the friendly restaurant Breslau at Sredzkistrasse I finish off my day, with a friend of mine from Poland.

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My second day: Pouring rain

In the pouring rain I walk from Potsdamer Platz to the Hacke’scher Markt. The sky IS grey and so is the TV tower on Alexander Platz, seen from the small promenade along the Spree.

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The pouring rain makes me buy a warm rain coat lined with fleece. I get it at Freitag’s in the Hacke’sche Höfe – the shopkeeper is exactly my age and we have a long chat, also about a duchess that bought some 25 coats and jackets here, not for herself, but for the model dolls in her villa. She walks around them to enjoy the beauty of what she has acquired. Berlin can be a crazy town.

I close off the day with one of my best friends… in the restaurant Pastis at Rüdesheimerplatz, where the owner and her staff speak French. Our meals are delicious.

 

 

On the road – discovering the Reichstagskuppel and Rixdorf in Berlin

Berlin never stops to have suprises for me. This time I explore the Reichstagskuppel and the village Rixdorf.

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The cupola of the Reichstag (Reichstagskuppel)

The architect Norman Foster has renovated the Reichstag incorporating modern elements. The most visible modern element is the cupola. The long queuing lines had always discouraged me to visit the cupola. To avoid the lines, Sabine has ordered tickets and reserved two seats in the restaurant Käfer next to the cupola.

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The cupola gives light to the plenary chamber with its white eagle. From the cupola we cannot see the plenary chamber. We walk up and down the revolving stairs and enjoy the view of the city. In the restaurant Käfer we share a meal – it is Buletten for me, the Berlin interpretation of  “hamburgers” that my mum had often prepared, when I was a child.

Today it is hard for me to imagine that the wall separating West and East Berlin was right behind the building of the Reichstag – but I remember those years.

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Rixdorf

One afternoon, my friend Antoinette takes me to Rixdorf which is part of Neukölln. “In search of Rixdorf” is a blog that nicely tells about the history and the ambiance today. In 1737 King Friedrich Wilhelm I. had invited protestants from Bohemia (Böhmen)  to settle near Rixdorf. Here he is – proudly overlooking the Richardplatz. This square is at the heart of Rixdorf.

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This panel points to the Bohemian brother community of Rixdorf.

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The Bethlehemkirche (church) at Richardplatz dates from the late 14th century. It was rebuilt after a fire in the middle of the 17th century reusing the old gothic elements. The entrance is below the surface of the Richardplatz.

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The Rixdorf of the Bohemians has kept its rural character.   We stroll along the cobbled streets.

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Returning back to busy Karl Marx Strasse, we stop in the Café Rix (Saalbau Neukölln) to share a cup of coffee and a piece of cake in the inviting garden.

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On the way to the metro, we come across the Rathaus Neukölln.

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At Hermannplatz we take the metro U7 that rattles under the ground. In the dark tunnels, Antoinette sighs: “I prefer to travel above ground”. We soon say good-bye and I continue my way underground, back to Theodor Heuss Platz and the comfy hotel Kastanienhof. Thank you, Antoinette, it was a great experience to see the village of Rixdorf – one more village that also is part of the big city of Berlin. Berlin never stops to have suprises for me.