Germany is a federal republic divided into 16 states. These states are called Bundesland(pl. Bundesländer) and each one of them has their fair share of places to visit and things to do. This series of posts titled “States of Germany” seeks to explore each state one by one and tell you a little bit about them. Feel free to post about things I have missed out on.
This week, we continue our journey into eastern Germany and explore the state of Brandenburg. Brandenburg is the second of two German states completely enveloping another state; the first being Lower Saxony. Brandenburg completely envelops the city state of Berlin. It was also part of the former GDR (DDR in German) and – due to the GDR’s different system of administration – was constituted in 1990 after German reunification. The capital of Brandenburg is the beautiful city of Potsdam. The city has immense historical value and was important throughout German history. The city of Potsdam has a population of roughly 160,000 which is not bad for a state capital. The state of Brandenburg, on the other hand, is home to about 2.5 million people. The state seal is a March of Brandenburg (the name of the region during the times of the Holy Roman Empire) eagle on a white shield.
Brandenburg can be divided roughly into five regions. All the regions are sort of in orbit around Berlin. From the border to the state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, begins the Uckermark-Barnim region. This region is quite sparsely populated but is rich in nature with long stretches of forest punctuated by lakes dotting the entire area. This region borders Poland and is home to several nature parks and biosphere reserves. It is worth checking out if you want to experience nature barely influenced by man. Moving southwards along the border between Poland and Germany, we come upon the Oderland-Spree region.
This region is also quite full of nature and is so named for the
Spreewald forest which is one of Germany’s largest forests. The former GDR “socialist utopia” (heavy emphasis on utopia) Eisenhüttenstadt is also located in this region. If you’re into socialist architecture and cities, this might be the place for you to go. They actually offer city tours there. If you are easily depressed by grey buildings and old, rotting industry, you might wanna give this city a wide berth. The “other Frankfurt” is also located in this region. Most people know the city of Frankfurt am Main but there is another Frankfurt in Germany too: Frankfurt an der Oder aka Illegal Fireworks Smuggling Spot No. 1. Certain firecrackers are illegal in Germany but perfectly legal in Poland. Franfurt (Oder) – as it is also written – is used by many to try to smuggle the Polish firecrackers into Germany around New Year’s Eve. Needless to say, the police are extremely vigilant and catch the perps right at the points of entry into the city.
Further south lies the Lausitz-Spreewald region where the Spreewald forest continues on. The notable city in this region ic Cottbus which is a university city and has a whole crowd of young people. This wraps up the eastern and southern parts of the state. Moving north-west, we come to the Havelland-Fläming region. Apart from being rich in nature like the rest of Brandenburg, this region is also host to the cities of Potsdam and Brandenburg an der Havel (aka Brandenburg City). Today, these two towns are favorites for those regularly commuting to Berlin but wanting to stay away from the hustle and bustle of the big city.
The region gets its name from the Havel river which flows into Berlin. Further north, we strike Prignitz-Oberhavel region which is famous for being sparsely populated, yet full of lakes. The lake region stretches into Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania as well. Small farming communities like Meyenburg are found all around this region.
You may have noticed that Brandenburg is not really a densely populated state. But what it lacks in people, it makes up for in history and nature. The most densely populated region of the state is Havelland-Fläming which is for all intents and purposes, a suburb of Berlin. But, there is much to do in Brandenburg, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to know.
Without further delay, here’s the list:
- The Spreewald is full of little, winding canals. Take a boat tour through them and enjoy the forest in a different way. More details here (German only).
Germany isn’t a very tropical place, is it? Well, Brandenburg has the answer to that question in the shape of the Tropical Islands Resort. That place is freaking amazing!
- Interested in film making? Visit Germany’s oldest film park at the Babelsberg Film Studios. Famous Hollywood movies like Valkyrie, Inglorious Basterds, V for Vendetta and The Hunger Games were filmed there.
- There is a lot of Osstalgie (Nostalgia for the GDR) in Brandenburg. Check out the GDR Museum in Burg and see what life was like under Communism.
- Immerse yourself in the wonderful city of Potsdam. The city is home to famous palaces like Sanssouci and many many more. They don’t call it the City of Palaces for nothing. While there, also explore Alexandrowka which is a Russian colony and contains great Russian architecture and Orthodox churches.
Don a trench coat and a hat, and stroll across the famous Glienicke Bridge where spies between the West and East would be exchanged during the Cold War.
- The list of relevant bridges goes on. Stroll across the Oderbrücke bridge in Frankfurt (Oder) right into Poland.
- The Sorbians are a Slavic people in Germany and Poland and are a recognized minority in Germany. Find out more about their unique history at the Sorbisches Museum in Bautzen.