The first day of my work excursion was spent mostly travelling from Berlin to our guesthouse in a hamlet near the German town of Prenzlau. I met Leonore at the train station along with four students, and a few other lecturers, from the Humbolt University.
After two trains, we set out on our three hour cycle to our guesthouse that evening. The countryside was beautiful and poppies lined the roads. At one point we even came across a farm selling fresh cherries; they were delicious! However, it decided to rain for most of the journey which I must admit wasn’t the best start to the excursion!
Thankfully the following day we were greeted with blue skies and cycled to Gartz in Brandenburg, close to the Polish border. We visited the church in the town’s centre; half of which had been destroyed by a fire during the Second World War. The church has been restored since the war and, with its red and black bricks, is typical of north German architecture.
After we left the church we visited the Ackerburg museum which detailed the history of the local area, particularly the effects of World War II. A third of the town died during the war; visiting an area where you can witness first-hand the effects of the war is certainly very moving. The population today is still considerably small compared to what it once was, with locals attributing this to the Second World War. Sadly I learnt that Ackerburg museum may have to close soon due to lack of funding from the council. This is a problem that many local museums in England also face, and to see the similarity here demonstrates the extent of this issue on a wider level.
Interestingly, this area is well known for its tobacco growing in the period after the thirty years war, and tobacco sheds can still be seen there today.
The river Oder, which separates Germany and Poland, also runs through Ganz. The area surrounding the river was heavily developed by Prussian kings between the 17th and 19th centuries, however today the area faces many problems. I learnt that it is difficult for Poland and Germany to work together in this region despite a lot of the Ganz population commuting over the river Oder to Poland for work. Funding issues for joint projects is the main reason behind this, with Ganz being relatively poor in comparison to the east side of the Oder, which is far more prosperous. My favourite part of the day by far was climbing up the viewing tower which overlooks the Oder; the view was wonderful and you could see for miles.
The following day we went to the German town of Prenzlau. Filled with medieval history, we started the day by visiting the Kulturhistorisches museum which was previously a Dominican Monastery. Built in the In use until 1544, it is considered one of the most exceptional medieval monasteries in northern Germany. Having a museum in an old monastery was incredibly interesting; it was great getting to see the interior of it. Although the majority of the exhibitions were in German with a few translated into Polish as well (seeing as we were so close to the Polish boarder), I still enjoyed wondering around it.
One item I saw on display that caught my eyes was a pair of severed human hands. Asking one of the German students to translate the label underneath for me, he explained that the hands belonged to a previous mayor of Prenzlau who betrayed the city in 1425.
A medieval wall, which previously protected its population from attack, also surrounded the city. Built in 1287, there were originally around 60 fortified houses within the wall, 4 town gates, 2 wall gates, and 2 wall towers with the wall stretching 2,600 metres. The remains of the wall, and some of the fortified houses, have been restored.
In addition to this, we visited St Mary’s Protestant Church which was built in 1235 and was the first hall church in north eastern Germany. From the 20th – 22nd of December 1632, the body of King Gustav II Adolf of Sweden, who had fallen in battle near the city of Lutzen during the Thirty Years War, was laid out in church before being accompanied by his wife, Marie Elonore, to Stockholm for burial. The church was huge and visitors could climb right to the top to see the view from the lookout viewpoint, in addition to the church bells.
It’s safe to say that Prenzlau was the perfect town to visit for any medievalist, the architecture was beautiful and not something I’ve really seen before with the style being so different to England. The emphasis that the town placed on restoration work was evident; visiting Prenzlau was certainly one of my favourite days of the excursion.
Look out for my next blog post where we travel to Juchowo farm and explore the Polish countryside, along with picturesque views and a lot more cycling!